Commence CRM Helps Struggling Sales Representatives Get Focused

If you are a sales professional in today’s competitive market you need every advantage you can get to close business.  While some sales organizations are mired in paperwork and struggle to ensure new opportunities don’t fall through the cracks, others are turning to easy to use low cost CRM programs like Commence for help.  Commence CRM has been specifically designed to address the common challenges faced by sales representatives across every industry — those being lead qualification and the efficient management of the sales process.

Lead Management Software

Inexperienced sales representatives often struggle with lead qualification. Either they fail to ask the proper questions or get caught up in the excitement of a new opportunity and fall into the trap of being led by the prospect.  Either way the result is the same. They end up spending valuable time chasing tire kickers versus qualified opportunities.  This costs your business money in wasted time and lost opportunities that perhaps they should have been working on.

The Commence online CRM software addresses this concern by enabling sales management to automate the lead qualification process.  Built into the sales CRM software is an automated business process that consists of a set of pre-qualification questions that a sales representative must answer before taking any additional action.  The questions are designed to ensure that every new lead is qualified according to a strict set of criteria and not the gut reaction of the sales representative.  It’s a clever program that guarantees every sales representative qualifies new leads according to the company’s criteria.  It also ensures that the sales organization is focused on the most qualified new opportunities.

Sales Management Software

The second area addressed by the CRM software is the management of the sales process. Most sales representatives have a process by which they manage a sales opportunity, but it’s their process which is rarely documented and different from every other representative.  As such, there is no way for management to get a handle on multiple sales opportunities when each representative handles the process differently.

The Commence sales software provides the ability to define each step of the sales process from introduction to closure. This way management and the sales representative have a clear picture of where each new opportunity is in the sales cycle and what the next steps are for winning the sale.  Click the link below to learn more about managing the sales process with CRM.

CRM Online Video: Manage the Sales Process with Commence CRM

Sales Question and Answer #13 – Are company backorders costing you the sale?

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

Article By Dave Kahle

Pointing fingersQ. Help!  I’m so frustrated.  I just attended a “sales training” program that never addressed the real issues that I have to deal with every day.

What causes me problems is not my lack of sales ability, it is my company’s back orders, the lack of responsiveness and competence in my customer service people, and the mistakes in delivery by the warehouse.  Those are the real issues.  What can I do about those things?

A.  Thank you for a “real world” perspective on the real issues that impact the ability of real sales people to do their jobs.  I appreciate you asking the question that so many sales people are hesitant to ask.

Believe me, I understand.  For much of my life, I dealt with those same issues.  It seemed like my results (and my income) were totally dependent on how well someone else did their jobs – materials management, customer service, delivery, etc.  No matter how effective I was, my efforts could be totally sabotaged by a problem in inventory, quality control, warehouse or delivery.

How do you deal with this?

1.  Put it in perspective.

Keep this in mind.  Your customers may point out your problems with delivery, back orders, or quality.  As a result, you think that your company is the worst performer out there.  The truth is that your company is probably no worse than your competitors.  Your customers may complain about you, and since you are the one fielding the complaint, you take it personally and think it is just your company they are complaining about.  Trust me, when your competitor is calling on them, they are likely saying the same things about his service to him.

So, your reaction is probably a bit too extreme for the circumstances.  Unless you are going through a particularly horrible time, you are probably no worse than your competitors.  You probably don’t have any more problems than your competitors do.

So, first, realize that the situation is probably not as bad as you think it is. Relax a little bit.

2.  Communicate the specifics to the appropriate powers within your company.

Two keys to this statement:

A.  Specifics. Don’t say, “We’re losing business because our price is too high!”  Do you know how many times your management has heard that?  Hundreds.  It has no meaning because it is too general.  Say, instead, “I lost a deal for $10,000 at XYZ Corporation because our prices on ABC products were 4% higher than our competitor, CCC Company.”  Your boss can’t deal with generalities that have no substance to back them up.  But he can deal with the specifics.  If you can’t collect and communicate specifics, you’re not going to be persuasive.

B.  The appropriate powers.  If the problem is delivery, take your case to the head of shipping.  If your problem is back orders, take your case to your material manager.  Communicate the specifics to those people who have the authority to do something about them.  Complaining to your colleagues will not solve anything.

3. Do what you can do to alleviate the problem.

I understand that the problem is some other department or person.  However, I also know that your behavior influences your company’s ability to perform.  And, while you can’t change other people, and you can’t change other departments, you can change your behavior.  So, search for the little things you can do that will help with the problem.

For example, let’s say that you are plagued with back orders.  What can you do to positively influence this problem?  It may be that:

a.  You could be more conservative in your promises to your customer. Instead of promising that new item next week, you could say, “We should be able to deliver that first order within 30 days.”  Manage your customer’s expectations.  A back order is an order that isn’t received when the customer expects it.  Change his expectations, and you’ll impact your back orders.

b. You could communicate new demands to your materials manager before it happens. If you expect an order for a substantial number of gadgets, for example, let your materials manager know how many you expect to sell and when you expect to do it.  Don’t let the actual order be a surprise to your inventory control person.

c. You could check on your inventories of an item before you promise delivery of it. You could take a moment to check to see if you have sufficient stock of an item before you tell the customer that he can have it next week.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying that you are the reason for back orders, or mistakes in shipments, etc.  But, you are part of the system.  And, by changing your behavior, you can influence the performance of the total system.  Accept your responsibility to do what you can to help the situation.

4.  Trust your coworkers.

When you are in the heat of the battle away from the office, it is easy to imagine the incompetent and uncaring people who manage things inside.  However, when you go speak to them, and see the situation from their point of view, you’ll often discover that they are just as intent on serving the customer as you are.  They are, in their areas, just as competent.

Instead of pointing fingers from a distance, see the world from their point of view, have some empathy for them, and trust them to do the job for which they are paid.

5.  Be proactively honest with your customers.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep.  Don’t make excuses that aren’t real.  Don’t blame anyone else.  Admit your company’s problems, be honest about what you are doing, and offer the customer some options.

In my tenure as a sales person, back orders were a constant headache.  I’d get on the computer every morning, and print out a back order report for the customers I was going to call on that day.  I’d then get on the phone with my favorite customer service rep, and strategize how to expedite those orders.  I’d have a solution for every back order before I left my house.  When I made that day’s calls, I’d say, “XYZ product is backordered, but we expect to receive them on the 10th, and I’ve already put in an expedited order for you.  You’ll have them on the 12th.”

I’d proactively identify the problems, create solutions, and then be the one to inform the customer of both.

Hope this helps.

Copyright MMX by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved.

Image “Pointing fingers” by Newtown grafitti on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

How do you make the Right CRM Decision in a Commodity Market?

7

Learn How in this Report

Ok, you are looking for a CRM solution for your business.  You have surveyed the market reviewed and tested a dozen or more CRM software solutions and you are still not comfortable in making a decision.  In fact you’re frustrated and you are not alone.

The CRM software sector may be one of the most competitive in any industry. There are literally hundreds of CRM solutions available from desktop programs that run on your personal computer to cloud based ones that operate over the Internet. What’s most troubling is how hard it is to differentiate one from another.  Other than price and term of contract they all seem the same.  I understand and hear this every day.  As an executive of a leading CRM solution provider I can assure you that every CRM solution is not the same. Certainly most CRM solutions offer similar functionality. That’s a given, but there are other things to consider during the decision process other than features and price.

Outlined below are “7 Points to Consider before Making Your CRM Decision”.  I hope you find this valuable and that it helps you to make the best CRM decision for your business.

1) Select a mature solution provider

With today’s economic uncertainty, it’s extremely important to select a solution provider with a trusted reputation and long-standing track record for delivering high quality products and services in your industry. There are no guarantees today, but a company that has been in business for a decade or more with an established customer base is clearly a safer bet than the one that’s just getting started.  It’s also a good idea to research the vendor’s customer base and ask for references that can discuss the provider’s commitment to quality customer service and product enhancements.

2) Know your requirements beforehand

Don’t make your selection of a CRM solution a beauty contest. Take the time to document the core requirements that you are looking for and make sure you fully understand the workflow of your internal business processes. Smaller businesses tend to lose sight of this during the evaluation process and become too focused on cosmetic appearance and price. As a result, they are often disappointed in the product’s inability to support the unique business requirements that were not part of the initial demonstration.

3) Where’s my data?

Your customer information is your lifeline. Without it you’re out of business. Don’t be afraid to ask where your data is being hosted and by whom. Most vendors utilize a third party service to host your data. Ask who they use and check into the company’s track record for performance and reliability. You may also want to inquire about backup and recovery along with their procedures for obtaining your data should you discontinue the service. This is one of the most important yet overlooked aspects of your CRM decision process.

4) Scalability

Your business is going to grow. If you didn’t believe this you wouldn’t be in business.  I stated earlier that there are a myriad of CRM product offerings available. I didn’t say they could all meet your current and future business requirements.  In fact, many are designed for very small businesses and will not perform well when pushed to higher levels of utilization.

Make sure the product incorporates a comprehensive set of applications even if you are not planning to utilize them today. Furthermore, make sure the solution you select has been proven to perform at two to three times the current number of users you plan to have.

5) Back-end integration

While this may not be your top priority, CRM is the front-end to all backend processes and sooner or later you are going to want to integrate customer data with your accounting or ERP system. Make sure the vendor you are most interested in offers an application programming interface or API that enables back-end integration.

6) Select a partner not a vendor

If you have made a decision to implement a CRM system because you are committed to becoming a more effective sales and service organization, then you need to select a partner to assist you not a vendor.  A partner will provide you with a proven implementation plan and best practices to ensure that you realize the maximum value from their solution. A vendor will sell you their solution then suggest you send an e-mail if you require help. CRM is not a toy or an electronic gadget that you simply plug in the wall.  You will require professional assistance from the CRM provider in order to maximize the value of any CRM solution.  Make sure you select a partner who has a solid track record for providing this level of support.

7) Stay away from free

Nothing good comes out of free. Not good products and not good services.  A world class product from a trusted solution provider who can…

  • protect your data with a reliable hosting service
  • provide a high level of performance
  • offer scalability and growth
  • enable back-end integration
  • and partner with you to ensure your business objectives are met

… isn’t cheap and doesn’t come free.

This is an important decision for your business and the difference between a top rated trusted solution provider and a low cost one may be just a few dollars a month.

About the author: Larry Caretsky is President and CEO of Commence Corporation, a leading provider of cloud based online CRM software. Comments about this article may be sent to sales@commence.com.

Image by Tom Magliery on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Successful Salespeople Sell with Passion

Best Salespeople

Energetic Crepe Guy - Boulevard de Clichy - Montmartre, ParisSelling products or services has never been easy.  For every successful salesperson there are ten unsuccessful ones.

So what makes one salesperson better than the other?

Well you can point to a host of things such as their product knowledge, their understanding of the value their product or service provides, their follow-up and persistence, knowledge of competitive products and your comfort factor in buying from them.

Others point to the use of automated sales tools such as CRM software and crm best practices that enable salespeople to more efficiently manage the sales cycle, keep notes and history for each sales opportunity and ensure that customer inquiries are followed up quickly and efficiently.  While all of these are excellent points there is one thing that you cannot teach or automate with sales management software and that’s passion.

Top Characteristics of Successful Salespeople

How many times have you received a call from a salesperson who sounds like they would rather be doing anything else but calling you to pitch their product?  Good salespeople sell with passion. You can hear it in their voice and see it in their mannerism if they are in front of you.  They not only believe whole heartedly in their product, but become disappointed if at the end of their presentation you don’t feel the same way.  To them it’s a personal failure.  These are the type of people that become successful in sales.

These are the people who believe making a sale is more important than the commission they will receive. These are the people you want on your team.  I cannot tell you where to find them, but only what to look for when interviewing them and that’s passion.

Image “Energetic Crepe Guy – Boulevard de Clichy – Montmartre, Paris” by Chris Goldberg on Flickr under Creative Commons license.