Here is a recap of 2 recent articles discussing how businesses are using CRM analytics to get a more detailed view of their customers.
Four best practices for achieving a holistic customer view. One of the main reasons businesses implement a CRM system is to gain a complete, 360-degree view of their customers. However, large enterprises in particular often have difficulty achieving this goal. Many organizations grapple with how best to provide a holistic view of all the activities of an enterprise customer and how to implement a one-stop shop for analytics and actionable data.
A man walked into a Target store near Minneapolis demanding to speak to the manager, a jumble of coupons for baby clothes and cribs in his hands. His 16-year-old daughter had just received them, and he was fuming. But when the store manager called a few days later with an apology, the man had one too. His daughter was pregnant after all. Target knew it before he did. It’s an anecdote many have heard, after a New York Times article went viral last year, and it’s widely used in business circles to illustrate the possibilities of CRM analytics.
In the simplest terms, CRM analytics involves drilling into customer data to make smarter business decisions and to offer customers more personalized service. Target used information about customers’ past purchases — unscented lotion and vitamin supplements, for example — to identify women who were statistically likely to be pregnant, then sent them coupons for baby products.
A best practice for sales people by guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.
Maintains good records about customers by using an ‘account profile’ and ‘personal profiles’ for every account.
It is the Information Age. That means wise and effective sales people collect, store and use good information about their customers and prospects. That information provides the salesperson with a competitive advantage, is invaluable for planning for the best use of his sales time, and allows him to be much more effective in his sales calls.
In this day of CRM systems, hand-held devices and smart phones that make information management so easy, it’s a wonder that I even have to mention this, but the sad truth is, there are still sales forces that don’t use any kind of automation tool for salespeople. And, even in those who do have some kind of electronic system for information management, a considerable portion of the sales force doesn’t comply with the company’s directions for collecting information.
These salespeople realize that information – particularly information about the specific opportunities within an account and the quantifiable potential of every account – brings with it some accountability. If account X has this much potential, for example, what are you doing to acquire it?
It is that accountability that frightens the information-leery salesperson.
But not the sales masters. They understand that specific, useful information about every account – the kind you would collect and put into an account profile – is valuable, not only for the salesperson, but also for his/her company. They welcome the accountability that rises out of information, as they understand it helps keep them sharp and focused.
Even in companies which do not have a system-wide electronic approach to information management, the best salespeople create their own tools, and discipline themselves to rigorously use them.
That’s why this is a practice of the best.
For more information about this best practice:
If you are a subscriber to The Sales Resource Center®, review Pod-43: Managing Information Before it Manages You, and Pod-45: How to Collect the Right Kind of Information.
Copyright MMXII by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved
If you’re a sales executive you have got to be tired of explaining why the monthly or quarterly forecast keeps coming up short? I understand because I have managed large teams of sales representatives ranging in experience from 1 year to more than 20 years. I shared your experience then I decided to fix it. What I learned is that there is one main reason why the forecast consistently disappoints and a fairly easy way to address this challenge.
The problem starts with lead qualification. Your sales team is most likely made up of a few senior representatives, several others with 3- 5 years of experience and some that are just starting out in sales. Each representative sees a new opportunity differently. Some think it’s highly qualified while others do not, and that’s the problem. What I discovered is that the sales representatives who were doing well and delivering new business were doing a good job at vetting each new lead while others were chasing tire kickers. Knowing this my team and I then embarked on a simple task and that was to create set of criteria for rating and scoring each new opportunity.
We then incorporated the criteria into the Commence CRM system which automated the process and ensured that every sales representative regardless of experience level was qualifying new business opportunities according to a specific set of criteria. The results speak for themselves. The team became laser focused on the most promising new opportunities instead of wasting valuable time on those that were not. Our close ratios went up, our forecast was much more accurate and we realized higher monthly and quarterly revenues. The Commence CRM software became a simple affordable solution to a difficult business problem.
Image “quality decisionmaking (271/365)” by Allix Rogers on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
A best practice for sales people by guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.
By Dave Kahle
The best salespeople are systematic in their approach to their job, while ordinary salespeople are haphazard. That’s one of the reasons why they are the best.
We know that sophisticated routine work is best accomplished by implementing effective systems. McDonald’s, for example, didn’t get to where they are by hiring the best people they could find and then asking them to figure it out. Rather, they created a system, and then constantly tweaked that system. That approach applies to every area of human endeavor. From surgeons to ministers to fishermen to house painters, the routine and sophisticated aspects of their jobs are best addressed with systems. It applies to sales as well.
There is a best way to sell every combination of products/services to specific markets. In other words, if you are selling carpeting to independent retail stores, there is a best way to do that. If you are selling the same product to contractors, there is a best, though somewhat different, way to do that.
Each of these unique combinations of products to markets is what I call a selling “situation.” In my example, above, selling carpeting to contractors is one situation, while selling it to retail stores is another.
Every selling situation, if it occurs routinely, is best handled by designing an effective system, and then forever improving on the design and implementation of that system.
The best sales companies design sales systems for every situation. In my practice, I have honestly worked with very few companies who had familiarity with the concept of a sales system, much less a well-designed and effectively implemented one.
So, it often falls on the individual salesperson to design the appropriate system. This is what the best salespeople do. They don’t just “go out there and sell something.” When presented with a product or service to sell, they ask and answer questions which lead to the development of a system. Here is a condensed version of the “system-building questions” I recommend:
1. Who is the most likely market (customers) for this?
2. What problem does this solve for them?
3. Why would they pay for this?
4. What is the best way to gain access to the decision makers?
5. What is the specific process I’ll follow to sell this?
6. What is the best way to uncover the pain/problem this solves?
7. What is the best way to present this?
8. What are some natural and logical concerns they may have?
9. What is the best way to resolve those concerns?
10. How long will all this take?
11. What tools will I need to accomplish this?
Answer these questions, in writing, and you have the beginning of a system. Now, by working your system, you’ll be far more effective than the salespeople and “go out and make something happen.” Thoughtful preparation trumps random action every day of the week.
That’s why this is a best practice of the best salespeople.
If you’d like to dig deeper into this practice, download the white paper, How Systems Thinking Can Transform Your Sales Force, or purchase the book,
How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime.
If you are a member of The Sales Resource Center®, consider Course C-1: The Kahle Way® B2B Selling System.
Copyright MMXII by Dave Kahle
All Rights Reserved
Image “Big M – Kuala Lumpur” by Rolling Okie on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
Sales are the driving force of any business. With competition getting tougher and tougher it is imperative that you develop, train and coach your sales team to be the best they can be. Experienced sales manager can train sales representatives to be better qualifiers and closers, but sales people need more than basic sales training to be successful. They need the right tools and a partner to ensure that the sales staff realizes the maximum value from them.
CRM software is now regarded as a must have for any size business that sells products or services. What these software programs provide is the ability to manage customer interaction and share vital customer information with the people and departments that need it to effectively do their jobs. CRM comes in several flavors from basic programs that provide contact management and sales management to more mature systems that offer lead management and lead qualification, sales analytics, marketing campaign management and customer service applications.
One of the most popular CRM systems for small to mid-size businesses is Commence CRM. Well regarded for its robust functionality and ease of use, Commence is a cloud based CRM system that operates over the Internet. As such, there is no hardware to purchase or software to install and customers can be operational very quickly. What Commence CRM does best however is that it automates the routine tasks that are performed daily by sales and customer service personnel. Right from the opening screen or dashboard, sales and support staff can enter new leads, a new sales opportunity, a service ticket, schedule follow-up activity or access the complete profile of any customer. The speed, efficiency and ease of use of this system is unmatched in the industry and has made Commence a popular alternative to highly marketed CRM programs like Salesforce.com and Microsoft CRM.
While Commence offers several unique features in the software, the company’s expertise in sales process management has enabled Commence customers to quickly get a leg up on the competition. The Commence program allows for the implementation of a custom tailored sales process that displays a graphical analysis of where every new sales opportunity is in the sales process. This provides sales management with the ability to be proactive with each new sales opportunity and has resulted in more accurate sales forecasts, higher close ratios and more sales.
Free trials and CRM reviews comparing Commence against other online CRM programs are available on the Commence web site at www.commence.com.
Image by Andrew Wong on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
If you are considering implementing CRM software for your business perhaps the following recommendations will help. First, it is important to realize that despite the fact that CRM solution providers try to be all things to all people, every CRM system is targeted at a specific market sector.
Programs like Zoho for example start out as free so it’s quite clear that the company is not expecting enterprise or mid-market companies to select them as their online CRM provider. This particular product is designed for the small home or small office environment that typically have very few business requirements. If this is you this solution may be worth taking a look at.
If you are a small enterprise or mid-size company you are probably looking to improve how you market, sell and provide service to your customers. This requires a core set of features that are not typically offered by lower end CRM offerings. This may include lead qualification, sales process management, marketing campaign management, project management and business intelligence or analytical reporting. Two very good mid-market CRM programs are Commence CRM and SugarCRM. Both offer similar functionality to enterprise level offerings, but have been designed for the middle market where ease of use and affordability are key decision points.
Enterprise level CRM software is designed to support large numbers of users and high transaction levels. In addition, large corporations often require multi-currency and multi-language support. If you have a large number of users and require international support, two companies that meet these requirements are Microsoft and Salesforce.com.
All of the companies mentioned above are considered leaders in their respective market segments, that is, small business CRM, mid-market CRM and enterprise CRM. All offer good products and quality customer service. You won’t make a mistake with any of them.
Image “Where Boutique Sits” by tara hunt on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
Small to mid-size businesses looking for online CRM software need to set the proper expectations when selecting newer CRM technology that’s delivered over the Internet.
For the past two decades the standard for CRM software was on premise or desktop applications. Over the years, these programs became very mature allowing administrators and end users to tailor the software to meet unique business requirements. Companies that are now looking to transition to online CRM where the software is hosted or managed by a third party need to appreciate that many of these newer CRM software programs have been designed to provide customers with a set of “out of the box applications” and features that meet generic business requirements. While some of the enterprise CRM solutions offer tools for customization they are traditionally very expensive and require programming expertise to utilize. This can add a significant cost to the overall expense of your CRM system.
One of the ways to quickly rule out CRM systems that offer good customizability from those that don’t is cost. While this may seem basic, it works. Low cost CRM solutions typically offer basic CRM features and functionality with minimal customization if any. Mid-level systems traditionally offer security permissions, and the ability to add custom fields, views, forms, and reports. But if integrating third party programs and modifying the look and feel of the CRM program is required, you will need to consider enterprise level CRM software.
If a low cost solution with limited customization will meet your requirements there are a myriad of low cost offerings to choose from but it may be difficult to differentiate one from another. The mid-market offers a bit more clarity with several very good offerings from companies such as Commence CRM and SugarCRM. The leaders in the enterprise market include offerings from Salesforce.com, Microsoft and Oracle.
Image ‘The “No Stress” Sticker’ by Morton Fox on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
Ever wonder why some sales people are extremely effective while others fail? There are a bunch of reasons, but those that are not effective need to assume responsibility for their failure. Selling is part game and part science and you need to understand that prospects are masters at attaining information from you, misleading you about their requirements and how the process will play out. Sound familiar? How many times has the person who claimed to be the decision maker turn out not to be the decision maker? Sound familiar?
Having a structured approach to selling is your best defense against a crafty prospect. Keep in mind that the prospect has a structured approach. They are trying to get as much information from you without making any commitment of any kind to the next steps in the process. Sales people have been trained to be subordinate to the prospect so that you don’t upset them. So you play their game providing as much information as you can and often getting nothing in return. This has to stop in order for you to be successful.
Many companies today are turning to online CRM software solutions to help implement a structured approach to selling. It’s certainly not mandatory to have a CRM system, but it can and does help. One of the ways CRM software can assist with this process is by guiding the sales staff through a process via a series of questions that need to be answered before wasting valuable time on a poorly qualified opportunity. Those questions include such things as: is there a critical need for the product or service you are selling, are the decision makers known and engaged in the process, is there an approved budget for the acquisition and is there a definitive time frame for a decision? In order for the sales process to be successful there must be a “Win –Win” relationship with the prospect. By this I mean that for every bit of information you provide you need to get something in return. If you don’t you will continue to play to the hand of the prospect and find yourself frustrated that the prospect does not answer the phone, won’t return messages and has left you with no sale and no commission. A CRM system can provide a good way to automate the sales process so that it’s the same for each and every new sales opportunity.
Image “give a little GET A LOT…” by silkeybeto on Flickr, available under Creative Commons license
Experienced well trained sales managers understand the importance and value of CRM software and how chaotic their world would be without it. Anyone who has managed a mid-size to large sales organization knows it is no easy task. Sales people often come from all walks of life, from college grads to mature people who may have completely changed their careers. One of the biggest challenges in managing sales people is implementing a structure that ensures everyone is working under the same guidelines. Unlike your internal accountants that must follow state and federal guidelines, there are no written rules for sales people. This is where a good CRM system can be a sales manager’s best friend.
You should look at your sales organization just like a crew of new military recruits that just arrived in boot camp. They’re all eager to be successful, but don’t quite know how and are looking for the right path to follow. The implementation of a structure with well-established rules and procedures is what makes the military successful. Once the recruits are comfortable with it they begin to operate like a well-oiled machine. Your sales organization should be operating the same way. Sales people want and need a structured approach to selling and a good CRM system can provide it.
What CRM software can deliver is the ability to document a structured approach to selling where each stage of the sales cycle is managed and evaluated before moving forward. This ensures that each and every sales opportunity is being looked at through multiple eyes and not falling through the cracks. The results speak for themselves. Higher close ratios, higher revenue attainment, happy sales people and happy management. It’s important to note that simply running out and implementing a CRM system is not going to deliver more sales. CRM software is a tool and it does not run your business, people do and sales management is the key to good performance. CRM software will at least give them the tools they need to become a more effective sales organization.
[Image "Social Business Boot Camp 2010" by Gangway Advertising on Flickr under Creative Commons license]