New Conversations Feature in Commence CRM Gets Good Customer Reviews

Commence Corporation is a CRM software solution provider that has continued to invest in their product by introducing new features and enhancements year after year. This latest one called “Conversations” is an instant messaging tool that is built right within the CRM software.  It’s a handy application that complements e-mail and your telephone, and is used to communicate with internal or external staff.  What’s nice about conversations is that once a message is posted it will appear on the dashboard of the Commence CRM users and they can respond accordingly.  There is no requirement to open a folder like there is with e-mail and if the end user is on the telephone they can still read and reply to the message.

CRM-Dashboard-socialcrm-conversations

“It’s a nice feature that provides us with point to point communication for our internal staff,” says A. Jenkins, a user of Commence CRM “and because it’s built into the CRM product it’s faster and more efficient than e-mail.”

For more information about Commence CRM and the new conversations feature, visit the company’s website at www.commence.com.

Sales Question and Answer #24 – How do I get to see new prospects who won’t return voice mail?

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.

100106582 Smiling Business Executive by stockimagesQ.   How do I get to see new prospects who won’t return voice mail?

A.  Since this continues to be one of the most asked-questions I receive, I’ve decided to spend several months on this question.  In an earlier article, I talked about creating a powerful, persuasive opening statement.  Recently, I discussed the concept of an effective “pre-call touch.”  In this piece, I’m going to discuss some effective tactics for making the call.

First, a reminder of the perspective from which we should view this problem.  It’s this – there is not a simple, easy solution.  I wish I could provide you with a magic phrase or set of “secret” words that are guaranteed to get the prospect to return your call and grant you an audience.  But it is just not that easy.  Influencing new prospects to return your call and to invest their time in the speculative venture of seeing another sales person is not a simple thing.  And, clearly, it is growing more difficult.

There is a principle that we need to grasp if we’re going to be more effective at this most difficult task.  The principle is this:  There is no short cut, no simple, easy, magic answer.  There are, however, some principles and strategies that will increase the likelihood of you getting an appointment with the elusive prospect.  That means that you are going to have to invest serious planning time and serious creative thought in improving your results.

OK.  You’ve prepared an effective opening statement, and you’ve sent a creative pre-call touch.  Now you are going to make the call, using the opening statement that you have prepared, and making reference to the pre-call touch that you delivered.  What are some ways to make the actual phone call more effective?

1.  Time it right.  You may have greater success in getting to your prospect by calling at an odd time.  Try a few minutes before 8 AM, ditto for lunch, and a few minutes after 5:00 PM.  These are all times when the normal switchboard may not be operating, yet the person you want may be at his/her desk.

2.  Practice a conversational voice.  Don’t sound too smooth or rehearsed.  That makes the person listening to your voice mail think that you are just another sales person.

I’ve always found it more effective to sound a bit “real.”  It is OK to stutter a bit, to hesitate, to use an occasional “ah.”  All these make you sound like a real person, not an automaton repeating a memorized pitch.

3.  Always leave a message.  Imagine that you could buy a 15 second radio commercial that you could beam directly to your prospect.  Wouldn’t that be a good thing to do?  That’s what voice mail allows you to do.  So, every time you encounter voice mail, deliver your radio commercial.

4.  Show that you understand them.  In your voice mail message, leave the name of a company similar to theirs that you have dealt with, or mention a very specific problem that you believe they have, or some individual that you have worked with who they may know.

Another approach is to ask a penetrating question.  That’s a question that indicates your knowledge of the prospect’s business or situation, and points to the need for what you have.  Let’s say that you’re selling food packaging equipment.  Your penetrating question could be something like this:  “John, in light of the new federal regulations on particulate matter, to what degree does your packaging equipment keep you out of trouble with the government?”

Notice that the question conveyed the impression that you understand his business, and then prompts the prospect to think about the need your product is designed to meet.

All of these things say to the prospect that you are someone apart from the ordinary sales person — that you understand them.  There is little that is more attractive to a person than being understood.

5.  Instead of asking to be called back, leave a message indicating that you will call him/her back at a specific time.  So, instead of saying, “Please return my call,”  you say, “I understand you are not available at the moment.  I’ll call you at 4:15 this afternoon to pursue this discussion with you.”

6.  If you do leave a request for them to call you, make sure that someone is available to take the call and schedule the appointment.

Saying “please return my call,” and then going off with your cell phone busy all day is not very smart.  When they call, they wind up leaving a voice mail for you.  Instead, leave a number where a customer service person is at (or your spouse, etc.), with times and dates when you are available to make the appointment.  Don’t frustrate them by having to leave a voice mail for you!

Good luck!

Copyright MMVI by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Image Credit: stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Utilizing Twitter to Counteract Negative Customer Reviews

One of the more challenging aspects of business management is counteracting negative customer reviews. Customer relationship management (CRM) is always a delicate balance of responding without seeming defensive.

And in this new world of instant messaging, mobile platforms, and social media, where news is spread virally, companies need to respond quickly and efficiently. Twitter, the micro-blogging social media platform, is a great tool for CRM.

Setting up an Effective Twitter Strategy

Social media is different than print or broadcast advertising, as the underlying fundamental principles are all about relationships, which fits smoothly into CRM fundamentals. We talk with other people in social media, not at them as in a magazine ad. Consequently, social medial such as Twitter is a more effective tool for building trust and credibility which fits in with your CRM strategy.

Utilizing Twitter to Counteract Negative Customer Reviews - Commence CRM Blog Pic 1

Let a little bird help with business reputation management.

That said, Twitter can be used to also direct contacts back to ads, PR campaigns, or blogs to reinforce messages and ensure the maximum number of customers – and more importantly, potential customers – are reached. With tweets being so much faster than other traditional platforms, your counter measures will be heard sooner rather than later.

Here are important aspects of setting up an effective Twitter strategy:

Interact

Many companies use social media to only post information such as new product announcements or invitations to events. But since platforms like Twitter reinforce interactions among participants, it is a perfect way to implement CRM to build stronger customer relationships.

While sharing what you had for lunch may not be something you care to post, interacting with others is essential to success on Twitter. Re-tweet interesting photos or links with comments in front of the RT symbol. Ask questions about posts, such as “What new products are you releasing at the tradeshow you mentioned?”  You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get a dialogue going if you’re not perceived as a spammer.

Utilizing Twitter to Counteract Negative Customer Reviews - Commence CRM Blog Pic 2

Being a good member of the community is key to social media success.

A good ratio is 80-90% interaction, with only 10-20% of your tweets talking about your products and services. If you are perceived as a good member of the Twitterverse, then when you need positive reviews, your fellow tweeters will be more than happy to help out.

Tweet with Frequency

We’re hearing marketing gurus say you don’t have to tweet everyday, and that is just plain wrong. An effective social media campaign requires that you tweet at least a dozen or so times per day. Software such as TweetDeck or HootSuite allows you to schedule messages so you can come into your office in the morning and in 10-15 minutes organize tweets that can go out throughout the day.

These don’t have to be original tweets. Re-tweeting, especially with a short comment in front such as “Ck this out” is considered good etiquette and is highly encouraged.

Frequency is important for counteracting negative customer reviews because Google will pick up Twitter posts in online searches. The more positive tweets you post, the lower those negative reviews will appear in page rankings.

Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. While open requests to re-tweet a post are considered cheesy, the direct message option is a great way to privately get your network to support your efforts. Of course, as in any community, you have to reciprocate and support the other members of the Twitterverse!

It’s a good bet that with a consistent Twitter strategy your positive messages will get out. They may even go viral so that your online reputation is better than ever!

About the Author:

Sarah Boisvert writes on a variety of business topics, including social media, marketing, and sales. She has over 100,000 Twitter followers in her various accounts and considers herself a Twitterholic.

Sales Best Practice #30 – Systematically analyzes key accounts in order to identify opportunities for growth.

100118762 Young Professional In Office Looking Through Binocular by imagerymajestic

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

Mediocre sales people are content to react to the requests of their customers, and focus on maintaining the relationships in order to solidify the business they enjoy.

The best sales people understand that, while some of the above is necessary, they proactively seek to discover additional opportunities for growth in their key accounts and strategically build relationships with people who can open doors for them.

The difference is greater than just one of degree.  The best sales people work from a mindset that understands they need to continually seek for additional opportunities.  This mindset colors everything they do, and dictates the practices and disciplines they build into their routines.

One such discipline is that of systematically analyzing key accounts in order to identify opportunities for growth.  They work like this:

Periodically, every quarter or so, they methodically consider each of their key accounts one at a time (for a discussion of key accounts, see my book, 10 Secrets of Time Management for Salespeople).

They may start with a matrix of all the categories of products they sell, and then methodically collect information as to how much of each of these each account currently purchases.  For example, it may be that your company sells four categories of product:  Widgets, gidgets, fridgets and pidgets.

For each account, they may have a matrix that looks like this:

Annual Purchases (Total) Annual Purchases (From Us) Opportunities
Widgets $100,000 $50,000 $50,000
Gidgets $75,000 $10,000 $65,000
Fridgets $87,000 0 $87,000
Pidgets $16,000 0 $16,000

Notice that before they can analyze and prioritize the opportunities, they must first collect the information regarding the account’s annual purchasing volume.  Just that practice alone will separate the best sales people from the pack.

But, once they have that information, they routinely consider it and make decisions about which opportunities offer the closest and easiest way to improve their business.

This discipline keeps them constantly focused on the best opportunities in their key accounts.  And that means that they are always working in the most effective way.  No wonder they are the best sales people.

Copyright MMX by Dave Kahle
All rights reserved

Image by imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Creating new customers – Eight ways to identify new suspects

This is a best practice for sales people by Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.

100163331 Businessman Searching To The Future by bplanetEvery sales organization, and every sales process, begins with identifying a group of suspects.  Suspects are people and organizations you suspect may one day do business with you.  They aren’t yet prospects, because you don’t know if they have a legitimate need for what you sell, or if they can make the decision and buy your product or service.  That determination comes later.

But in order to get a group of prospects, you must begin with a list of suspects.  Here are eight ways to acquire such a list.

1.   Buy a list.

This is the information age, and lists are available for almost every conceivable set of characteristics. For example, I could, this afternoon, contact a list broker, ask for a list of names, addresses, phone numbers, size of business in numbers of employees, and email addresses for manufacturers (or any one of a couple of hundred classifications) within a set of telephone area codes.  I could have that downloaded to my computer by the end of the day.

Information selling is now a major industry in this country and there are lots of providers.  Just do a Google search on “list brokers” and find a couple with which to work.  You’ll be amazed at what information you can purchase.

2.   Get referrals from your customers.

Probably the best way to meet a prospect for the first time is to be introduced by someone you both know and respect.  Before that can happen, you need to get the name and details for the person who you want to meet.  That means you must ask your current customers for referrals.

The best way to do this is to visit your customers face-to-face, have a conversation about your products/services and their satisfaction with them, and then ask them specific questions to generate lists of names. For example, don’t ask, “Who do you know….”, instead, ask, “Who is one of your vendors who could use our service?”, Or, “Which one or two people in your committee would be possible candidates?”  By asking a series of specific questions instead of general ones, you’ll direct their thinking in more productive routes, and acquire more referrals.

3.   Rub shoulders with groups of them.

If you have precisely defined your target markets, then you should spend some time thinking and researching this question, “Where do groups of them go?”  The answers can vary from trade fairs, association meetings, to other suppliers.  The most unusual answer to this was from a client who sold reference books to lawyers.  In order to meet them, he discovered that many of them would frequent a local pub on Fridays.  He then made it a practice to show up and rub shoulders them, meeting them in a social situation.

If you can identify where they go, then you can see about getting a list of them from someone who organizes or administers that event or meeting place. Or, you can just show up and collect business cards.

4.   Advertise in publications and websites they view.

There is a reason why advertising has been around for so long.  One way to collect lists of suspects is to advertise in the publications or websites they view, offer something free or inexpensive, and collect the names and details.

The people who respond to the ads move themselves one step closer to being prospects in that they, by responding, show they have an interest in what you offer, and are willing to take action.

5.   Partner with someone else who sells something compatible to them.

The key here is “compatible.”  Again, if you have done a thorough job of describing what the ideal suspect looks like, you can then ask, “What else do they buy?” Or, “With who else do they do business?”  That should lead you to some companies and eventually people who may have a vested interest in sharing their lists with you in exchange for something of value from you.

6.   Take a survey or send a newsletter to a larger list.

If you want to find “sales managers of medium sized insurance agencies who supervise six or more sales people” for example, you could take a survey of all insurance agencies, or send them a newsletter, with an opportunity for the sales managers to respond to something that is suitable for them.  Those who respond, if you do this well, identify themselves as being in the category you want.

7.   Hold seminars for larger groups of them.

By holding a free or inexpensive seminar, you engage with people who are interested in your subject and show themselves as willing to invest time and money. This has the added benefit that you position yourself as a valuable source of information as well.

8.   Use social media to unearth them.

LinkedIn, Facebook, and the slew of other similar sites offer opportunities to join groups of them, and to identify those who meet your criteria.  You can use any or all of these means to collect a beginning list of suspects.

Keep in mind that a suspect list is never finished.  It’s not an event you take care of one time.  Rather, it is an on-going process that never ends.  You are constantly investing time and energy in assembling that list of suspects.

If you do a good job at this step, identifying suspects, it makes everything else that much easier.

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Image “Businessman Searching To The Future” by bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net