Improve Sales Execution and Performance Using CRM

By
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.

Commence CRM an Array of Functionality for Growing Businesses

While there are literally dozens of CRM software providers to choose from very few offer the comprehensive functionality of Commence CRM. With more than two decades of business experience Commence is no stranger to servicing the small to mid-sized business sector.

diverse-team-by-ambro

What differentiates Commence CRM from traditional CRM software providers in the SMB sector is the following.

  • Platform independence – operate Commence CRM on premises or in the cloud
  • Best in class cloud hosting provider
  • A comprehensive suite of departmental applications for managing contacts, leads, sales, marketing, customer service, and projects
  • Best practices for implementation and utilization of the CRM software
  • Experienced professional services team averaging 15+ years of experience
  • Large global customer base

Commence CRM offers functionality for growing businesses that rivals that of enterprise solutions, but at a fraction of the cost. There are no pricy editions with limited use and functionality, and no hidden costs. Customers can start with the basics, but have the option to add functionality that is simply not available from competitively priced solutions. This ensures that Commence customers do not outgrow the solution.

While solutions like Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.com do well serving the enterprise market, Commence CRM has proven to be a rock solid choice for small to mid-sized businesses.

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Customer Service Software for Small to Midsize Business 2014

By Larry Caretsky
CEO Commence Corporation

Software Advice has produced a white paper titled “Customer Service Software – Small Business Buyer View 2014” that clearly articulates what businesses are looking for in order to improve the buying experience and service they provide to their customers.  I am posting this paper with their approval because I believe it is spot on with regard to what I believe is the next wave of application software for small to mid-sized businesses.

Most small to mid-sized businesses are struggling to manage customer service and customer expectations.  Using basic methods such as e-mail or an Excel spreadsheet leaves them with no consolidated record or history of customer interactions.  Some key findings include:

  • Over half of buyers (52%) were still using manual methods to manage their customer support functions.
  • 64% of all first-time buyers cited a need to better manage customer complaints as the top reason for evaluating software.
  • The top requested feature was trouble ticketing (90%), followed by reporting and analytics (36%).
top-requested-css-features

Top-Requested Customer Service and Support (CSS) Features

“Trouble ticketing gets people out of inboxes and into a system with greater visibility across the organization.”

Managing customer expectations is paramount to customer retention, and while there are several standalone Help Desk solutions on the market, customers need to make sure they do not fall into the old trap of creating silos of information within their organization.  Many understand this, and as such are seeking customer service functionality that is integrated with web-based CRM.

Several CRM solution providers have been working diligently to provide integrated customer service solutions for their customers.  My firm Commence Corporation is taking an aggressive approach to this opportunity and has already differentiated itself with a solid customer service and ticketing system that is fully integrated with the contact management, sales and marketing applications.  A new web-based customer portal that enables customers to enter tickets into the CRM system, as well as access a knowledge base for self-service support, is due out in November.  Only a few CRM solution providers can match this capability and they tend to be quite expensive and support enterprise level organizations.

The Software Advice white paper will provide you with quality information about what buyers are looking for and why. It is a great source of information for companies looking to automate the customer service side of their business.  Click below to access the free report:

The Five Most Common Mistakes Salespeople Make

By

Over the decades that I’ve been involved in sales, I’ve worked with tens of thousands of sales people. Certain negative tendencies — mistakes that sales people make — keep surfacing. Here are my top five. See to what degree you (or your sales force) may be guilty of them.

Mistake Number One: Over concern with strategy instead of tactics

Gather a group of sales people together around a coffee maker and listen to the conversation. After the obligatory complaints about all types of things, the conversation inevitably drifts to questions of strategy. How do I accomplish this in that account? How do I get this account to do this?

In my seminars, I often hold a “clinic” where sales people write down any sales-related question and submit it to the group for discussion. These questions are almost always related to strategic issues. In one form or another, they ask the same question: How do I achieve this effect in this account?

While this thoughtfulness is encouraging, it reveals an erroneous mindset. The belief behind these questions is this: “If I can only determine the right sequence of actions of my part, I’ll be able to sell this account, or achieve this goal.”

This, unfortunately, is rarely the case. These sales people, based on this erroneous belief, are looking for a solution in the wrong place. Almost always, the answer to the question is not a more clever strategy, but better execution of the basic tactics.

It is like the football team whose players don’t tackle well, miss their blocks, throw erratic passes, and fumble frequently. The solution is not a more clever game plan. The solution is better execution of the basic tactics. Learn to do the basics effectively, and the strategy will generally take care of itself.

The real problem with this over-concern for strategy is that it reduces the sales person’s energy, substituting the pursuit of a better strategy for the real solution – better execution of the basics.

When I’m asked these “strategy” questions, I find myself asking the sales person to verify the fundamentals. Have you identified the key decision makers and influencers in the account? Have you created trusting personal relationships with each of them? Have you understood the customer’s situation at a deep level? Have you presented your solution in a way that gives them reason to do business with you? Have you effectively matched your proposal to the intricacies of the customer’s needs?

This line of inquiry almost always reveals a flaw in tactical execution. It’s not the strategy that is the problem, it’s the tactics. Focus on doing the basics first, and the need for a clever strategy diminishes.

Read how to overcome this tendency in the expanded version of this article here.

Mistake Number Two: Lack of thoughtfulness

The typical field sales person has, as a necessary and integral part of his/her personality, an inclination toward action. We like to be busy: driving here and there, talking on our cell phones, putting deals together, solving customer’s problems — all in a continuous flurry of activity. Boy, can we get stuff done!

And this high energy inclination to action is a powerful personality strength, energizing the sales person who wants to achieve success.

But, like every powerful personality trait, this one has a dark side. Our inclination to act often overwhelms our wiser approach to think before we act.

In our hunger for action, we neglect to take a few moments to think about that action. Is this the most effective place to go? Have I thoroughly prepared for this sales call? Do I know what I want to achieve in this call? Is this the person I should be seeing, or is there someone else who is more appropriate? Is it really wise to drive 30 miles to see this account, and then backtrack 45 miles to see another?

Customers these days are demanding sales people who are thoroughly prepared, who have well thought-out agendas, and who have done their research before the sales call. All of this works to the detriment of the “ready-shoot-aim” type of sales person.

On the other hand, those who discipline themselves to a regular routine of dedicated time devoted to planning and preparing will find themselves far more effective than their action-oriented colleagues.

Read how to overcome this tendency in the expanded version of this article here.

Mistake Number Three: Contentment with the superficial

There are some customers on whom you have called for years, and yet the sales person doesn’t know any more about them today than he/she did after the second sales call. These are accounts where the sales person cannot identify one of the account’s customers, explain whether or not they are profitable, or identify one of their strategic goals.

Most sales people have a wonderful opportunity to learn about their customers in deeper and more detailed ways, and often squander it by having the same conversations with the same customers over and over. They never dig deeper. They mistake familiarity with knowledge.

What a shame. I am convinced that the ultimate sales skill — the one portion of the sales process that, more than anything else, determines our success as a sales person — is the ability to know the customer deeper and in a more detailed way than our competitors know them.

It’s our knowledge of the customer that allows us to position ourselves as competent, trustworthy consultants. It’s our knowledge of the customer that provides us the information we need to structure programs and proposals that distinguish us from everyone else. It’s our knowledge of the customer that allows us to proactively serve that customer, to meet their needs even before they have articulated them.

In an economic environment where the distinctions between companies and products are blurring in the eyes of the customer, the successful companies and individuals will be those who outsell the rest. And outselling the rest depends on understanding the customer better than anyone else.

Read how to overcome this tendency in the expanded version of this article here.

Mistake Number Four: Poor questioning

This is a variation of the mistake above. I am absolutely astonished at the lack of thoughtfulness that I often see on the part of sales people. Most use questions like sledge hammers, splintering the relationship and bruising the sensibility of their customers by thoughtless questions.

Others don’t use them at all, practically ignoring the most important part of a sales call. They labor under the misconception that the more they talk, the better job of selling they do, when the truth lies in exactly the opposite approach.

And others are content to play about the surface of the issue. “How much of this do you use?” “What do you not like about your current supplier?” Their questions are superficial at best, redundant and irritating at worst.

The result? These sales people never really uncover the deeper more intense issues that motivate their customers. Instead, they continually react to the common complaint of customers who have been given no reason to think otherwise: “Your price is too high.”

Fewer sales, constant complaints about pricing, frustrated sales people, impatient managers, and unimpressed customers – all of these as a result of the inability to use the sales person’s most powerful tool with skill and sensitivity.

Read how to overcome this tendency in the expanded version of this article here.

Mistake Number Five: No investment in themselves.

Here’s an amazing observation. No more than 5% of active, full time professional sales people ever invest in their own growth. That means that only one of 20 sales people have ever spent $20.00 of their own money on a book on sales, or subscribed to a sales magazine, taken a sales course, or attended a sales seminar of their own choosing and on their own nickel.

Don’t believe me? Take a poll. Ask your sales people or your colleagues how many of them have invested more than $20.00 in a book, magazine, CD, etc. in the last 12 months. Ask those who venture a positive answer to substantiate it by naming their investment. Don’t be surprised if the answers get vague. You’ll quickly find out how many sales people in your organization have invested in themselves.

Sales is the only profession I know of where the overwhelming majority of practitioners are content with their personal status quo.

Why is that? A number of reasons.

Some mistakenly think that their jobs are so unique that they cannot possibly learn anything from anyone else.

Still others think they know it all. They have, therefore, no interest in taking time from some seemingly valuable thing they are doing to attend a seminar or read a book.

Some don’t care. Their focus is hanging on to their jobs, not necessarily getting better at them.

But I think the major reason is that the overwhelming majority of sales people do not view themselves as professionals and, therefore, do not have professional expectations for themselves. They worked their way up from the customer service desk or they landed in sales by chance, and they view their work as a job to be done, not a profession within which to grow.

They are content to let their companies arrange for their training or development. And between you and me, they would prefer that their companies really didn’t do anything that would require them to actually change what they do.

challenge-yourself-puzzle-shows-motivation-goals-and-determination-by-stuart-miles

Read how to overcome this tendency in the expanded version of this article here.

These are the five most common negative tendencies that I see. It may be that you and your colleagues are immune to these dampers on success. Good for you. But if you are not immune, and if you spot some of your own tendencies in this list, then you are not reaching your potential for success. You have tremendous potential for success — for contentment, confidence and competence – that is being hindered by these negative behaviors. Rid yourself of these negative tendencies, and you’ll begin to reach your potential.

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About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level.

You may contact Dave at 800-331-1287, or dave@davekahle.com.

Image by Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net