Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Customer Services are Integral to Business Growth, A New Study Shows


A recent survey performed by the Federation of Small Businesses indicates that many of the 1,700 polled believe providing better customer service is an integral key to growing their businesses. Whether exposing employees to in-house training in areas such as sales, marketing or public relations, the overriding sentiment was that increasing the company’s care and concern for the paying client seemed paramount to its success.

One of the more recent developments in the ways businesses operate is a focus on something known as customer relationship management, or CRM. In effect, CRM is akin to taking customer service to new levels by providing employees with tools and data they need to exceed the customer’s expectations.
The implementation of CRM into the company’s operations has multi-tiered effects on information organization, sales forecasting and indeed tends to lead to increased sales, and as importantly to the long term growth of the business and increased perceptions of customer service. The following list will focus on and expand how a business’s use of CRM affects the customer directly.

4 Direct Effects of CRM on the Customer Experience

  1. More Satisfied Customer Base: The early part of the 20th century saw a number of brand names become synonymous with the products sold by the company. Think Kleenex or Band-aid. Of course in those days, there was very little, if any competition and this allowed the company to develop a large base of customers who became habitual buyers. As long as the business treated the paying clients well, their growth and profits seemed guaranteed.Today’s markets certainly have much more competition, however the concept of developing a satisfied customer base holds true. Providing the ones main source of revenues with satisfactory customer service is an excellent way to firmly establish the company in the marketplace and ensure its growth in the long term.
  2. Customer Loyalty Improvement: Some savvy marketer once came up with a concept for the tobacco industry that fully encapsulates the concept of customer loyalty. The paradigm that was filtered into their customer base was that a cigarette smoker would rather fight than to give up their particular brand. This very same concept holds true for any brand looking to increase the loyalty of their paying consumers. By providing excellent customer services, the company increases the chance that someone who buys their products would actually pay a little more or go a little farther in order to have the quality and service they have come to expect. Lower priced imitations of their favorite goods would only cause them to reaffirm their brand loyalty that much more.
  3. Customer Retention: It is certainly true that it costs more to get a customer than to keep one. Retaining the businesses best customers is one of the key focuses of CRM and when considering the implementation of such a plan, bearing in mind the cost factors of getting new clients versus keeping existing ones can be a strong rationale for investing in the technology required.While some customers look for the deal with every purchase they make, others look to be cared for. They become loyal to a brand and its company when they know they can expect quality products and be serviced even beyond their expectations. The business looking for long term customer retention must place excellent service to the paying clients above even their own goals of profits. Customers see this in the company and tend to reward the business by staying with them for very longer periods of time.
  4. Direct Customer Referrals/WOM: Most businesses understand the power of word of mouth advertising. When the above three factors come together to produce an extremely satisfied customer, an inevitable result is that customer’s desire to spread word of the treatment he or she has had at the hand of the company.In days past, the rule of thumb was that each person knew or had some direct connections with upwards to about 150 others. Known as the Dunbar Number, this sphere of influence was one way that a company would hope to get knowledge its brand products passed around. Today, however, the concept of spreading the word to only 150 others seems quaint. With the advent of social media and the communities which have spawned as a result, even the most average of individuals can have hundreds or thousands of others they communicate with on a regular basis. Today, direct customer referral is big business, and the best way to understand the power of this phenomenon is to harness social CRM for the benefit of the company and its customers.
The speed and power of the Internet can make amazing things happen very fast. It is important, however that when considering how to grow ones business, to have a realistic expectation on what will happen and when. Yes information travels faster today thanks to email and the World Wide Web. But when considering the implementation of a plan which may include CRM, it is important to remember that investing in such a game plan is a long term proposition.

Information gathering, storage and processing takes time. Training employees on use of the tools and various other aspects of providing quality customer services will also take some time. Most importantly, the business needs to put the time and effort into helping their customers feel important and appreciated in order to begin to see returns on any CRM investment.

Monday, February 27, 2012

CRM in 2012: The expert predictions


CRM guru Paul Greenberg tells about his predictions for the world of customer relationship management in the coming year. 

Author of the best-selling book CRM at the Speed of Light, and the first non-vendor thought leader to be elected to CRM magazine’s CRM Hall of Fame, Paul Greenberg is one of the most influential figures in the CRM industry. President of The 56 Group, LLC, a founding partner of BPT Partners, and Chairman of the Board of Advisors of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management CRM Centre of Excellence, Greenberg has worked with and developed strategies for all the major vendors in CRM. Here he shares his predictions for the year ahead in the world of customer relationship management.

1. There will be a growing focus on the customer experience

“We’re going to see a continued/expanded focus on the pure core CRM side around customer experience. The right brain will continue to become more and more dominating in terms of the thinking that is going on in the CRM industry - and I don’t just mean vendor-side, I mean practitioner-side. More attention will be paid to customer experience than in the past (though in the past it should have had more attention paid to it!) and that is a big deal.
“On the other hand I will say as a caveat it doesn’t mean that all of a sudden there is some big customer experience management software market - there isn’t and there won’t be. What you will see, though, is more companies focusing on how to provide the customers with a self-created, self-selecting kind of customer experience with the company. So the tools will become an increasingly important component of what practitioners are providing to customers over the coming year.”

2. A new category of insight solutions will emerge

“We’re going to see a growth of a category that is built around customer insight - not just analytics, but insight - so that it would involve multiple pieces of the solution. These are the insight solutions that would be more on the technology side - companies like Coveo or Lattice Engines who are developing applications that you can’t simply categorise, as we have in the past. I’m calling them 'insight solutions' because ultimately they lead to insights about your customer, insight about your sales opportunity or insight about your solution to a problem; but they're insight, not just a best practice or something like that. You gain some useful insight and these technologies give you the capacity to gather what you need to actually have that insight. And in 2012 we’ll start to see the emergence of these in a substantial way, as opposed to fits and starts and bits and pieces that we have seen so far.”

3. Marketing automation and social marketing tools will continue to grow

“We’re going to see the continued growth of marketing automation and social marketing tools. We’re going to see more and more companies get more and more interested in utilising social marketing as a kind of core marketing strategy and consequently the vendors will jump on board more than they have. And we’ve seen some signs of that already with Oracle incorporating marketing from Market2Lead to Oracle CRM On Demand.
“We’ll see companies like the Crowd Factorys of the world start to emerge on an even greater scale. We’ll see existing practitioner companies start to incorporate collaboration with customers as part of the marketing campaign, so that you’ll have user generated content as part of it. You’ll see gamification growing a great deal over that time (and I don’t mean buzzword-y gamification; I mean simply things that make engagement with the company more mutually enjoyable and rewarding for the customer) but you’ll see more and more of that as a practice, even in companies who have been historically traditional in their marketing.
“And what you always see with that is the software that supports it. And that is why you’ll see marketing automation growing a great deal, especially around the social component of it - and that is a very important trend because social CRM is now pretty mainstream but marketing has been the underserved component of it. Sales has been the weakest component of it, marketing has been the most underserved and customer service has been the driver of social CRM. “

4. Social CRM will continue to become CRM

“From the standpoint of social CRM and strategies for social CRM, in 2012 there will be at least a significant linear growth of social CRM actually being CRM for companies, meaning that social components will be incorporated fully into strategies around CRM, that companies are building and programmes that they’re building. You are starting to see that kind of thing happening already, where social CRM is just what people think CRM is now. So when they are building a CRM strategy they are not only building a strategy for data capture and transactional stuff but they are also building a strategy for engagement through social channels, either externally like Facebook and Twitter or internally like service communities.
“So we’re going to start to see that, which leads to significant growth in communities as being part of that social CRM strategy. Communities might be the largest growing component. I’d guess that it will be between communities and social marketing which will be the largest growing component of social CRM in 2012. I don’t’ think we’re going to see as rapid a growth on the sales side, although I think the interest in sales collaboration is beginning to emerge.”

5. Voice and video will become popular tools for engagement

“We’re going to see increasing use of video and voice in 2012 for engagement reasons. Video, for obvious reasons, has been discussed and over discussed. Voice is not just because of, say, Siri, but that is an indicator of exactly what the story is too. People love that app. They really do. And they not only love that app but they actually are trying to find uses for that app. But the other side is that other companies like Amazon and the like are buying voice recognition companies right now, with Siri-like technologies. So I think we’ll see a lot of the voice control stuff being used for engagement reasons so that you’ll be able to actually carry out a lot of the functionality on mobile devices and others that you ordinarily would have to typically touch type your way through. And again the value of these things is engagement. It is not just pure coolness, there is actual engagement going on - it makes your device easier to use.
“And there are a number of companies that are incorporating in that. IBM has bought something, Amazon has bought something, five or six companies have been buying up these voice control technologies so that they can incorporate them into their regular business activities. And so we’ll see the beginnings of that technology, and it is one of those technologies that will sky rocket over the next few years - and from a CRM standpoint will help and support and endorse engagement. And that is always mission-critical too.”

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tactics to increase CRM User Adoption

Linked in is an outstanding resource for industry expertise. Michelle Horn from the CRM Experts Group asks:

What are some tactics that you have seen to increase user adoption for CRM systems?
User adoption is one of the top reasons for a CRM implementation to fail. How do companies encourage user adoption?

To date there are 134 responses and here are the highlights!


CRM adoption is a challenge and everyone has given very thoughtful ideas. Couple of things come to mind.

1) People are different. Some don't pay attention until they need something. Then they will ask, how do I do that? Some will take notes and try to learn. And there are others who think CRM is a waste of time. List goes on. So, one plan does not fit all. Make plans to fit the users. It may seem a lot of work but it's worth the effort.

2) People need to see immediate benefit from CRM for themselves - not for the management or for the company. While most people appreciate when company or management benefits from CRM, they want to know how CRM can increase their earnings without having to work any more than what they are doing now.

3) If you are in charge of the CRM implementation, you should be a user yourself. That's really hard. Because even if you are a CRM user, you are playing one role only. How do you play multiple roles? So, you listen to people and appreciate what they have to say. Even play their role for a day or two. I know this is hard to do since you are also very busy.

4) So, the bottom line is CRM must be saving people time. They are already working hard. When they hear they have to do something more, they are not going to embrace. They need TLC from you! You need to feel them at different levels at different roles. You need to think like them and work hard. It's not easy but someone has to do it. Make sure your manager knows how hard a job it is.

Manu Das


I had been the CRM implementation manager in Asia Pacific ( +400 users ) in different countries. To enhance user adoption, there are many ways. 1. Get the stakeholders of each BU aligned and involved with support from company top managment. 2. Assign a CRM champion from each BU, who coordinates the execution of the CRM program. 3. Assign power users ( about 5% of user population ) as the contact point for use of CRM. 4. Measures CRM user adoption in both quantitative, eg. log-on frequency, number of Opportunitities and qualitative manner eg. ( the content of the info. entered in the system. ). 5. Award given to CRM champion who entered quality customer info.

Keith Man-fai Leung


There are two more ways to streamline the adoption:
1. Ease the learning curve. The faster employees start working, the better will be the effect.

Nice implementation of this idea can be seen in BPMonline CRM ( When you start working with the solution, you tell it how to react on your actions. E.g. you tell it to automatically create an opportunity record, schedule a meeting and send an e-mail each time you have a new lead.

Thus, you put all the logic right into the system and employees don’t have to study all the details of the new working process, because the system will remind all the necessary steps.

2. Engage your employees. The example here is Assistly ( They reward employees with virtual bonuses each time they study a new feature. This stimulates users study more.

Bob Zabiyaka


Access to the system as simple as possible through providing Web, Windows Desktop and Mobile (iPad, Cell, Smartphone) access.

Keep the CRM process and system simple to use for the user base and don't over complicate things from the start. Phased implementation both in terms of functionality and across different teams is a good approach, and try to get a CRM advocate in place within each team (Sales, Marketing and Service) to drive user adoption and deal with any early issues.

Give information back to the users that will help them in their everyday tasks and not just dashboards for the management team. The CRM system should be a tool that assists the whole business not just isolated users.
Mike Richardson


Trying to get buy-in after the fact is a much, much harder task than building the system WITH the end-user base from the ground up. However, given that we have what seems like a system implementation in place with perhaps limited end-user involvement to this point, you have got to start with answering their question, "Why?"

Simply, if there is no burning platform, in other words, no compelling reason why the users should adopt the system - whether it be solving THEIR problems (as users, they're IT's customers) or increasing their sales productivity (given proof that their productivity doesn't meet benchmarks) - then you're simply up against some quite impossible odds. If you've got to force users to use a system, the plot has surely been lost by IT and the pain will be endless from here on! In simple terms, and perhaps not quite the right example, a CRM system has got to be as much of a 'must have' as e.g. an iPad is, to be most effective.

If there is a burning platform, then the task is largely a done deal, and minor coaching can be put in place to encourage adoption, because the system will be solving a problem for the users.

Ultimately, most implementations fail because of poor business involvement in solving THEIR problems rather than anything IT did, in spite of what are often superb implementations, which are probably rare enough in themselves!

Guy Pearce


Here are a few things we have seen/recommend.
* Develop a comprehensive User Adoption Strategy long before the system goes live.

* Assign a senior executive with ownership for both user adoption and for measuring the business value/ROI realized from the use of the system.

* User adoption needs to be measured and managed over the life of the system. Many people make the mistake of focusing on adoption just at go-live, only to find that 1,3,5 years down the road adoption has dropped and the system is not delivering any value to the organization.

* There are often organizational barriers (outside of the users’ control) that prevent users from adopting the system, even if they want to use it. These need to be identified and removed for the users. Beware if you hear people talking about “user resistance” when in fact there may organizational barriers that prevent adoption.

* Regardless of how much you plan, train, and communicate up front, there will always be challenges and needs emerge after go-live. You need a structure and process in place to identify and respond to emerging user adoption needs.

Jason Whitehead


Below are four phases of a CRM project, after phase 1 when you have decided what technology you are going to use comes phase 2 "transition". This phase focuses on taking your existing processes and implementing in your CRM. Stay on this phase until you get it working, it involves working close with the BU of the CRM. Avoid moving to phase 2 to quickly, people do not like change unless they come up with the idea.

Phase 1 – Different CRM products evaluation, cost and budgeting [Select a market leading tool if you don’t have core skills, find out what your competitors are using.]
Phase 2 – Transition [Introduce a CRM in your organization, implement as is process and only implement few quick wins [to be] which can help you to demonstrate the future capabilities to business.]
Phase 3 – Process Transformation [Pick critical areas or processes affecting strategy and operations, automate, integrate and transformed in CRM, introduce better ways of service delivery.]
Phase 4 – Customer Transformation [Introduce different channels, introduce different ways of service delivery, build an integrated service delivery approach.]

Pat Hinds


User adoption is a symptom of a much larger problem. It's nice to talk about including the users so they get ownership, but include them in what? I'd suggest that before a business makes a substantial capital investment in technology, that they look really hard at the level of CRM capability they have regarding the outcomes they are seeking as a business. The software will not make those happen for you; it's only a tool (and often a bloated & cumbersome one at that).

- Identify the maturity of your organization across the domains of CRM (and they are not Sales, Service and Marketing - think lower level than that, the drivers of value creation)
- Determine what level you can achieve now and build those competitive organizational capabilities now
- Make them part of your organization's DNA - which takes time.
- Backfill this OpEx investment with technology that supports your capabilities, and nothing more.

These capabilities you build are the drivers of success in CRM, reduce the risk of failure and greatly enhance the return on your efforts. A well implemented piece of technology is money wasted, and opportunity lost, without it. If the organization has built their capabilities and integrated them into the culture, there will be little push back from "users" if the tools provided are easily leveraged by the capabilities they should already have.

The true driver for CRM failure is not understanding the true drivers of Customer Relationship Management.

Michael Boysen


This is a simple but effective tool, “Human Change Management” most CRM’s fail due to human acceptance not technology limitations. Human change management is about helping the community of users accept the use of a new or change-out of a CRM in the early, mid and latter stages of the project. This is often an overlooked step that either results in failure or success of a project.

John Stadler


Adoption planning needs to start not just early, but WELL before you even finalize your technical specs. CRM works best when it is not treated as a new tool to implement, but as a method to help everyone do what they already do - better. If you do not map as-is processes and then get buy-in on the "to-be" processes that you intend to change with your CRM implementation, then you've already lost. People don't like to have change brought to them by a computer program, but they'll do better if they think THEY are making changes at the process-mapping level. Once you bring in a tool that automates the processes they have already agreed to (or believe they authored), adoption is the easy part.

I can't emphasize this enough after watching the CRM industry position itself as a "software industry" the last twenty years when it is really a "customer industry" enabled by software. Anyone from an old-school direct marketing background will understand this quickly. Great CRM practices have been going on in some companies for decades before "CRM" became an acronym and have never thought it to be about implementing systems and tools.

To summarize - work on getting adoption of processes, NOT the software. After all, it's NEVER about the software, it's about the customer (internal AND external).

David Dallaire


I've seen the User/Customer camp be the make or break of so many implementations. When you boil it all down, it's more about WIFM than a lot of the other ingredients to success. "What's In It For Me?" If the end users don't see the impact for themselves, it won't get adopted. Also, companies have been more successful when shifting the emphasis away from the change in technology and focused on the business change - such as, "We're doubling our business over the next five years." or "We're creating a customer concierge or club #1 for the customer." The program is not about CRM technology, it's about the customer and the business' shift on customer.

This is where details brought up in other posts come into play:
1. Map the processes, seek input from the trenches, conduct validation sessions through storyboards, get buy-in and overcome objections/resistance to change.
A major online retailer, undertook a major project of process improvement and extended it to include policies that prevented great customer and employee experiences. They started with a small area of their business, customer service and then narrowed it down to a specific team within the 300+ staff call center. The results were dramatic - increased employee performance/satisfaction scores, increased customer satisfaction and retention/revenue, reduction in customer follow up interactions, and much more.

2. Do not underestimate the power of marketing communications for the program. Clearly present the strategy and vision for what this program will mean to the company, employees and the customers - focus the impact on the employees and customers into their day to day activities - make it meaningful, purposeful, and engaging. Some organizations have developed contests/incentive programs for employees and customers to contribute to this new program. Identify and Leverage the internal pioneers and early adopters - people who seek out new technology and are looked upon as the technology mavens in the organization. When part of the business program, incorporate marketing/messaging on the changes - this can range from putting flyers or announcements in monthly statements detailing the benefits of intended changes or on the corporate website, etc.

3. Showcase the benefits/positive changes through the lifecycle.
4. Listen for feedback throughout the lifecycle.
5. Educate, educate, educate...
6. Update and centralize content in all aspects of knowledge in the organization - HUGE payback/ROI justifications here.
7. Cleanse, centralize, update the customer data.
8. Workflow automation. Review repetitive tasks for targeting for incorporation into systematic automation, workflow, or scripting.
9. Conduct time/motion studies with different groups of users and develop/design contextualized user interfaces based on proficiency/skills and roles.
10. Leadership/Stakeholder sponsorship down through to staff is also important for alignment and prioritization among other corporate/organizational initiatives. It's critical to identify the key constraints up front and to develop appropriate plans to either mitigate or remove the constraints from barriers or threats to the success of the program. This is where authorizations for changes to processes and policies should be obtained for buy-in.

The above does not represent the total list and are not in order of priority, but I believe it's a good idea to structure in order of priority for your organization.

If any of this resonates with you, let me know...I started citing a few examples, but I'd like to see others provide additional examples from some of their own program details or experiences.

Matt Cotter

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How To Increase Sales Productivity

Post written by Jeremy Ulmer.
Here are 20 quick tips to help you increase your sales productivity. Keep in mind, not every tip will be useful for every person. Just pick the tips that are helpful for you and integrate them into your routine.

Here are a few suggestions when reading through all of these tips:

-Don’t do them all at once. Focus on one at a time.
-Experiment with different tips.
-These are not in any particular order, so browse through them all.

So, here they are, 20 tips to increase your sales productivity:

1. Less is more.
Focus on your most essential tasks each day. Eliminate or delegate as much as you can.

2. Exercise.
Make this a habit if it is not already. For me, exercising is the key to my energy, health, and productivity. It also greatly reduces stress and can be a form of meditation. Here are some tips on how to make exercise a daily habit.

3. Stop rushing.
Focus on what you are doing in the moment and don’t rush through it. It will be much more relaxing for you and in the end, your quality of work will be improved.

4. Fail.
Don’t be afraid to fall flat on your face and fail. If you are afraid of failing, you will never take important first steps. Without failure there would be no success.

5. Find what you love to do.
Find something you love to do, and your quality of life and work will improve. If you love your work you will become more productive and less stressed.

6. Wake up early.
This is not for everyone, but it can make a huge impact on your life and what you get done in a given day. Here are some tips on how to wake up early.

7. Eat clean.
Don’t buy junk and don’t bring it into your house. That will instantly help you stay lean and trim. Be aware of what you are eating, your mouth is not a garbage disposal.

8. Get organized.
The more organized you are, the less time you will waste finding things and the more productive you will be.

9. Review goals.
Don’t just set goals, but take a look at them each month to see what is working and what is not working. It is ok to change your goals.

10. Be positive.
Focus on the positive. Focus on what you have, not on what you don’t have. Surround yourself with people who have positive energy. Here are some tips on how to stay positive.

11. Practice being compassionate.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Plato.

12. Visualize.
Envision your most positive future self. What would life be like for her or him? Where would you live and what would you be doing? Let that vision pull you into the future you want to have.

13. Set goals.
Long-term goals are important to set, but also be sure you are setting daily and weekly goals as well. Here are some tips on how to set goals.

14. Get the toughest things done first.
Aim to accomplish the 3 most important things of your day before 12noon. Give them top priority.

15. Be focused.
Work on one goal and one task at a time. Don’t spread yourself too thin.

16. Enjoy the ride.
Don’t just focus on the end goal, but enjoy the process and learning that takes place as you strive to achieve them.

17. Enjoy the little things.
A joyful and happy person is a more productive person. Editors Note: I used to walk my grandma on long walks in her wheelchair and the little things gave her the most joy. Seeing a Cardinal bird, a beautiful flower, or simply getting some fresh air, made her day and taught me a lot about what really matters.

18. Single-task.
Stop multi-tasking and this will instantly increase your productivity. Here are some tips on how to minimize distractions to focus on one task.

19. Be in the now.
Be present and focus on being in the now more than the past or future.

20. Volunteer and help others.
Just one hour a week of volunteering can make a huge impact on the world and on yourself. I find volunteering to be one of the most fulfilling things I do. Try it out, and you just might become hooked too! When you volunteer you will not only be helping others, but you will provide yourself with many health benefits that will increase your energy and productivity.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Top Sales Mistake: Turning Your Sales Stars Into Data Clerks

The power of CRM:
  • Improve management of customer and prospect relationships
  • Provide better sales visibility
  • Improve communication across a sales team
Gartner estimates that over 60% of CRM implementations fail after the go-live date.    I recently spent an evening talking about sales productivity with a leading sales rep for a Bain Capital portfolio company.  What I heard shouldn’t surprise anybody but hopefully it is a wakeup call.
  • Hunters aren’t built to enter data: We all know successful salespeople are wired differently.  But, in a quest to fulfill the promise of new systems, we try to turn our team into desk-jockeys.  This sales rep shared with me that his entire team feels like “… well paid clerks.” and that he “… didn’t get into sales to do admin.”
  • Sales teams don’t see the promise of CRM: Star sales people see sales as an art and CRM as ‘big brother’.  Like the sales rep I talked to they believe, “I hit my numbers and don’t see the reason to document in Salesforce just so they can monitor me.”
  • Sales training isn’t working: Despite the investment in systems, stars prefer to be lone wolfs.  With few established processes, sales teams end up with a few rock stars and a ton of new sales reps struggling to figure out the ropes.   This sales rep shared with me, “Our company is a total mess.  There is a huge learning curve for new reps and we lose many of them quickly”

No wonder that according to Forrester the average VP of sales lasts 18 months.  With a sales team that sees no value in the systems, the worst thing you can do is add more process.  So how can we stop this cycle and improve our sales productivity?  Here are two, not-so-revolutionary, ideas:
  • Stop having your sales people enter data they don’t see as valuable
  • Free your salespeople up to focus on what they do best

While these ideas sound simple, they take some effort to implement.  Here are a few basic steps you can take to get started:
  • Review your sales administration processes: Analyze each process to understand a) the level of specialized knowledge and b) the priority for your business
  • Focus first on those processes easy to standardize: Processes such as CRM data entry, appointment setting, prospect research, lead and contact management, travel, expenses, and reporting are great places to start.
  • Create a true sales support function: Inside sales and lead gen are not focused on increasing the productivity of your sales team.  They are measured by their own metrics.  To solve your sales challenges, you need to provide your sales reps with a support system.  We find the best way to achieve this is to integrate assistants into your sales team’s processes and track the impact on your reps productivity.
  • Commit your organization to success: The benefits of freeing up your sales team to focus on sales can be powerful.  A study by McKinsey of a global manufacturer showed an average gain of 15% more time for selling and decreased cycle time for internal sales processes of 20%.    But, to realize the potential, an on-going commitment, technology platform, and training are required.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pros and Cons of Using Contact Management Software


Contact management software is used by businesses of all sizes to enhance their CRM, or Customer Relationship Management services. This software is commonly used by businesses that intend to make abundant uses of the Web. It allows sales representatives to keep track of clients and assist them with formulating leads from prospects. While contact management system have advantages, it is important to consider the downsides before pursing them. If you are considering using contact management software, there are some vital points to consider.

The Pros of Contact Management Software
  • Helps your sales representatives stay organized by tracking all information in a single location. It stores names, businesses, phone numbers, and addresses in an organized format, allowing your employees to access and share data.
  • Contact management eliminates confusion among sales representatives, particularly those working in groups. Often, it is difficult to manage which people talked with which clients and when. This software is equipped with tools that automatically record interactions with clients. Your sales representatives avoid unnecessarily forcing customers to repeat information, while making transactions are quicker and easier.
  • Generating reports and charts takes time and effort, time that is taken away from customers. Contact management software assists with forecasting by computing reports and charts necessary to predict future demands. Visual information is produced to assist your business with tracking pipelines and analyzing data.
  • Keeping track of a business is challenging with the countless tasks that need to be attended to. Since data is organized in a single location using this software, accessing information you need is more efficient. You can oversee the productivity of your employees and direct them to specific clients based on data obtained from reports.
The Cons of Contact Management Software
  • If not Web-based, new software programs are difficult to implement into a company because employees are forced to learn an entirely new system of management. Additional staff is necessary to train your employees about how to use applications effectively.
  • Software installation is often a messy processes. Complications arise when attempting to use new software with other applications. A lot of maintenance and upgrading is required in order for the applications to be functional. A Web-based service helps reduce these problems by managing software through outsourced servers and in data centers. No programs are installed directly on you companies PCs.
  • Companies PCs have limited amounts of power and space. Sometimes, PCs are not equipped to handle the applications of contact management systems installed on them. As a result, applications are often slow and draining. This is frustrating for many businesses that need to update data and generate reports instantly. Many businesses have looked to Web-based software as solutions to their problems. These services eliminate the strain on your PC hard drives because software and data storage actually takes place on more powerful, virtual servers. Data and programs are instantly accessible online.
  • Contact management software installed on company computers may not work with other applications. Do the departments in your business use various programs to perform the functions they require? For many companies, using contact management software applications with other applications that are frequently used among your employees is difficult. Cloud computing services, however, encourage businesses to use Web-based software because applications are easily integrated with others. This creates an environment in which data flow is efficient because it makes use of real-time technologies, and information is always up-to-date. Businesses also have the option of customizing existing applications to meet their needs.
There are many reasons why companies have reached out to contact management software to make organization and work flow easier. However, before pursuing this avenue, there are disadvantages that cannot be overlooked. With new cloud computing capabilities, many of CRM services using the internet have offered solutions to the most difficult challenges.

Monday, February 13, 2012

5 CRM trends to seize on in 2012

This year will carry big expectations for Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs).

Firstly, the businesses who use them will be expecting them to do more (and for less). Secondly, end customers — increasingly aware of what CRM systems are capable of — will be even more insistent that businesses deal with them as they expect.

In short, businesses will be looking to their vendors for help with doing more with CRM, and we expect to see a combination of new and old capabilities receive more attention.

Here are some CRM trends CIOs should watch for in 2012:
  1. Anywhere. Anytime.
    It’s become a mantra for good reason: Anywhere/anytime computing offers enormous benefits in the CRM space.
    In 2012, mobility and the cloud will continue to create opportunities for businesses to engage with customers in intelligent ways across all touch points.
    While they don’t have to go hand-in-hand (indeed many businesses continue to be concerned about the cloud’s ability to keep confidential customer information safe), they are a powerful combination.
    The ability to instantly check what’s in the pipeline, or for outstanding issues, just before speaking with a customer is now a required tool. And in the new year, the push from staff for CRM applications on their mobile and tablet devices will only intensify.
  2. Any insight.
    CRM systems generate and collect a great deal of data. Unfortunately, much of this information goes to waste because the possibilities for exploiting it are ignored.
    The ball is in the CIO’s court when it comes to improving the value their businesses can extract from the latent data in their applications through better exploitation of marketing, market insight and customer engagement opportunities.

    This is more about getting the full potential from existing features than it is about utilising new ones, but it’s something I think CIOs will be driving in 2012.

    CRM vendors will also have a role to play in educating businesses about what’s possible.
  3. Customer-isation.
    We all know that customers are demanding better, faster and more integrated experiences.
    Indeed, many of the businesses we deal with are reporting an increasing impatience on the part of customers who feel that ‘the system should know’ when it comes to their identity, purchase history and other details.

    2012 will see savvy end customers who are increasingly aware about the capabilities of CRMs, meaning businesses will need to focus on delivering coherent interactions online, in person and on the phone.

    Being behind the ball in this regard will be less and less affordable.
  4. Social networks.
    Some businesses are finding social media a tough ask, with plenty of scope for both success and failure.

    It’s a difficult area but social CRM has matured. In 2012, expect to see much better social monitoring and engagement tools integrated into CRMs.

    These bring two essential functions to the table. Firstly, they make monitoring for commentary on social networks easier and, where commentary is adverse, putting out spot fires much faster.
    Secondly, social CRM allows for faster community-building and management, across sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn — providing businesses to create and (as far as possible) control the online conversation space around their products.

    Done right, social CRM implementations will see businesses become more effective in social media, with more metrics around results.
  5. More for less.
    Because of the cloud, the excuses for CRM vendors offering less than complete feature sets and capabilities in their CRM offerings are fast vanishing.

    In 2012, this will translate into reduced costs for CRM users — or steady costs but for more powerful solutions.
Summing up
Businesses should be looking to increase the communication, knowledge sharing and business insight opportunities they can leverage from their CRM systems in 2012.

With mobility, coherent customer experience and social engagement becoming the norm, it’s in the better use of analytics that companies are likely to find and win more business and develop a competitive advantage.

Ian Whiting is CEO of CRM, ERP and POS experts Markinson Business Solutions.

Friday, February 10, 2012

12 Sales Management Tips for 2012

  1. Don’t become a “rainbird coach.” I had a neighbor who would wait until his lawn had turned brown, and only then turn on his rainbird water sprinkler. I see a lot of sales managers who act the same way: they wait until there’s a meltdown before coaching their people. Far better for a lawn—and a salesperson—to receive regular “sprinkling.”
  2. Set and focus priorities. Sales managers can easily become buried in “stuff” and reactive fire-fighting. They’re working harder than ever but are unable to catch up, and have no time for what should be their #1 priority: to coach salespeople. The only person who can solve this problem is you. Set priorities for you and your sales team and then focus on them. Don’t allow distractions to take your eye off the ball.
  3. Focus on developing both “skill” and “will” in your sales team. Effective sales managers know they can’t just monitor results. They need to pay attention to both the skill and will of each salesperson, so they target the underlying problems that create low win rates.
  4. Triage your coaching time. Your peak performers will likely do well without much help from you. Your bottom 20% won’t achieve much even if you coach them to a 10% improvement. Spend most of your precious one-on-one sales coaching time with your “emerging contributors” – those salespeople who have the best chance to develop into peak performers.
  5. Turn prima donnas into bell cows. Having a high-performing sales person is great for your bottom line, but if you allow them to become a pampered prima donna who just wants to be left alone, you’re overlooking a great opportunity. Engage the prima donna in helping you define standards of high performance, then use them as a bell cow that others on the team can look up to and learn from. Do not allow them to continue with behaviors detrimental to your team.
  6. Develop and focus on a sales team development plan. Identify what steps of selling different teams members are weakest in and understand how to help them improve. Determine what obstacles are standing in the way of achieving your team’s sales goals.
  7. Follow-up. Managers who fail to follow-up on suggestions or instructions they give to their team members create a team culture that’s lacking in accountability. Don’t assume your team members will have the same discipline around follow through that you had a salesperson.
  8. Teach your salespeople about how customers buy. One of the biggest problems in selling is that salespeople have no idea how customers buy. So naturally they focus more on their sales process than on the customer’s buying process. They too easily get out of sync with the customer and lose a lot of opportunities. You can have a huge impact on sales effectiveness if you teach your sales people how to link the steps of their sales process to the steps of the customer buying process.
  9. Challenge your customer focus. A lot of sales managers tell me their companies want to be more “customer focused.” But the customer’s perspective isn’t represented at all in how they train, coach, and review their salespeople! Challenge yourself to come up with ways to embed the customer into your sales management processes. For example, track where customers are in their buying process rather than where your salespeople are in their selling process.
  10. Be an “early coach” instead of a “white knight.” One of the most common complaints I hear from salespeople is about a sales manager or executive “riding in on a white horse” to save the day and close a deal. The end result of this white-horse ride is often three-fold: white knuckles for the salesperson, a bigger discount for the customer, and lower profit for the company! Your best chance at influencing the opportunity occurs early in the customer’s buying process, when the customer is defining their needs and shaping their vision of a solution.
  11. Use positive confrontation. No sales manager can afford to ignore poor sales performance or behavior. Discipline yourself to deal directly with the salesperson in a coaching mode. Observe them in action and give feedback to help do a better job the next time.
  12. Don’t adopt any new monkeys. Sales managers like to be problem solvers. But they end up with a lot of monkeys on their backs. Next time a salesperson tries to hand off their problem to you, politely hand the monkey back by asking two questions: What have you done about it so far? What do you think you ought to do now?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Press Release - Six Companies Join Forces to Give Away $100,000 in Sales Software Solutions This Spring

Three companies will each win use of enterprise sales pipeline and deal-closing software free of charge for one year; promotion sheds light on need for B2B companies to use a variety of sales automation tools to build, manage and close more business

Sacramento, Calif.  (February 1, 2012) – With sales and marketing budgets still tight, and B2B selling conditions still difficult, sales leaders need all the help they can get to boost revenues in 2012.  Now, thanks to six world-class sales software providers, three lucky companies are about to get a giant helping hand.

Beginning February 1, 2012 and for eight weeks, sales professionals are invited to enter the Smart Selling Tools sweepstakes for a chance to win one of three software prizes.  Each focused on helping companies maximize revenue opportunities, find more qualified prospects and close more deals.


Registration is available free of charge at:

“Many sales leaders are simply unaware of the full spectrum of sales productivity solutions available today” said Nancy Nardin, founder of Smart Selling Tools.  “The ultimate goal of this promotion is to shed significant light on the need for using a variety of sales tools, not just CRM, to move the most deals through the pipeline and maximize revenue.”

Specific prize packages include:

The Opportunity Creator
Winners of this prize will receive a 12-month subscription to IntroRocket for up to 500 users, as well as a 12-month license to iSell by OneSource for up to 10 users.  Learn more about IntroRocket and OneSource at and

The Revenue Maximizer
Winners of this prize will receive a 12-month license to Sales Contest Builder by ePrize for all their Salesforce users, and a 12-month subscription to Front Row Solutions for up to 50 users.   Learn more at and

The Deal Closer
Winners of this prize will receive a 12-month subscription to Qvidian’s Proposal Automation solution for up to 20 users, and a 12-month license to DocuSign for up to 10 users (as well as 10 passes to the DocuSign Summit in San Francisco).  Learn more at and  

One entry per person. Winners will be announced in April.

About Smart Selling Tools:
Smart Selling Tools, headquartered in Sacramento, California is an online marketplace connecting Sales leaders with Marketing and Sales Software providers. We create informative content including buyer guides, whitepapers, checklists, cheat sheets and more to keep sellers informed about the latest sales and marketing software solutions.

For more information on Smart Selling Tools, visit
Press Contact:
Matt Heinz
Heinz Marketing for Smart Selling Tools 877-291-0006

5 Last Minute Restaurant Marketing Tips in Time for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is almost here and, of course, that’s one of the most important nights in a restaurant’s calendar.  Couples will be taking to the streets and looking for a perfect night out to top off (or possibly to just begin) their evening of romance.  Your wait staff, of course, should be in their best form, ready to make every couple’s dinner their best dinner ever. However, if you’re still trying to think of the right ‘hook’ to make sure every table is booked all evening & guests come back for more, here are a few tips to make this February 14th your best Valentine’s Day too.

Set Menus

Sure, it’s an old standby, but it still makes the evening feel special to the patrons.  Instead of your regular menu, create a few set menus especially themed for the evening, with everything coming in portions built for two, each paired with the perfect wines from your cellar.  You have to prepare fewer dishes that way, but you can still charge a premium for the meal and happy couples will pay without complaint.  Plus, don’t forget to dress up the menu itself, too!  A great menu cover will drive home how special the meal is, designed from top to bottom for Valentine’s.

Aim for Ambiance

Do what you can to rearrange the place and make the layout especially for couples.  Get rid of large tables and for the love of St. Valentine, shut off those bright overhead lights.  Dim lights and candlelight should be the rule of the day, even if you’re just a cafe.  If you’ve got the time, try to make each table its own little “pocket” of warm light, and pull out some partitions to isolate one table from another..  An intimate meal makes for an intimate couple, and they’ll remember you for it fondly.

Go Exclusive

Not every restaurant can do this, but give it some thought.  Few things can put a damper on a couple’s fiery evening faster than having to stand in line for an hour just to make it to the bar, only to wait ages more for their food to arrive.  Worse, if this happens you can be sure they’ll blame your restaurant for the crowd and refuse to come back.  If you make Valentine’s Day a special reservation-only evening, you can ensure you are giving the truly best service to the most people you possibly can – and no more.

Roll Out the Social Media Bandwagon

When preparing your ad campaign for your V-day delights, don’t neglect the Internet, especially if you’re aiming your arrows at younger couples.  This is the time to dust off your Facebook page, Twitter account, email lists, and Google Local listing.  Best of all, Internet promotions are free (well…they do take time so I guess they aren’t 100% free).  Also, while coupon nights are generally a bit lame and can feel tacky, having small, exclusive promotions that are only for your online customers can also help bring in the hip crowds.   Besides, they’re never too young to become a valuable regular at your restaurant!

And finally, call this one an unValentine’s Promotion:

Have a Singles Night the Day Before

This lets you stretch a single holiday into two days!  There are plenty of people who always feel left out on Valentine’s.  Why not give them their own evening, with its own menu and promotions, the day before?  Be playful with it.  You could give menu items names like “The Souffle of Self” or perhaps “The Bachelor Pad Thai,” playing up the virtues of being single.  Plus, if some lonely singles happen to meet at the bar, perhaps they’d be interested in making reservations for the following evening…

These are just a few ways your restaurant can succeed this Valentine’s Day season.

What specials are you running at your establishment on the 14th?