Companies seeking a contact management or customer relationship management solution need to consider one aspect of their business before diving into the evaluation of products. Ask yourself one simple question – do you work with individual people, companies, or both? The answer will put you on the right track.
Contact management software is designed to manage individual contacts, hence the name contact management. You run reports by contact and search information by contact. Everything you do is related to that person or contact. This can create limitations that CRM software simply doesn’t have. For example, how do you track referrals and relationships between contacts? Are you able to store multiple physical addresses and email addresses for each contact?
How CRM is different
CRM software is designed to manage accounts or customers. An account can be any business entity with one or more contacts. Contacts are often associated with a company name, but this may not always be true. Here are some recent examples of customers that expressed an interest in contact management software then determined CRM software would be a more flexible and better fit for them.
- a university that wanted to manage students and do fund raising
- a chain of Health Clubs that wanted to manage memberships
The University only deals with people or contacts so they felt that contact management software would be the best suited for them. They could simply enter the student name “Michael Jones” and they’re done. What they did not initially consider however is that they are also doing recruitment and fund raising. Michael has two younger sisters that may be candidates to attend the University in a few years. They also want to solicit Michael’s parents for what are referred to as “boosters”.
CRM software offers the flexibility to manage groups and relationships that contact management software does not.
With CRM software they are able to enter the family name as an account, list the siblings under the account name and keep track of any donations the family may have made. Everything is all under one umbrella. In addition, reporting also becomes more flexible allowing you to generate reports by individual contact or by the account (or family name).
The Health Club while a completely different business was able to do the same thing. Contact Management software would have addressed these organizations’ basic needs, but what they discovered was that CRM software offered more flexibility today and into the future.
Photo Credit: cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This is a Customer Relationship Management article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle
By Dave Kahle
Almost every professional B2B sales person comes to grips with one of the challenges of penetrating key accounts. Key accounts are different than the ordinary, and require some more sophisticated skills and strategies. Here are four fundamentals for effectively penetrating key accounts.
1. Recognize that key accounts are different.
First of all, they are larger, but that’s only the beginning. Their decision-making processes will be much more complex, and in some cases, highly structured. A product that may, in a smaller account, only need one person’s approval to purchase can require dozens of people to sign off on it in a key account.
The people have widely different specialty skill sets, perspectives, and motivations. In smaller accounts, you may only have to deal effectively with an owner or executive. In key accounts, the same product may require skillful communications with an engineer, a purchasing agent, a project manager and a foreman. Each of these specialties is likely to have a different personality type, challenging the sales person to adapt.
Because of the size and complexity, there are a variety of motivations and agendas inside a key account. A naive sales person can be constantly frustrated because they all don’t think the way he/she thinks.
I can go on for pages on ways in which key accounts are different, but this is sufficient to make the point. If you don’t adjust your strategies and tactics to the unique dynamics of a key account, you will be wasting your time.
2. Approach the organization of your time within a key account like you would your entire territory.
When you look at your territory, you see lots of independent units we call accounts. You understand that each has a unique set of needs, budgets and personal dynamics, and that each offers its own set of opportunities.
When you approach a key account, think of it as a territory on its own, with lots of units that act like accounts. These units can be departments, or branches, or plants, or whatever organization exists within that account. Each one of them may conceivably have the ability to purchase or move forward the purchase of your products and services. Each unit, whatever it may be, has its own unique set of needs, budgets and personal dynamics. And, in many cases, the purchasing power of one of those units can far outstrip the purchasing power of one of your smaller accounts.
Just as you would begin your work in your sales territory by first identifying all the potential accounts, so too, you begin your work in a key account by identifying all the individual units, and then understanding the relationships among them.
Just as you would take six months or a year to come to know the accounts in your territory, so too, expect that it will take a like period of time to identify and come to know all of the units within your key accounts.
Just as you would attempt to ascertain what opportunities there were in each of your other accounts, so too, you should attempt to uncover the opportunities in each of the key account units.
While key accounts are more complex and require some more sophisticated strategies and skills on your part, the perspective that you take to managing your time in a key account should mimic the perspective you take in coming to know the accounts in your territory.
3. Understand that you gain traction in key accounts through relationships, leverage, and organization.
If you are going to have influence in a key account, you must have relationships with the influential people. Because of the size of a key account, and the natural movement of people within it, that means that coming to know the influential people is not an event which has an ending, but is rather a constant process that never ends. Make a list of the people who should know you, and update it after every sales call.
Who are the department heads in each of those units? Who are influencers? The decision makers? Who could be a champion for you?
Not only do you need to proactively expand your relationships deep into the organization, but you also need to focus upward, and come to know those people who oversee combinations of units, and the C-level people in the corner suites.
There is a fundamental equation in B2B sales, and it operates just as reliably in key accounts as it does elsewhere:
- Relationships lead to opportunities.
- Opportunities lead to projects
- Projects lead to sales.
So, if you want to increase your sales, begin with relationships. And, the primary way you do that is to leverage every question, every positive relationship, every conversation, and every opportunity to more of the same. Leverage, in this case, means using something to create something additional. In other words, you use every conversation as an opportunity to open the door to more. Assume the attitude that there is always more. There are more people to meet, more opportunities to uncover, more problems to solve, and more needs to fill.
In every single sales call, you ought to ask, “Who else should I be talking to?” Or, “Who should I know in xxxx department? “ If you successfully sell something, that experience should be leveraged to uncover the next opportunity. If you meet someone, that relationship should be leveraged to create more. And so it goes, unending.
4. Finally, key accounts are no place for the unorganized sales person.
Successfully selling in a key account requires organizational tools and disciplines that are a stretch for the average sales person. Imagine all the people who you need to know, multiply them by the relationships and agendas among them, overlay that with the account’s strategies, needs and budgets, factor in all the opportunities and the steps in each process necessary to bring it to fruition, and you’ll begin to get an idea of the degree to which you’ll need to collect information, store it, and continually use it. A sophisticated CRM system is a must, as is the discipline to use it religiously.
While these few ideas are not the whole story, they will get you started in your efforts to successfully sell to key accounts. Recognize the difference, plan your time as if each were a sales territory on its own, and apply the weapons of relationship, leverage and organization to the task. You’ll be well on your way.
Copyright MMXIII by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved.
One of the biggest dangers in sales is letting a prospect hang out there too long. Most sales people will tell you that time is traditionally your enemy and not your friend. The longer a prospect waits to move forward; the risk of losing the deal greatly increases.
Today’s sales professionals are constantly in a race against the clock. Not only are they trying to close deals as quickly as possible but they are often racing against monthly and quarterly quotas. The good news is that there are now very good sales management tools available to help shorten the sales cycle. One tool that many sales professionals utilize to help shorten the sales cycle is CRM software.
Most CRM systems include the ability to manage the sales cycle from introduction to closure and create alerts along the way if a deal is not moving in the right direction. There are a couple key features however that some CRM systems offer that will help shorten the sales cycle.
A CRM with a customizable sales process management tool is very valuable to sales professionals. Tracking potential deals throughout a sales process helps sales professionals track the amount of time it takes to close a deal, forecast when they expect the deal to close and communicate effective messages to prospects based on where they are in the buying cycle. Some CRM programs also offer sales analytics making it easy for a sales professional to get an overview of his or her entire business.
Sales Process Management
A CRM with an organizational chart can really help shorten the sales cycle as well. One of the first things a sales professional learns is to get to the key decision maker as quickly as possible. Identifying key decision makers is a huge challenge in sales. An organizational chart makes it easier to see who the executives are in the company and who may be making the final decisions.
Use an Organizational Chart to identify Decision Makers
Shortening the sales cycle is the key to success for many sales professionals. Tools like CRM software are helping sales professionals better manage the sales process and remain focused on the most promising opportunities.
Image “Clock Work Man” by Sean MacEntee on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
Today’s challenging economy may be the best thing that’s happened for sales professionals in more than a decade and here is why. Every financial decision at any size company is now going through a level of scrutiny like never before. If you cannot demonstrate that your product or service will provide the customer with a rapid return on investment your chance of winning their business will be greatly diminished.
But what is most important here for sales professionals is the knowledge that due to the current economic uncertainty decisions that were normally made by first level management personnel may now require the approval of senior management.
This means you will need to fight your way to the top in order to win the business or risk spending too much valuable time with people who insist they are the decision makers when indeed they are not. How can you do this without alienating the people involved with the evaluation process? This is the art of good salesmanship.
Take Control of the Sales Process
The first thing you will want to do is establish some rules for how the sales process is going to work. Make sure that the prospect knows that you are willing to put forth a Herculean effort to earn their business as long as the decision makers are part of the selling process. This does not necessarily mean that you have to talk with the CEO on the first call. But you will want to know:
- if the CEO or key decision maker is aware that there is an evaluation process going on,
- that the company is budgeted to make a decision, and
- they have an actual timeframe for doing so.
Obtaining this information won’t win you the business, but it will help to ensure that you have a real prospect and that a decision will at some point be made.
CRM Software can help
If you are in an industry where you are juggling a lot of sales opportunities at one time, CRM software may be a nice tool to use to manage opportunities, follow up on them and make sure that high quality opportunities don’t fall through the cracks.