Are CRM Product Reviews Losing Credibility?

Gold top 10 winnerConsumers looking to purchase specific products and services often turn to the internet to begin the process of gathering information about what’s available to them.  The internet is a wonderful, quick and efficient source of information, enabling you to hone in on specific products or services and visit individual company websites or read product reviews.

While the amount of information can be overwhelming, you can always count on that one report you can’t wait to get your hands on once you see it – “The Top 10 Report”.  Consumers who download these reports feel as if they have hit “pay dirt” or have they?

Top Rated CRM

Today there is a top 10 report for almost any product or service including CRM software. But can you rely on these reports to provide you an unbiased review of the product or service you are interested in?  Unfortunately, there is a reason to be concerned. Why? The fact is many reports charge a fee to be included in them.  This is known in the industry as “pay to play” and has become so prevalent that some of these reports may no longer provide the credibility you think they do. They instead simply list the companies that have agreed to pay to become part of the listing.  This isn’t quite fair to the consumer but this is business and things are not always fair.

Web CRM Reviews

So what can you do if you are looking for a specific product or service, or in this case an online CRM system?  Use the reviews as a starting point then do more homework about the company or vendors you may be interested in.  Check how long they have been in business and how many successful implementations they have done. What kind of customer service can you expect? And if you are focused on online CRM software, where will your data be managed and stored and how can you get access to it if you need to

Social Networking

Another great source of unbiased information is Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. These social networking sites represent the public at large who often provide excellent unbiased feedback about specific products and services.

Image “Gold top 10 winner” by Sam Churchill on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Thinking about Sales: It’s all about the Risk!

This is a Customer Relationship Management article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.

Worried!
Article By Dave Kahle

        Sometimes it is so frustrating.  You know you have a better product than that which your prospect is currently using. Your price is attractive, your service is outstanding.  If the prospect would switch to your solution, you know they’d be delighted.  You’d save them money, smooth out their processes, reduce their inventory and generally make their life simpler.

         So, why won’t they switch?  Are people really that stupid?  Or, is it you?  Did you do something to put them off?

While there are some circumstances where the answers would be yes to the questions above, the most likely answer is something totally different.  The reason they won’t switch is likely not their IQ, nor your deodorant.  It is the risk!

Risk is several things.  First, it is often the number one issue in the mind of the customer, particularly when the account has no history with your company.  That makes it the number one issue to address in the sales process.

Risk is what the customer perceives it to be.  In other words, it’s not anything quantifiable, like the price or delivery of your offer.  It’s not objective or tangible.  Instead it is much more insidious, lurking underneath almost every conversation between you and your customer.  Because risk rises out of fear, risk is often not mentioned.  To acknowledge risk is to admit fear.  To admit fear is, in many people’s minds, to expose weaknesses.  No one wants to look weak.

Risk is the answer to these two questions:

1.   “What happens to the company if they make the wrong decision?”

2.   “What happens to the individual who is making the decision, if he/she makes the wrong decision?”

Risk is the combination of the financial, social, emotional, and time costs that the company and the individual decision-maker will bear as a result of making a mistake.

Understanding Risk

6/365 -- I C U!Here’s how I help people in my seminars understand risk.  Two examples.  Let’s say that on the way home tonight, your spouse calls you on the cell phone and explains that some friends are coming over for the evening.  You need to stop at the grocery store on the way home and pick up some disposable cups so that you’ll have something in which to serve the drinks.

You stop at the grocery store, rush in and see brand A and brand B.  You select brand B, scoot through the express lane, and arrive home just a few moments before your guests are scheduled to arrive. Your spouse has a pitcher of Margarita’s mixed up, and you pour yourself one in the disposable cup you just bought.  As you raise it to your lips to take a sip, you discover a leak in the bottom.  You quickly grab another cup, pour the contents of the defective cup into that one, and raise it to your mouth.  Oops! A leak in that one, too.  One after the other, you discover that every one of the cups you bought is defective.

Now, imagine yourself in this situation.  What price are you paying for your mistake?

I don’t know about you, but in my house, I’d be the recipient of some negative emotion from my spouse.  There would be a social and emotional price to pay.  I’d also have to invest additional time, running back to the store to fix the problem with another bag of disposable cups.  And, I’d have to pay for them, so there would be some financial costs.

All of this over a simple little purchase, at which you made a mistake.  Even so, when you compare the risk of this decision with all possible decisions you could make in your life, this one has relatively little risk.  Here’s a simple exercise to help you understand this concept. Draw a short vertical line.  At the top of the line write the number 25.  At the bottom, write the number zero. Now on a scale of 0 – 25, where would you put the risk of buying a package of disposable cups?  It’s close to zero.

Now, let’s compare that with a risk on the other end of the equation. For a number of years, I had an international adoption agency as a client.  Consider a young lady in a crisis pregnancy.  What is the risk involved as she contemplates releasing her unborn child to adoption?  Certainly a lifetime of consequences for at least four people. On our 0 -25 scale, most people would rate it as a 25.  This risk is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

The point here is that different decisions carry with them different degrees of risk.  Now, put yourself in the shoes of the individual who is making the decision to buy your products.  What happens to that person, if he or she makes a mistake?

Now I know you are thinking that you and your company will make it right, so that there really is no risk.  But that’s your perspective, not your customer’s.  He doesn’t know that you’ll make things right.  Even if you say it, he still doesn’t necessarily believe it.

So, put yourself in his shoes, and see the situation through his eyes. On the 0 – 25 scale, how much risk does he accept when he says “yes” to you?

Here’s an easy way of calculating it.  Just ask yourself what happens to that individual if you, or your company, mess up.

Sales Strategies for Reducing Risk

Danger StyleHopefully, you now have a different perspective on that prospective customer for whom your pricing is attractive, your product is better; your net impact on the customer would be positive, but who won’t buy.  It’s not about the price, it’s not about the quality, and it’s not about the service.  It’s all about the risk!

If the risk to that person is high, the way to make the sale is to reduce that risk.

Here are three strategies for reducing the risk.

1.   Develop a closer personal relationship.

The greater the relationship, the less the risk.  The lesser the relationship, the greater the risk.  That’s why they would prefer to buy a less effective product at a higher price from the salesperson who has been calling on them for years.

         Focus, not on reducing the price, but rather in increasing the relationship.

2.   Make the deal tangible.

The more vague and intangible the purchase, the more risky.  Take all the imagination out of the buy.  Bring them into your facility so they can see that you really do have an office/production facility.  Take them to a location where the machine is being used by someone else.  Hand them certificates of warranty instead of just telling them.  Show them pictures of the product being used.

Look at every aspect of your offer, and think about how you can make this piece more tangible and objective.

3.   Use Proof.

What is “proof?”  Someone else, other than you, saying something about your product, company, or service.  Proof is letters of recommendation from other customers, photographs of other customers using your product or service, testimonials, case studies, lists of clients, third party studies, copies of articles from trade journals, etc.  Anything you can find that in any way adds substance by someone else, even if it is remote and only distantly connected to your offer, will go a long way to reducing the risk.

The concept of risk and its role in the buyer’s mind is one of the most powerful concepts in the world of B2B sales.  Taking it into account and planning to reduce the risk of every decision will be one of your most powerful sales strategies.

###

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.

Image “Worried!” by Alon on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Image “6/365 — I C U!” by  Hvnly on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Image “Danger Style” by thethreesisters on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Commence Offers Best in Class CRM Cloud Hosting Service

Facebook Data Center Server Board

Cloud Hosted CRM

Selecting a cloud based CRM solution can be challenging. There are literally hundreds of options ranging from free open source programs to complex enterprise offerings.  While features and functions traditionally differentiate one product form another one of the most overlooked criteria when selecting these systems is the hosting component.  What’s even more perplexing is that fact that many small to mid-size companies don’t seem to care.  Many simply view cloud computing as a commodity.  The cloud is the cloud it’s all the same, but it’s not.

Where and who manages your data may in fact be more important than the CRM software program you select, particularly if you are purchasing a low cost service from an unknown CRM software provider.  The hosting and service component of your decision is very important because if the CRM vendor or hosting service provider goes out of business, you may have just lost your complete customer base.

Mainstream cloud based CRM systems like Commence CRM and  Salesforce.com for example use best in class hosting services that provide back-up and recovery services, virus protection, 24/7 management and even the ability to host your data at more than one location if desired.  These are important decision criteria and often do not cost any more than low cost CRM solutions providers that do not offer this service.  So be smart and make the hosting service a critical component of your decision process.

Image by Intel Free Press on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Arm your Sales Team – It’s a War Out There

Ready for Battle, Sir!Sales are the driving force of any business. With competition getting tougher and tougher it is imperative that you develop, train and coach your sales team to be the best they can be.  Experienced sales managers can train sales representatives to be better qualifiers and closers, but sales people need more than basic sales training to be successful.  They need the right tools and a partner to ensure that the sales staff realizes the maximum value from them.

CRM software is now regarded as a must have for any size business that sells products or services.  What these software programs provide is the ability to manage customer interaction and share vital customer information with the people and departments that need it to effectively do their jobs.  CRM comes in several flavors from basic programs that provide contact management and sales management to more mature systems that offer lead management and lead qualification, sales analytics, marketing campaign management and customer service applications.

Best CRM for Small Business

One of the most popular CRM systems for small to mid-size businesses is Commence CRM.  Well regarded for its robust functionality and ease of use, Commence is a cloud based CRM system that operates over the Internet. As such, there is no hardware to purchase or software to install and customers can be operational very quickly.  What Commence CRM does best however is that it automates the routine tasks that are performed daily by sales and customer service personnel.  Right from the opening screen or dashboard, sales and support staff can enter new leads, a new sales opportunity, a service ticket, schedule follow-up activity or access the complete profile of any customer.  The speed, efficiency and ease of use of this system is unmatched in the industry and has made Commence a popular alternative to highly marketed CRM programs like Salesforce.com and Microsoft CRM.

Sales Process Management

While Commence offers several unique features in the software, the company’s expertise in sales process management has enabled Commence customers to quickly get a leg up on the competition. The Commence program allows for the implementation of a custom tailored sales process that displays a graphical analysis of where every new sales opportunity is in the sales process. This provides sales management with the ability to be proactive with each new sales opportunity and has resulted in more accurate sales forecasts, higher close ratios and more sales.

Free trials and CRM reviews comparing Commence against other online CRM programs are available on the Commence web site at commence.com.

Image by Andrew Wong on Flickr under Creative Commons license.