Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Social CRM From Talk to Action: Learn how to put Social CRM to work for you

Ready to embrace social CRM but unsure where to start? Here’s a best practices guide to get you started.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few years, you’ve heard plenty of buzz about the power of social media to transform not just personal interactions, but business ones. In fact, if you’re like most forward-thinking businesspeople, you no longer need convincing: you know that the “social revolution” is here to stay and that it requires changes in your business approach and use of supporting technologies—especially your CRM system, the hub of your prospect and customer interactions. Indeed, you’re eager to stop just talking about social CRM and put it into action.

But the question remains: how? If you’re stuck at this crucial juncture, you’re not alone. Odds are that your company has already made some forays into the social space. Yet for many companies, these projects have been rolled out in fits and starts, generating initial excitement but failing to maintain momentum or form a coherent social strategy, let alone deliver measurable business results. What started out as an intriguing initiative to get closer to the customer and generate business value may have lost its sheen and become just more work, with no real sense of tangible returns.

If this describes your company, don’t despair. As with any new technology or trend, the early adopters sail in uncharted waters and must sometimes learn by trial and error. The good news is that best practices and proven strategies for effective social CRM have begun to emerge, and heady technological evangelism about as-yet-unreleased products has been superseded by actual products you can implement today. This makes it the perfect time to step back and assess how you can put a true, successful social CRM strategy into action.

Five Best Practices for Social CRM

1. Treat Social CRM as Part of Your Overall CRM Strategy To put social CRM into action, you need internal consensus and understanding as to what it is you are trying to achieve with your “social” initiative and how you are going to achieve it. The resulting plan will look different in every company, based on the organization’s specific goals, customer base, and business processes, but an underlying current in all plans should be recognition of the new reality of the customer-controlled conversation and a strategy for harnessing its mutual value for both the customer and the company.

In devising your social CRM strategy, look first at your existing CRM strategy. Is it working? Are you able to define its value? Do you struggle with user adoption? Is your CRM system flexible enough to accommodate shifting demands and changing business processes— of which social CRM is just one—or have you outgrown it? If you have any qualms about your CRM system’s ability to meet your long-term needs, address these issues before investing in social CRM.

Looking to a social CRM tool to fix an under-performing CRM implementation is a surefire path to disappointment, as the best social CRM projects are those that are approached as natural extensions of your existing CRM tools and strategy. Social media channels differ significantly from traditional means of customer interaction, but they remain just that: new channels. They must supplement and complement existing channels and feed into the same 360-degree customer picture you strive to achieve within your CRM system. Implementing a standalone social tool that is not fully integrated with your CRM system simply creates new information silos and risks creating a highly disjointed customer experience.

It is therefore essential to take a holistic approach to customer relationship management, one that does not arbitrarily distinguish between “social” and “traditional” CRM, but recognizes that these are all linked elements of an effective customer engagement strategy, best served through a seamlessly integrated solution. To formulate an effective social strategy, start with a solid CRM strategy and effective tools, then look at how and where social channels fit into this web of customer interaction.

2. Prioritize and Iterate One of the biggest challenges of any social CRM program is determining which of the many available channels and tools to focus on. While it’s easy to get caught up in the dizzying array of available options, a pragmatic approach can easily mitigate risk. Companies taking their first serious steps toward social CRM should look for technology maturity and adoption in selecting which social tools to incorporate first.

The simple way to approach this is to go where your customers and prospects are. Do they blog? Do they ask peers for advice on Twitter, share views on Facebook, build their professional profile on LinkedIn? Different consumer and business groups often show different adoption and usage patterns.

Once you determine which social tools your customers use, develop a prioritized list of which ones to include as part of your social CRM strategy, taking into account the aforementioned technology maturity (how long has the social tool been around, and has it matured into a relatively stable system?) and usage by your customers and prospects, as well as the ease and cost of integration with your CRM system. Consider also your company’s CRM user groups and business processes, and the extent to which each social tool offers a logical fit and identifiable opportunities for value-generation.

Embracing an iterative, phased approach to social CRM is sensible. Given the dynamic, rapidly evolving nature of the social web, your social CRM initiative will most likely entail a process of continual expansion, refinement, and enhancement. It may make sense to focus on a single social tool as a test case, or you may wish to focus on a few social tools at once in order to devise a more integrated cross-channel strategy.

3. Integrate Social CRM into User Workflows A fundamental goal of CRM is to create a fluid, integrated, consistent experience across all customer-facing departments and functions. Whether a customer is interacting with your sales, marketing, or service teams, and whether they’re dealing with the same service rep they talked to yesterday or a new one, they should encounter the same informed, personalized interaction and overall customer experience.

The same goals apply to social CRM. Using more channels increases the risk of fragmentation in both data collection and the customer experience. Social data is just another piece of a 360-degree view of your customers, and thus it should not be siphoned off into a separate system. Likewise, social-media interactions and associated activities typically fall into the same kinds of categories as other CRM activities and workflows, such as marketing communications, lead generation, pursuit of sales opportunities, and customer service. As such, to implement social CRM in a manner that enriches and expands existing processes, rather than splintering them, companies must integrate social tools with their existing CRM records and workflows.

What this means is that an employee must be able to access and act upon social information in the same locations and in the same ways that they can with other customer and prospect data. Customer or prospect intelligence gleaned from social sources must be integrated into the existing customer or prospect CRM record, not a standalone system. Users should be able to check into their customers’ or prospects’ social activities centrally from within this CRM record, without having to visit each social site separately. Furthermore, users must be able to respond to and act upon this intelligence within the same rubric as other CRM interactions; for example, transforming a Twitter enquiry into a lead and assigning it for follow-up, or logging a service incident in response to a disgruntled Facebook wall post. This depth of social CRM integration not only ensures consistency of customer experience across traditional and social channels; it also saves time and creates efficiencies for users, increasing user adoption.

4. Focus on Value In defining goals and prioritizing phases of your social CRM initiative, keep your focus squarely on value: what value will each social component bring, and how will it be measured? Bear in mind that social activity is by nature a two-way street, so ideally, the value generated should be reciprocal. After all, how deeply are you likely to engage your customers if there’s nothing in it for them? The best goals therefore combine value for the company with value for the customer: faster, more efficient service responses, for example, benefit both the customer and the company. Similarly, more corporate transparency in exchange for more customer feedback results in a win-win scenario.

Determine up-front how you are going to measure success in the social sphere, and establish pre-project benchmarks against which to measure progress. Metrics might include customer satisfaction and retention, leads generated from social sources, service-ticket times for incidents generated from social versus other sources, and the like. Your measurement criteria will likely be a mix of “hard” and “soft” metrics, but be sure that you have a way to tie your social initiative back to genuine value.

5. Keep One Eye on the Future Because of the rapidly changing social landscape, social CRM initiatives should be conducted with a view to future business agility. Focusing on value and taking a prioritized, iterative approach minimizes risk and delay, but it does not diminish the probability that you will in future have to accommodate within your CRM paradigm something that is impossible to foresee today. New social tools and channels will continue to appear and to transform the business landscape. While you may not be able to anticipate precisely what these will be, you should ensure that your CRM system and social CRM implementation are as open and flexible as possible to accommodate ongoing additions and refinements over time.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Small Businesses Benefit with CRM Applications


Be honest: what do you think when you hear “customer relationship management”? Is it that CRM systems are only for big business? Or that since you don’t have a customer service department, you don’t need CRM?

Hate to tell ya, but you’re wrong on both counts. The truth is that a small business may actually have more to gain from CRM and cloud computing than some larger companies. If you need to not only attract more customers but retain the ones you have, and if you would like to have an efficient method of analyzing the various aspects of your business, keep reading.

A cloud-based CRM system can pull all the information into one central, easily accessible data center. You can look up a customer, see what he is purchasing, review quotes, analyze problems the customer may have reported, and track which marketing programs have been directed his way. In addition to helping target this particular customer, you can use the data to plan more accurate forecasts, identify future opportunities for sales, and offer unparalleled support should he call with any problems.

Consolidating all of your customer information in one location lets you be ready at any moment to intelligently discuss all aspects pertinent to the account. You don’t have to put customers on hold to retrieve a paper file or switch from one program to another just to find basic information. You have the opportunity to make the customer feel special, as if you have committed to memory what he buys and how often, whether he ever received a defective shipment, and how long he has been your customer.

Now consider how similar information is handled in your business. Can you access the data you need from a remote location? Can your employees find information quickly, or must they go on a scavenger hunt every time a customer calls? How much vital information is kept “in your head”? If you decided to retire tomorrow, would you be able to leave behind a clear and concise picture of your clients, your suppliers, and your flow of business? Could a new employee decipher your marketing strategies or your sales forecasts?

One of the biggest advantages of cloud-based CRM to a small business is the scalability and the low overhead. Instead of maxing out your credit to purchase a server and a bunch of expensive, off-the-shelf software programs, cloud computing is billed on a subscription model. You pay only for what you need, when you need it. When you need more, the capacity is available almost instantly. There’s no infrastructure to mess around with, no wasted server capacity during less-than-peak times, and no need to hire an IT person to take care of the technical side of business. Cloud-based CRM platforms are usually so intuitive and user-friendly—much like popular interactive Web sites—that there practically is no technical side.

Even if your customer service department is called Margaret—and she also makes the coffee, keeps the books and designed your logo—you should be supporting that customer service department, as well as your sales team and the rest of your employees. Keep everyone on the same page, and build a solid business foundation with a comprehensive CRM system run in the cloud.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ten Benefits of Sales Lead Management

When it comes to sales, everything starts with a lead. They come from everywhere, and missing out on one could make or break the salesperson or the company. Valuable time is spent obtaining those leads through marketing and other efforts; however, the leads are only as good as the company or salesperson’s ability to respond appropriately and move them through the sales process. However, many managers do not take into account the different ways that people work and organize their information. Salespeople develop their own systems and eventually the process of managing leads gets lost in the shuffle when managing relationships and other sales concerns.

Fortunately, there are businesses out there who recognize this flaw and have developed programs for better sales lead management, an integral part of customer relationship management (CRM). Here we have outlined ten benefits of sales lead management programs that can help get your business back on track.

1.Act on every lead

Getting systems in place to organize leads helps the sales force know who has been contacted and who has not. This ensures that leads do not fall through the cracks and potential leads are not annoyed by multiple contacts.

2.Bring the Focus Back to Selling

Instead of sales representatives using precious time to make endless cold calls and trying to find accounts, the accounts can come to them. More focus is placed on selling the product and making the sale. With everyone online instead of on paper, information is readily accessible and time is left for reps to do what they do best—sell.

3.Find trends in sales

Separate your leads by business type, location, referrals, occupation, etc. You are able to determine their needs and sell them the right products. When a lead sees that their customer’s needs are being met and cared for, they are more likely to continue in the selling process.

4.Match leads with the right salesperson

Different salespeople have different approaches to how they do business. Some are good with certain types of business and others provide better service working directly with individuals. With a lead management product in place, you are able to route leads to the salesperson who best fits and knows their needs.

5.Analyze sales and forecast for the future

Many lead management programs keep a history of the entire sales process, from initial contact to closing the sale, including sales history. You are able to work with your reps on how to improve, while making sure customers are taken care of at the same time.

6.Encourage collaboration and teamwork

With lead management services, reps are able to see how they are doing, as well as everyone else. Reps can find and learn about recent deals similar to theirs and work with others on what they can do to improve.

7.Get your sales force face-to-face with leads

With the focus back on selling and not on cold calls, reps will have time to meet personally with leads and customers, developing long lasting relationships that cannot be obtained through e-mail and phone calls. And because all of the information is online and not on a single computer, they can work from anywhere and update information as it happens.

8.Customize the program to fit your needs

It is undeniable that different businesses have different needs, so lead management products allow you to customize the look and feel of the service how you see fit.

9.Monitor interactions at every step

Eliminate the need for lengthy meetings. Every interaction a rep has with a lead can be recorded, so managers can monitor how everyone is doing whenever and wherever you need.

10.Lead information is uniform and comprehensive

The right system can allow you to collect information about your leads and keep everything straight, so you always know how to approach them.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Achieve Success for Your Business with CRM Training

By Sidney Angelos

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are becoming a necessity for both small and large businesses. These systems, which generally run over the Internet, can assist customer service agents, sales people, marketing and support departments maintain efficiency in their business practices. While CRM applications are proven to boost efficiency, these tools are only as good as the staff that employs them.

Therefore, businesses must ensure that authorized employees are adequately trained in in the use of all of the customer relationship management applications that they’ll be using.

CRM applications are often designed and tailored to each business’s specific needs. Therefore, it is imperative to hire a trainer who can explain the use of these apps in relation to the specific business environment.

Cloud-based applications are essential to support business growth and scalability. With cloud-based CRM platforms, a company can scale up or down as necessary, and still have all of the server capacity they need—without paying for excess. A CRM vendor will often provide a trainer from their organization as part of the roll-out.

Much of the training may occur online through a Web-based application. However, some companies may elect to conduct courses in interactive classroom as some organizations find that individuals learn best by doing. Therefore, training proctors provide actual scenarios in order to demonstrate problems that employees may encounter while using the product. During training, terminology and other business processes will be discussed.

A typical training class may cover the following topics to prepare employees for the new CRM tools:
  • CRM terminology
  • Features of the CRM tool
  • Calendar, Task and Activities
  • Integration with Legacy Systems
  • Note Management Tools
  • Lead Entry Tools
  • Lead Conversion Process
  • Sales Forecasting
  • Report Generation
  • Opportunity Management
  • Interface Configuration
  • Customer Support Management
  • Knowledge Base Training
  • Project Management Tools
  • Searching Concepts
  • Application Development
  • Other Customization Tools
Most of these processes are simple and intuitive; therefore, the training is not difficult or intense. Problems can develop when employees do not utilize the system or enter the required information on a consistent basis. Tool effectiveness can only be measured if employees utilize the software appropriately. If the software is taken advantage of appropriately, managers can measure and improve sales, lead generation, organization, collaboration and other metrics. Proper training can help boost adoption rates as well as accuracy in using the tools, although the intuitive nature of these applications means that users who want to improve their skills can usually self-teach and dig deeper into the apps’ functionality.

A San Antonio-based pharmaceutical firm sought to train their users on CRM practices. In addition, they wanted to automate their processes, customize applications, integrate accounting data, and increase speed and performance. The vendor trained each department, from sales to support, on each of the relevant tools and applications within CRM software. Once the training was complete, the company monitored the effectiveness of the tool.

The company remarked on the training and how it improved their sales and revenue forecasting. They experienced quicker and more efficient resolution to customer problems, and also automated tasks that freed a significant amount of time for each employee. Employees rarely missed scheduled appointments or follow-ups because the tools helped remind the employees of their responsibilities. Additionally, the employees themselves reported greater job satisfaction, since their tasks were streamlined by the CRM apps based in the cloud.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Focus on Customer Relationship Management Applications

by Sidney Angelo

Businesses which desire more efficient sales, marketing, and support teams should focus on customer relationship management (CRM) applications for maximum results. These types of applications will assist customers with organization, analysis, scheduling and data storage. Businesses need to find innovative ways to remain abreast of their particular industry, to streamline business, to maximize results and to increase revenue. CRM applications help companies do all of this—and do it effortlessly.

CRM applications contain tools that enable businesses to track sales, profits, competitor analysis, opportunity analysis, sales analysis, and sales forecasting. Businesses who integrate CRM applications into their daily routines can increase productivity significantly. These applications increase productivity by decreasing manual data entry and data analysis. Companies who migrate from performing data analysis on spreadsheets to data analysis within the CRM applications enjoy the time savings these applications provide.

Collaboration is one of the major benefits of CRM applications. Managers can call an impromptu meeting with his or her sales team. Regardless of where the salesperson is located, he or she can log into the system and contribute to the conversation. No longer does each team member need to be present in order to participate in a meeting. Collaboration tools also encourage customers to offer input. Customers may want to participate in focus groups to improve customer products; however, their schedules may not permit them to travel. With collaboration tools, businesses may grant temporary access to certain members in order to contribute to the meeting. Collaboration has been proven to produce products that customers want.

For companies that have no central office, web-based CRM applications are ideal. These applications may be accessed simply by logging in, using any computer or mobile device with an Internet connection. This allows companies to outsource certain departments, to support telecommuting, and to stay in touch with team members who travel frequently.

Take Tasting Table, a free daily email newsletter that offers recommendations of restaurants and bars in specific cities. Though the company has 14 full time employees, there is no central office. Each employee operates remotely. Web-based CRM tools enable the employees to share documents, attend meetings, offer feedback, and work more efficiently from their remote locations. As the manager holds meetings, he or she can make assignments in real time while connected to each employee. This type of work environment increases productivity for autonomous workers, because they value flexibility and control over their environment.

On the help desk and customer service side, employees get more information faster—and they get it smarter. Instead of having to manually input and retrieve data, they can rely on the applications to do much of that legwork for them. Everyone with access to the apps has a real-time, continually updated and comprehensive view of the customer’s account. They can provide the customer with superior service with shorter hold time. Establishing self-help options such as a knowledge base, FAQ, message boards or user forums, or non-phone-based support such as a dedicated customer service Twitter account or live chat software can decrease customers’ dependency on contact centers, which in turn frees up the customer service reps to focus on solving more complicated customer issues.

That cloud computing is changing the way people work and live is not an overstatement. Customer relationship management can be streamlined and automated; employees can be empowered; and profits are maximized.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Interview Series Continued – Dealing with the “New” Social Customer

There can be little doubt that a well-implemented CRM strategy can have huge benefits for small business. It can make all the difference between a strong, customer centric business and one that fails to compete with its rivals.

However, putting a CRM strategy in place is only half the battle. The other half is arguably even more important: measuring the success of CRM. This is where there is the potential for problems to arise. While many forward-looking small businesses understand the importance of CRM, many are unsure as to how they can measure its performance.

One of the key issues is that while CRM is intended to increase profitability, it is also by definition designed to improve relationships with customers through improved service and a higher level of brand loyalty. While profits are easy to measure, many businesses struggle to find ways to measure the other areas that CRM impacts.

The good news for small businesses is that there are a number of methods that can be employed to measure CRM success.
  1. Combine old style and new style platforms. One of the mistakes some businesses can make is to think that as CRM is a “new” platform that exists in the world of Web 2.0 then only new methods, such as social media platforms can be used to measure it. This is a fundamental error and one that will lead to inaccurate results. CRM is designed to increase customer satisfaction through a better system of holding and retrieving data in which customers’ details are available to different departments so that the customer can receive more detailed marketing. The result of this can be measured by monitoring customer feedback. Of course, this feedback can be found online in a wide range of platforms (everything from Twitter and Facebook to comments on the business’s website). However, offline feedback is just as valuable. This could be in the form of written communication or verbal conversations. The key is to record these interactions (i.e. make a note of them afterwards) and enter them onto the business’s system. When combined with online platforms, a true result of CRM measurement can be gained. For the small business, this can be particularly effective as it is a relatively low-time consuming procedure that will provide invaluable information.
  2. Social Media isn’t just for the Big Boys (and Girls). While it is important not to forget more traditional methods of communication, there can be no doubt that social media is an ever more important area for business. However, there is sometimes a feeling among small business that social media is for the large businesses and corporations. This could not be further from the truth. By embedding social media into a small business website (for example, including a Twitter feed or link to a simple Facebook page) a small business has an ideal way to monitor customer feedback and measure how their CRM is performing.
  3. Two-Way Dialogue. One of the key facets of CRM is that it has shifted the old-fashioned businesses model of a monologue (the business advertising) to a dialogue in which the customer has an equal part to play. What this means for the small business is that they are presented with a way to measure CRM that is simple and cost effective. Based on customer’s details held on the CRM system, a small business can send emails, flyers or even call customers to discuss new products or updates to products they already have. This is a much more targeted method of marketing that used to be the case and it holds itself up to measuring much better. By tracking the customers contacted and their response, the small business has a simple yet highly effective method to measure its CRM performance.

Monday, September 12, 2011

CRM Strategy – It’s All About Relationships

Customer relationship management (CRM) is all about relationships—and not just with customers. Yes, CRM’s goal is about connecting with customers and being able to translate that connection into successful growth and increased sales, but it’s also about helping all of your departments communicate with one another—sales, marketing, warehousing, R&D, accounting, customer service and even the executives up in their corner offices.

CRM strategy focuses on the customer, but it works by giving the sales team and managers better tools to do their job. Using cloud-based applications, salespeople who are on the road can receive leads, collaborate with colleagues, and see a 360-degree view of the customer in order to maximize every customer interaction. The managers can instantly route leads, monitor reps’ performance and have reports automatically generated.

In short, they get real-time visibility of the entire sales cycle.

Cottingham & Butler is an insurance broker of employee benefits and risk management services, which was working inefficiently with Excel spreadsheets and other record-keeping programs. Each rep managed his or her own leads, but had no good way of sharing information with colleagues, which meant that duplicate leads and uncoordinated prospecting were all too common. Cross-channel data capturing was difficult at best, and since the company had several distinct business units, each of which needed to fine-tune any CRM solution, flexibility was also key.

The company selected a vendor that provided a customizable, easy-to-use architecture that incorporated lead capture and routing, data management, accurate metrics reporting, and a common, comprehensive,  up-to-date view of the customer. This has allowed Cottingham & Butler to address its customers with a unified system that provides the most efficient, targeted sales and customer service.

Guiding managers and the sales force to work together is what CRM strategy does best. By giving them both a single, comprehensive view of the entire customer profile, CRM strategy succeeds in customer satisfaction and loyalty—which, of course, can translate into sales growth.

CRM coordinates communication from all channels, to improve customer service and aid sales, including devices and methods like mobile telephones, PDAs, email, Web searches and social media platforms. Combined with the CRM knowledge base and providing sales with updated information, the data capture capabilities from these sources helps enable not only customer service but also marketing campaigns and research and development initiatives.

CRM strategy makes managers’ jobs easier and more productive. It helps them become more organized and flexible. Managers rely on CRM for its capability to improve sales organization and the resultant increases in the bottom line, which helps them do their jobs better. Streamlining communication between managers and the sales force is enhanced because all customer and sales information is in one place where it can be easily accessed by all. Managers use CRM for sales tracking, for distributing information and for sales forecasting.

Customers are the recipient of better information about products and sales specials. They feel like the company knows all about their needs, and that it gives them special attention. CRM strategy is a win-win program for everyone; it’s all about relationships.


Friday, September 9, 2011

CRM Case Study: How a lack of data cripples CRM

CRM Case Study:  How a lack of data renders a CRM as ineffective
Back ground:  Our client is a major Telecommunications, Data and collocation hosting company focusing on medium to enterprise sized clients.  As a successful business, they utilize marketing, inside sales and outside sales to convert leads into customers.
Business Challenges:  Like many companies, our client had limited visibility into the sales cycle. This included:
·         Understanding the quantity and quality of leads being created by their marketing efforts
·         Understanding how these leads were qualified by the inside sales team
·         The lead to qualified sales cycle ratio generated by the inside sales team for the purpose of transitioning to an outside sales rep.
·         With what urgency and frequency were leads and prospects being contacted
·         How many interactions with a lead or prospect were required to move the sales process to an outside rep
·         How many interactions with a prospect were required to close a customer once it reached the outside sales team
·         The amount of activity generated by each member of the team, rolling up to regional, district and company wide reports
·         The opportunity to refine the sales process based on combining best practices with eliminating inefficiencies
·         Visibility into closing ratios and selling cycles
This is combined with under a 20% utilization and millions of dollars invested into their current CRM system which ultimately did not provide real time reporting.
The Solution:  The Front Solutions Sales Engineers met with the clients and stake holders agreeing on the following steps:
·         A  custom activity card was created to focus on the seven key criteria that moved an opportunity from a prospect to a client
·         The activity card reduced the amount of time required to input the data from 7 minutes to 30 seconds
·         Front Row CRM was layered onto their existing CRM reducing downtime and increasing the effectiveness of their current CRM
·         The Front Row Sales Pro application was installed on all sales staff blackberries allowing for mobile real time data to be collected
·         The Front Row system date and time stamped a new prospect to allow for visibility into lead engagement
·         A management dashboard was created to provide real time visibility into the sales cycle, where and how prospects moved through the 7 stage activity card, the date and time that each record was touched while sorting by rep, region, rolling up to a national level
·         Information from Front Row Solutions was to flow through the legacy CRM creating meaningful data that was now usable by the entire organization

The Results:  Within 6 months, the client reported the following results:
·         Marketing was able to receive real time analytics critical to understanding where the best leads were coming from resulting in more targeted campaigns that generated higher quality leads
·         Management was now able to understand the sales cycle process, the activity associated with a customer acquisition, close ratios and conversation rates
·         Best practices and key performance coaching were implemented resulting in improved performance of the sales team at every level
·         Sales rep CRM compliance is over 90%
·         Sales rep productivity has increased resulting in more sales
·         The legacy CRM system is now being used to its potential
·         Revenue and profit are on the rise
What we have seen with this client is a common set of sales issues among many of our customers. With a customised activity card and set activities that drive the sales process forward, we have seen some tremendous results.
 A successful CRM starts with adoption. Without data, a CRM system will not work. The next step is to take that data, put it into meaningful and timely reports. This is where Front Row CRM gets results for our customers.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why are so many companies afraid of their sales reps?

By: Etien D'Hollander

I can’t tell you how many times over the last year I have heard senior managers make excuses for their sales reps regarding sales reports.  Comment such as this: “He’s a top performer, I cut him some slack if he doesn’t do his sales reports” or “I can’t afford to lose him so I don’t force him to do his reports” or “if he makes his numbers I do the reports for him” or my personal favourite, “I B.S’d my reports so what value are they anyway?”

            Why are so many companies so short-sighted? Don’t they realize what impact this has on their future?  How do you plan marketing strategies without feedback from your sales reps?  How do you schedule manufacturing without sales forecasting? Don’t forecasts come from sales rep input?  Without proper manufacturing schedules you may get back orders, or warehouses full of unwanted inventory. What are the costs of that?  How do you plan product enhancements or new product development without knowing what the market needs are? 

            I once worked for a medical company that was created because of a significant but expensive enhancement in care requirements.  In less then 5 years this company became the dominant player in this therapy.  We, sales reps, were high-energy, highly commissioned, money-driven, gunslingers.  Reports? What reports? Who had time for reports? Reports slowed you down.  Well guess what happened?  The competition was paying attention, and they not only caught up but passed us in technology.  The enhancements that should have been developed were never bubbled up to the right people internally.  The back orders due to lack of forecasting caused huge delays in delivery and drove our customers to our competition.  Product development was working in the dark and the next big thing fizzled.  Within ten years the company was gone.  Management had disappeared and all of us high performing sales reps had moved on to other companies bringing our bad forecasting habits with us. 

            I recently had the opportunity to work with Tom.  Tom is VP of sales for a company which is a major player in the directory pages industry. A highly competitive industry under duress.  Tom realized that the biggest challenge to becoming a market leader in this industry was to have a motivated, highly productive sales force.  Because his sales reps typically make 10-20 sales calls per day, he wanted the fastest, easiest sales reporting tool possible.  Tom choose FrontRow-Solutions because of its ease and speed of use, with texting and mobile app capabilities.  He made sales reporting mandatory and when his top sales rep refused to use FrontRow he asked him to find another job.  The result after six months was a dramatically improved sales force, with increase in both sales call quality and quantity.  The insights he gained from a 90% compliance level enabled him to individualize and customize sales rep training, develop marketing strategies, and better manage his pipeline.  The company continues to achieve above average performance. 

            Unfortunately not all managers have the foresight and proactive leadership that Tom has.  Many companies stagnate because of the fear they have of their sales reps.  How many SFA’s and CRM’s have failed because the sales reps have decided to make them fail? 
           The success of CRM comes sales rep adoption. Don't let the tail wag the dog.

CRM Interview – How to Use CRM to Improve Efficiency and Effectiveness

In today’s business environment, forward-looking companies are on the look out for anything that could give them the edge over their competitors. It could be argued that nowhere is this more apparent than in the drive to improve efficiency and effectiveness. After all, these two areas provide the foundation for all business success.

The problem lies in the fact that while all businesses would like to be more efficient and effective in all they do, it is often far from clear exactly how this may be achieved. Businesses spend hundreds if not thousands of hours searching for ways to streamline their processes while maintaining strong products and/or services and hopefully improving levels of customer service.

The good news for any business who finds themselves in this position is that there is a superb resource available that can help move these goals from wish list to part and parcel of every working day.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a flexible and powerful tool that can give a business a new level of impetus and help it move to the next level and beyond.

So how does it do this? For any business unsure of what CRM has to offer, or for those who want to take the next step, a good idea would be to investigate an appropriate webinar to help get a firm grasp on what CRM can do for a business.

Essentially, CRM can benefit a business by improving efficiency and effectiveness across a wide range of areas. There are a number of ways in which it can be used:

  • Front line staff benefits. CRM provides a platform for sales, support and service staff to become much more efficient and effective in all their dealings with customers. The reason for this is simple: because CRM allows them to have immediate access to a history of all interactions with customers, they are placed in a much stronger position to offer bespoke advice and suggestions. The great thing about this is that it benefits both business and customer. The customer gets information relevant to his or her interests/buying habits and the business can save a large amount of time (and money) by targeting appropriate products or services.
  • Marketing campaigns revolutionized. It is no exaggeration to say that CRM revolutionizes marketing campaigns. It does this by helping create much more targeted marketing through efficient use of the customer database. The difference can be astounding. Instead of sending out details of a new product aimed at parents at everyone on the database, CRM could easily help a business target its customers much more effectively thus saving a considerable amount of money. It also helps build customer relations, as inappropriate marketing materials do not frustrate customers.
  • Working better together. CRM promotes a closer working relationship between teams as it encourages sharing of information in a mutually beneficial manner. This leads to improved efficiency as less time is lost by different teams attempting to access the same information. With CRM, it can be accessed through a central database. This also means customers are not being constantly asked the same questions. Once the information is gathered, it is there for every team to view and use.
  • Managing the pipeline. One of the key areas of success for CRM is the way in which it significantly increases efficiency and effectiveness of pipeline management. By having an up-to-date database of customers, CRM helps a business predict future trends and therefore puts it in a much stronger position to capitalize on future market directions. Of course, one of the best ways to do this is by analyzing historic trends and using CRM to interpret this data in order to best position the business for what is to come.
  • Cross-selling. In many ways, the holy grail of business – the ability to sell more than once to the same customer. This is a highly effective way to increase the bottom line. CRM comes into its own here by helping a business see purchase history and therefore being in a position to offer products that have been improved or are in a new edition.
CRM is a powerful tool to improve efficiency and effectiveness and drive sales efficiency by helping create an enhanced level of customer service which in turn leads to a more receptive customer base.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Evolution of Social CRM

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has now been established as a valuable tool for today’s business for a number of years. The advantages it can bring have been well documented and its combination of sales, marketing and customer service have made it a game changer for many companies. But like all such tools in the modern business world, CRM has started to evolve.

Over the past year it has become increasingly apparent that the future of CRM is Social CRM. What may at first seem to be a subtle shift is in fact a revolution in the way in which companies address sales, marketing and support services.

CRM itself was a significant step forward in the way in which it helped companies collate disparate information on their customers (for example, address details with purchase history and shopping trends) and make this available to their key departments. This led to a much-improved level of service for the customer and increased profitability for many companies.

As good as CRM was (and still is), the evolution of Social CRM is a real game changer for many companies. The move from CRM to Social CRM takes in many areas and any company that has not yet made the move or is considering whether it is worthwhile, should consider these areas carefully as they stand a real chance of being left behind by their competitors should they ignore all it has to offer.
  • Where CRM was a strategy, Social CRM can be seen as a mixture of strategy with a whole new philosophy. It is this new philosophy that makes it such a revolutionary concept. Essentially, Social CRM puts the customer in a central position. Not as may have happened before when businesses talked about the customer being at the centre of what they do in a vague, PR-based manner; but in a real, practical sense. Social CRM does this by creating a two-way dialogue in which customers’ comments and feedback actively play a part in a business’s strategy and its key players engage with the customer base.
  • Social CRM has evolved away from the idea of specific departments being responsible for CRM into a worldview in which all departments and all staff play a role in what is a much more symbiotic relationship.
  • The role of the company in dictating what information is released and what products are developed is being superseded by a much more customer-orientated process through social media channels.
  • Key messages that would have once been sent from the business to its customers are now bidirectional. Via social media platforms, customers comment, debate and engage in discussion about products and services with each other and with members of the business involved. For example, product developers may blog about what he or she is working on and use the comments feature to get feedback and suggestions. This process can open up a dialogue that makes the customer a much larger part of the company’s marketing and development process.
  • The evolution of Social CRM does not only affect the interaction between company and customer, but has practical implications such as business hours. In the past these would have been set by the business, but the advent of social media means that the customer is increasingly setting them. There is little point in hoping for vibrant discussion if business representatives are only available between 9-5 when most users will not be online. By having staff available outside these hours, companies are much more likely to be able to engage in mutually beneficial debate and discussion.
There is no doubt that as with all evolutionary processes, the move from CRM to Social CRM is a step that some may baulk at making. However, on closer inspection, companies should realize that just because they have done something one way for years (even decades) does not mean it is the right way for the future. Their customers are in many cases a massive untapped resource that they would be foolish to ignore.

The evolution of Social CRM is a mutually beneficial step forwards for both customers and the companies involved.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Four Critical Sales Kickoff Meeting Success Factors

Regardless of whether your company calls it the annual sales meeting, yearly sales conference, or once-a-year sales rally, the annual sales kickoff meeting is the most important sales meeting of the year. Let’s assume you are in charge of planning your company’s annual sales kickoff. You’ve picked the best location, chosen the right hotel, and are in the process of finalizing the meeting plans. 

There are four critical factors that impact the success of the meeting. You have to have the right theme for the meeting, build the best agenda, select the right keynote speaker, and capture the event so attendees can review critical sessions after the event. 

1) Selecting the Meeting Theme
The first step toward conducting a successful sales kickoff starts with choosing the right theme. With this goal in mind, here are important points to consider when selecting your sales kickoff theme. One of the most important factors to keep in mind as you choose your theme is the level of the sales force’s morale. All sales forces go through periods of high and low morale. When morale is high, you can be more creative and take bigger risks with the theme you choose.

Conversely, I wouldn’t recommend such an over-the-top theme during tough times. In this situation the theme should be more commonsensical like “Better, Stronger, Faster,” which provides a platform that meeting presenters can use to talk about changes and upcoming improvements. Click here for a detailed article about selecting a sales kickoff theme.

2) Agenda Structure
The structure of the meeting’s agenda is one of the key factors that will determine the meeting’s overall success. The main objectives of the sales kickoff agenda are preparation and renewed motivation. Remember, there are three objectives your agenda should reinforce: first, a renewed sense of pride in the company they work for; second, honest enthusiasm to get back into the field and ramp up the new year; and some positive thoughts and pleasant memories about the good time they had celebrating a career that is difficult and demanding but, ultimately, extremely rewarding. Click here for an article of best ideas on how to structure the sales kickoff agenda.

3) Select the Right Keynote Speaker
There are four main types of keynote speakers to choose from: celebrity, motivational, industry mavens, and sales experts. Celebrities (such as entertainment stars, sports heroes, business icons and politicians) will speak mainly about their personal experiences. Conversely, industry mavens are analysts and consultants who talk about current issues and future business trends. Meanwhile, motivational speakers exuberantly try to touch listeners’ emotions. And, finally, there are sales experts who share their specific sales-related wisdom and knowledge with the audience. So, how do you decide which one is right for you?

There aren’t any two sales forces that are exactly alike. Every sales force is unique in three different ways: complexity of the sales process, the average level of sales experience, and the state of morale. Perhaps the biggest mistake when selecting a sales kickoff presenter is picking one whose main message doesn’t apply to the products you sell or resonate with the sophistication of the sales force. For instance, even though a keynote speaker has successfully presented to Midwestern real estate agents in the past, he or she would not be a good fit for a Silicon Valley software company. Click here for a complete article about selecting a sales kickoff keynote speaker.

4) Capture the Meeting for Future Review
Based upon my personal experience, I strongly recommend that every sales kickoff be captured for future review. Let me explain why. The average person speaks about 125 words per minute. So, it’s nearly im­possible for meeting attendees to fully absorb the more than 60,000 words they hear each day. A post-meeting review of critical sales kickoff presentations should be available so the sales teams can revisit the key takeaways and important discussions at their own pace. In addition, some salespeople might not have been able to attend the meeting. Also, there will be new hires throughout the year who can view the sales kickoff recording as part of their on-boarding process.

The virtual sales kickoff should be accessible by topics and presenter as opposed to a lengthy rebroadcast that is watched in one long session. This requires that a virtual platform that provides intelligent on-de­mand access be used. Both the speaker and his or her slides should be shown simultaneously. Important presentation materials, slides, sales collateral, and training documents should be accessible for download. Viewers should be provided with interactive functionality so they can submit questions to meeting present­ers long after the presentation and be able to chat with colleagues who might be watching.

Providing on-demand access to the sales kickoff is an extremely economical way to reinforce the meeting messages, maximize the training investment, and extend the motivational afterglow. It typically costs 2% to 5% of the total meeting costs to record and post the meeting to a commercially available online virtual platform. You can expect ten times the number of meeting attendees to visit an online kickoff on average. For example, a meeting with 500 attendees would average 5,000 post-meeting visitors.