What CRM Vendors Don’t Want You to Know

If you’re a small to mid-size business looking for a Customer Relationship Management solution you are most likely focusing your attention on evaluating and comparing each product’s features, functions and price. And while that may indeed be the key criteria for your decision there are several things that CRM vendors don’t want you to know that could impact your final selection.

Comparing CRM Vendors

Test Drive Unlimited 2CRM software traditionally consists of a suite of applications for managing customer interaction. Basic low cost CRM solutions offer contact management and sales forecasts, where more comprehensive programs add applications for marketing campaign management, project management and customer service.

So what makes one CRM provider better than the competition?  The answer often lies under the hood.

Today traditional methodologies for building, running and managing software applications have changed dramatically with the introduction of cloud computing.  New CRM applications need to be built for speed and scalability, handle large transaction volumes and be able to operate on multiple devices.   They need to scale upwards to handle growth and provide the infrastructure for global deployment and accessibility.

Building applications that address these requirements is not only costly, but requires a high degree of engineering expertise that is rarely available in small or start-up software companies.   So what does this all mean to you as a consumer?  It means that you may be selecting a CRM solution that may not scalable or will perform well when running reports or doing queries of the database. You may experience a higher level of downtime and you may see very little if any product updates or enhancements to the product. The reason for this is quite simple.

Cloud based CRM

There are actually three types of CRM software products available today.

1. Companies that have transitioned their traditional client server software to the web

These companies have mastered the art of intermingling terminology. They often refer to their solutions as web or cloud based when in fact they are not cloud based at all.   They may have put a web based front end on their traditional applications and host them at their datacenter but these systems were not engineered for deployment under a cloud based infrastructure which could be a cause for concern in the future.  The best way to determine this is to ask the vendor if their solution is hosted under a client/server architecture or is it a true cloud based architecture.

2. Companies that offer cloud based CRM applications but have not designed their architecture for scalability and performance

As stated earlier building, managing and maintaining cloud based CRM applications requires a unique set of engineering skills that very small companies do not traditionally have or can afford. As such, they take the necessary short cuts to get the product out the door and worry about performance and scalability if they are successful and need to. Sort of the “operate under a shoe string and hope we grow” model.  This is typical of very low cost programs that offer limited functionality by design and often limit the volume of data you can store in the system. If you see limitations on the number of accounts or records, the number of e-mails you can send or the reports you can run, this is a big red flag that this system is not designed for scalability of performance.

3. Companies that have built their solution to operate in a cloud based infrastructure and who have the experience and engineering skills to ensure that these products can address the challenging business requirements that lie ahead

These firms have had to navigate through the uncharted waters of the new era in cloud computing and have grown a bit of scar tissue while doing it, but it’s these companies that customers should be paying attention to.

For large enterprise organizations, Salesforce.com, Oracle and SAP should be strongly considered.  If you are wondering why Microsoft is not listed it’s because they only recently introduced a true cloud based offering and the jury is still out regarding its ability to match the other solution providers.

For small to mid-size companies Commence CRM and SugarCRM are quality firms that have been in business for more than a decade, and have a good track record for scalability, performance and good customer service.   There may be others not listed here, but the five that are have been and will most likely continue to be the leaders in the CRM sector.

Image “Test Drive Unlimited 2” by Dekuwa on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Commence CRM First Looks on New Product Release Getting Good Reviews by End Users

Commence Corporation, a leading provider of affordable CRM software for growing businesses, has released an enhanced version of their popular online software.

Commence offers a comprehensive suite of CRM applications targeted at small to mid-size businesses that need more than basic contact management and a sales forecast, but not the cost and complexity associated with enterprise level solutions.  Commence’s ease of use coupled with robust functionality has continued to attract businesses throughout the United States and Europe.  The company’s web based CRM system is well suited for businesses of 10 to 200 users.  These customers find the Commence CRM easier to navigate and use than competitors Salesforce.com and Microsoft CRM and less expensive.

In addition, Commence has an experienced professional service staff that helps customers tailor the system to meet unique business requirements and establish and automate internal workflow procedures such automated lead qualification, sales methodologies, sales training and rating and color coding of customers based on the their value to their business.  Services such as these are rarely offered by lower end CRM providers, which is what makes Commence such a strong competitor in the mid-market.

Click Here to open the review of Commence CRM in PDF format.

Sales: Question and Answer #12 – Overcoming call reluctance

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

By Dave Kahle
Pep TalkQ. I have long enjoyed your articles.  I am in my second year of being a full commission salesman and wanted to get your advice.  When I make an onsite visit or pick up the 500 pound phone and call the customer, I feel like I am begging for work… asking the headmaster for another cup of gruel.  I know this isn’t healthy and I genuinely believe my product is of great quality and valuable to the customer.

I get very anxious and apprehensive to, first, pickup the phone, then, to call the customer and try to wade through my nervousness and then try to act confident to get the sale.  I work out of a home office separated from the main office which is about two hours away.  I can call down and talk to the owner or my production manager for a pep talk or product updates.  My challenge, I guess, is self confidence and conviction.

A.  Ah…call reluctance.  We’ve all been there.  There is not a sales person alive who hasn’t, at some time or another, felt the same things you are feeling.

Congratulations on taking the first step.  You’ve recognized the problem and correctly diagnosed that the issue lies within yourself.  I’m not so sure that conviction is an issue.  You’ve indicated that you are convinced that your product is of great quality and valuable to the customer.  So, I expect that conviction is not the problem.

The issue is your thoughts and feelings.  If you can somehow gain control of those, you’ll control your reluctance, you’ll make more calls and you’ll make them more effectively.  Your results will improve; you’ll make more money, enjoy life more, and maybe even retire early to a home in the Caribbean!

It does come down to working with yourself, managing your thoughts and emotions.  Sooner or later, almost every sales problem comes down to this.  You recognize, of course, that it is your responsibility to manage your thoughts and emotions. Accepting that responsibility is the next positive step to take.

So, you’ve diagnosed the problem, and it is you.  You’ve accepted the responsibility to change you, and you’ve bought into the idea that you can, and should, do so.

Now, the question is how.

Top 10 Sales Best Practices

There are a variety of specific techniques you can try to gain control.  Keep experimenting with these different ideas until you find a combination that provides you the control that you want.

The first set of techniques is based on this premise:  The reason you are so reluctant is because you are allowing negative thoughts to occupy your mind.  The negative thoughts paralyze your actions.  So, the key is to eliminate the negative thoughts.  You do this, not by focusing on the negative, but rather by substituting positive thoughts.  Here are several proven techniques.

1.   Commit to a life’s purpose.

Create a specific, detailed statement of your purpose in life.  Clarify that.  Then post that in front of your work station.  See each day’s work, and each set of phone calls, as a means to a much more important end.  Focus on achieving your purpose, and the small things will fall into line.

2.  Focus on a specific and powerful goal.

This is similar to the technique discussed above, only with a smaller focus.  It’s not your life’s purpose that provides you emotional power and strength; it’s some annual or short term goal.  Create a written statement of exactly what you want to achieve or acquire.  Maybe a new car.  Set a deadline.

3.  Visualize that goal.

Picture it and put it in front of you in your work station.  Now, consider your day’s activities to be minor steps in the process of achieving that goal.  It’s not about this phone call; it’s about doing what you need to do to achieve your goal.  Focus on the goal, and allow it to overpower any negative thoughts that may enter your mind.

4.  Put in positive thoughts.

Somewhere along the line you have picked up a number of negative thoughts that occupy your mind.  One way to get rid of them is to push them out of your mind by substituting positive thoughts.      Search out a number of positive thoughts and write them down.  I have used quotes from famous teachers – like Shakespeare, and positive quotes from the Bible.  Here’s an example, “If God can be for you, who can be against you?”  Now, read that group of thoughts to yourself before you start every day, at every break, at the end of the day, and every time you feel yourself getting negative.  In a few weeks, you’ll find yourself thinking positive, not negative thoughts.

5.  Picture success and what it brings.

This is a variation of number two, above.  Picture yourself having a great day.  Lots of sales, wonderful calls, positive things happening.  Now, enjoy the feeling.  Relish it.  Explore it.  Really, thoroughly, experience how it feels to have a successful day.  Now, every day, in the morning before you begin, and several times throughout the course of the day, bring up those feelings.  Work toward creating them every day.  Focus on how it feels to be successful, not the negative thoughts that have occupied you.

The second set of practices is based on a more behavioral approach.  This approach skips over the “thoughts and feelings” part of you, and focuses on your action.  Here are a few specific techniques to implement these kinds of techniques:

6.  Give yourself specific activity numbers and specific rewards.

Set a daily goal.  Let’s say something like 20 successful conversations with customers.  Then attach a short term, specific reward to the attainment of that goal.  When you attain it, for example, you could give yourself one hole of golf to be played that weekend.  So, you’re working to reward yourself with a round of golf.  You do it by focusing on your behavior.

7.  Line up your calls, and discipline yourself to make another call immediately after you hang up from the first one.

So, for example, you set up a list of 20 calls.  As soon as you hang up from one, you dial the next with absolutely no time between.  The time between is time to think, and that has not been positive for you.  So you manage your behavior to focus on the things you need to do, and not allow the thoughts to intervene.

8.  Make a warm call first.

Call your production manager, boss, or customer service person first, before you make any cold calls.  That gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling, makes you feel like someone really does want to talk to you.  Then, immediately jump into the cold call list.  Focus on the behavior.

Finally, there are a couple of techniques that fall somewhere between these two approaches.

9.  Use positive affirmations.

Write a group of statements about yourself that are positive and specific, and relate to the task at hand.  Things like “I have a warm and confident presence on the phone.”  “I look forward to every contact I make.”  These statements reflect who you would like to become, and are not necessarily reflections of reality.  Then, read those affirmations to yourself repeatedly, every day, several times a day.  Eventually, you come to believe them.  And, eventually, you live up to your beliefs about yourself.

10.  Learned optimism.

This is a specific set of techniques that arise out of the research of Martin Seligman, PhD.  I’d refer you to his landmark book, “Learned Optimism”, to read the very powerful techniques for self-management.

Every sales person has to come to grips with his greatest enemy and most powerful asset – his/her mind.  That often means we need to create disciplines to help us manage ourselves – mentally and emotionally.  As you acquire these disciplines, you mature as a sales person, and learn to manage yourself to exceptional performance.

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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 “Pep Talk” by joellevand on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leadng 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, and for a limited time, receive $547 of free bonuses with the purchase of his latest book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime.

Copyright MMXII by Dave Kahle

All Rights Reserved.

Best Sales Management Tools for Small Business

Small to mid-size businesses are finally paying very close attention to managing the sales process and are in desperate need of easy to use sales tools for automating the sales cycle and reporting on pipeline activity.

While there are a number of CRM software programs that offer sales cycle management one of the best ones for small to mid-size companies is Commence CRM.  What makes Commence so popular is simply how easy it is to use.  Commence does not require pages and pages of data entry and provides just about everything a sales person needs right from the product’s sales dashboard.  This has made the adoption of the product very high among sales representatives across all industries.

From the sales dashboard (see image below) a sales representative can enter a new lead, a new opportunity, a new account, schedule follow-up activities and manage the sales pipeline or funnel without leaving the screen.

sales-dashboard-commence-crm
Sales Dashboard

Using a set of pre-built analytical reports sales management can follow each opportunity through the pipeline and take a proactive approach to help win the sale.

sales-dashboard2-commence-crm (1)
Graphical and spreadsheet view of sales by stage

In addition to the ease of use reported by sales professionals Commence CRM provides a complete cloud based sales and lead management system for just $15 per user per month.  To learn more see the sales CRM feature video at http://www.commence.com/sales-opportunity/