Looking for a CRM Solution for Your Business?

Don't select a tool without understanding the job requirements

Select a CRM Software Company – Not a CRM Software Product

Selecting the right CRM system for your business can be challenging. There are literally hundreds of solutions available from free and open source programs to ones costing well over $100 dollars per user per month.  So, what’s the best way to go about selecting the right solution for your business?  Well, it is important to start with why do you need a CRM solution?

What specifically does it need to do?

What are the requirements to ensure the proper implementation of the system and its use?  

What are the criteria to measure the return on your investment? 

One of the reasons so many companies fail to get the CRM system they selected implemented and utilized is because the initial selection process is often flawed.

Here is what typically happens.  Management has decided they need a CRM system to streamline their internal processes and increase communication within their firm, so they assign someone to take charge of the project. This individual begins to talk with the internal staff so that he or she can document all the features and functions they need in the CRM system. Once that is complete they select a group of vendors and ask for a free trial or product demonstration.  After a few weeks of evaluations, the project manager has a recommendation which is based primarily on selecting the product that meets as many of their functional requirements at the lowest cost. This is where the process breaks down and why the number of CRM systems that fail to get properly implemented and utilized (according to industry experts) is a whopping 73 percent.

What differentiates the myriad of solutions to choose from is not just the product’s features and functions, but more importantly the value-added services the CRM solution provider can deliver to ensure the successful implementation and use of the product. CRM software is a resource intensive solution that requires proper planning, management commitment, implementation procedures, data migration, customization, training of the staff and more. These areas are often overlooked during the vendor selection process because people tend to focus all their attention on features, functions and price.  As a result, they select what they believe is the right product, but the implementation fails.

I think it’s fair to say that at the most basic level CRM software has become a commodity. Most of the companies offer the ability to manage accounts or customers, people or contacts, activities, notes and perhaps a sales forecast, but even at this level there is a high degree of customer/vendor interaction that is required for the successful implementation and use of the software. With more advanced solutions the commitment to preparing for and managing the implementation is even greater.  The problem here is that many companies are just not prepared for this and nor is the CRM solution provider they selected. So now you have a situation whereby you are not prepared to commit the time and resources to the implementation, and the solution provider you selected cannot offer any assistance.

This is why it is so important to select a CRM company and not just a CRM product.  A CRM company will have a documented implementation plan and resources that can guide you through the steps required for you to be successful.  Training is provided by experts in sales, marketing and customer service, not just a list of videos for your staff to review at their leisure.  A CRM company will provide phone support and assign an account manager to call, not suggest you send an e-mail and wait 48 hours for a response. If you believe as many do that CRM solutions are all pretty much the same, then it’s time to turn the standard vendor selection process upside down and focus on selecting the right CRM company versus the right CRM product.

This article is sponsored by Commence Corporation, manufacturers of Commence CRM. The company provides a robust CRM solution coupled with consultative services for the proper implementation and use of CRM software.

Two Simple Rules to Close More Effectively

Tired of chasing too many prospects that just won't close?

By Dave Kahle

Excerpted from Chapter 13 of Take Your Performance Up a Notch

Whenever I ask sales people to rate themselves on their competence at all the different parts of the sales process, they invariably rate themselves low at closing the sale.  Unfortunately, sales people who don’t close consistently waste a lot of their time, waste their customer’s time, and are not nearly as effective as they could be.

Rule Number One:

Being adept at closing the sale, and every step in the process, is an important key to productivity.  So, let’s examine the issue of closing, beginning with the first principle: Closing is a process which always ends with your customer’s agreement to take action.

As you consider this principle, you’ll realize that closing is not just asking for an order, although it certainly is that.  In addition, it is a process you repeat at every stage of the sales process.  In fact, almost every time you interact with a customer, you can close the interaction by asking for some agreement.  Whenever your customer agrees to take some action, you have closed that step in the sales process.

Let’s illustrate this principle with a typical real life situation.  Suppose you’re talking on the phone to a prospect, and he says, “Sounds interesting.  Send me some literature.”  You say, “OK, I’ll put it in the mail today.”  Have you closed that step of the process?

The answer is no.  You have agreed to take action — send some literature — but your prospect hasn’t agreed to do anything.  Remember, a close always ends with your customer agreeing to take some action.

Can you turn the same situation into a close?  Back to the same situation.  Your prospect says, “Sounds interesting. Send me some literature.”  You remark, “I’d be happy to.  After you review it, will you discuss it with me over the phone, say next Friday?”  If your customer says, “Yes,” you’ve closed.  He’s agreed to take some action.

“Closing almost always involves the use of a good question. Learn to ask questions better. – Kahle Wisdom”

Rule Number Two:

That leads us to the second powerful principle of closing the sale: Every interaction can and should be closed. In other words, at the conclusion of every interaction with your customer, ask for an agreement on the action he or she will take.

The telephone conversation described above is a good example of closing the interaction. Here’s another common situation. Let’s say you’ve discussed a product or proposal with your customer. He says, “It looks interesting, but we’re not ready for that now.” You might then say, “When do you think will be a good time?” Your customer responds, “Probably around June.” You might typically say, “OK, I’ll make a note to discuss it with you then.” At this point, you haven’t closed the interaction, nor have you resolved the issue.

Let’s take the conversation one more step further. Suppose you now say, “At that point in time, will you spend a half hour with me to discuss it in detail?” You have now attempted to close the interaction by getting an agreement for action on the part of your customer. You’ve put the issue on the table, and are attempting to resolve it.

Let’s take the conversation one step further. Suppose your customer says, “No, probably not.” You now have a decision to make. Should you probe the reasons why, or should you accept his decision? Let’s say you decide to accept his decision. The conversation has value to you in that you learned that this proposal isn’t going to fly in this account. The early “no” was valuable to you. You didn’t waste months chasing something that wasn’t going to happen. That’s the value in resolving the issue.

Let’s now say that your prospect, instead of responding “no,” responds to your close by saying, “Yeah, I think it has enough merit to spend that time discussing it with you.” You now have his commitment to spend some time with you, so you have moved the issue forward. You’re one step closer to the ultimate sale.

Implement these two principles and you’ll dramatically improve your productivity. Keep in mind that closing is an agreement for action on the part of your customer, and make it your goal to close every interaction.

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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. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every salesperson at every level. To connect to the Sales Resource Center use this link:
http://www.thesalesresourcecenter.com

It’s Time to Adopt a Digital Marketing Strategy

Online Marketing

The success of your business is highly dependent on your ability to create and implement a mix of marketing programs that target the right customers, effectively communicate your message, and convert new prospects into customers. If you are not doing this, or if you are still using old school marketing programs, you are most likely struggling. Your competitors are probably using a digital marketing strategy and it’s time that you take the steps to compete on a level playing field.

Before embarking on your digital marketing campaign take the time to understand three core criteria about your business.

  1. What customers do you serve better than anyone else and what are the competing alternatives?
  2. How will you communicate this to the market? What is the proper vehicle to attract the right prospects?
  3. How will you measure the effectiveness of your marketing programs?

Digital marketing is all about taking advantage of the tools and services that will enable you to quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively put your company, your product or your service in front of as many potential buyers as possible. This includes:

  • search engine optimization on sites like Google, Yahoo and Bing
  • creating quality content for distribution on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and others
  • creating a blog with educational material
  • enhancing your web site with a call to action and a giveaway for those who provide their information, such as a free white paper or product trial.

What is important is to understand that you need a marketing mix that incorporates much of the above to be successful. If you are not comfortable doing this on your own, there are a lot of resources available to help. To learn more visit commence.com/marketing-enablement

Commence CRM Helps Businesses Focus on What They Do Best

Nearly 3 Decades of CRM: How Commence Corporation Software Eases the Strain of Managing Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service | HostingAdvice.com

When examining the CRM software landscape, Larry Caretsky knows his company, Commence Corporation, isn’t the biggest — and that’s perfectly fine.

Instead, he compares Commence to the likes of Volvo, a relatively small business competing against massive corporations 50 times larger.

“They basically found the thing they do better than everyone else,” said Larry, who is the President of Commence. “They’ve honed in on a feature, safety, and they’ve got the likes of GM and Ford on the defensive. If you’re interested in safety for your car, GM and Ford have to prove they’re at least as safe, or you’re not going to buy from them.”

For nearly 30 years, Commence has focused on providing superior customer service to small and medium businesses needing software to help manage contacts, sales, marketing, and support. Half of that time, according to Larry, industry experts have expected the company to not be able to compete with longtime CRM titans or high-tech startups; he enjoys proving them wrong.

“My firm has been able to prosper and grow over its 27 years because we’re really good at knowing what we do better than everyone else,” Larry said. “We compete against Microsoft, Salesforce, and a myriad of other CRM solution providers, and we’re still alive and growing. To have customers for 20-plus years in the tech industry is unheard of.

Read the full article on HostingAdvice.com

About Commence:

Offering enterprise-grade functionality at small business pricing, Commence Corporation is a longtime leader in customer relationship management software. By using the company’s desktop or cloud CRM programs, businesses can track stats related to sales and satisfaction. Used by thousands of companies around the world, Commence provides valuable insights so clients can enhance customer interactions and increase profits. With a user base largely composed of small and medium businesses, Commence’s primary focus is on facilitating business success and growth.

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 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. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every salesperson at every level. To connect to the Sales Resource Center use this link:
http://www.thesalesresourcecenter.com