Sales Best Practice #19 – Keep your key contact details updated

By Dave Kahle

Best Practice # 19:  Keeps track of all the names, titles, and positions of all the key contact people within every account.

CRM Company Org Chart

This is so basic, you would think everyone would be doing it.  Not so.  I was sitting across the desk from the operations manager of the company for which I had worked a number of years earlier.  We were reminiscing, and he told me this story.

In the time after I had left this company, it had been swallowed up by a large national company.  Now, as number two in the nation, it was again being merged with number three.  The government got involved, and mandated that every sales person fill out a form for every account doing over $100,000 in annual business.

The operations manager described how he looked over the forms as he assembled them to send back to the government.  As he did so, he got a sick feeling in his stomach.  It seems that on many of the forms, the names listed were nicknames, and there was no title indicated.

He told me that he realized that his sales people didn’t know the full name and correct title of the key contact people in their largest accounts!

While that may sound like an exception to you, I have since discovered that it is the rule, not the exception.  The sad truth is that few sales people have systematically collected and stored the full names and accurate titles of their key contact people.  As a result, their proposals and correspondence are amateurish and they look unprofessional to their customers.

Such a simple little thing!

Yet, over and over again, it’s not the big things that separate the Top Gun performers from the pack.  It’s the methodical, disciplined adherence to excellence in the little things.

I know there are thousands of sales people who are reading this right now, thinking “I already know that.”  Yet, most of them aren’t methodical and systematic in their execution of this practice.  It’s not what you know that makes you into a Top Gun performer, it is what you do.

It is one thing to know what to do, it’s quite another to actually do it.  That’s why the best practices are called “practices.”

To learn more about this practice, read chapter three of Take Your Sales Performance Up a Notch.

Copyright MMX by Dave Kahle

All rights reserved

Using CRM to Shorten the Sales Cycle

Clock Work ManOne 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.

Sales Management 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.

Salesforce Automation

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-pipeline-by-stage
Sales Process Management

Organizational Structure & Decision Making

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.

OrgChart Reporting Structure
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.

Professional Selling Skills Tip # 4 – Get To Top Management

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.