The Winning Formula for Increased Sales

 

Behind every winner is a top-notch crew.

Are you looking for the “Winning Formula” for improving how you market, sell, and provide service to your customers?  Well it’s going to require more than just a good CRM solution.  CRM is just a tool. It doesn’t run your business and it won’t automate internal business processes that don’t exist.

Many small to mid-size businesses have struggled to realize any measurable improvement in business performance with their CRM software. In fact, 73% have failed to get their software properly implemented and utilized.  Here’s why.

Very often small to mid-size businesses are challenged by a lack of resources or experienced personnel who can develop internal business processes for creating effective marketing campaigns, managing the sales cycle and efficiently responding to customer inquiries.  Buying a CRM won’t address this requirement. It’s like having the fastest race car on the track, but without an experienced driver and pit crew you’ll never win the race.

Commence Corporation has addressed this challenge by combining our top rated CRM software with a set of best practices created by a team of highly experienced professionals with more than 15 years of sales, marketing, and customer service expertise. The software automates key components of the business such as lead qualification and management, marketing campaigns, sales pipeline execution and forecasting, performance monitoring and reporting. Experienced mentors help to define, implement, and reinforce the internal processes that drive sales execution and business performance.

This is what differentiates Commence CRM from the competition. We don’t just sell CRM software. We provide the value added services necessary to deliver measurable results.  In fact, while we prefer you use our CRM solution, our best practices and experienced staff can help you to achieve measurable results with whatever CRM product you are using today. Call us at 1-877-COMMENCE to learn more.

Salesforce is Simply the Wrong Solution for Most SMBs

Don't dig yourself into a bigger hole.

The stories of small to mid-size businesses struggling with the implementation and utilization of Salesforce.com continue to grow and grow and grow. How do I know this? Because I represent a competitive product, Commence CRM and I get the calls every day from people looking for an easier to use, affordable alternative. The question is why? Is Salesforce.com a lousy product or a bad company to do business with? Of course not, but maybe Salesforce just was not the right solution for their business or for yours.

According to industry analysts, Salesforce.com is the best solution in the industry, but best for who and based on what? These guys spend all their time comparing who has the most features and functions, who is coming out with new innovative products, who is the thought leader and who has the most name recognition, then select a winner based on their findings. Their reports often list Salesforce.com as the best solution across every category: small business, mid-size business, and large enterprises. That is just incredible. I am not aware of any company with a generic product like CRM that is identified as the best solution for every size business and in any industry. Of course, this is simply nonsense as reflected by the high churn rate for small to mid-size businesses that are seeking an alternative to Salesforce.com.

More importantly, are you basing your decision on who has the most product features, the most customers, and the highest name recognition. Or are you more concerned with finding a solution that can address your specific requirements that is also easy to use and affordable? I hope it is the latter.

Think of it this way. If you were going to plant a tree in your backyard you could rent an expensive backhoe from Kubota or Caterpillar to dig the hole, plus hire a skilled person to operate it, add the cost of a landscaper to repair the lawn damage caused by the heavy machinery, and so on. You would probably be better off with a shovel; it’s simpler to operate, more affordable, and gets the job done. I think you see my point. Despite what these industry reports say, it is virtually impossible for one company to be all things to all people and Salesforce.com is no exception here. Most CRM firms, including the one I work for, target a specific industry segment – small business, mid-market, or enterprise corporations. The reason is that the business requirements of a small to mid-size company are vastly different from those of a global enterprise organization. This makes it extremely challenging for companies that target small businesses to compete at the enterprise level; and for those servicing the enterprise market like Salesforce.com to meet the business requirements of small to mid-size firms.

Commence CRM serves small to mid-size firms. We would be the wrong choice for large corporations for the same reason Salesforce.com is the wrong choice for small to mid-size firms.

Learning About the Competition

Collect small bits of information about the competition, see the big picture.

By Dave Kahle

“I’m concerned about what my competition may be doing. I know I should be aware of what they’re doing, but I’m not sure how I can find that out.”

This is an issue that’s growing in importance. Our industry is heating up and becoming more competitive. All around us things are changing at an ever increasing rate. That means that it’s more important than ever for you to be aware of what your competitors are doing so that you don’t get blindsided or seriously outmaneuvered.

That happened to me. To this day, I still get a sick feeling in my stomach as I remember the day when I lost my largest account to my arch competitor. It was an account that made up 20% of my total volume. In my blissful ignorance, I was content to grow my business by calling on the end users and purchasing department, while my competition was successfully building a relationship with the administration. The result? My best account signed a prime vendor, sole-source agreement with my competitor, and within 60 days, I was almost totally out of that account. I was totally blindsided.

That’s a lesson that sticks with me, and one from which you can learn. To become good at knowing what your competition is up to, begin by thinking of yourself a little differently. If you’ve read my book, “How To Excel at Distributor Sales”, you know that I believe that distributor sales people must see themselves as “managers of information” as well as “sellers of stuff.” To be effective in the Information Age economy, you must become adept at collecting, storing and using good information. The knowledge of what your competition is doing is one such piece of information.

Begin by consciously collecting little bits and pieces of information at every opportunity. For example, you may have lost a bid or a particular piece of business to your competitors. Rather tha n just moping about it, use it as a learning opportunity. Try to find out from your customer why they awarded the business the way they did. If it was price alone, try to find out how much lower was their price. If it’s something else, find out what. That information won’t help for that particular piece of business, but it may give you an insight into the pricing policies of your competition. Write the information down on a 3 X 5 card, or piece of scrap paper.

Take your good customers to lunch, and casually see if you can steer the conversation in such a way as to learn something about your competition.

Keep your eyes open to the coming and going of competitive salesmen. Note when you see them, and in what account.

Subtly probe the manufacturer reps with whom you work. See if they can give you some insight into the strategies and tactics they’ve seen. Be sensitive and aware of competitive literature, business cards and price quotes lying around. And don’t forget to talk with the other sales people who work for your company to get their insights.

All these are ways to collect bits and pieces of information. By themselves, they won’t help much. But, if you combine these bits and pieces, you may very well see trends, uncover strategies, and discover tactics your competition is using. As you collect each bit of information, capture it by writing it down, and putting the note in a manila folder marked “competition.” If you’re automated, type the information into your computer, and store it in either a Word or database file.

Regardless, what you’re doing is assembling a quantity of information. Diligently collect those bits and piece of information, and file them away. After you collected a quantity of these, you’ll be able to open that file on a regular basis, consider all the pieces of information, and discover a great deal about your competitors.

The trick is to consistently collect and store information. Eventually you’ll assemble an accurate picture. It’s like the popular game show “Wheel of Fortune.” When Vanna White turns over one letter, it doesn’t give you much of a picture of the total answer. But after she’s turned over several of these small individual pieces, the whole becomes clear and the answer to the riddle is simple to understand. That’s the way collecting information about your competition works.

The back of an old business card on which you noted that you saw a competitive sales person showing a new carbide line, by itself, doesn’t mean much. But if you filed that along with all the bits and pieces of information you’ve collected, and then pulled it all out and analyzed it, you might see an entirely different situation. Suppose you reviewed that business card note, and combined it with the note you made to yourself that you saw some sales literature on the competitive carbide line on the desk of one of your purchasing agents, and then saw that you lost a major bid to the competition because he quoted a new line at lower than traditional prices. All at once you’ve uncovered a potential threat to your business. Clearly, your competitor is pushing a new, lower price carbide line. You didn’t learn that from any one piece of information, but rather from the combination of all those pieces, considered as a whole.

The key to uncovering that information, to discovering what your competition is up to, is to consistently collect pieces of information, store them, and then analyze them as a whole from time to time.

Some of the best companies I deal with do that, and take it to one layer deeper. They meet from time to time in sales meetings, and share the information each individual sales person has collected. The sum of all the information collected by the entire sales force is bigger and greater than that of any one person. So, the composite information, collected by the entire salesforce and assembled and analyzed by the sales manager, gives the company an insightful picture of the competition.

Keep in mind, as a sales person in the Information Age, you’re a dealer in information as well as a seller of stuff. Seriously address the process of systematically collecting, storing, and analyzing information, and you’ll gain incredible insights into your competition.

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 eleven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Good Book on Business.

Commence CRM Makes Gartner’s FrontRunners Quadrant

What is the FrontRunners quadrant?

The FrontRunners quadrant, powered by Gartner Methodology, provides a data-driven assessment of products in a particular software category to determine which ones offer the best capability and value for small businesses. It is designed to assist small business leaders in making a software purchase.

FrontRunners plots a given market’s top 20-30 products in a quadrant format. The quadrant placement displays the Capability and Value of a product relative to their peers in the market. Each product is positioned in a designated quadrant based on their overall score.

Below is the graphic from the “FrontRunners for Customer Relationship Management.

Gartner Frontrunners Quadrant - January 2017 | Gartner Blog

It’s nice to be recognized by Gartner as one of the top solutions for small businesses said Larry Caretsky of Commence, but we would like to see the evaluation criteria broadened to more closely represent the value add that companies like Commence provide to its customers.  This graphical representation is closely matched to basic customer reviews such as; their satisfaction with the product, how they view the product relative to its price, and would they recommend it to others.  This is too superficial. Several of the companies listed offer their product for free for up to ten users.  They do not offer the level of functionality that Commence CRM does nor do they offer any value added services to ensure that the product gets properly implemented and utilized. Despite this they are ranked higher than Commence CRM – because they have more reviews.  This doesn’t really help a small business make the best decision for their business.

Ask questions to facilitate every step in the sales process

Make it easy to exchange information with your customers.

By Dave Kahle

A study published a few years ago identified the top five behavioral characteristics of the superstar sales people.  Number two on the list was this:  They ask better questions.  Amazing.  Of all the possibilities for ways that the superstars differ from average sales people, who would have guessed that they excel at this fundamental communication skill.  Everyone can ask questions, but they ask better questions.

This competency is composed of two fundamental parts:  1) Preparing better sales questions, and 2) Implementing them with excellence.  In Best Practice #34, I discussed the first part of this:  Preparing better sales questions.  This Best Practice speaks to the second part – excellent implementation.

In the hands of a superstar sales person, a better sales question is clearly the most powerful sales tool at his disposal.  He/she uses it to show interest in the customer, to facilitate relationships and rapport, to uncover opportunities, to uncover hidden motivations and agendas, to gain feedback on solutions offered, to unveil concerns, and gain agreement on the next step and close the sale.

From the very beginning, the first “Hello,” to the very end, “How satisfied are you with your purchase,” questions are the infrastructure upon which the sales process proceeds.

To begin to move toward excellence in this best practice, focus on these issues:

1.  Create an atmosphere that is conducive to the honest and comfortable exchange of information.

2.  Ask your questions in the correct sequence.  Think through the questions you want to ask, and arrange them in the sequence that makes it easiest to answer, and provides you the information you need.

3.  Respond to your customers’ answers positively.  Every answer provided by a customer should be immediately rewarded with a positive response from you.  This indicates that you are listening and focusing on the customer.

This competency of asking better questions is so important that you should spend the rest of your career becoming better at it.  As the study indicated, it is one of the most fundamental of all skills that separate the best from the rest.

As you become a master of this most powerful selling tool, you’ll naturally experience the rewards of better customer relationships, greater knowledge of the customer’s situation, greater confidence and competence on your part.

You’ll be on your way to becoming a superstar sales person.  If you want to become a superstar sales person, do what the best do.  And this is one of the key best practices of the best sales people.

To learn more about this best practice, consider my book, Question Your Way to Sales Success.  If you prefer an online experience, check out these two lessons on The Sales Resource Center:  Pod#4, and Pod #5 “Mastering Your Most Powerful Sales Tool.”