By Larry Caretsky
CEO, Commence Corporation
Managing a successful sales organization can be a significant challenge. Believe me I understand and have the scar tissue to prove it. For more than 20 years, I have managed large and mid-sized sales organizations in the high tech sector using whatever tips, tools, systems, and processes that were available at that time. I have taken this experience and used it to create Commence CRM – a set of business applications and automated processes that are helping sales organizations get focused, generate more sales and best of all deliver higher revenues. To achieve this success requires CRM software and a steadfast commitment to change.
Challenge Number 1: Lead Capture
I have talked with dozens of companies who spend tens of thousands of dollars on lead generation via direct mail, mass e-mail campaigns, trade shows and other marketing programs only to see these leads simply disappear or fall through the cracks. Management has no idea what happened to them other than they apparently did not turn into a sale. This happens when you do not have the proper vehicle for capturing, distributing, and managing leads. If you are experiencing this then it is time to take action because you are wasting a lot of money and killing sales.
Solution: Use CRM automation to capture, track and manage every lead in CRM so nothing falls through the cracks.
Leads can be imported into the CRM system from a purchased list, captured directly from your web site via an automated web form, or manually entered into the system. The import capability and automatic web to lead form will typically capture 90% of your leads. There is simply no excuse for not doing this, or listening to complaints from sales representatives about having to enter a few leads manually. Your success in improving sales execution and performance starts right here, so get this task done as quickly as possible.
Once the leads are in the CRM system you can begin to qualify them, distribute them to individual representatives, and follow the progress of that lead by mining the data. Data mining is important because it enables you to make informed decisions about which marketing and sales strategies are working; see how many of the new leads turned into actual sales opportunities, how many of the sales opportunities resulted in a sale, and what was the value of that sale.
Challenge Number 2: Lead Qualification
Your sales team may be the most expensive asset your firm has. If they are spending valuable time chasing unqualified opportunities then they are not being productive and they are costing your firm a lot of money. Is this happening in your business?
Well this is easy to determine. If you have inaccurate monthly or quarterly sales forecasts, lower than predicted sales results, and deals that should have closed but didn’t, or others that did but were not even on the forecast then you have a problem. However, here is the good news. CRM can fix this and quickly. Of course, this assumes you use it.
Solution: Automated lead scoring guarantees your sales team is laser focused on the most promising new business opportunities.
This simple but clever process works 100 percent of the time. Here is why.
Sales people come from all walks of life and have different educational backgrounds, different levels of business experience and sales training. As such, they have a tendency to rely on gut instinct to determine who is a qualified lead and who is not. I can tell you this. Gut instinct is not a formula for success or improving sales performance, but one simple step can fix this problem forever. Here’s what to do.
Get your sales team together and outline what a qualified lead looks like. These are questions like:
- Does this prospect have a pressing need for our product or service?
- Do they have an approved budget?
- Are the decision makers engaged?
- What is their time frame for a decision?
The criteria or questions can be loaded right into Commence CRM. The system will then automatically rank and color code each lead based on how they match up to the criteria above – red for hot leads, yellow for warm leads that require additional follow-up, and blue for those that are unlikely to select your product or service. This simple process will ensure that your sales team is always working on the most qualified leads. The change is easy, will get your team on board and deliverable measurable results such as faster sales cycles, and higher close ratios.
Challenge Number 3: Managing the Sales Process
It is virtually impossible to run an efficient and successful sales organization if you do not have a well-defined and automated sales process in place. The process (often referred to as the sales funnel) begins by documenting the steps associated with winning the sale and traditionally starts with the introduction stage and needs analysis, followed by a proposal, contract review and closing stage.
The specific stages or steps will be different for every business. What’s important is that they are established, automated, followed by the sales organization, and managed by senior management. So many companies fail to do this, then blame the sales organization for failure to accept a process. This is a failure by management not the sales team and indicates that your sales management simply does not understand or appreciate the value this will provide to the organization, or the damage they are doing by not implementing a process. Sales is not a democracy. It needs to run like the military. Management’s position has to be “follow the process” or get out.
Solution: Schedule follow-ups in CRM and log your activities for each opportunity to keep management in the loop.
Commence CRM has made automation of the sales process quick and easy. Your process can be automated within minutes. As opportunities are entered into the system, a graphical sales funnel is automatically generated and analytic reports illustrate where each opportunity is in the sales cycle. This allows management to take a pro-active approach during the sales process and get personally involved or assign additional resources to help win the sale. For the sales representative a sales dashboard alerts them to new leads assigned to them, follow-up activities that need to be completed, opportunities that they should be working on, where each deal is in the funnel, and how they are doing in meeting their sales quota. This is everything a sales representative needs to stay on top of their game and produce the results you expect from them.
It’s important to note that there are other CRM solutions for managing sales. At Commence, we have used our CRM software coupled with best practices in lead management and sales process management to significantly improve the performance of numerous small to mid-sized businesses around the world. If you are committed to improving how you market, sell, and provide service to your customers, we can help you take your business to the next level.