It strikes me as ironic that sales people so often resist new CRM systems and management is so often unable to “sell” the CRM solution to their sales teams.
As individuals we strive to improve our selling game every day, in every customer interaction. As sales managers we’re constantly searching for ways to help our sales team grow their selling skills. At the company level we all know that our competitors are growing and changing constantly and every customer facing staff member has the responsibility to outshine the competition.
The point is that in business we’re all always trying to get better at selling. I’ll assert here that Sales Excellence has more to do with learning to serve our customers more effectively than with learning better presentation skills or other sales techniques. So in that sense, Sales Excellence is knowing your customer thoroughly and using that knowledge to serve their needs.
When you think about what we all do in our customer interactions day in and day out, we have a ways to go. It’s easy to get caught up in running from customer to customer to qualify and close.
And we have our reasons for this! We’ve got revenue goals to meet. Experience has taught us that it takes a few leads, presentations and proposals to find one real customer.
For a sales person to improve, he or she must be able to look at what they’re doing and find opportunities for improvement in the techniques, the sequence or the offering. That takes objectivity. Objectivity is not generally a common trait of sales people. By their nature sales people are single minded, focused and determined. Jonathan Farrington, of TopSalesExperts.com, says “Far too frequently, competent salespeople are expected to channel their own activities into the areas that will produce the quickest wins. Unfortunately, left to their own devices, they don’t develop and pursue a formal strategy for moving a sale tangibly forward during each prospect interaction.”
Even a very basic CRM system can assist an individual sales person in objectively analyzing what they’re doing now to find areas for improvement. Just the simple act of writing down what happened in a sales meeting or presentation helps bring clarity. It also enables comparison.
I can see that I make more calls than the next guy but, he’s closing more dollar volume. There’s probably something to be learned there! Of course, there’s the old axiom “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” It’s true for sales people for certain.
Even a sales person working to improve their own game needs to be able to measure their activity and find bottlenecks in the process. Again, an individual sales person can use a simple CRM solution to look back on the last quarter and work out how many new leads, new proposals, etc. it takes to generate an order and use that information to set personal goals for growth in the coming quarter.
And your CRM system can automate certain repetitive tasks and allow us to manage more prospects efficiently. But, does this just lead to getting faster at doing the same old thing? Perhaps but, managing more prospects and closing more deals by virtue of implementing a new CRM technology can’t be that bad.
However, if the CRM solution also enables analysis of what we’re doing to generate leads and prospects or where the new leads we’re pursuing are coming from, now we’re not just getting faster at the same old thing, we’re really getting better at growing our business!
If Sales Excellence is identifying customer needs and meeting them, then CRM technology and analytics allow us to identify the market segment or lead source that provides our sales team with the prospects that truly need the unique offering your company has created. Now instead of making more calls, sending more proposals and closing more deals simply because we’re faster with our new CRM solution, we’re focusing specifically on prospects that are most likely to need and value our products and services.
So the benefits to the business of implementing a CRM solution we’ve identified so far are –
* Larger pipeline of deals per sales person which leads to more closes
* Greater frequency of leads that want and need what we offer – leading to a higher close rate
* And, increased return on investment in marketing and advertising because we can redirect spending to the most productive venues.
* But the most compelling way that a CRM solution will help your company achieve Sales Excellence is by allowing your entire organization to work as a team in approaching each and every customer as an individual.
It’s 2010 and still most businesses allow the sales person to be the only person in the organization that really knows the customer. That means the customer cannot get help, pricing, specs or even place an order without talking to their sales person in many cases. What most executives don’t fully appreciate is that in 2010, your competitor is only a quick Internet Search away from your customer.
Pricing, answers, specs and ordering is readily available on your competitor’s website. When your customer calls in for information and is told that their sales person is unavailable, do you really expect them to just sit there and wait for a call back?
Sure, in many situations the customer is not in a hurry or has a long standing relationship with your company. There is some room for error, often. But, not always. In fact, isn’t the customer in a hurry to place an order the customer we all dream about?
Yet if you’re entire customer facing organization can’t jump in and assist your customers with their needs with the benefit of complete knowledge of the existing relationship (pricing, terms, unique specs, etc.), then when that hurried customer calls in, you’re literally asking him to go search up your competitor!
A CRM solution enables this type of team work. As mentioned above, it is still unique, even in this day and age. That makes it a real strategic advantage. After all, if your CRM technology allows your entire organization to proactively serve your customers, you’re much more likely to keep them. CRM systems enable Sales Excellence by making your whole company the sales team.
If you’re not using a CRM system in your business today that shares customer knowledge with all your customer facing staff, then you don’t know what makes a good lead and you’re over spending and mis-directing marketing dollars.
You’re also burning out your sales team by asking them to meet ever higher sales goals by doing the same thing over and over. Finally, you’re forcing your customer to have a relationship with your sales person instead of your company. The good news is that CRM solutions continue to get more powerful, more affordable and easier to get started with. When you weight the risk of spending a relatively small amount of money on CRM against the risk of wasted marketing dollars, burnt out sales people and alienated customers, it’s a no brainer really. But most importantly, implementing a CRM solution in your company says to everyone involved – your sales team, your marketing folks, your partners, your support team and definitely your customers – that you are committed to excellence in serving your customers as individuals and truly building a relationship with them.