3 Steps to Ensure Your Success with CRM Software

That gym membership you never used... How is that working for you?

By Larry Caretsky

Industry experts continue to talk about the explosive growth of CRM software despite the fact that for a very large number of businesses CRM has been a miserable failure.  Talk with CEOs and owners of small to mid-size business and they typically make the same comment; “we tried it and it didn’t work for us.”

Over the past decade industry analyst firms such as AMR, Gartner, Forrester, and IDC have reported alarming rates failure rates of as high as 70% for CRM implementations yet nothing has been done to reverse this trend.   So why are people continuing to buy CRM software?  The answer is twofold.

First, today’s business environment changes at a rapid pace and without a business strategy you cannot maintain a competitive edge. CRM is that business strategy. It’s all about capturing, tracking, managing and sharing vital customer information with the people and departments that need it to efficiently do their jobs.  If properly executed CRM will enable you to automate and streamline the internal business processes that impact how you market, sell and provide service to your customers. Using an Excel spreadsheet to manage customer relationships just doesn’t get the job done anymore.

Secondly, despite the overwhelming reports of CRM failure there are success stories and some basic reasons why some companies have succeeded while others have failed.  Let’s take a look at what these companies have done that has enabled them to be successful with CRM.

Clear Business Objectives

Successful companies take the time to document and educate their staff about the specific business requirements they are looking to automate.  They don’t simply say “we need to improve sales” or “provide better service.”  They talk about the need to implement a structured sales process for managing each phase of the sales cycle; or the need for an automated ticketing system so that they can monitor and manage how quickly and efficiently they address customer inquiries. Then they look for solutions that are aligned with these requirements. This ensures that they do not waste time downloading a dozen or so free trials or get enamored with fancy bells and whistles that have little value to their business.  Companies that fail to document clear business objectives have no road map to follow and as a result typically end up selecting the solution that they believe has the most features for the least amount of money.    A year later they become a member of the “we tried it and it didn’t work for us” club.

Don’t Over Engineer the Decision

Companies that are successful with CRM are focused on solving one to two key business challenges.   They are not looking to address every business requirement on day one.  Here is a simple example of what I mean. If you want to plant a bush this weekend you will need to buy a shovel. Certainly, it would be nice to also buy a rake, hand trowel, pruner, spade and maybe even a garden hose for the future, but you don’t need this right now.  Don’t allow yourself to lose focus on your primary need – the shovel.

This happens all the time with selection of CRM software.  Someone goes to every department to document their needs and nice-to-have’s, then spends days, weeks and sometimes months evaluating CRM solutions that can deliver this level of functionality.  Then they get frustrated that they cannot find one that does everything within their budget. Or worse, they select the expensive system with all the features and discover months later that they are now stuck with a bloated system that no one is using.  Yes, it is certainly important to seek a solution that can support your growth, but you do not have to purchase and implement every application and feature on day one.  It’s best to address your needs one at a time.  It’s hard enough to just do that.

Management Commitment and User Adoption

There is a common denominator with companies that have been successful with CRM software and that’s management commitment.  Not only has management defined the core business requirements they are trying to automate, typically no more than two or three, but they have selected someone to spearhead the selection and implementation process.  I call this the “CRM Champion”.  This person is focused like a laser beam on finding the solution that is closely aligned with the business requirements outlined by management and in identifying the on-boarding, customization, and training that will be necessary for the success of the project.  The successful implementation of any CRM system will require change and use adoption. This has to be driven by management to achieve success, plain and simple.

There is also a common denominator for those that have failed. Some companies particularly smaller organizations tend to look at the selection and utilization of CRM software like a gym membership. What do I mean by this?  Well they do not have the time to define their requirements or perhaps there are none.   The company is doing fine and getting a CRM solution is simply to satisfy the sales manager or a group of sales representatives that have been asking for sales tools.   The industry offers dozens of basic solutions whereby you can sign up for free or simply pay a few dollars for use of the product on a month to month basis.  It’s an easy decision for management, no commitment of their time and in many cases no financial commitment. What can be better?  The problem here is the outcome, typically no value and a fast path into the “we tried it and it didn’t work for us” club.

About the author

Larry Caretsky is CEO of Commence Corporation, a provider of desktop and cloud based CRM software for small to mid-size businesses.  Caretsky has written an e-book “Practices That Pay” and numerous articles on the subject of CRM. He is considered an expert in the CRM space.

How can I sell when I’m not the lowest price?

Sales Strategy: Lowering Risk. Increase sales without lowering price

By Dave Kahle

“How can I sell when I’m not the lowest price?”

I wish I had a dollar for every time I was asked that question in a sales training session. It’s certainly one of the most common questions I hear coming from professional sales people – and their bosses.

There are a variety of answers — too many for just one article. But, we can identify one of the most powerful ways to deal with this problem.

First, let’s start with this premise: “Low price” is not the main reason people buy! In every survey of buying motivations I’ve ever read, low price is never the primary motivation. Yes, it’s important. And, when everything else is equal, it will be the deciding factor. But very rarely is everything else equal. And very few people in this world buy only on the basis of low price. How many of you are driving used Yugos? Or wearing a suit you bought at a garage sale? Or watching an 8-inch black & white TV?

You’ve got the picture. You don’t always buy on the basis of low price, so why should you think that all your customers do?

The truth is, they don’t. And here’s a secret that almost nobody knows, including all those gurus telling you to sell value. They don’t always buy the best value. But, they can invariably be counted on to buy the lowest risk!

The biggest issue in the minds of your customers and prospects is not price, and it’s not value – it is risk.

What’s risk?

Risk is the potential cost to the individual customer if he/she makes a mistake. It’s not just the money, although that is part of it. It is also the social, psychological and emotional cost that your customer will pay if your choice isn’t the best one. The lower the risk of the decision, the more likely your customer will say “yes” to you – regardless of the price.

Let’s become comfortable with this concept of risk first, and then discuss how to use it in your sales efforts.

In order to really understand risk, you must first see this issue from your customers’ perspective. Try to put yourself in their shoes, and calculate the amount of risk that you expect your customers to take when you offer them an opportunity to say “yes” to you.

Here’s an illustration to help you understand this concept. Imagine that you are under orders by your spouse to pick up a package of disposable cups on the way home from work today because you’re having friends over for a casual evening of dessert and drinks tonight. You stop at the local grocery store, and make a selection between brand A and brand B. You pick brand A.

After you bring the cups home, your spouse mixes up a pitcher of margaritas and pours one. The drink leaks out of the bottom of the cup and puddles on the counter. There is a hole in the bottom of the cup. You pour your drink into another cup and it leaks, too. In fact, every one of the cups you bought is defective.

What happens to you in this instant in time? What is the consequence of your decision? I don’t know about you, but I would be the recipient of some negative emotion. My spouse would be upset with me. That may be the most painful cost of your decision. But there are other costs.

You’re going to have to fix the problem. If there’s time, you’ll have to run back to the store and replace the cups. So, in addition to the emotional cost, you must also pay in terms of extra time and additional money. All because of your bad decision. Those costs — negative emotions, time wasted, extra money spent — all combine to form the risk you accepted when you made your decision.

Here’s a simple exercise to help you understand this concept. Draw a short vertical line. At the top of the line, write the number 25. At the bottom, write a zero. Now on a scale of 0 – 25, where would you put the risk of buying a package of disposable cups? You’d probably say it is close to zero. So, put an X on the line from 0 to 25 where you think the risk of buying those cups would be.

Let’s look at an illustration at the other end of the scale. I once had an adoption agency as a client. When a young lady is in a crisis pregnancy, and she’s making a decision as to whether or not to release her unborn child for adoption, how big a risk is that for her? Put your X on the line that represents your assessment of that risk.

Most people put their mark around 25. The risk in this situation is a lifetime of consequences for at least four people – the mother, child and adoptive parents. That’s a very high risk.

Compare the X’s for the two different decisions, and you’ll conclude that different decisions carry with them differing degrees of risk.

Now, let’s apply this concept to your customers. Remember that every time you ask your prospects to say yes to you, they are accepting some risk. And each of those decisions you ask of them carries with it a different degree of risk.

Imagine your typical customer. Then think of the typical offer or decision you ask of that person. For example, take one of your newer products. Imagine you are presenting it to your customer for the first time. Now, put yourself in his shoes, and see the situation through his eyes. On the 0 – 25 scale, how much risk does your customer accept when he says “yes” to you?

For an easy way of calculating it, just ask yourself what happens to that individual if you, or your company, messes up.

If your customer buys that product and it doesn’t do what you claim it will, what trouble will that make for your customer? What consequences will he/she pay? What is the risk?

And don’t say that there is no risk because you’ll take care of any problem that might develop. You may think that, but your customer doesn’t know that. And remember, you’re trying to see this from your customer’s point of view, not yours. The amount of risk is what your customer perceives it to be.

I had a great example of the role of risk in sales several years ago. A young man approached me to help his company with their sales efforts. They were selling a product that was, at the time, a real state-of-the-art breakthrough. The company designed computerized controls that were retrofitted on production equipment. As a result of the use of these controls, the savings in energy consumption would pay for the cost of the equipment in less than a year.

It looked like a great product. But he couldn’t sell them as rapidly as the company wanted.

“Tell me how you go about selling them” I asked.

“We qualify our prospects to the point where we know we have someone who could use the equipment. Then I call the production engineer or the plant manager on the phone, and gather some information about the type of equipment they use. Then I create a written proposal showing the economic payback, and mail it to him. Next I call and try to close the sale.”

“Let me see if I understand correctly,” I said.

“You are calling a plant manager on the phone. I would guess that most plant managers are men in their 50’s, probably with advanced degrees, and who have been in the plant for a number of years, is that right?”

“That’s right.”

“OK,” I said. “So, you’re calling someone twice your age, asking him to spend $20,000 – $30,000 of unbudgeted money on equipment he’s never seen, from a company he’s never heard of, and from a sales person half his age who he’s never met. Is that right?”

My client became a little defensive. “If you put it that way, I suppose it’s right.”

“Well put it that way,” I replied, “because that’s the way he sees it.”

The problem was simple – risk. On that scale of 0 – 25, how much risk would you think the plant manager would be accepting if he said “Yes” to the over-the-phone offer?

Put yourself in his shoes. Suppose the equipment didn’t work the way it was supposed to? He could shut down production lines, spend weeks trying to make things right, cause all sorts of havoc in the plant, and potentially even lose his job. Now that’s risk.

If you were that plant manager, how much more than the original $20,000 quote would you spend to reduce the risk? It wouldn’t be hard to justify a price double that.

That should give you a clue as to how to fight the “low price” issue. Worry less about low price, and more about lowering the risk.

Here are four strategies to do so.

1. Build solid, deep relationships with the key decision-makers. Relationships mitigate risk. The greater the relationship, the lower the perceived risk. That’s why the salesman with the longer relationship almost always has the benefit of the doubt in a competitive situation. It’s not the price – it is the risk.

2. Make ample use of third party recommendations, customer lists, case studies and testimonials. All of these say to the customer that someone else (or lots of someone else’s) has used the product or service. That means it’s less risk for your customer to buy it.

3. Try to get your customer as physically involved with the product as possible. For example, if you’re selling a piece of equipment, try to get the customer to trial the equipment, or at least visit somewhere it’s being used. The more your customer can see and feel the actual thing, the less risk is it to them.

4. Finally, work with your company to create offers that reduce the risk. Trial periods, money-back guarantees, delayed billing, warranties, service desks – all of these reduce your customer’s perception of risk.

The winners in the competitive selling arena of the Information Age are those who are the low risk providers, not the low price people.

Copyright MMX by Dave Kahle

All Rights Reserved

Keep Thinking. It Will Go Away.

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.

Indecision: Postponing a decision because you are still considering all of the information.

The STORY:

Bob was about two minutes from committing murder.  Jesse, the company President, was about to be strangled to death in full view of the rest of the sales and technical staff.  Bob wondered for a moment if the rest of the staff would try to stop him or cheer him on.  At this particular moment, he decided they would cheer him on.

For the past two weeks, Jesse had driven everyone crazy researching the feasibility of the product request made by Bob’s largest client.  The client understood that his new product request would lead Bob’s company into a new area sooner than the rest of the market would demand.  To Bob, the client was handing him an exclusive contract for a product that Bob’s company would have to make anyway in the near future.

“Why not go ahead now, Jesse?”  Bob had asked two weeks before.  “The client is willing to work with us.  He knows this will be new for us.  We could grab the lead from all our competition.”

Well, Jesse did what Jesse usually did when there was a difficult decision to make.  He studied it.  And in the process of studying it, he roped everyone else into spending hours upon hours collecting more and more data.  Whenever the staff thought enough data had been collected, Jesse dreamed up an additional 15 scenarios to research.

Well, two weeks had passed.  Jesse had just announced that all of the work they had done, the hundreds, if not thousands, of man-hours spent only led him to the conclusion that he did not have enough information.  And besides, the competition had just signed a contract with Bob’s client to work on the product.  So there was no point in spending any more time on it.

The RESULT:

Postponing a decision because you are still considering all of the information, both on-hand and yet to come in, can reach the point where the need for the decision ceases to exist.  Bob’s boss managed the situation by postponement.  The sales opportunity was lost.  Worse, recognition as the company who came up with the solution was handed to the competition.

DISCUSSION:

No businessperson wants to make a decision that is a mistake.  So what happens so many times?  No decision is made.  By not making a decision, Jesse avoided the possibility of making a mistake.  He also avoided the possibility of bringing a new product to market to a client who wanted it.

What was the result of his indecision?  A competitor moved in and took over the company’s account.  Business was lost.  Did Jesse make a mistake anyway?

While this story is about a company President who waits until time makes a decision for him, the same applies to many salespeople.  How many times have salespeople said there is no point in prospecting for new business on Friday because everyone is thinking about the weekend?  And what’s the point of prospecting on Monday since everyone is buried at the beginning of the week?  Tuesday might be a little better than Monday but not by much.  Wednesday morning is good, except that’s when everyone is finding out his or her weekly plans are being messed up.  Thursday is no good since all anyone wants to do is just get through to Friday.  And we all know how Friday is for prospecting.

Now do you see how easy it is to postpone a prospecting decision?

APPROACH:

When you need to make a decision, pick a time and date by which you will make it.  Then make it.  Follow through.

See what happens.

If the decision is not OK, then slow it down, reverse it, modify it.  If the decision is OK, then see how you could speed it up or make it even better.  The important thing is to make the decision rather than to let time make the decision for you.

If you have a way to evaluate your decisions on an on-going basis, then making a decision after a reasonable amount of contemplation is simple.

THOUGHT:

If you make the decision, you control your life.  If someone else makes the decision, he controls your life.  Make a decision.

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website and sign up to receive the free sales tip of the week. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development.

Commence CRM Stands Out Among a Crowded Field

Commence CRM Stands Out from the Crowd

I am not sure there is a more competitive sector of the computer software industry than CRM.  It’s certainly a buyer’s market with several hundred product offerings ranging from free to a few hundred dollars per user per month. It’s also become a changing landscape where many solution providers who have been unable to find a way to profitably market, sell and service potential customers now offer their product for free over the internet.  For small business this is great news. Because they have limited requirements most of these free or low cost products are simply good enough for what they wish to use them for which is primarily maintain a database of companies, contacts, notes and activities.

Mid-size organizations however that want to use CRM software to improve how they market, sell and provide service to their customers are not as fortunate.  CRM solutions that provide this level of functionality have traditionally been expensive and hard to use, leaving them with few if any alternatives.

One company however has broken the barrier here and has targeted mid-size companies with a solution that’s functionally rich, affordable and easy to use. That company is Commence, manufacturers of Commence CRM.

Commence CRM has differentiated itself via the introduction of a comprehensive solution for Sales, Marketing and a Customer Service Ticketing system that also includes a Knowledgebase, FAQ and a Customer Portal.  In addition, Commence CRM is one of the few solutions that offers an integrated Project Management system with a Gantt Chart for managing projects from start to closure.  Commence is an all in one solution with a level of functionality has only been available from enterprise level products costing much, much more.  The product however is modular is design which allows customers to select only those applications they need today, while proving them with a growth path for tomorrow.

Commence CRM is targeted at companies of 10 to 100 users and has been highly rated by industry analysts. To learn more about Commence CRM visit www.commence.com.

How do I prevent my co-workers from sabotaging my sales?

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.

They're not me, they don't share my attitude, motivation, abilities... but, we are a TEAM.

Q.  I work with a number of people who have little sense of professional treatment and courtesy for internal customers.  The behavior is now escalating to a higher level to the customers, and is giving our showroom a bad rap.  How do I maintain a professional standard and prevent my co-workers from sabotaging my sales?

A.  Welcome to the world of sales.  Believe me, there may be a sales person out there somewhere who has not shared your same frustrations, but I have yet to run into him.

In other words, you are not alone.  Frustration with co-workers seems to be one of the things that is part of the job of the field sales person, like sitting in waiting rooms for hours, getting slowed down in heavy traffic, and dealing with voice mail – it just comes with the territory. Every sales person has, or will have, a story about a customer lost because of uncaring and unprofessional behavior from a co-worker.

It being so common, however, does not make it acceptable.  Let’s look at some options.

First, examine yourself.  Are you creating standards that are just not attainable, and then judging your colleagues on the basis of those standards? In other words, is the problem you?

For years, I had a problem with this.  Finally, one day I had an inspiration.  They aren’t me!  That sounds so simple, but it signaled a significant change in my attitude.  Prior to that, I judged all my colleagues by my own standards.  I expected them to be as driven as I was, as focused on getting the business as I was, as perfectionistic as I was.  This attitude, of course, caused all kinds of friction and resentment on the part of the people with whom I worked.  When I finally realized that each of them had a set of life experiences, attitudes, motivations and abilities that were different than mine, I began to see each differently.  It made it so much easier to work with them, and them to work with me, when I changed my expectations.

This practice of casting your attitudes and expectations onto others is, I have learned, a particularly common tendency for field sales people.  Changing your attitude may be all that is necessary to change this situation.

But, it may not be.  So, what’s next?  Speak to the offending person, privately and specifically, about the behavior that is the problem.  Don’t talk about generalities  –  “You always do this….”.  That just encourages defensiveness and denial.  Rather, make sure that you have a specific incident to discuss.  Limit your comments to that incident.

Secondly, make sure that incident has something to do with you — one of your customers, one of your projects, etc.  That way, you have a legitimate stake in the outcome, and aren’t just being bossy.

Present the behavior that bothered you, the consequences of it, and then offer a suggestion about how it should have been handled, and the consequences of that revised behavior.

So, something like this:

“When you said to the customer that you’d get to it when you had time, the customer flinched, as if you had personally insulted him.  If you had said, ’I’m sorry, it will just be a moment’, that customer would not have felt like you insulted him.”

Your attitude will go along way.  Don’t be superior or arrogant.  You’ll get resistance if your colleagues see you this way.  Instead, try to be empathetic and humble.

Now, it may be that you have done this a few times, and you still don’t see any change.  It’s time to bring your supervisor into the picture.  Explain what you have done, the consequences of the other person’s behavior on your results, and ask the supervisor to intervene on your behalf.

At this point, you will have done about everything that you can do.  If the situation doesn’t improve over a period of time you have the final option.  You can always look for another position, with a company that has more of a sales culture.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten 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 The DaCo Corporation, PO Box 523, Comstock Park, MI 49321, or dave@davekahle.com