Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Four End-of-Quarter Sales Questions to Ask

The end of a quarter is an interesting time for sales. There is often a race to put numbers on the board and a desperate drive to move a few more deals across the line.

But the difficult truth is that there’s usually not much you can do at the end of the quarter to make a real difference. Any major improvement to your results would have come from taking action much, much sooner.
Of course, there are still some healthy actions you can take before the new quarter begins. Here are four questions every salesperson should ask as the current quarter comes to a close.

What do I still have time to win?

First, you should make absolutely certain that any opportunity that can be closed, will be close before the quarter ends. A good, solid pipeline review can surface the opportunities that are close to being obtained. It’s a good idea to review these opportunities individually with the sales force to determine what would need to happen to win the opportunity before the next quarter begins.

Sometimes there are even internal obstacles to a deal that can be easily overcome. For example, there might be a modification to an agreement that is sitting on your legal department’s desk. Or maybe a change has been made to a solution or service plan that, if agreed to, would allow you to win the opportunity. These are the types of things you can and should deal with before the end of the quarter.

What you shouldn’t do is start making pricing concessions that aren’t aligned with your overall business strategy, or accepting business that is outside of your real core target. Both will cost you more than you gain in the long run.

What did I win? What did I lose? Why?

At the end of a quarter, you should pause long enough to take stock of what happened with an eye toward making improvements in the next quarter. A win-loss analysis is a great way to discover the lessons that lead to improvement.

What new clients did you win? How did you win those clients? Who did you compete against? Why did your new clients choose you over the competition? What value proposition or offering positioned you to win? What are the differences in pricing, margins, services, and solutions, and what do those differences tell you about your business and sales efforts?

Questions like these will help you better understand what is working so you can do more of it.
Of course, you also need to ask a similar set of questions about your losses, as painful as it may be.

What opportunities did you lose? Why did you lose them? Which of your competitors were chosen? What was it that allowed them to win the opportunity? How closely was your sales process followed on the opportunities you lost? What would you change if you had a chance to compete for this opportunity again?

These questions will help guide your future behavior as a sales force, as long as you take the time to be honest and thoughtful in completing the review.

What does next quarter look like?

For most businesses, the new opportunities you need to win next quarter—especially the larger ones—should already be visible in your pipeline.

As Jim Rohn used to say, “You plant in the spring, you harvest in the fall. No planting, no harvest.” Acquiring new clients and customers isn’t an endeavor that lends itself to cramming or last-minute heroic efforts.
Reviewing your pipeline now and forecasting your next quarter will help you determine the gap between what you presently believe your number will look like and what you need it to be. Identifying that gap is the starting point for taking the actions necessary to close it.

In most cases, if your forecast isn’t what you need it to be, the answer is to increase your prospecting activities to ensure that you acquire the opportunities required to hit your number.

What do I need to change?

Finally, the reason that you go through this exercise at quarter’s end is so you can make informed decisions about what you need to do differently.

Most reporting is trailing. It is an autopsy; the body is already dead and there is nothing you can do to bring it back to life. The best way to make use of all of the data you have collected over the quarter is to add context. You need to discover what happened, why it happened, and what beliefs underlie your results.
Numbers only tell part of the story. You have to acquire the proper context to make sense of those numbers and decide what actions—or lack thereof—were the cause. Then you can put a plan in place to make the necessary changes.

The biggest mistake you can make at quarter’s end is to decide that next quarter will be improved by simply doing more. More activity is only the right answer when your activity is already low. In most cases, the greatest improvement is made through the changes you make after taking time to discover what activities might have led to better outcomes.

If you want to put up better numbers at the end of the next quarter, you need to start working on that result long before the current quarter closes. So start working to that end now.

Source -
By: S. Anthony Iannarino, President & Chief Sales Officer, Solutions Staffing

Monday, June 27, 2011

Faster, Bigger, Better: Growing Your Business with Cloud-Based CRM

Cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) software provides businesses with flexibility for marketing, sales, and support teams. Because all of the company’s applications operate in the cloud—which is simply another term for the Internet—the applications can be accessed from anywhere. Sales teams may access CRM software in the office, from their Blackberry, or from a laptop at a remote location. Cloud-based CRM tools require only an Internet connection; each team member simply logs into their website and the applications instantaneously appear.

Cloud-based CRM applications allow business owners to automate functions such as lead generation, sales analysis, sales reports, sales forecasting, opportunity analysis, competitor analysis and other useful metrics. When these metrics are automated, salespeople may focus on relationship building, customer retention and customer loyalty. Cloud-based CRM saves the reps time, because the process is more efficient. Many businesses report saving 20 or more hours per week by automating tasks that were once completed manually. That time, of course, can be used to focus on closing the sale and getting new deals. Consequently, prospects are closed faster because managers recognize through reports how to allocate resources and funds to maximize profits. Companies waste less time pursuing opportunities that may never convert to a sale.
Cloud-based CRM applications allow salespeople to review the customer’s account before visiting them. By reviewing the data that is captured by these apps, salespeople can determine other products or services to offer the client based upon their current order, or offer them discounts based on current promotions. Additionally, they can predict problems that may occur in the sales process in the future.

CRM software also assists with customer support. Through the software, customer service tickets may be addressed, emails received and archived, and sales activity tracked. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and knowledge bases may also be integrated in order to provide solutions for common problems. Customers may be allowed to view these features by setting up a special login in access for customers. This will allow customers limited access to the data. Sales and purchase orders may also be processed through the software.
Goodman Jones is a chartered accountants company in the United Kingdom that utilizes cloud-based CRM products to retain customers and reduce costs. The company chose this platform for its security, reasonable cost, collaborative efforts, and for being maintenance and installation free. Since the company is an international organization, they needed an architecture that included both multiple languages and currencies.

The cloud-based CRM they chose possessed each of these features. Because they have clients in Dubai and Ireland, they need to be able to connect to their clients from any location around the world. Cloud-based CRM allowed them to accomplish this goal, whereas traditional solutions did not.

Goodman Jones also created a blogging platform to allow their partners and directors to collaborate and discuss topics to improve the organization. The company created wikis for their clients and other instrumental social networking and communicating ideas. After the implementation of CRM software, the company became a finalist in the Accountancy Age Award for Best Use of the Internet by a Practice in 2008. This is a prime example of how CRM best practices and associated software can improve business.

Would you like to grow your business, and become bigger, better and faster? Cloud-based CRM is the ticke

Friday, June 24, 2011

CRM and Small Business Essentials

Location. Employees. Customers. What do all of these things have in common?

They are common components essential to any business.
For small businesses that often have limited resources, there are additional elements to consider that are imperative to success. Access to capital is critical to small businesses. In addition, small businesses benefit greatly from marketing and innovation. As they balance product or service innovation, aspects of human resources, and finances, among other things, find ways to manage one or many of these elements.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) first entered the business realm as a means of managing contacts. Rather than flip through the Rolodex or scroll through a spreadsheet to search for client information, CRM software tools can be utilized to quickly access customer contact information, as well as notes about recent business/customer interactions, appointments scheduled with the client, and other information.

Since the inception of CRM applications, the uses have expanded beyond simply being a means of maintaining contacts and have developed into a way for businesses to implement and maintain processes, access information with greater ease, improve business operations, and help build and maintain customer relationships.

Small businesses often do not have full-time IT staff available to maintain software and hardware. The cost of building an in-house infrastructure is not always attainable. Thus, when an IT related issue arises, it often means there is down time while the problem is resolved. Utilizing CRM can alleviate these problems by providing round the clock IT support reliably and convenience. CRM can allow businesses to increase their capabilities without investing capital or time into the development of new infrastructure, the training of new personnel, purchase of new hardware, or the licensing of new software.

In addition to providing businesses with reliable IT services and solutions, CRM also allows for businesses to improve the way they market their products or services to customers, target customers specifically, and establish relationships with customers that will have longevity and profitability. CRM helps businesses to maintain customer information such as purchase trends, determine what products sell or do not sell and generate plausible business leads. Such capabilities reduce the potential of losing important information about interactions the business has had with clients. Instead of worrying about keeping information organized, CRM technology will take care of it. The business can instead capitalize on the organized information in a meaningful way. Having readily available access to such information allows businesses to be much more efficient in the ways they manage marketing campaigns.

CRM technology can allow businesses to run on-demand. People can access customer and product information any time, anywhere. It is readily accessible, automatically upgraded, and is easy to use. Businesses also have the option of customizing the CRM tools to fit their specific needs, as well as integrate the CRM into their current business practices.  Since the data stored within the CRM is offered in real-time, it can be accessed wherever the employee connects to the Internet.  For a small business with only a few employees, being able to access data on the road, or in the boardroom has it’s advantages.

Customer relationship management is a viable solution to many of the needs small businesses have. Rather than concerning themselves with software glitches that may immobilize the system network for an hour, or try and analyze spreadsheets and databases to determine what markets to target, businesses can take advantage of their CRM. CRM takes care of important logistics that make for a successful business without investing significant amounts of time or funds. For small businesses CRM is a means of managing many elements of a business with ease. From record maintenance to marketing, and beyond, CRM provides simple solutions, cost effectiveness, convenience, and reliability.