Managing Information

Managing Information (S-11)

“I’m spending more and more time  managing information.  It’s squeezing out my selling time.”

Welcome to the information age.  You are not unique.  This problem of information inundation is a relatively new but almost universal threat to your livelihood.  Four or five years ago, sales people were not too concerned with it.  Today, dealing with information is so critical that it is an important part of almost every seminar I present.

Here’s the issue.  Technological advances in recent years have multiplied the amount of information that you must handle.  The quantity of information landing on your lap has increased from sources all around you.  Think about how much information you must keep about your customers.  A few years ago, it was OK to keep everything in your head.  Today you need forms, documents, files and systems, both electronic and paper, to keep it all straight.  Consider the technical details of the products and programs you sell.  Aren’t they more complex and sophisticated than just a few years ago?  And all that complexity takes the form of additional information that you must organize and master.

What about the computer systems you use and the information produced by them?  Most sales people I know could spend eight to twelve hours a week just reviewing computer printouts if they choose to so.  Add in memos from the boss, service bulletins, price increases, government regulations, new product specifications, the details of ever more complicated applications, etc. and your job is awash in information.

The sheer volume of information coming at you is like an approaching tidal wave.  If you don’t create some safe haven for yourself, you’re going to be rendered ineffective by the absolute mass of information.

Imagine how many precious selling hours you could waste each week if you don’t harness that tidal wave of information.  Or, imagine the time robbed from your family and personal life by the time it takes to handle more and more stuff.

It’s time to recognize the problem for what it is: A serious and malevolent new threat to your effectiveness.

So, what do you do?  How do you overcome this threat?  How do you get control over the flow of information and protect your valuable selling time?

Defend yourself!

One strategy is to become defensive.  In other words, to develop ways to defend yourself from being overcome with useless information.  The idea is to keep tempting but useless information from stealing your time.

To do so, you need to understand and implement two key processes.  The first is “screening.”  Imagine the screen on your window.  This fine mesh allows those breezes that you want to flow into the house, while it keeps out of the house those insects that you don’t want.  So, it allows in that which you want, and keeps out that which you don’t want.

That’s the idea behind the process of screening – allowing in that which you want, and keeping out that which you don’t want.  Unfortunately, you can’t surround yourself with a physical screen.  But you can implement the discipline of “screening” all the information that comes your way.  To do so, you need to establish the habit of quickly assessing every piece of information that cries out for your time and to quickly decide if it is likely to be useful.  Useful is the key and operative word.

If your quick perusal of a piece of information leads you to believe that it may be useful, you let that piece in.  If you believe it will not be useful, you keep it out.  In other words, you dispose of it.

Let’s imagine a scenario.  You’ve come into the office and pulled a pile of stuff out of your mailbox.  The first thing you see is a new price list for a product line you rarely sell.   Is this useful to you?  Probably not.  You throw it out.  Next is a service bulletin on a piece of equipment that you haven’t sold in years.  Is it useful?  Probably not.  Out it goes.  Next is a computer report comparing last year’s sales in three product lines to the sales from two years ago on those same lines.  Is it useful? In the round file it goes.

Finally, there’s a memo from the boss outlining the agendas, location and schedules of sales meetings for the next two months.  Better hold on to that one.  You continue on this way, quickly appraising every piece of information, and disposing of every piece you deem to be not useful.

This whole process may have only taken a few seconds.  But your disciplined “screening” process kept a lot of “useless” information from sucking away your time.  The net effect was that you created more selling time for yourself by disciplining yourself to keep out that which is useless, and to allow in that which is useful.

OK, so now you have a pile of stuff that, on first glance, looked like it might be useful.  Now what do you do?  Implement the second key process – triaging.  You may be familiar with the word.  It has a medical origin.  In every hospital emergency room, there is someone who performs the ‘triaging’ function.  They make a quick assessment of the condition of the incoming patients, and then send them to different degrees and types of treatment depending on that initial assessment.  So, one person is told to wait in the waiting room for a while longer, another is sent directly to the OB department, yet another is admitted to surgery, etc.  The person who does the triaging sends each patient to a location for treatment based on that initial assessment.

That’s what you do with the pile of information on your desk.  You look at each piece of information, and send it to the location where it can be dealt with appropriately.  So, for example, you have a spot for “Read and handle immediately.”  You have a file for “Put this stuff into my account folders.”  You have a folder for “Study this when you have time.”  You have yet another marked “File with product information.”

Now that you know what your options are, you are ready to ‘triage’ the pile of information on your desk.  Look at each piece, and place it in the location where you can deal with it appropriately.  If you have thought about this beforehand and arranged an effective file system, this process may take you a just a few moments.  At the end of that time, you have everything in its place and you can now deal with it in the time and place you choose.  You sit down with the “Read and handle immediately” pile and process it.  The “study this when you have time” file goes in your briefcase to be reviewed while you are waiting for appointments, or on those occasions when you are having lunch by yourself.  The stuff for “account folders” and “product folders” goes home with you and is reviewed and filed in your home office all at once on Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings.

By implementing these two disciplines, you’ve taken what could have been an hour or two of information-engagement and turned it into a few moments of disciplined involvement on your part.  You’ve gotten back hours of selling time, and not allowed the tidal wave of information to wash you away.

This process of screening and triaging can work for you with any kind of information.  Apply it to your list of daily emails and email attachments.  Ditto the stuff in your inbox, and the pile of envelopes and catalogues that appear every day in the mail.  Do the same with your choice of Internet surfing and TV channel hopping.

Unfortunately, the information-rich world in which we live has created a situation where some of the techniques and strategies that used to work for you are no longer as effective as they once were.  To maintain your effectiveness in a rapidly changing world, you need to take on new skills and processes.  Defending yourself from the tidal wave of information which threatens to drown you is one of them.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and eleven 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 Good Book on Business.

CEO Has Solution for Inaccurate Sales Forecast

Producing an accurate sales forecast seems like a problem that has existed since the beginning of time.  It impacts every business and despite this there has not been a good resolution to this nagging issue.  I remember as a sales executive dreading going into our board meetings to present the quarterly forecast because I knew that the numbers I was presenting were not rock solid. The forecast was a combination of fifty or more sales opportunities from five different regional managers across the country.  Of course I grilled them for days leading up to the big meeting, but despite this the forecast never ended up as accurate as I presented.  Why this happens is no secret. It’s called human intervention.

There is no magic formula for creating a monthly or quarterly forecast because every sales representative or manager views new business opportunities differently. What one person believes is a guaranteed win might be viewed as questionable by someone else, but I can tell you this. Going into a board meeting with a forecast that is more often wrong than right does not bode well when you are trying to keep your job. This provided me with a good incentive to do something about it.

I came up with a clever way to improve the situation using an excel spreadsheet with two columns, “F” and “U”.  I know what you are thinking, but stay with me here. The “F” was for forecasted in concrete, meaning I guarantee this business is going to happen. The “U” was for upside meaning I will not forecast it 100 percent, but we have a good chance of winning some of the deals in this column.  This really helped, but it was not until I became the president of a CRM solution provider that I was able to really address this problem not only for myself, but for customers as well.

At the new firm the sales team was like any other. Some experienced people, a few with 2-3 years in the business and a few just starting out.  I knew right then and there that I would have the same challenge I have had for more than a decade. But this time I had a CRM product that was designed to automate and streamline the sales process and a development team that I could direct to fix this problem once and for all.  So that’s what we did.

We created an “automated business process” that ranked and color coded each new business opportunity based on a set of qualification criteria built right into the CRM software.  The criteria or questions included things like; do they have a critical need for our solution, what is the time frame for their decision, do they have a proper budget to purchase our products or services, and are we dealing with the economic buyer. What this did for the company was to ensure that every new business opportunity was being qualified based on the company’s criteria and not the gut instinct of the sales representative.  The questions were designed for our business but can be tailored to any business environment. Finally I could rely on a forecast that was based on a real facts versus one provided by a sales representative or manager who was trying to impress me with how many deals they had in their pipeline.

The screen shot below highlights what I am referring to.  Without drilling into any of the opportunities I know from the color coding that the ones coded red are our best new business opportunities based on the criteria I have established in the CRM system.  The yellow ones are promising, but would never make the forecast and the ones coded blue are in the beginning of the sales cycle.

Lead Rating, Account Ranking

The results of this simple, but clever feature have been impressive and continue to provide substantial value to our company and our customers that utilize our solution.  Here’s the value realized.

The rating system has ensured that our sales team is focused on the most promising new business opportunities based on the company’s criteria and not their gut instinct.

Those rated as ‘not highly qualified’ are placed in an automated drip marketing program so that they are nurtured by the system on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Management can see a snapshot of the most promising new business opportunities based on the color coding and can take immediate action to help close them.

The accuracy of our monthly and quarterly forecast has improved substantially because only those opportunities rated as highly qualified and properly vetted as ‘deals we can win’ end up on the forecast.

If you are frustrated with the inaccuracy of your monthly or quarterly forecast, you can try the “F” and “U” methodology described above or give us a call and we will address this problem with our top rated CRM software.

About the author:

Larry Caretsky is the president of Commence Corporation, a provider of Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) and consulting services for sales automation, marketing SEO and customer service.  He is considered an expert in the CRM sector and was recently voted as one of the Top 40 inspirational leaders in sales and lead management.   He has written numerous articles and an e-book about CRM that are available on the company’s web site at commence.com.

White paper: How to Compete Against the 800-pound Gorilla

[PDF] White Paper: How to Compete Against Industry Giants (Caretsky)

Small business executives often discuss the challenges they face in order to compete in their space. They talk about the need to add new capabilities to their product or service, and invest more in marketing so that they can be favorably compared to the mainstream players. In many cases they are spending a ton of money trying to keep up and this does not make good business sense. Here’s why.

You’re not going to out-feature an industry giant and you are certainly not going to out-market them. Any attempt to do so and you will most likely drive yourself right out of business. But here is some good news; you don’t have to.

“It’s not about what they offer, it’s about what you offer and what you do better than everyone else.”
Larry Caretsky

So how do you effectively compete with industry giants? Larry Caretsky, CEO of Commence Corporation, shares his sales and marketing strategy in this brief white paper. Use the link below to read the full article on the Sales Lead Management Association website:

White paper: 2 Tips for Competing Against Industry Giants

What’s Wrong with CRM Software?

Even the best technology does nothing without human intervention | Commence.com

For the most part CRM software utilization among small to mid-size companies is pretty dismal, with reports of up to a 73% failure rate. Based on this you should ask yourself what’s wrong with this technology and why would my company want to purchase and install it?

Well the real answer is that there is nothing wrong with CRM software programs and in fact most of them are pretty good.  They enable you to capture, track, manage and share information so that you can significantly impact how you market, sell and provide service to your customers. The problem is that you need to make a commitment to getting it properly implemented, getting your staff trained, and mandating its use. For many small to mid-size business this is simply too much of a challenge and is the sole reason for such a high failure rate.

Keep in mind that CRM is a technology solution that does absolutely nothing without human intervention. Here is a simple analogy. Your car is a piece of technology.  It sits on your driveway every day and does nothing until you get in it and steer it along the way. Likewise, you have to steer your CRM system if you truly want to improve business performance.  Perhaps you are just not ready to make this commitment and that’s ok. It’s better to know this upfront before you invest your time and money on a solution that never gets implemented.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine if you are ready for a CRM solution.

1.       Are we committed to dedicating the time required to define what we want to achieve with a CRM system?   Yes or No!

2.       Have we outlined a road map to get from where we are today to where we want to be? Yes or No!

3.       Are we committed to assigning the resources necessary to automate and streamline our internal business processes?  Yes or No!

4.       Are we committed to getting our staff properly trained and mandating the use of the system?  Yes or No!

If you are running your business using an Excel spreadsheet or an outdated contact manager you may not be prepared to make this level of commitment and that’s fine. You can hold off until you are ready or engage outside resources that can assist you with planning the implementation, creating your road map and getting your staff properly trained.  All you will need to do is mandate its use.

About the author:

Larry Caretsky is the president of Commence Corporation, a provider of CRM software for small to mid-size businesses.  Commence provides the planning, execution and training necessary to ensure that every customer realizes the maximum value from the software. Commence has been providing business software and services to the SMB community for more than two decades and is highly regarded for the quality of their products and services. Visit commence.com to learn more.

CRM Software Company Adds SEO Services for Small Businesses

Get expert marketing assistance for mass emails, content creation, seo, social presence, and blog articles.
Implementing a top-rated CRM software solution like Commence CRM will provide your business with the tools you need to automate and streamline how you market, sell and provide service to your customers. But to realize the maximum value from the software you need more than a good CRM system.  You need experienced sales, marketing and service personnel to define and tailor the workflow processes and implement the online programs that will result in improved business performance.

“Small to mid-size businesses often find it difficult to hire and retain these resources” says Larry Caretsky, president of Commence Corporation.  “The biggest challenge we see is in Marketing where experienced people can be too costly for smaller businesses. We are looking to fill this gap by coupling our CRM software with experienced online marketing professionals who can assist customers with defining effective lead generation programs and executing them using the tools built into our system.  Our efforts have helped customers move away from expensive, ineffective programs (like Google pay-per-click and banner ads) to more efficient programs that deliver organic inquiries that cost much less to obtain.”

The combination of a top-rated CRM solution with professional Search Engine Optimization (SEO) expertise is a unique differentiator for Commence and addresses a critical need for small to mid-size businesses that are tired and frustrated with CRM solutions that do not get used and with spending large amounts of money on ineffective sales and lead generation programs.

To learn more visit commence.com or call 1-877-COMMENCE.