Using CRM to Leverage Sales

10079414 Businessman With Idea Lightbulb by Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot
Including CRM in your sales cycle is a smart business strategy

In part one of this paper, we discussed how critically important it is to select a sales model that is appropriate for the products or services you are selling.  In our case study the ‘NewCo’ company needed to transition from a high cost direct sales organization to selling via the internet and channel partners.

The second and equally important strategy to ensuring good sales execution is to implement a structured sales process or methodology that standardizes how you sell. This is important for two reasons.

1. Simplified Sales Management

First, you cannot manage and properly direct your sales team if every representative has a different approach to selling.  Remember sales people traditionally come from all walks of life – from teachers, accountants and engineers to college students just entering the work force.  Unless you establish a specific sales training program every member of your team is going to conduct their business according to what they feel is right.  Using this approach some will perform better than others will. However, one thing is clear you will not have a uniform approach to selling.

This is something many companies continue to struggle with.  CRM systems do an excellent job of providing structure for companies that don’t have one, or are unsure what theirs should look like.  This is not rocket science.  Start by outlining the steps that occur during your sales process.  The steps will vary from business to business, and the number of steps depends on the length of your sales cycle.

100152759 5 Steps by samuiblue
What are the steps in your sales cycle?

For example, the sales cycle typically begins with qualification or a needs analysis. This ensures the new opportunity is real, and that the prospect has a need for your company’s product or service, and the budget to pay for it.  Next step may be a product demonstration, followed by a quote, a trial of the product, verbal agreement then closure.

sales-process-pipeline-by-stage

2. Consistent Sales Forecasting

The benefit here is clear.  Having a definitive sales process such as this allows management to see a snapshot of every new sales opportunity. If you are managing every new sales opportunity in a structured fashion, you know where each one is in the sales process and what is required to close the sale.  This leads to highly accurate monthly and quarterly sales forecasts.

sales-process-pipeline-by-stage

Using a set of pre-built analytical reports sales management can follow each opportunity through the pipeline and take a proactive approach to help win the sale.

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Graphical and spreadsheet view of sales by stage

About the author:

Larry Caretsky is president of Commence Corporation a leading provider of online CRM software.  Caretsky has more than 30 years of experience in the client management software industry and has written numerous white papers on the subject along with an eBook “Practices That Pay”. He leads a consulting team that assists small to mid-size businesses implement best practices for sales execution and sales performance.

Image “Businessman With Idea Lightbulb” courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “5 Steps” courtesy of samuiblue/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Reaching Buyers at the Right Time

It's the right timeInternet marketing experts estimate that at any given time only a fraction of the market is interested in the product or service you are selling.  The problem is if you don’t know who they are or when they plan on buying, how can you earn their business?  Here are some things you can and need to do.

1. Implement a marketing strategy using a lead nurturing system

What I am referring to here is a series of direct or e-mail campaigns that serve one purpose, and that is to ensure that your company, your product and the value you offer is consistently in front of potential customers for months on end.  Marketing people refer to this as “the rule of seven” which simply means that people may not recognize your offering until they see it seven times.  So many companies make the mistake of sending a single message. If the prospect does not respond they move to a new list, convinced the first one was no good.

2. Make sure your message delivers value to the prospect

Stop selling for a minute. Special holiday discounts or offers for “free anything” don’t make sense.  In fact they can irritate the buyer.  I get these all the time; buy now and get 50% off. I don’t even know what they are selling so why would I have any interest – discount or no discount.  Instead offer something you would have an interest in reading.  If you wouldn’t click on it why would you expect a prospect to?

3. Try to differentiate yourself from your competition

Some people call this “thought leadership” which is nothing but a fancy title for being smarter than your competition. Present ideas that are outside the box, ideas that inspire creative thinking for both you and the potential prospect. If your message is educational or intriguing and gets them to think about what they read, chances are they will remember you.

4. Don’t stop marketing

People seem to think marketing is a part time job. Send a mailer and you are done.  It’s not. Let’s go back to what we said earlier – You may not know the right time when a prospect will decide to buy, but as long as your product and service is consistently in front of them you can bet that when they do decide to buy you will be on the call list.

Creating an automated marketing program without the proper tools can be quite the challenge.  The good news is that there are several very good CRM software programs that can automate this process and make life easy for you.  In part two of this paper, I will discuss the automation process and how CRM software has matured and is delivering value for marketing professionals.

This article is sponsored by Commence Corporation, a leading provider of web based CRM software.

Image by Federico Raviele on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Getting the Right Sales Model is Critical for Small to Mid-size Businesses

10043467 Money With Magnifying Glass by Sujin Jetkasettakorn

According to industry reports…

More than 41% of all small to mid-sized U.S. businesses reported that their sales and marketing efforts fell short of achieving their Q1 revenue goals.

 

“This is nothing new.” says Larry Caretsky, president of CRM solution provider Commence Corporation. “I think the biggest challenge facing small to mid-size companies today is dealing with the evolution of how products and services are sold today.  The Internet has created an on-demand mentality for all kinds of products and services – products that were once sold by professional sales people, either face to face or via the telephone.  While the bigger guys have adapted to this new sales paradigm, many small to mid-size companies are trapped in old school thinking.  They tend to stay with what they have done for years even though it is no longer working.”

Let’s look at an example.

THE GOAL   The ‘NewCo’ company sells sales management software and consulting services to mid-market companies via a direct sales team.  They have an average sales goal of $20,000 to $30,000 per customer – not huge but enough to cover the cost of sales salaries, commissions, and overhead and still make a profit.

THE CHALLENGE   Over the past 5-7 years, the industry has changed substantially and has become even more competitive.  Web based programs can be deployed via a cloud-computing environment, and require no hardware or software.  The competition’s software is available over the internet at a fraction of the cost of NewCo’s  original sales software.

THE STRATEGY   NewCo responds with a new web based offering of their own at a competitive price, and retains their highly skilled sales team as their only sales channel.

THE RESULTS   While they are winning sales, they are losing money on every one.  Why? Because their cost per sale is simply too high. Competitors are selling their products over the internet using lower cost telesales representatives.  If NewCo doesn’t find a way to reduce costs and improve their efficiency they will likely be out of business.

THE OPTIONS

There are three selling models to consider (excluding retails sales).

  • Direct Sales – a well-trained in-house sales team employed by you
  • Channel Sales – third party companies that sell your product or service based on a percentage of revenue or business they close
  • Internet Sales – low cost telesales staff that simply process orders or assist customers with the order process

Of course, you can have a combination of the above.  Your decision with regard to which one(s) are most appropriate for your business will be based on the overall cost of your product, the cost associated with selling the product (i.e. , salaries and commissions) and your margin or profitability on each sale.

In NewCo’s case, it is clear that relying solely on direct sales will no longer work for their business, but perhaps adding a telesales team with some regional channel partners will.

The world has changed, industries change and you have to be willing to change with it. It’s that simple.

Meeting your quarterly or annual marketing and sales objectives is not as simple as just adapting to the right sales paradigm.  This is critical, but the next step in the road to success has to do with implementing the proper sales structure and process.   I will discuss this in part two of this whitepaper – “Using CRM to Leverage Sales”.

About the author:

Larry Caretsky is president of Commence Corporation a leading provider of online CRM software.  Caretsky has more than 30 years of experience in the client management software industry and has written numerous whitepapers on the subject along with an eBook Practices That Pay. He leads a consulting team that assists small to mid-size businesses implement best practices for sales execution and sales performance.

Image “Money With Magnifying Glass” courtesy of Sujin Jetkasettakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Small Businesses Need to Think Differently when Considering CRM Software

Quote du jour: Business plans are useless!Small businesses have the same challenges as larger firms. They want to improve how they market, sell and provide service to their customers, and they want to use CRM technology to gain an edge over their competition.  Where they differ however is how they evaluate and purchase the products and services that can help them to achieve this goal.

Larger firms that have definitive roles within their organization such as a sales, marketing and customer service department spend time documenting their business requirements and traditionally provide these to the CRM vendors they are evaluating.  This may include functional requirements as well as the need for professional services.  For these businesses it is imperative that the CRM vendor respond to which requirements they can meet and those they cannot. These firms look at each CRM solution provider as a potential long term partner in their business and make their decision based on numerous criteria such as:

  • the product’s ability to meet the majority or all of their functional requirements,
  • the company’s track record for successful implementations,
  • training programs that are available to reduce the learning curve,
  • the company’s data hosting services,
  • system reliability and up time performance,
  • the support services that are available after the sale,
  • and of course price.

Many smaller businesses, particularly those that do not have definitive roles, tend to overlook these criteria and look at the acquisition of a CRM system as a simple transaction based primarily on price.  It is easy to appreciate why this would occur.  If you have not documented specific requirements for your business you have no way to differentiate one CRM vendor from another.  As a result, they all look the same – almost like a commodity.

CRM is not a Transactional Sale

CRM should not be viewed as a transactional sale.  You are not buying a television or DVD player here. You’re buying a business solution that you should expect will help you become a more efficient sales and service organization for years to come.  This simply means you need to take the time to document where you are as a business today, and where you want to be. For example, what improvements do you want to make to your sales, marketing and customer service operations?  Then share those with the CRM solution providers you believe can meet your requirements within your budget.

Service Matters

Your list of functional criteria should also include any services that you think you may require to fill a gap that you may have internally.  Smaller businesses for example often have limited resources in the marketing area.  If you plan to improve lead generation via bulk e-mail programs and do not have the staff to do it perhaps the CRM vendor can play this role and assist you with the creation of professional mailers.

The array of services a CRM vendor can provide can often be clear differentiators between one company and another, helping to make your selection easier.  The point here is clear.  You do not have to document every change you wish to make and every feature you want to see in a CRM solution, but don’t go into the process blindly.  Taking the time to document your needs before you make a decision will significantly improve your chances of realizing a high return on your investment.

Image by Global X on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

CRM No Commitment – Means No Results

Your success, our commitment

Select a CRM Vendor Committed to Your Success

As an executive of a company servicing the Customer Relationship Management software sector, CRM has become a bit of an oxymoron for me.  I believe that building long term business relationships with your customers requires a commitment to providing quality products and great customer service.   This traditionally involves reaching out to your customers and engaging with them so that they realize the maximum value from your product.

But many small to mid-size companies and CRM vendors that service the SMB sector just don’t see it this way.  The vendors prefer that you just buy their product over the internet. If you need assistance send an e-mail and they will get back to you when it’s convenient for them. The buyers seem to feel comfortable with this and often hold the position that if I need assistance using your product, then it’s too hard so I’m not interested.  It’s almost as if they view CRM software as nothing more than a commodity.

Your CRM Success Needs Your Commitment

Interestingly enough industry reports have indicated that there is as much as a 70% failure rate among CRM implementations.  This is far worse than any other segment of the software industry.  Much of this occurs in the SMB space where companies never get off the ground and as a result discontinue the service.

You could place the blame on the CRM software providers for developing products that are too hard to use; or perhaps the management of the company that purchased the system for failing to properly match their business requirement with the vendor’s offering or assign a champion who’s in charge of the CRM system. I blame the management and here’s why.

The CRM sector is crowded and highly competitive, with several hundred solutions ranging in price from free to more than $200 dollars per user per month.  Most of the offerings targeted at the SME sector offer basic functionality and as such are very easy to use so this is not the problem.  Furthermore, they are designed to offer limited to no customization so that the customer can’t get themselves in too much trouble. This is because with price points of free to $15 per user per month the vendor cannot afford to hire the resources to provide customer service.  So when you see CRM products offered for free — no contract, or go month-to-month with no commitment, they mean it.

The real problem lies with the management of these small to mid-size businesses that have limited resources, are stretched thin and often do not understand that in order to improve how they market, sell and provide service to their customers they have to do more than download a cheap piece of software over the Internet.  This commodity mentality is what I believe has led to the high failure rate in the industry.  So how does this change?

Successfully Implementing Your CRM Solution

First, the management needs to agree that No Commitment – Means No Results.  The first task is to make a commitment to put someone in charge of the CRM process. A champion who will document the business challenges such as ‘we need to improve lead generation‘. Then focus on finding a CRM solution that will address these challenges and a CRM vendor who can provide advice, counsel or value added services that will ensure results.

CRM is a two way street and you need to feel comfortable that the vendor has the staff and experience to make a commitment to your success. As I stated earlier you won’t get this by putting your credit card over the internet. This does not mean you have to mortgage the business to find a quality product and company that can deliver both at an affordable price. There are several good ones and you may be surprised to find out that the difference between a low cost CRM product and a CRM solution provider offering the value added services you need may be less than you think.

About the Author:

Larry Caretsky is President of Commence Corporation, a leading provider of online CRM software for small to mid-size businesses.  Caretsky is considered an expert in the field and has written numerous white papers on the subject and the book, Practices That Pay – Leveraging Information to Achieve Selling Results.  All are available from the company’s web site at www.commence.com

Image by Piero Fissore on Flickr under Creative Commons license.