Setting Expectations for Online CRM

Small to mid-size businesses looking for online CRM software need to set the proper expectations when selecting newer CRM technology that’s delivered over the Internet.

The "No Stress" StickerFor the past two decades the standard for CRM software was on premise or desktop applications. Over the years, these programs became very mature allowing administrators and end users to tailor the software to meet unique business requirements.  Companies that are now looking to transition to online CRM where the software is hosted or managed by a third party need to appreciate that many of these newer CRM software programs have been designed to provide customers with a set of “out of the box applications” and features that meet generic business requirements.  While some of the enterprise CRM solutions offer tools for customization they are traditionally very expensive and require programming expertise to utilize.  This can add a significant cost to the overall expense of your CRM system.

One of the ways to quickly rule out CRM systems that offer good customizability from those that don’t is cost.  While this may seem basic, it works.  Low cost CRM solutions typically offer basic CRM features and functionality with minimal customization if any.  Mid-level systems traditionally offer security permissions, and the ability to add custom fields, views, forms, and reports. But if integrating third party programs and modifying the look and feel of the CRM program is required, you will need to consider enterprise level CRM software.

If a low cost solution with limited customization will meet your requirements there are a myriad of low cost offerings to choose from but it may be difficult to differentiate one from another.  The mid-market offers a bit more clarity with several very good offerings from companies such as Commence CRM and SugarCRM.  The leaders in the enterprise market include offerings from Salesforce.com, Microsoft and Oracle.

Image ‘The “No Stress” Sticker’ by Morton Fox on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Implementing a CRM software system is essential

sharing is powerCRM software is essential, but how can you be sure? Often businesses are bombarded by products, solutions and campaigns highlighting different business needs. Therefore deciphering what is relevant can often be a difficult task for organizations. CRM software is one business solution that cannot be ignored.  In the case of customer relationship management knowledge is power. The argument ‘what you don’t know won’t hurt you’ couldn’t be less relevant in the world of business. Knowledge transfer can occur within seconds and the speed at which you are able to deal with customer requests can be the difference between customer retention and a sales loss.  The question then arises how can you best manage your customer needs and the day to day running of your business? The only way to do this effectively is through the implementation of an online CRM software system.

Online CRM software is the way forward. Previously sales teams have had to manage their interactions with clients through maintaining excel sheets, word documents or even recording data in soft copy documents. Ensuring that customer data is correct and up to date is close to impossible when these documents are being maintained manually. However an online CRM software package can automatically reduce the time spent documenting customer data. Through the implementation of CRM systems, companies can effectively manage their sales teams and develop strategies relating to their key clients.

CRM software packages enable the users to view their sales pipeline with greater clarity. The benefits of this are unparalleled; customer knowledge is the key to developing and maintaining growth. An intuitive, online CRM software solution streamlines the front office business processes that directly impact sales execution and customer service.

Image “sharing is power” by IAALD Editor on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Sales: Question and Answer #8

This is a Question and Answer article for sales people from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.

By Dave Kahle

Q. Occasionally, customers may say they have seen or received a lower price for the same product in order to receive better pricing from us.  How would you handle that type of call?

A. You mean this only happens occasionally?  I’ll bet thousands of my readers see it frequently.  Regardless, there are a number of things you can do.

The Moment of TruthFirst, assess the validity of the customer’s comment.  Your question says that your customers “may say…” That implies that sometimes, at least, you think they are just saying it, and not meaning it.  So, you have to determine the likelihood that they really have seen the same thing at a lower price.  If you think they are just making it up, and they really don’t have a lower-price option, then just diplomatically ignore it.  Say something like this, “I really don’t know what else is available, but I do know that this is a fair price.  Should I send you one or two?”

You’ll never know if they are bluffing until you call their bluff.  It’s worth losing one or two to help you understand the reality of their comment.

Second, if you think that they really do have another lower-price option, then you need to spend some time in preparation before you even make the call, so that you will have a strategy and set of techniques ready for this situation.

Assess your position in the account.  Ask yourself these two questions:  “Are you the preferred vendor?”  “If all things were equal, would they prefer to do business with you?“

If the answer is “Yes,” and you are the preferred vendor, then that is usually worth at least 3%, but rarely more than 10%.  In other words, if your competitor can sell it for $100.00, but you are the preferred vendor, you can probably get $103.00, but probably not $110.00 for the same product.

So, you need to determine if you are the preferred vendor and, if so, how much is that worth to the customer.  Create a deal which, in effect, lowers the price to what you think you can get.  Have that deal, plus some language to offer it, ready for the situation.

For example you might say, “I understand that you may be able to purchase it for less.  Let me suggest this, when you buy it with item Y, we can provide it for $103.00 plus $8.00 for item Y.  That gives you a discount from our regular prices, plus a great buy on item Y.  Do you want to go ahead with that?”

That, of course, assumes that all things are equal.  The truth is that all things are rarely equal.  There is probably some reason why the customer should buy it from you.  That means some benefit that the customer gets from the transaction with you that is valuable to him/her and that is not going to come from the competitor.

Just ask yourself the question, “Why should they do business with me?”  And don’t answer it from your perspective, answer it from theirs.

If there is nothing that the customer gets that is valuable to him, then he should not buy it from you.  Once you identify the benefits to the customer of doing business with you, you then need to prepare a statement or two that encapsulates the reason why someone should buy it from you.

There are thousands of reasons why they should buy from you beyond just the price or the product itself.  There is the state of the relationship, for example.  They like you.  That’s reason enough.  Or, maybe your invoices are clearer, your terms more flexible, your delivery more reliable, etc.  Or, it may be just more convenient.

StarbucksHere’s an example.  Almost every morning that I’m in the office, I first stop at the coffee shop on the first floor of my building and get a cup of coffee to bring to the office with me.  It’s good coffee, but no better than I can get several other places.  But it is more expensive.  In some cases, it’s twice as much as I would pay elsewhere.  Why do I intentionally pay more?  Because it’s convenient, I don’t have to go out of my way to buy it, and the people in the shop know me and greet me by name.  To me, those are nice benefits, and worth an extra $.75 a day.  So, while the product is the same, and the price more expensive, there are some reasons why I’m willing to pay the extra price.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes, and determine why they should pay the extra price to buy it from you.  Take those reasons, and turn them into a persuasive sentence or two.  Memorize those two sentences.  Then, the next time someone offers the comment, you’ll be ready to persuasively show them why they should still buy it from you.

Good luck!

By the way, you’ll find this kind of insight into dozens of sales issues in our Sales Resource Center. It houses 435 training programs to help every one live more successfully and sell better.  All delivered over the internet, 24/7, for one low monthly fee.

###

Image “The Moment of Truth” by Kevin Dooley on Flickr, under Creative Commons license.

Image “Starbucks” by Marco Paköeningrat on Flickr, under Creative Commons license.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and eight countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations.  Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. A great source of specific tools to help you close is Dave’s book, Question Your Way to Sales Success. Check it out here.

Copyright MMXII by Dave Kahle

All Rights Reserved.

Why Buy CRM Software?

Standing on the runway waiting for takeoff.
What are you waiting for?

You’re a small to midsize business with automated systems for accounting, but when it comes to managing sales and customer relationships you’re using a dated contact manager or an excel spreadsheet.  If this sounds like you, it’s time to consider investing in CRM software.  Today there are dozens of CRM systems available for small to midsize companies and they can be deployed on premise or as a hosted solution managed and maintained by the third party solution provider.

What CRM software will provide right out of the gate is the ability to consolidate customer data.  Information that’s coming into your business every day via the telephone, fax, e-mail or the web can finally be placed into a single consolidated customer database where it is available to the people that require it to efficiently do their jobs – Hallelujah.  Your staff can now communicate effectively with customers and or prospects and have the information they need immediately accessible to them.

What about sales? Do you have a structured process in place for capturing and qualifying leads or managing the sales process?   Why not?  It’s easy and most CRM software programs provide this as part of a standard package.   You certainly cannot expect to improve close ratios if you are not monitoring and managing the sales process.   A good CRM software program will enable you to add a structured approach to selling and the ability to monitor the performance of your sales team.

Lastly, what about customer service?  The difference today between retaining a customer and losing one may rest with the level and quality of service you provide to your customers. But how can you expect your service staff to do this without having access to customer records?  CRM software programs enable this by providing the service staff with the access to what the customer purchased, when they purchased it, who they purchased it from, and if they have had any history of problems.  No rational business executive can argue with the need to improve how they market, sell and provide service to their customers so what are you waiting for?

You can get started quickly and see substantial results using online CRM software.  These programs do not require any additional hardware or software and cost less than a cup of coffee a day per employee.  While many Internet sites have additional information about different CRM software programs, you may wish to review some of the white papers and tips at www.commence.com.

Image “Standing on the runway waiting for takeoff” by Andrew King on Flickr, under Creative Commons license.

Commence CRM Review – Noted in The Most Important Online CRM and Social CRM Applications

top-online-scrm-apps

GetApp.com which provides information via their Business Software Marketplace has highlighted Commence CRM as one of the top providers of CRM software and  Social CRM software or SCRM.  Commence has been noted due to the company’s support for both CRM and Social CRM software.

Commence CRM offers a comprehensive suite of customer management software including contact and account management, sales management, lead qualification and scoring, marketing, customer service and project management.  The CRM application suite is coupled with social CRM integration and support for mobile devices.  Commence is targeted at small to mid-size enterprises that need an easy to use affordable online CRM software program. More information is available at www.commence.com or from the following link:

Top CRM Apps and Social CRM Apps – Infographic | GetApp.com