Make a Smart CRM Decision

Make a Smart CRM DecisionBy Larry Caretsky

Every day my sales organization answers the same question from people looking to select CRM software for their business. “How are you different from all the other CRM software providers?” What they are hoping for is that we will wow them with a rousing feature or two that the other guys do not offer making their decision easy. This mentality of selecting a solution based on “who has the most exciting features at the lowest cost” is wreaking havoc among the small to mid-size business community. Here is why.

CRM software is not simply an appliance that you plug in the wall that magically improves your marketing and delivers more sales. It requires much more than this. CRM is just a tool. It doesn’t run your business, people do. Chances are if you are a small to mid-size business, hiring experienced people that can embrace CRM and use it to improve your business performance is a challenge.

Did you know that 73% of small to mid-size businesses that implement a CRM solution fail to realize any measurable results? They could argue that the CRM software they selected was too hard to use and did not work as advertised. Or they can come to the realization that like many other small to mid-size businesses they simply do not have the internal processes in place or the resources to create powerful marketing campaigns, implement a structured sales process, or provide best in class customer service. Here is the really bad part. The majority of CRM solution providers that sell to small and mid-size businesses cannot help you, because they do not have the resources either! So you are left with a piece of software that is not properly implemented, is barely utilized, and if you need customer service well send an e-mail. Welcome to the 73% percent club.

This is what separates Commence CRM from the myriad of low cost CRM solution providers that offer little more than a basic one-size-fits-all piece of software. Their systems are not flexible enough to meet unique business requirements; Commence CRM is. They do not offer best practices or professional services with personalized training, mentoring, and assistance to ensure that you get the maximum value from their solution. We do and that is why our customers are successful while others fail.

At Commence, we do not think of ourselves as a CRM software company. We are your business partner. For more than two decades we have helped customers improve how they market, sell, and provide service to their customers. Combining our top rated software with an experienced staff of sales, marketing, and customer service professionals has created a set of best practices garnered through years of experience that ensure the successful implementation and use of our CRM software. This is our success formula and why we are different from other CRM solution providers.

Come talk with us and experience the difference. Learn more at commence.com.

About the author:

Larry Caretsky is the CEO of Commence Corporation, a leading provider of CRM and Business Automation software for small to mid-size businesses. He has written numerous articles and white papers on the subject and an e-book, Practices That Pay. He is considered an expert in the CRM industry.

Commence Making a Difference for Small to Mid-Size Companies

Looking for that perfect CRM solution that offers more functionality than traditional out-of-the-box products, but without the cost and complexity of enterprise-level solutions?

Commence CRM is that solution.

For more than two decades, Commence Corporation has been providing powerful flexible business software to small and mid-size companies. Commence CRM is that middle market product that extends  the traditional contact management, sales, and marketing functionality offered by a 100 different CRM solutions providers with a customer service ticketing system, an internet based customer portal, integration of your web site with Commence CRM and a project management application. In addition to this enhanced functionality that is traditionally only found in high level products costing much more, Commence CRM incorporates a higher degree of customizability, workflow processes and data security than found in comparatively priced products. It is this second level of functionality and support that many customers do not realize they need until they discover it’s not available in the solution they had selected.

There is no need to worry however because we have become experts in migrating data from other CRM systems and we can get you operational with a better solution in no time.

See commence.com to learn more. Ask for a free trial or speak with one our product experts. You will be glad you did.

Creating a Powerful Sales Plan

Sales Plan

By Dave Kahle

Field sales people have a unique aspect to their jobs – they have the ability to decide what to do every moment of every day.  The need to make this decision – where to go, who to see, who to call, what to do – distinguishes the sales profession from most others.

I’ve often thought that the quality of this decision, more than any other single thing, dictates the quality of the sales person’s results.  Consistently make effective decisions, and your results will improve.  Make thoughtless, habitual or reactive decisions, and your results will be sub-par.

One of the ways to ensure that you make good decisions about your selling time is to create a comprehensive sales plan.

What’s a sales plan?  A written, thoughtful set of decisions about the most effective things you can do.  A sales plan should be the result of some good thinking, wherein you analyze and prioritize a number of different aspects of your job.

A good sales plan addresses different time durations and different aspects of your job.

Annual planning retreat

Every sales person should discipline himself/herself to an annual planning retreat.  Set a day or two aside, every year, to engage in some serious planning.  Turn off the phone, shut down the email, and immerse yourself into deep thought about the coming year.  Begin by specifying a series of annual sales goals.  What, specifically, do you want to accomplish this year in your job?  I recommend no more than five specific sales goals.  Typically, one of these goals describes the total volume of sales dollars you want to create; another may describe the number of new customers you want to acquire; yet another may relate to the number of high potential customers with whom you want to increase your business.  Regardless of what your goals are, an annual, written, specific set of goals is the beginning of a sales plan.

Next, give some thought, and express that thought on paper, as to your basic strategy to accomplish those goals.  If you are going to acquire 20 new customers, for example, exactly what are you going to do in order to accomplish that annual goal?

Classify all your accounts by their potential.  Rank them in order, identify the highest potential, and then plan to spend more time with the highest potential.

Re-organize your filing system; throw out the obsolete hard copies and delete the unnecessary electronic files.

To do this well, you will need to devote a full day or two.  This annual exercise is the first part of a good sales plan.

Monthly plan

Next, you should develop a more detailed plan every month.  Produce a one or two page document which contains your specific commitments to the most effective actions.  Once again, you are required to analyze and prioritize your efforts in regards to a number of issues.

First, your monthly objectives:  What do you want to accomplish relative to the annual goals that you set?  If you said you wanted to sell $2,000,000 worth of your goods this year, how much do you have to sell this month?  Each of your annual goals should have a monthly component.

Next, you should address your prospects and customers.  In order of priority, in which prospects and customers should you invest your time?  That priority often takes the form of a methodical and objective ranking into categories – typically A, B, and C – based on potential.  The sales plan then describes your plan for coverage of the A’s and B’s.

You should address the CTM opportunities, regardless of where they occur.  CTM stands for Closest to the Money.  Analyze and prioritize your efforts related to those opportunities within your territory that are closest to the money.  What are you going to do to bring each of them to fruition?  Specify each, the dollar amount of the opportunity, and what your actions should be.

Your company may have certain key product or product lines that it wants to emphasize.  If so, you’ll need to analyze and prioritize your efforts in regards to those product lines.  What will you do this month to increase sales of those product lines?  What specific actions will you take, in which specific accounts?

Finally, what will you do this month to improve yourself?  What classes or seminars will you attend?  What books will you read?  To which CDs will you listen?

Note that all of this addresses not every action you will take, but rather the most effective actions.  You can note these things on a page or two.

Don’t think that you can keep all this in your head, and skip the discipline of writing it down.  Writing each specific action and strategy down, whether it’s on a yellow pad or a computer document, forces precise thinking.  The written word also commits you to a degree much deeper than if you keep the idea locked in your head.

After you have completed this monthly sales plan, it’s time to schedule your time.  Lay out a plan for each day for the next 30 days.  Where will you plan to be, and who will you plan to see?  Reflect first your priorities from your monthly plan.  Then fill in the non-priority calls.

You and I both know that your days will rarely go according to plan.  However, without a plan, you will have totally given up the ability to control and manage your time.

By having a plan you have something to fall back on, something to refer to, some benchmark by which to measure the constant and urgent demands on your time. So, there is an annual component to your sales plan, as well as a monthly discipline.  But you are not finished yet.

Weekly plans

You need to reorganize and recommit to your monthly time and territory plan each week.  Adjust your plan based on what actually happened the previous week.  For example, if you didn’t get to see an A account that you had planned on seeing, can you see them this week instead?  Make your adjustments each week.  Each week, at the end of the week, spend some time planning and preparing for the upcoming week.

Daily plans

Finally, you need to plan each sales call.  What do you want to accomplish in each call?  What do you need to prepare in order to accomplish it?  Again, you’ll be more focused and more committed if you write down a specific outcome that you would like to achieve in each sales call.  Keep in mind that sales is a process, consisting of a series of steps that the buyer and seller take to come to a good decision.  Your planned outcomes should be narrow and specific.  Something like:  “Acquire the information I need in order to structure a proposal,” instead of “Sell this account.”

The creation of a sales plan, as you can see, is not a simple, one time event.  Rather it is a discipline that involves a commitment of time and thoughtfulness at specific intervals in the year.

It is also not just an administrative requirement, but a powerful tool that enables a professional sales person to consistently make good decisions about the most important question he/she faces:  Where to go and what to do?

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We have a number of resources to help you do this.  Consider our Kahle Way® Selling System, and read the book, 11 Secrets of Time Management for Sales People. If you are a member of The Sales Resource Center ™, consider Cluster CL-88: Planning, or Pod-38: Strategic Planning for Sales People.

Question and Answer #47- Overcoming Negative Perception

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.

Overcoming negative perception

Q.  How do I overcome a customer’s negative perception of my company because of some earlier mishaps in the account?

A.  Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we didn’t have to deal with these kinds of situations?  But, of course, these problems are, in one sense, job security for us.  If there were no problems, and all the customers were easy, they wouldn’t need us.

First, let’s keep this problem in perspective.  Believe it or not, this is one of the most common problems that sales people present to me.  That says to me that you are not alone.  Almost every company messes up at some point.  So, while the customer may make you feel like your company is totally incompetent, chances are he has had similar problems with other suppliers.  So, unless it was a mistake of huge proportions, or a pattern of repetitive problems, it’s probably not as big an issue as the customer is leading you to believe.

Customers have been known to try to parlay a mishap on your part into concessions from you on price, delivery, or some other aspect of the transaction.  Over-inflating their reaction to your mishap can be an intentional strategy.  So, guard against the tendency to overreact.

Regardless, you now have to deal with it.  Let’s assume that the customer’s negative attitude is real, and not just a negotiating strategy.

Start by putting the issue on the table.  If you haven’t yet apologized for the “mishaps”, make sure that you do.  Be careful not to blame anyone, but do explain, with specific detail, what changes your company has made that are designed to prevent the mishaps from occurring again.  Give him a reason to believe that the “mishaps” were an exception, not the rule.

Having done that, you can not expect that the customer will automatically believe you and restore his confidence in you.  It is more reasonable to expect just the opposite.

Doing business with you, from the customer’s point of view, has become a greater risk for him.  What price does he pay if he trusts you again, and you again mess up?  Looking at it from his perspective, he risks more by doing business with you than he does with your competitor.  You must, therefore, methodically work at decreasing the customer’s perception of his risk.

I’d recommend that, once you’ve apologized, you don’t bring the topic up again.  You’ll just cause the customer to harden his attitude.

Take a longer term perspective.  Look for small decisions he can make.  Small volume items and things that are purchased only occasionally — the bits and pieces of his business that no one particularly wants.  Try to get the customer to take a chance with you on those items that are of low risk.  And then do it again.  One small risk, followed by another small risk, and another, will begin to incrementally change the customer’s perception.

Slowly, over time, you re-establish your reputation as a quality supplier and pick away at the customer’s negative perspective, not by what you say, but rather by what you do.  Wait to make an offer on a substantial piece of business until you feel that the customer trusts you and your company more than he does now.  At some point, if you follow this strategy, he will.

Be smart, understand the issue of risk, see it from the customer’s point of view, and dig in for the long run.  If it was easy, your company wouldn’t need you.

Copyright MMX by Dave Kahle

All Rights Reserved

About the author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations.

Don’t Be a Bargain Hunter When Selecting CRM Software

Free CRM - did you expect more?

The CRM sector is chock full of free and low cost solutions. Other than acting as an automated Rolodex these provide little value to your business. I suspect there are some who would argue this point, but these would be small businesses that do not fully appreciate what CRM is all about – streamlining internal business processes; automating workflow; and improving how you market, sell and provide service to your customers.  Free and low cost CRM solutions simply do not offer this. If they did they wouldn’t be free.

A recent blog article represents this quite well by asking the simple question – are you price sensitive or value sensitive? If you are looking to select CRM software it’s worth reading this article.

The message is clear. In today’s highly competitive CRM software sector the difference between a free or low cost solution that provides little value and one that can help you to improve marketing and lead generation, sales execution and deliver best in class customer service is just a few dollars more per month. In the software industry you get what you pay for. It’s OK to be price sensitive. Just do not be a bargain hunter.