What can we learn from the best sales people?

This is the second post in a series of guest posts from Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. He will be discussing best practices of the top sales people. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.

By Dave Kahle
Do great B2B sales people, regardless of what they sell, have any practices in common?  In other words, do the best sales people all sell the same way?

A number of years ago, a professional association attempted to answer that question.  They studied superstar sales people from a wide variety of industries and concluded: Yes!

In fact, the best sales people excel at the same things.  Here are the top five practices of the very best sales people:

1.  They see the situation from the customer’s point of view.

2.  They ask better questions.

3.  They listen more constructively.

4.  They are obsessed with time management.

5.  They do bigger deals.

Let’s look at the relationship among these items to see if there are any lessons for us.

“They do bigger deals.”  That is both the result of their work (that is, after all, why they are the best sales people) as well as their focus from the beginning.  They start with an understanding that it is their job to bring revenue into the company, and that the more revenue they bring in, the more valuable they are to their companies and the more successful they become.  And this realization leads them to what becomes an obsession.

“They are obsessed with time management.”  That means that they intentionally and methodically strive to make the best use of their sales time by focusing the bulk of their efforts on the highest-potential opportunities and customers.  You won’t find them running an errand for a “C” customer just to be a nice guy.

In my book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, I make the point that this practice – investing in the highest potential prospects and customers – trumps all other sales practices.  If you are a great presenter, for example, and wonderful at closing the sale, your skills will be squandered if they are not exercised with the right people.

And what do the best sales people do with the time they invest in the highest-potential customers?  “Ask better questions,” and “listen more constructively.”  Amazing.  These two fundamental communication skills are, perhaps, the earliest communication skills we learn.  Yet, the best take these foundational skills and execute them better. And since they excel at these two fundamentals, they naturally gain a better understanding of the “customer’s point of view.”  Equipped with that competitive advantage, they formulate creative proposals that lead them back to where they started:  bigger deals.

This should be immensely encouraging to sales people.  Unlike the promotional messages from legions of sales trainers and authors, the reality is that there are no “secrets” in sales.  Success comes not from hidden strategies and mysterious tactics, but rather from the excellent execution of the essentials.

The best sales people execute the most fundamental skills with excellence.  And, since we can all do the things the best do, we can, if we choose, strive to do them better. And, if we strive to do them better, at some point we will arrive at the same place they are: a master sales person.

In other words, there is a path to sales mastery, and we can all follow it, if we choose.

It begins with our mind-set.  We need to see ourselves as professional sales people, whose job it is to bring revenue into the company.  That sounds so simple and so basic, yet legions of sales people are loath to consider themselves sales people.  They are account executives, sales facilitators, mobile customer service representatives, etc.  Some consider themselves to be exclusively the advocates for the customer and hand out discounts and concessions to anyone and everyone.

Since they don’t see themselves as professional sales people, they don’t invest in improving their sales skills.  They don’t understand that their behavior creates a reciprocal reaction on the part of the customer. The sales person’s actions create reactions on the part of the customer. If they want more profitable actions from the customer, they need to improve their actions.

Once we have the mind-set of the professional sales person, we slowly begin to gravitate toward the opportunities and customers that hold the greatest potential.  We understand that we only have a small and limited quantity of sales time, and that we must invest it, with a cold-blooded business attitude, in those situations that will bring the greatest reward.  In short, effective time management becomes a daily obsession.

Now, since we are interacting more frequently with the highest potential customers and prospects, we focus on excelling at the most fundamental communication skill:  asking better questions and listening more constructively.  Armed with these two fundamental and powerful communication devices, we strive for continued improvement and constant development.

With this as a path, sales mastery is an achievable goal for every committed sales person.

As the best have taught us, there is a path to sales mastery, and it comes through excellent execution of the essentials.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and seven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations.  Sign up for his free weekly Ezine, and visit his blog.  For a limited time, receive $547 of free bonuses with the purchase of his latest book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime.


Commence CRM and SugarCRM

A Brief Comparison of Two Middle Market CRM Providers

Mid-size businesses and small enterprises looking for a CRM solution typically focus their energy on a few specific CRM software providers.  Two of the companies battling for a slice of this middle market are Commence CRM and SugarCRM.  Both are considered high quality alternatives to the more expensive and complex Salesforce.com program, but there are several differences between the two.  This brief report highlights some of the differences that consumers may be interested in.

Functionality: Both Commence CRM and SugarCRM are comprehensive offerings that rival enterprise level solutions such as Oracle and SAP.  In addition to contact and account management, calendaring and activity management, both solutions support sales force automation, lead management, marketing campaign management, customer support, e-mail integration, document management, mobile integration, reporting and analytics.  Integration with third party accounting solutions is also offered by both providers. Both products offer robust functionality and it is unlikely you will require features that are not offered by either CRM vendor.  Commence also offers an integrated project management solution which is attractive for companies that require this functionality.

Advantage:  Commence CRM if project management is required.

Customization: Both CRM solutions are customizable. SugarCRM was originally released as a free open source CRM program, but is now sold under an annual subscription license.  The product is written using the PHP language which is not highly regarded as an enterprise level language and while the product can be highly customized it does require PHP knowledge for most customizations. Commence CRM is designed using Java, an industry standard for scalability and high speed performance.  Commence has incorporated a lot of flexibility within the user interface which enables the system administrator to tailor the applications without programming knowledge.  More sophisticated customization however would require Java expertise.

Advantage:  Commence CRM due to industry standard Java programming language.

Deployment: Both Commence CRM and SugarCRM are online web based CRM solutions that may be deployed on premise or via a cloud computing environment.  Both offer a tremendous advantage over Salesforce.com who does not offer on-premise deployment.

Advantage:  SugarCRM. Commence limits on-premise deployment to larger organizations.

Hosting & Data Security: Commence CRM has a strategic partnership with Rackspace, the industry’s number one rated hosting facility which has datacenters in the United States, Europe and Asia.   Rackspace provides the highest level cloud computing environment in the industry.  SugarCRM can be hosted by the client or any third party hosting provider.  This may be of concern to customers looking for continuity with regard to new product releases and high quality support services.

Advantage:  Commence CRM. Rackspace is a recognized cloud computing leader.

Customer Support: SugarCRM offers several customer service plans. They are separately priced from the product’s annual service fees.  Commence bundles in telephone support into the annual service fee.  Support is provided directly from the company’s headquarters in the United States.

Advantage:  Commence CRM. Telephone support included in annual service fees.

Price: Both products are attractively priced as compared to rival Salesforce.com and offer good value.   SugarCRM offers two editions: SugarCRM professional at $360 annually per user and SugarCRM Enterprise for $600 per user per year.  Commence CRM offers a bit more flexibility with regard to the selection of functionality and price, and lets you build your own CRM system by selecting the functionality you require at a price that meets your budget. Prices start at $220 per user annually and go up to $780 annually per user.

Advantage:  Commence CRM, due to flexible applications selection and pricing.

Image Credit: Sugar cubes by Original uploader was Creet at en.wikipedia – originally by Uwe Hermann source Wikimedia license CC Free photos from acobox.com

CRM Software Underutilized in Smaller Businesses

CRM Failure Rate Remains High

In order to gain a competitive edge or simply compete against larger corporations, mid-size and smaller enterprises need to take advantage of the same technology the bigger guys are using.  Many are turning their attention to Customer Relationship Management software or CRM as a tool to automate and improve how they market, sell and provide service to their customers.  CRM software can help companies implement a set of structured internal processes that enable them to become a more efficient sales and service organization.  The most significant challenge facing smaller businesses, however, is the lack of resources and experience with the implementation of CRM software and managing the changes associated with automating their internal processes.  This is almost always underestimated by smaller businesses that seem to prefer the do-it-yourself methodology versus engaging the expertise of the CRM vendor.  These do-it-yourselfers often learn that engaging the assistance of the CRM software provider is paramount to the successful implementation, use, and ROI realized from the CRM software.

With CRM – It’s All About Service

I find the CRM software sector perplexing.  Due to its rapid growth it has become one of the most competitive industries, chock full of low cost solutions, cut throat competition and immature products that deliver very little value.  In fact, the whole concept of customer relationship management seems to have disappeared. Today, many of the CRM vendors don’t have the time to discuss your requirements or demonstrate how their solution would address your business requirements.  They prefer that you simply place your credit card over the Internet and download the software.  They will then bill you each month that you utilize their product and if you require assistance: send an e-mail and someone will respond in a few days.  Is this really customer relationship management?

One company that conducts business the old fashioned way is Commence Corporation, a provider of customer management software solutions for more than two decades.  Commence takes a completely different approach to selling their CRM software by first taking the time to understand the customers’ business, offering personal demonstrations and “try before you buy” programs that ensure the customer is comfortable with the CRM software and the value they will realize from it.  Commence also has a large staff of experienced personnel who assist each customer with the implementation, making recommendations along the way with regard to implementing an appropriate lead qualification process and a structured sales methodology.  The value of this service can be measured by the ROI Commence customers realize with Commence CRM and the number of years they remain customers.  My point is simple.  If you think you will impact the performance of your business with some low cost CRM solution that you purchase over the Internet you will be very disappointed.  Many CRM solutions may appear similar, but the winning formula is all about the level and quality of service provided by the CRM vendor.  This is what makes Commence a top rated CRM solution and differentiates it from the competition.

Commence CRM software is available on premise or as a cloud based CRM offering. To learn more about Commence CRM, visit the company’s web site at www.commence.com and see for yourself why Commence is the best CRM solution for mid-size and small enterprises.

Image Credit: Diary by Sheikh tuhin source openclipart license Public Domain Free images from acobox.com

Picking the Best CRM Software

Aperture & Sharpness

What should you be looking for when selecting CRM software?  Well it depends on what is important to you, but let me offer a few tips that may help you in the selection process.  While it seems almost impossible to differentiate one CRM solution from another other than by price, all CRM systems are not alike.  The first thing you need to do is determine what problem you are trying to address.  Most CRM systems address three specific business requirements.

One Central Database of All Customer Information

First is data consolidation. This enables you to capture, track, manage and share vital customer information with the people and departments that require it to efficiently do their jobs.  Previously known as contact management, this functionality is traditionally found in even the most basic CRM systems and is fine for those companies simply looking to get away from managing their business using an Excel spreadsheet.  But what if you need more?

Drive More Business and Close More deals

The next core functionality requirement most businesses have is how to get the telephone to ring more. Most businesses need more leads and may not have a structured sales process in place to ensure that both new leads and the sales cycle are properly managed to closure.  While lower cost CRM systems offer some basic sales management and reporting, you need to consider a mid-market offering that offers the work flow processes for creating marketing campaigns that generate new leads, qualifying or scoring the leads and automating the entire sales process.

Improve Your Customer’s Buying Experience

Lastly, providing world class customer service may be the difference between earning new and recurring business and losing to your competition.  More robust CRM systems offer a customer support application that provides service representatives with access to a complete customer profile. This enables them to react immediately to customer inquiries or complaints. Higher end CRM systems may also include a customer portal that allows the customer to check the status of their order or service ticket or edit their profile right within the CRM system.  This new self-service component provides customers with a better buying experience and gives your business a leg up on the competition.

Choosing a CRM Vendor

So now that you are thinking about your specific business challenges it’s time to start short listing some CRM vendors.  Most CRM companies target a specific market based on the functionality they offer.  The most basic low cost contact management solutions tend to sell to small office or small home businesses, while mid-market CRM providers focus on companies that have greater business requirements.  Enterprise CRM solutions offer scalable platforms that can support hundreds and even thousands of employees and as such tend to focus on this market segment.  So the question you need to ask is where do you fit?

Next, I would take a look at the CRM vendor’s track record. How long have they been in business? How many customers do they have that are similar to your business and what level of customer support do they provide?

While there are dozens of CRM software providers in the industry, one of the most popular CRM systems that appeals to mid-size and small enterprises is Commence CRM.  Commence has been providing CRM software solutions to this segment for more than twenty years and has been rated one of the best CRM software programs based on its robust functionality and attractive price points. Commence CRM is a web based CRM solution that provides online real time access to data from anywhere in the world.  What is also appealing about Commence CRM is that it may be deployed as a cloud based CRM program or implemented on premise.  Commence is ideal for mid-size companies that need a robust online CRM solution at an affordable price point.  For more information about Commence CRM software, visit the company’s web site at Commence.com.

Image “Aperture & Sharpness” by Ross on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Commence Corporation Introduces Affordable Flexible CRM Pricing Program

Select ONLY the CRM Applications You Need to Match Any Budget

Tinton Falls, N.J.  May 10, 2011 — Commence Corporation a leading provider of Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) has introduced a new flexible pricing structure that is attracting new business away from rival CRM software providers.  Many CRM vendors have designed pre-built application packages often called ‘editions’ that force customers to select a pre-set group of applications at a fixed cost. Salesforce.com, one of the leading providers of CRM software not only forces customers to select a pre-packaged set of applications, they also limit how many users can utilize the applications without bumping up to the next level at a higher cost. “This just doesn’t make sense” says Larry Caretsky, president of Commence Corporation.  “Customers should not be forced into selecting a group of applications and features designed by the CRM vendor”.

Commence Corporation’s pricing structure allows customers to build their own CRM system by selecting only the applications they require and there is no limit to how many users can use the applications they have selected.   You start with the essentials such as account and contact management, calendaring, e-mail integration with MS Outlook, and activity management. Then add any additional applications you require from a comprehensive list that includes lead management, sales force automation, marketing campaign management, help desk, documents, project management, analytics and mobile integration.  Commence even offers an interface to popular accounting packages at an additional cost.

“Customers are finding our program very attractive and for good reason,” says Caretsky.   “No one wants to be told what applications they must purchase.  Our program offers the flexibility and affordability customers simply cannot get from competitive offerings while offering a growth path to additional functionality down the road”.   For more information about Commence Corporation’s flexible pricing structure visit the Commence CRM Pricing link or call Commence sales at 1-877- 266-6232.

About Commence Corporation

Commence develops and delivers a diverse suite of award winning CRM software that integrates people, processes and technology.  Available on premise or via a cloud computing environment, Commence CRM solutions streamline the front office business processes that directly impact sales execution and customer service.   Commence is one of the most trusted names in CRM software. The company has been providing customer management software solutions to the middle market for more than two decades and services several thousand customers in twenty two countries around the world.

Media Contact:

Nicole Reed