Customer Service Should Define Your Business

Years ago, businesses were simply defined by the quality of their product. Today, increased competition in every industry has leveled the playing field making the customer buying experience and the quality of service they receive the defining factor for your business.

Customer expectations have changed dramatically and quality service means more than answering the telephone and responding to e-mails. Many businesses today are turning their attention to automated tools like CRM software to meet changing customer expectations and get a leg up on their competition. How does CRM software help?

First, your company has to have a mindset that customer service and customer retention are paramount to the business and that addressing the needs of the customer is the number one priority. CRM software tools help automate and streamline the management of customer service by enabling service representatives to capture, manage, and share service tickets and service history throughout the organization. This provides all authorized employees with immediate access to a customer’s service history when they call, allowing your staff to quickly and professionally respond to customer inquiries.

CRM software firms like Commence Corporation are taking customer service to a new level via the use of an internet based customer portal. The customer portal provides customers with access to an online product knowledge base and frequently asked questions area on your website where they can get answers to their questions 24/7 without human intervention.

If they are not able to get the answer they need they can use the portal to submit a service ticket or inquiry. The inquiry is logged into the company’s CRM system and the support staff is alerted, enabling them to respond quickly to your request.

Automated CRM software programs like Commence CRM are paving the way to a new level of customer service designed to meet the expectations of today’s new breed of customer. If you plan to stay ahead of your competition and want to provide excellent service to your customers, you need to consider utilizing CRM software to address this growing customer requirement.

The Five Most Common Mistakes Salespeople Make – Part Two

By Dave Kahle

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 is number two of my top five. See to what degree you (or your sales force) may be guilty of them.

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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.
Overcoming this tendency

Unfortunately, it almost always takes hard work and discipline to overcome a bad habit that is easy for us to create. That is true of this tendency. The habit of thoughtless action is easy to create, because our basic personalities so easily gravitate toward action.

To change it, we need to use discipline to create the habit of thoughtfulness. I’d suggest that you build dedicated planning time into your schedule. During this time, you plan and prepare (in other words, you think about it before you do it). Here’s the schedule of thinking time that I recommend:

an annual planning retreat of one to three days
a monthly planning time in which you create a specific plan for that month
a weekly time to plan and prepare for the coming week
a daily planning time at the end of every day to prepare for the next
a two-minute thought-time before every sales call to focus and ground yourself in the objectives and strategies for that call.

All of this sounds like a lot, and it is. My rule for years has been to spend 20% of my time planning and preparing (thinking about) the other 80% of my time. The discipline of thinking about it before you do it will make you much more effective in the 80% that is dedicated to actually doing it.

Copyright MMXIV by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved

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Industry Executive Tips for Selecting the Right CRM Solution

By Larry Caretsky
CEO, Commence Corporation

The selection of any software program (including CRM) can be a grueling and frustrating exercise and for good reason. Most businesses do not have people on board who are professional software evaluators, and there are no hard and fast rules that you can follow to ensure you make the right selection. Of course, those that are uncomfortable with the selection process can always engage the services of a consulting firm, but in most cases especially for smaller companies, I am not sure this is necessary. The key is to make sure you do not fall into a few common traps that so many smaller businesses do. I have a few recommendations that I think will ensure you don’t.
Trap #1. Not knowing what business challenge(s) you are trying to solve and what results you hope to achieve.

This is a big one and stems from management failure to get engaged before the evaluation and selection process even begins. There is not a CEO or business owner in the world that has ever asked his staff to go out and get a one of those CRM systems for the business. Executives are much more focused on solving one or two business problems. Maybe it’s finding a solution to capture, manage and share customer data, maybe it’s a need to better manage the sales process or to help build brand recognition via automated marketing campaigns. Regardless of what it is, it’s always well defined.

Executives also look for a return on their investment or an expected outcome as a result of implementing the software. Perhaps they want to become a more efficient sales and marketing organization or provide better customer service. They will also have a plan for measuring success. If management has not outlined their specific business requirements provided a budget that supports a solution that will meet these requirements and identified what they expect as a measure for success then you have a flawed process. Let’s take a look at what happens when there is no management involvement or direction.

As the lead person, you do not want to ruffle any feathers so you survey each department and make a list of all of their requirements, categorized by must haves, and would like to have. The list gets longer and longer with each interview and when you are done, you now need an enterprise level solution to address all the requirements. So you send your list to a handful of vendors with one objective; let’s see who can meet all of these requirements at the lowest cost. You then narrow the decision to one or two vendors and present them to management only to learn that the company does not need that level of functionality and the solutions you have recommended are too expensive.

Wow, you did not expect this. Now you have to spend more time going back to the vendors you disqualified because they did not meet all of the original requirements. What makes matters worse is that you still do not have clearly defined business objectives, which means you have increased the chances for making a bad decision.
Trap #2. All CRM solutions are alike so let’s simply do a Google search and begin talking with those that appear on page one.

The fact is that all CRM solutions are not alike and just because one company appears on page one of a search does not necessarily mean that one is best for your business. In fact, hopefully you are aware that the reason those companies appear in the top positions of the search engine is because they have paid to be there. Don’t make your CRM selection a popularity contest. Focus on your business requirements and find the companies and products that meet those specific requirements.
Trap #3. Not asking the right questions of the CRM software provider.

OK management has clearly defined the functional requirements for the business and given you a budget to work with. That’s great, you have avoided trap number 1. You know that the companies listed on page one of the search engines are paid placements and may not be the best solutions for your business so you have also avoided trap number two. You are now ready to dig in and start evaluating the features and functions of the few CRM systems you have selected. That’s all fine and you should start the process, but beware of trap number three – not asking some pretty important questions to the CRM software provider. I have outlined a few of them below.

3 Key Questions to Ask:

1. Who is the cloud service provider storing my data?

Well it’s in the cloud so don’t worry, but you should worry because not all cloud service providers are the same. Ask where your data is being stored and who is the service provider? Is the data properly backed up and how can you get it in an emergency? More than one CRM company has closed their doors along with their customers’ data and you don’t want to put yourself in this position.

A quality CRM software provider will use a best in class cloud hosting service to store and manage your data such as Amazon cloud or Rackspace. Others use what is referred to as second tier or third tier providers, probably to reduce their cost. Find out who they use and make sure you are comfortable with the cloud service provider.

2. Product updates and enhancements?

How often does the software provider provide product updates or enhancements and are they included in the monthly/annual fee. This is a big differentiation between CRM firms that are protecting your investment in their software and those that are simply collecting a month or annual fee. If they are not providing updates then it means there is no investment being made in their product and that’s bad.

3. Support services?

Quality CRM software firms have a support staff that will ensure that you realize the maximum value from their solution. They have training guides, videos, documented best practices for the use of their software, and product specialists that you can talk to when needed. This is also a significant differentiator among companies in this industry. Stay away from companies that do not have a telephone number on their web site. What they are telling you is that there is either no one there to speak with you, or they simply have no interest in speaking with you. Either way, this is not the type of organization you should be partnering with.

I hope that this guide will help to improve your CRM selection process and ensure that you make the very best decision for your company. The Commence CRM blog at has a number of good articles and valuable sales tips for getting the most from your CRM software.

Photo Credit: Collage Business Plan Stock Photo by KROMKRATHOG/

4 Key Questions to Ask After a Trade Show

If your company goes to trade shows, the pre-show process is probably a well-oiled machine. The staff knows who is going, the proper signage is ready, the handout information is packed, and your team is ready to meet potential new clients. Getting everything together and organized may take some time but it is almost automatic to you at this point.

What happens after the trade show?

If your answer is, “I don’t really know” or if you only have a vague answer, you might want to keep reading. You just spent time and money at a trade show trying to meet new potential clients. The after show lead collection and analysis is crucial to your business. If you do not have a system in place to store and help you analyze the leads you collected at the show, it is time to get one.

Question 1: Where do I put all the leads I collected at the trade show?

Your staff did a great job of meeting people and collecting their information at the trade show. You get back to your office and most likely you either have a stack of business cards or an Excel spreadsheet with names, email addresses and phone numbers on it. What do you do with it all?

One of the most efficient ways to store all that trade show information would be in a CRM system. Instead of saving that spreadsheet full of potential clients on your desktop, import it into a CRM system that allows you to do more than just have it sit there. You can even flag those leads as being from that particular trade show to keep them organized.
Question 2: Who is going to follow up on these leads?

Now that you have imported your trade show leads into your CRM system you can assign them to your sales reps. Any good CRM system will allow you to import and assign at the same time. You can assign based on geographic territory or assign your highest potential value leads to your most seasoned sales reps. Your sales team can now follow up on those tradeshow leads and continue building relationships.
Question 3: What do I want to send to these leads after the show?

You’re in luck; you made a wise selection and chose a CRM system that has an integrated email marketing system. Now you can put the leads you collected on a drip marketing campaign to help nurture them. Start out by sending them a short message saying how great it was to meet them and why your company has value to them. You can also provide them with links to more information about your company and perhaps videos or white papers that support your value proposition.

The drip marketing tool you have inside your CRM system allows you to set up a series of emails to go out at a time of your choosing. Use this tool to keep your message in front of these leads. Provide them with the information that they need in order to do business with your company. A drip marketing campaign combined with the follow up by your sales people is a strong effort to generate new business for your company.
Question 4: How do I know what business came as a result of going to the trade show?

Because you were smart when you imported your leads into your CRM system and flagged them as being from a particular trade show you can track this easily. When one of your sales reps closes the lead and converts them into being an account, your CRM system will still show that they were from that trade show. You can then run reports or create saved searches to see what accounts you got from what trade show. If you are using your CRM system to track sales you can even generate a report to see what revenue that trade show generated for your company. You can then use that data to generate an ROI number. This will help you plan for future shows and allocate budget to the more effective ones.

(Photo: Alejandro Escamilla,