Is Your Business Implementing Workflow or Workarounds?

Small to mid-size businesses often struggle to automate their internal business processes and tend to use workarounds rather than automate workflow.

Workflow can be viewed as a series of steps that are required to complete a task from initiation to completion.

These tasks can be found throughout an organization from administration and sales down to the shipping department, and can impact sales execution and customer service. Because workflow tasks are often repetitive in nature they can be easily automated.  Easy-to-use, affordable CRM software programs like Commence CRM do an excellent job of automating internal workflow processes such as:

  • automatically scheduled and assigned task lists
  • sales processes
  • lead qualification
  • drip marketing
  • proposal generation
  • and even the process of distributing sample products

By automating internal business processes companies can improve internal communication, increase employee productivity and run their business more efficiently.

Sales Process Automation

One of the strengths of CRM programs like Commence is realized through automating the workflow associated with your sales process.  Commence allows you to define the steps associated with selling a product or service, then track and proactively manage the progress of each sales opportunity.  By doing this your business can better define real business opportunities and more accurately forecast monthly and quarterly revenue.

The screen shot below outlines a series of steps in the sales cycle that are managed using the built-in workflow tools in Commence CRM.

sales-workflow-opportunity-stages
Sample workflow for managing the stages of the selling cycle

The screen shot below provides a graphical representation of the number of opportunities and dollar amounts in each stage of the selling cycle.

sales-process-pipeline-by-stage

For more information about Commence CRM and its automated workflow processes visit the company’s website at www.commence.com.

Sales Best Practice #5 – Is good at closing the sale

A best practice for sales people by guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.

By Dave Kahle

The best salespeople earn that designation because they write more business than the mass of salespeople.  They get the order!

One of the practices that contributes to that success is that of “closing the sale”.  Unfortunately, there is no one issue that is more misunderstood and incompetently trained than that of “closing the sale.”  Much of the sales training on the subject, as well as the vast preponderance of sales literature, is way off the mark.

Closing is not a matter of continually pressing for the business, nor using manipulative techniques, nor clever repartee, nor memorizing any “magic” closes.

Just today I said “no” to someone who kept pressing me for the order.  I interpreted his pressure as desperation on his part, and his desperation meant that there was something not right about the deal.  I said “no.”  In this case, the highly trained, very skilled salesperson, with the right product at the right price, did exactly the wrong thing, and brought about a negative result — solely on the basis of his poor judgment about the customer, and his repeated attempts to close the sale.

While there isn’t enough space in this article to fully explore the issue of closing, I have some general observations.

When it comes to closing, the best salespeople do two things. In the traditional sense, they ask for the order when they sense that the customer is close to committing to a decision.  This has always been the classic definition of closing the sale.

But in the hands of a master, closing takes on a larger meaning.  Sales masters also understand that “closing” is more than an event that gets tagged onto the tail end of the sales process.  They understand that “closing” is the process of attaining an agreement with the customer on the action that the customer will take as a result of every interaction.  They have the mindset that every sales call – whether 45 seconds on the phone, or 90 minutes in the customer’s office – always should end with some agreement on the next step.

The process of closing, then, starts with the first “Hello” and continues through every interaction that the salesperson has with the customer.

So, confirming an appointment is a mode of closing.  As is gaining a commitment to view a presentation, test a sample, research other users, etc.  The best salespeople continually seek, and obtain, commitment from the customer to take action at every step along the way.

As a result, the final decision to buy the product or service is a natural, logical result of all the commitments (closes) that went before.

The best salespeople are continually and effectively closing every conversation with the customer. That’s why this is a best practice of the best salespeople.

To study this best practice, take advantage of these resources: How to Excel at Distributor Sales, chapter eleven; Take Your Sales Performance Up-a- Notch, chapter thirteen; “Up-A-Notch” video training kits, Module number four.

If you are a member of The Sales Resource Center™, consider The One-Month ‘Closing’ Course, and The Six Month ‘Consultative Selling’ Course.

Image “follow through” by sukhchander on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Copyright MMIX by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved

Salesforce.com Challenged by Small to Mid-Size CRM Competitors

2009APR101606
Image by Peter Renshaw on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

The market for Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) is highly competitive.   While  Salesforce.com, a pioneer in the evolution of cloud computing, was once the only game in town, 2012 is presenting some challenges to the current market leader as more and more competitors enter the race.  One of the top Salesforce.com competitors is Commence Corporation, a company that has been providing customer management software to small and mid-size companies for more than two decades. Well regarded for its award winning desktop products, Commence now offers a robust cloud based CRM solution that’s easier to use and less expensive than Salesforce.com.

“Salesforce clearly established the sector” says Larry Caretsky, president of Commence Corporation “and they are a good company with a good product. But no one can be all things to all people.   Salesforce had targeted enterprise level organizations and in order to meet the requirements of these firms they had to add a level of complexity into their product that just isn’t required or wanted by small to mid-size companies. As the enterprise market became saturated they lowered the price for smaller organizations, but this doesn’t change the product’s complexity.” says Caretsky.

Companies that compare Commence CRM to Salesforce.com, come away with a very favorable impression. “They like our user interface and the intuitive navigation of our product better and we are a more affordable CRM.  This is all a result of the company’s twenty years of experience serving the SMB community.”

“This is our core competency and we have a wealth of experience in delivering best in class solutions that are affordable and easy to use.”

Larry Caretsky
President, Commence Corporation

Commence’s success has resulted in the opening of a European office in the United Kingdom.  Industry reports indicate that the market for CRM software in Europe is experiencing rapid growth and Commence is well positioned to take advantage of it.  “Salesforce.com and Microsoft have been in Europe for some time” acknowledges Caretsky, “but we are confident of our ability to compete favorably in the SMB space.”

Thinking about Sales: Your Most Powerful Sales Tool

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

Nacmias Auto Sales, Service, and Repairs
Image by Rich Nacmias on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Article By Dave Kahle

Did you enjoy what you had for dinner last night?

You are probably wondering what that question has to do with sales.  Bear with me a moment, and answer the question.

Now, pause a moment, and think about what you did when you read that question.  Your mind probably flashed back to yesterday evening, and you saw a picture in your mind’s eye of what you had for dinner. Then you recalled your response to the dinner, and made a judgment that you did or didn’t enjoy it.

Here’s the point.  I was able to direct your thinking by asking you a question.  You thought about what I wanted you to think about, and you thought about it in the way I wanted.  That’s an illustration of the power of a question.  It directs an individual’s thinking.

That’s what makes asking a good question the single-most effective thing you can do with a customer.  A well-phrased, appropriately-timed question is your most powerful sales tool.

Here’s what good questions will do for you.

1. Good questions direct your customer’s thinking.

When you use a good question, or a series of good questions, you penetrate your prospect’s mind and direct his/her thinking.

There is something in human beings that makes it almost impossible not to think of the answer when we are asked a question.  I’m not sure whether it’s something genetic, or whether we’re conditioned from birth to always think of the answer to a question.  Here’s an illustration.  I’ll ask you a question, but I want you to not think of the answer.  How old are you?  If you’re like most of us, you thought of the answer, even after I indicated you shouldn’t.

Now, consider where the decision to buy your products or services takes place.  It happens in the mind of your customer.  A good question from you helps focus and shape the direction in which your customer’s mind works.

For example, suppose you’re shopping for a new car.  The sales person asks you, “Which is more important to you, good fuel economy, or quick pickup?”  Until asked, you haven’t really thought of it that way.  The sales person’s question helps you understand what you really think, and directs your mind along a certain course.  Now that you’re thinking along that line, the conversation naturally proceeds based on the first answer.

Similarly, you perform a service for your customers when you ask them good questions.  Your questions direct their minds along certain paths, and help them clarify their thinking.

2.  A good question is your best means of collecting the information that will help you construct a sale.

How do you know what a customer thinks, or what his/her situation is, unless you ask a question?  If you’re selling a new surgical glove, for example, you first ask questions to discover the surgeon’s concerns so that you are able to point out the specific features of the glove that meet those needs.

“Without first asking questions, you’re reduced to working on assumptions about the needs and interests of your customers.”

You will do a far better job of selling your products and services if you first use good questions to understand your customer’s needs and interests.  Good questions help you to see into the mind and heart of your customers, and equip you with the knowledge necessary to make the sale.

3.  Good questions build relationships.

The act of asking good questions shows that you care about the person and his/her problems.  The more questions you ask about your customer, the more he/she feels your interest.

“The law of reciprocity indicates that the more interest you show in a customer, the more likely that customer will be interested in you.”

Did you ever attend a reception or cocktail party, and meet someone who was very interested in you?  Asked you question after question about yourself?  When you parted, you thought to yourself, “What a great person.”  Why did you think that?  Because of what he/she said?  Probably not.  You thought the person was wonderful because he/she expressed interest in you! And you formed that impression because of the questions they asked of you.

You can make use of this principle by asking good personal questions of your customers and thereby building strong relationships.

4.  Good questions convey the perception of your competence.

In other words, your customer sees you as competent and trustworthy — not necessarily by what you say — but rather by what you ask.

Here’s an illustration.  Suppose you have a problem with your car.  You take it into the mechanic down the street and say to him, “My car is making a funny sound.”  He says to you, “OK, leave it here and pick it up at five.”

You’re not reassured by his approach, so you take it to the mechanic across the street.  You say the same thing to him.  And he says to you, “What kind of sound?”  You reply, “A strange thumping sound.”  And he says “Is it coming from the front or the back of the car?”  And you say, “It’s coming from the front.”  And he asks, “Is it a metallic kind of sound or a rubber kind of sound?” You reply, “It’s definitely metallic.”  And he says, “Does it go faster when you go faster and slower when you go slower, or is it the same speed all the time?”  You respond, “It definitely speeds up as I do.”  Then he says, “OK, leave it here and pick it up at five.”

Which mechanic seems to be the more competent?  That’s easy. Obviously, the one who asked more questions.

Got the idea?  The focus and precision of your questions does more to give your customer the perception of your competence than anything else.

“Every one of your customers wants to feel that the sales person he/she is dealing with is competent.  You convey that perception by asking good questions about the details of your customers’ needs and applications.”

Mastering the use of good questions — the sales person’s single most powerful interpersonal tool  —  in every aspect of your sales interactions will dramatically improve your results.

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.

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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 with this issue is Dave’s book, Question Your Way to Sales SuccessCheck it out here.

Copyright MMXII by Dave Kahle

All Rights Reserved.