Three Decades Little Change

When selecting business software, don't fall for the feature/function comparison.

I have been in the software industry for over thirty years. During this time, I have seen and experienced an amazing evolution in technology from mainframe computers to PC’s, smartphones and tablets. Despite this transformation, there is one aspect of this industry that has hardly changed at all in three decades – and that is, the process people use to evaluate and select business software.

Years ago, companies assigned a committee to interview internal department heads and learn about the features they required. They documented everything they learned and created a functional checklist, and used this checklist to evaluate the functionality offered by each solution provider. The feature list was often sent to vendors as a “request for information” or RFI. Once they received the responses, they added up all check marks or “yes” answers. Typically, the one with them most checks at the lowest cost became the winner or best solution for their business. This may seem like a logical process for business software selection, but it was a flawed process then and it remains a flawed process today. What is wrong with the checklist? For one, it focuses too much attention on features, functions, and price.

Implementing business software requires change management. Policies, procedures, even a person’s role may change with the implementation of a new system. That is why it is so important to also evaluate the solution provider’s track record for ensuring the successful implementation and utilization of their product. Ask, how long have they been in business and how many customers do they have in your specific industry? What about training, customization, and customer support after the implementation?

Despite how critically important this is, many businesses continue to get trapped in this feature/function comparison and make their decision based solely on it.

Nowhere, have I seen this to be more present than in the CRM software sector. This is because industry analysts, software experts, and social media reports continue to evaluate these solutions based on features and functions. There are so many reports of CRM comparisons that it impossible to keep up. There is a “Top 5 CRM Vendors”, “Top 10”, “Top 20”, “Top 40”, “Best CRM systems”, even “20 CRM systems you never heard of.” What is most disturbing is that other than providing a list of features, functions, and price there is nothing of substance that would help you to differentiate one vendor from the other. This is exactly how it was thirty years ago and exactly how it is today.

I recommend you turn the process upside down. How do you do this? Document what it is you are trying to achieve. Say your core requirements are that you want to (1) automate the internal sales process, (2) know where every new opportunity is in the sales cycle, and (3) produce timely and accurate sales forecasts. Instead of asking a vendor what features they offer, ask instead how specifically do they do this? How do they implement a sales process that matches your sales workflow? Who from their company can help provide this level of expertise? Can they refer to other customers who have successfully done this?

Do not lose focus here or allow the CRM solution provider to address this by throwing their feature list at you. This level of engagement with the CRM vendor is perhaps more important than the features and functions they offer in their product. In addition, this process will help you to differentiate those trying to sell you a piece of software from those that can help you significantly improve sales execution. Make sure to follow this process with other business challenges you may be trying to address with a CRM solution.

About the author:

Larry Caretsky is the CEO of Commence Corporation, a leading provider of CRM software and best practices for small to mid-size businesses. He has authored numerous articles and white papers and is considered an expert in the CRM sector. Follow Commence on LinkedIn or the Commence CRM blog at commence.com/blog.

Sales Enablement Drives New Business

Most people are not familiar with the term sales enablement, but it is quickly becoming a hot topic for businesses that want to improve their marketing and sales execution. Sales enablement is simply a process or methodology that ensures your sales team has the knowledge, skills, collateral, and tools they need to drive new business.

Larry Caretsky, CEO of Commence Corporation, a provider of CRM sales automation software and services, discusses the requirements necessary to make sales enablement work in this informative radio podcast.

Click below to listen to the podcast on CRMRadio.today.

SLMA CRMRadio Podcast

Don’t Start – Then You Can’t Lose

This is a Sales Tip of the Week from guest poster Shulman & Associates.

Don't procrastinate... stand at the plate and do something.

The STORY:

Do any of these scenarios seem familiar?

Bill knew he should do some prospecting, but it was getting near the end of the week.  Heck, he thought, most of the people I’d call will be thinking about the weekend.  Might as well put it off until Monday.  Or actually, Tuesday would be better.  On Monday I’m sure there will be a ton of stuff on their desks, and they definitely won’t have time for me.  Yeah, hit them on Tuesday between 10 and 12.  That’s the ticket.  But maybe mid-afternoon would be better.  I’ll have to think about that over the weekend.

Jane, the Sales Manager for a sales force of 24, knew she could increase sales if only everyone followed the same sales strategy.  With this in mind and the blessing of upper management, she had scheduled all of the salespeople to attend a mandatory week-long sales training session.  Once that happens, she decided, then we can really start turning some numbers.  Now all she wondered about was how to make sure that no one wiggled out of the mandatory meeting.  She had, over the past day, decided on the steps to take if someone tried.

Nick, during the past two months, had watched his sales slide into a black hole.  At first he figured it was the competition from across town that was causing it, but now he wondered.  He was spending more time than ever before with prospects and former customers, actually tons of time, and with poor results.  He was losing them all.  “What am I doing wrong?” he wondered.  I chat them up, and they dump me.  All the time I spend with them and nothing happens.

The RESULT:

All three examples above perfectly portray “not starting.”  If you don’t start the sale, you can’t lose the sale.  And losing is defined by 90% of the salespeople as “not getting the sale” or to put it another way, “I got a no.”

Getting a “no” is not losing.  Getting a “no” is success.  Getting a “no” allows you to go out and find a “yes.”

DISCUSSION:

There are hundreds of ways to avoid “starting,” and every one of them will seem perfectly reasonable at the time.

Bill wanted to make sure that his prospecting was done in a way to get the best results.  He was convinced he was approaching it correctly.  Result – no prospecting until next week.  And, does next week ever arrive?

Jane truly believed that once everyone attended the sales training, sales would go up.  Result – no sales were expected in the meantime.  But Jane was doing her job.

Nick felt that he should concentrate on establishing rapport with prospects.  He believed that the more rapport he established, the higher the likelihood of a sale.  Result – since all he was doing was establishing rapport, he never got around to selling.

APPROACH:

Just for the moment consider that you are a baseball player.  You can take batting practice for weeks.  But anything you hit during practice doesn’t count.  The only thing that counts is standing at the plate during a game.  Fortunately for the baseball player, he is eventually forced to stand at the plate and do something.

Unfortunately, salespeople are not forced to “stand at the plate” and do something.  Short of running out of money and not being able to pay bills, salespeople and Sales Managers will have the best reasons in the world to avoid starting.

How do you start more often than not?  By recognizing those behavior patterns that fill up your sales time and do nothing for you.  Write down how many hours you work a month.  Now keep track for a full month of how much time you directly spend with prospects.  Compare the two.  Then decide if you are “starting” or just “practicing.”

THOUGHT:

Start often.  The sooner you get a “no,” the sooner you can get the “yes.”  Start often.

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website to register for a FREE Sales Training Workshop. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development. Breakfast is included in this workshop.

To view the latest Sales Tip of the Week please click on the link below:

SALES TIP OF THE WEEK

Is Free CRM Really Better?

This excerpt is from an article published in Business News Daily.  It reviews some of the limitations of free CRM solutions in this case, Zoho CRM.

Zoho CRM Review | BusinessNewsDaily.com

” … As a free CRM software, it comes with many limitations — or deal-breakers — that may make a paid software a better choice for your business. Here are the main drawbacks we found to using the free version of Zoho CRM:

  • Lacks customization. One of the biggest drawbacks to the free version of Zoho CRM is that it doesn’t come with a lot of customization options. So if you need to tailor the software to your business’s unique needs — such as by adding custom reports, your own functions and additional modules — you’ll need to purchase the most expensive plan, which costs $35 per user per month.
  • Clunky interface. We tried Zoho CRM ourselves and, like some small business owners told us, it felt clunky and not as intuitive as other software we considered. Our initial impression is that it takes too many steps to perform simple tasks, and navigating each section took some time to get used to. Nonetheless, we still found it relatively easy to use. There is a simple navigation bar at the top of the dashboard that contains a tab for each function, such as Leads, Accounts, Contacts and more. There is also a simple button that lets you add new items in just one click, as well as a search bar to help you easily find content.
  • Customer service. Although there are several ways to get help using Zoho CRM, the free version doesn’t come with phone support. The company’s 24-hour (Monday to Friday) toll-free phone support is available only to users with a paid account, so you’re out of luck if you need to speak to someone ASAP. Additionally, we have been told that Zoho’s help desk system can be extremely slow or unresponsive even after submitting multiple tickets, so you shouldn’t expect to get help from a representative right away.”

For those willing to make a small investment in a quality CRM solution, Commence CRM starting at $24 per user per month offers a robust set of functionality with customization, and provides high quality telephone support to customers.  To see Commence CRM in action, visit commence.com/solutions

What do you do when a customer becomes abusive with you?

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.

The customer is not always right

Q.  How do you recommend I handle profanity from a customer?

Q.  What do you do when a customer becomes abusive with you? Loud, screaming, and personally threatening?

A.  I thought I’d put both of these together because they speak to similar situations.

“The customer is always right” is a nice cliché, but like every cliché, it is only partially true.  Sometimes the customer is wrong, and sometimes he/she is a jerk.  Just because he/she is a customer doesn’t give them the right to be abusive to you, or to anyone, as far as that goes.

First, on the issue of profanity.  I try not to use profanity, and I am uncomfortable around people who do.  The same is true of crude, vulgar or highly sexualized conversation.  It makes me uncomfortable.  I’m not talking about the occasional suggestive joke, or the forwarded email.  I’m talking about crude and vulgar conversation.

My typical reaction to any of these kinds of comments is to:

1.  not join in or respond in kind,

2.  ignore them and move the conversation on as best I could, and

3.  not be judgmental about the customer.  After all, it was me who was uncomfortable, not him.  So, that made it my problem, not his.

I have, on at least two occasions that I can think of, had an encounter with an abusive customer.

Many of you know that at one time in my sales career I sold surgical staplers.  We used to “scrub” surgery, which meant that we were in caps, masks and gowns and part of the sterile team.  That allowed us to be very close to the application of our instruments, and help assure that they were used appropriately.

I was working with a surgeon who was a former college football player (a lineman).  He was a big and intimidating guy.  At some point in the middle of an extremely long and complicated surgery, he misused the stapler.  That caused complications which, at the least, meant that the surgery was going to be quite a bit longer, and, at the most, that the patient’s life would be impacted.

The surgeon blamed me.  Loudly, crudely, and with profanity.  All sense of finesse and good people skills left me, and I replied in kind.  For the next five minutes or so, we screamed at each other, pacing up and down across the table with the patient between us.  In retrospect, I didn’t handle it well.  My natural reactions took over and overwhelmed my good intentions.

After the surgery, by the way, we apologized to each other, made nice, and he became a great customer.

I don’t think that was the model of how to respond to an abusive customer.  Here’s my advice.  If a customer becomes abusive with you, tell him/her that you are uncomfortable with his behavior, and leave.  Almost anything else that you do will either exasperate the situation, or be a detriment to your position and reputation.

For example, if you trade insults for insults, you’ll only drive the customer to more aggressive behavior.  It could escalate into something ugly.  If you back down and cower, you’ll be forever seen as weak and spineless.

Maintain your dignity, tell him/her how you feel, and then leave.  I suspect that more times than not, the customer will regret his/her actions, and be more accommodating to you in the future.

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, His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Heart of a Christian Sales Person.”