Friday, April 27, 2012

Ten Top Sales Tips for Sales Success

The following tips are tried and true … proven to be effective for companies across a wide diversity of industries and in many different geographic areas. Often, the key to success is being flexible and open-minded about trying something new. If you already have these tips in your arsenal of tricks, then consider this a refresher, akin to spring training in which the baseball pros reinforce and perfect already existing skills. Here goes:

  1. Don’t do the bulk of your business prospecting during prime business hours. Often the call that is placed at 8AM or 6PM will be received by a decision-maker that has more time to talk. And don’t under-estimate the value of leaving voice mail messages at night. These will be the very first messages that your prospect will hear in the morning, thereby increasing the odds of them placing a returned call.
  2. If you want to present products and services that are of value to the prospect and that meet their needs, you have to ASK questions. Ask the right questions and the prospect will tell you what they want and how they need to be sold.
  3. Too many sales reps launch into a conversation by discussing the features of their products and services. Features never sold anyone. The only thing that a prospect cares about is what these features will do for them. In other words, speak in terms of benefits and your prospect will be more pre-disposed to listening to your presentation.
  4. There’s no magic bullet. Prospecting takes time and if your sales pipeline isn’t always filled with prospects in various stages of being worked, then you are in for a future sales slump.
  5. Don’t underestimate the power of faxes. In these days of email, faxes have taken a back seat. Because of that, faxes get noticed. Carefully position faxes as part of your prospecting efforts.
  6. Follow-up and follow-through are keys to prospecting success. Just like gardening, if you don’t water the seeds, the garden will languish. And so it is with prospecting… if you don’t remain in contact, you will never break through.
  7. Give a prospect something for nothing. An article that would be of interest and value, information that you received online etc. and transferred to the prospect with a note "just thought you might be interested in this" indicates that you are thinking of them and wish to be a resource.
  8. Periodically tape-record a random sampling of your cold calls. Listen to the tape and assess your tone and voice. How did you sound? Would you want to speak with a person who sounds like you? What about your words? Were they clear and benefits oriented. Taping gives you the opportunity to self-correct your presentation.
  9. Pace yourself. Prospecting is a very time-consuming and arduous task. Allocate a specific amount of time each day (week?) and keep to the schedule. It is always easy to put something ahead of the prospecting activity but make an appointment with yourself and don’t break it.
  10. Last but definitely not least, maintain a good sense of humor. Make the prospect smile and you’re halfway there!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Leverage your CRM to its full potential

Takeaway: If you’re not leveraging your CRM to its full potential, especially in light of recent technology shifts, you’re leaving money on the table.

With the recent technology renaissance that’s given us everything from ubiquitous tablets to commoditized datacenter virtualization, CRM seems like a bit of a quaint technology. Even mom-and-pop companies have access to a variety of cloud-based offerings from startups to enterprise darlings. For medium and large companies, rocky CRM implementations and struggles to drive sales force adoption are likely distant memories, and aside from an occasional report request or minor enhancement, CRM is low on the “attention list.” If this describes your organization, you may be leaving money on the table and not leveraging your CRM to its full potential, especially in light of recent technology shifts.

Dust off the “we’ll do it later” list
One of the biggest missed opportunities that come from large, complex IT projects like a CRM implementation is burying what I call the WDIL (We’ll Do It Later) list. As time and budgetary constraints loom over a project as its deadline nears, there are always good ideas that you simply can’t get to, which end up on some form of WDIL list. In many cases, there are enhancements or functionality on which you’ve done 80% of the hard work, but the few extra hours required to implement just couldn’t be found at the time.

In particular, with CRM a critical concern, is whether sales and marketing will embrace the new technology, so many companies err on the side of caution when implementing, legitimately focusing on change management rather than fully leveraging the tools. About 6-18 months after implementation is a perfect time to dust off the WDIL list; users and management are familiar with the tools, and items from the WDIL list are not yet forgotten, creating a minor PR coup for IT when you actually deliver on your promise to do something after the fact. With most WDIL lists containing bushels of low-hanging fruit, there’s lots of opportunity to squeeze more value out of what was already a significant expenditure.

Getting mobile
Many of the recent CRM innovations have involved mobile technology, both in terms of gathering information about your customers and providing information to your sales force. As your channels for interacting with customers have expanded, most CRM systems have expanded their integration with everything from email marketing tools to social media tracking and reporting. While there’s a danger of capturing data and generating reporting for reporting’s sake, careful use of these data can provide a more detailed view of your customers and their interactions with your company and products.
Internally, most of the CRM tools are now integrated with mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

There’s an obvious benefit to a salesperson walking into a meeting with current information on their customer, insight into product availability, and all the usual information you would expect, but delivered rapidly, in real-time, literally to their pocket. Mobile data delivery was once the province of high-dollar, complex systems, but with the rising popularity of cloud-based CRM, it has become a freebie with even the most basic systems.

Better databases
A more technical trend that could potentially revolutionize enterprise computing is the evolution of the databases that store all the data captured by our enterprise applications. Until recently, database technology had been surprisingly consistent for decades, with advances in speed and functionality but little change to the core technology. While traditional relational databases have been “good enough” for most applications, new generations of databases change everything from the fundamental way data are stored to the ability to rapidly gather and analyze changing data.

Relational databases have traditionally struggled to do CRM-related tasks like analyzing the performance of a massive marketing campaign on different demographics. While this type of reporting is available, it literally takes hours to generate. Some of the new technology promises this type of analysis in minutes, essentially allowing marketing and sales promotions to be tweaked in real-time. This is an area that is rapidly evolving, and worth considering when you get requests for complex analytics that were once impossible.

Where next?
One of the great, largely unfulfilled promises of CRM technology was that it would allow us to predict with reasonable accuracy which customers would likely buy our products, and effectively allow us to focus our sales efforts on those customers. Being able to increase the odds of a sale by a dozen or more percentage points is a lofty goal, but one I still don’t think the current crop of CRM tools provides.

Some of the developments mentioned here, however, push us further in that direction. In order to offer this predictive capability, we need to know more about how our customers interact with us, have near real-time visibility into how our marketing and sales efforts are performing with different classes of customers, and deliver that information to the people actually doing the marketing and selling. The recent evolutions in the CRM space are pushing this trifecta forward, and while your happily functioning CRM may not be on your radar now, it’s worth investing some time and effort to prepare for this future.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Prospect Auditing

Companies spend millions of dollars each year creating new clients and prospects. Often when a prospect is created, marketing hands that lead off to the sales team for development, expecting it to produce a revenue creating client. Unfortunately, most companies don’t know what happens to a prospect after it is created and handed off to the sales team. At Front Row Solutions we have created a unique prospect auditing feedback system, giving your company complete insights, analytics and feedback for every prospect.
Here’s how it works:
  1. A prospect is created (by marketing, customer service, email, etc.)
  2. The prospect is automatically sent through Front Row and assigned to sales rep. The prospect is date and time stamped when assigned to a sales rep.
  3. The sales rep contacts the prospect and send in a sales report through the Front Row Sales Pro app, which is also date and time stamped.
  4. The messages hits our server and automatically populates the Front Row databases. All further calls made to this client are also date and time stamped.
  5. A manager clicks on the prospect and then selects the audit button. A report will be provided tracking all contacts for this prospect from its creation to current status.
The company now has incredible insight into their marketing initiatives. Reports can be created identifying:time to initial contact by rep, benchmarking information identifying the number of contacts required to take a prospect to a client, benchmarking information with regard to elapsed time and effort required to take a prospect to a client, and company feedback identifying the best marketing initiatives.
The Front Row prospecting system is a closed-loop system providing never before seen insight into your marketing projects.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Front Row Solutions: What can our Platform do for you?

Front Row Solutions can enhance your sales performance and make a lasting positive impact on your business and organization.   A company would be rewarded with the following benefits by implementing Front Row Solutions’ robust platform:

Empower your Sales Force:
A sales representative can provide comprehensive sales reporting after a sales call in less than 15 seconds.  Full daily reporting can be accomplished in less than 5 minutes.   Front Row’s mobile data delivery solutions enable a sales representative to maximize their sales calls and efforts instead of being burdened with time consuming reporting and data input at the end of a work day or week.   Front Row’s seamless data delivery automates the sales reporting process and places all of the heavy lifting on back-end servers and not on the sales representative.

Real time data and information:
Gain an immediate overview on your company’s sales performance and KPI data 24/7.

Increased sales productivity:
Front Row’s mobile data delivery solution coupled with a full suite of built-in productivity tools can dramatically increase sales productivity on a daily basis.  Route Planning, Outlook Calender Sync and remote sales notes entry functionality assists the sales person with their daily and weekly planning which typically equates to at least two more sales calls per day being achieved.

No additional Software or intensive time investments are required:
Front Row Solutions’ platform is web-based which eliminates the need for additional costly software purchases or labor intensive studies by a company’s IT department.  Following consultation, Front Row can set up a new fully customized company account in less than 48 hours.

Multiple options to deliver real-time sales information:
Front Row’s technology features seamless SMS text message functionality which provides a simple, fast and cost effective way for a sales representative to deliver real-time and highly focused sales reports in less than 15 seconds.  Data delivery is also possible through Front Row’s state of the art Mobile Web browser available on all smart phones as well as standard Internet entry via a laptop or PC.

Easy Analysis & Custom Reporting:
The reporting, charting and dashboard capabilities provides a full suite of standard, cutomized and comparison reporting features.  Gain real-time insight on sales performance, productivity and efficiencies.   Real-time reporting can empower sales management to clearly see strengths and weaknesses in their sales force performance, enabling informed decisions and new initiatives.

Intra-Company Communication:
One of the daily challenges of a sales organization is effectively managing and communicating with a sales force that may be dispersed over many geographic locations and regions.   Front Row’s built-in SMS text message functionality enables instant communication with an entire sales force; a life saver for sales management to put out timely and consistent information to their front line sales staff.

Increased Revenue
– Front Row Solutions’ robust sales productivity and accountability solutions can transform sales performance which leads to a direct increase in company revenue.   An increase in the quantity and quality of sales calls are the building blocks to increasing revenue.

Contact us today to receive a demo of Front Row Solutions’ platform and a consultative review of your current sales reporting goals.

Friday, April 13, 2012

5 Aspects of Your Business That Can Make or Break CRM


CRM is often referred to as a foundation on which other things are built, but CRM itself needs to sit on a solid foundation as well. What is that foundation built on? A bunch of things that are, in general, never considered when we talk about CRM, but which can heavily influence CRM's effectiveness for good and for ill, based on how well the business executes on them.

I have a lot of fun writing about CRM -- the ideas, the tools and how they're brought together as a coherent strategy. CRM is a foundation on which to build relationships, layer on additional sales and support tools, and create a customer-centric business.

But this foundation needs a foundation. After all, businesses thrived even before CRM technology was invented, and they flourished long before the acronym was coined. While we in the CRM space like to say that you need a solid CRM foundation in place before you can grow to the next level (which, these days, is most often defined as social CRM), we tend to forget that CRM itself needs to rest on a solid foundation.
What is that foundation built on? A bunch of things that are, in general, never considered when we talk about CRM, but which can heavily influence CRM's effectiveness for good and for ill, based on how well the business executes on them.

There are many foundational things that every business should strive to master even before they have a CRM application in place, but here are five that serve as underpinnings for successful businesses, and thus as underpinnings of successful CRM efforts


Products and Services

Businesses exist to create customers, wrote Peter Drucker, but customers exist because they have needs. The bottom-line question for your customers is this: Do the things I buy from this business satisfy my needs?
The real issues here are quality and value. If your products are faulty or second-rate compared to the competitors, or if they're priced wrong, it doesn't matter what kind of CRM magic you work -- your sales funnel will be more like a conveyor belt, with prospects proceeding down the pipeline to customers and then, rapidly, to ex-customers. And over time, quality and pricing issues (and their unpleasant cousin, delivery issues) will erode your customer base and create poor word of mouth. Unless you remedy this issue, your business is doomed to failure.



Even with a good product or a well-delivered service, issues happen. A smart business understands this and has a plan in place to deal with these exceptions, and to do so in a way that assumes that customers are intelligent and, within reason, understanding.

Excuses that sound phony or inauthentic multiply the negative impact of a problem. Explanations that are sincere and candid, however, can have the exact opposite effect. For example, a very small business run by a friend took a serious delivery and production hit when its one employee was stricken by a nasty stomach flu just as a new product was supposed to ship. Rather than ignore the problem, he dragged himself to email and social media and explained the problem honestly. This brought a few angry customers but many more who sympathized and were understanding -- and, when he was able to return to work, almost no complaints about the delay.

Honesty as an underlying value of a business is not just morally laudable -- it's also key for forging better customer relationships and maintaining employee morale. Which brings us to ...


Employee Attitude

I like to say that a CRM strategy should start with hiring. Employees with a customer-focused attitude are an asset whether or not you've invested in CRM software. Conversely, employees who lack that attitude can take a CRM investment of any amount and effectively reduce its value to zero.

Your management takes the data you collect in CRM and translates it into directives for actions and interactions that mean something to the customers; your employees carry out those directives. Without the proper focus on the customer, management and employees are unlikely to connect the dots between data and dealings with the people who keep your business in business.


Cultural Respect for Process

CRM also helps automate many of the sales, marketing and support tasks that dominate most customer relationships. That allows your business to scale in terms of the number of customers each employee can care for. To do that, however, means that all employees who need to interface with CRM do so. That starts with the sales team and carries through to the rest of the organization; adhering to the process of using CRM is as important as adhering to any other company process.

There is an exception to this, however: When an employee sees an area where process is preventing customer satisfaction, he or she should be able to take action to override or modify the policy. Process and productivity mean nothing to individual customers, and employees need to be empowered to step out of process when necessary.


Commitment to Support

Too many businesses stop paying attention to their customers after the sale closes and only begin paying attention again when it's time to sell again. Smart businesses know that an ongoing relationship is the best route to ongoing sales, and a natural place for contact in that relationship comes in customer support.
Companies that have a commitment to support do a good job of meeting customers' needs regardless of whether they are a one-person shop with a single telephone line or a large corporation with several call centers -- the technology simply lets bigger businesses scale up more effectively. Sadly, when the emphasis is all on sales, support is seen as a cost center and doesn't get the care and feeding it deserves. That's why so many service calls leave customers more agitated at the end of the call than they were at the beginning, even if the problem that triggered the call is resolved.

When a business fails in any of these areas, the customer relationships that were the goal of its CRM investments are ruined -- which raises the question: Why did you invest in CRM if you weren't willing to build a foundation on which it could rest?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sales Forecasting: The Facts and the Fantasies


To many, the term "sales executive" conjures up images of five-star dinners and long afternoons on the golf course. But, as I'm sure any sales executive would tell you, the job entails more than simply schmoozing with clients and courting prospects. In reality, sales executives face enormous pressure to drive revenue and improve the profitability of their company, particularly since their performance has a direct impact on the bottom line. Their ability to provide accurate sales forecasts and deliver results based on those projections is essential to the overall health of the organization. Predictability is of the utmost importance.

Given the importance of their role, one would assume there are myriad tools and technologies available to assist sales executives in generating accurate sales forecasts. Unfortunately, there aren't.

Traditional CRM systems go a long way toward helping companies keep track of their sales activities and customer contacts, and they provide some reporting to help sales executives manage their functions. But sales teams need clear visibility into their pipeline -- past, present and future -- to help prioritize which deals to focus on in order to maximize revenue. This is where today's CRM solutions fall short.
From the "front lines" of sales to the corner office, sales forecasting solutions are needed to positively impact every level of an organization. While technology clearly cannot do the job alone, it can go a long way toward helping sales teams meet their goals and objectives.

Below are some facts (and fantasies) about sales forecasting solutions and how they impact each level of an enterprise sales organization.

Sales Representatives

Fact: Sales forecasting solutions retain historical data and trending information, helping sales reps properly prioritize deals and allocate their time efficiently.

As a sales rep, hitting quarterly numbers is a top priority. In order to do so, reps must learn from the past and focus on the most worthwhile deals in the pipeline. By using sales forecasting solutions, reps have immediate access to essential historical data captured by CRM systems, allowing them to conduct careful pipeline analysis with their sales managers and efficiently manage opportunities.

For example, analysis of the details behind historical won/lost deals can reveal patterns for success. These patterns can then be applied to current pipelines, segmenting deals into highly likely, highly unlikely, and those in the middle. With this understanding, reps and managers can then make sure that resources are appropriately apportioned, with a particular focus on those deals in the middle bucket, where you have a good chance to change the outcome of your top line.

Fantasy: Sales forecasting does the work for you.
It would be nuts to think that sales forecasting solutions close deals for sales reps -- but it sure can help with the heavy lifting. Identifying the most promising deals is only half the battle; it is just as critical that sales reps have visibility on where to focus their energy, continue to build best practices, and then move forward to close deals once the best course of action has been identified.


Sales Managers

Fact: Sales forecasting solutions provide sales managers with actionable sales data, saving them time and giving them additional opportunities to manage sales reps effectively.

The primary goal of sales management is to create an environment in which sales representatives can achieve outstanding results. But due to the high-pressure nature of sales, it is difficult for managers to focus on anything but numbers, leaving very little time for learning and development. By delivering quality data about a rep's current deal status, what's changed in the pipeline, and how the individual rep ranks against others on a team, sales forecasting solutions allow sales managers to conduct high-value, one-on-one coaching sessions. With this information at their fingertips, sales managers pick out specific areas that need improvement and address them, rather than waste time simply trying to make sense of CRM data.

Fantasy: Sales forecasting solutions automatically turn sales managers into all-star coaches.
Although forecasting solutions give sales managers more time with their direct reports, there is no guarantee that they will excel in this role. Often, sales managers are promoted because they are top-performing reps, not necessarily because they are recognized as leaders or coaches. Transforming from a top sales rep into a top sales manager takes more than sales forecasting technology, it takes the right employee and the right coaching.


Sales Operations

Fact: Sales forecasting solutions allow those in the sales operations role to implement an efficient sales process and provide high-value information to their organization.
One of the key components to running a successful organization is implementing an efficient sales process, a responsibility that falls squarely on the shoulders of sales operations. The biggest pain point sales operations must deal with while implementing a sales process is the time spent analyzing and compiling CRM data. Because traditional CRM systems do not offer forecast customization, sales operations are unable to quickly and accurately gauge sales velocity and close rates, forcing them to spend hours building extensive reports. With the additional insight offered by forecasting solutions, sales operations can bring the sales process out of spreadsheets allowing them to focus on higher level reporting.

Fantasy: Sales forecasting solutions won't make your CRM data more valuable.
By highlighting where data is incomplete and inaccurate, those in the sales operations role can identify people or groups that are not entering correct data into the CRM system. Insufficient data is a "people problem" that can be corrected by identifying those not properly inputting information into a system and taking the appropriate action.


Vice President of Sales

Fact: Sales forecasting solutions give the vice president of sales visibility into the big picture by offering a look at the overarching health of their teams and resources.
At the highest level of a sales organization, it is essential for executives to know how their team is performing against company goals and identify who might need additional support. By using sales forecasting solutions, sales executives can determine how likely it is that a company will meet its revenue goals based upon what the sales pipeline looked like the previous year.

Additionally, they can evaluate their top-line revenue acquisition rate and decide upon a course of action accordingly. Whether they need to push a little harder on the sales team, put more executive focus on key deals or be more aggressive with discounts, proper use of sales forecasting solutions uncovers subtle signs early on and can confirm trends.

Fantasy: Sales forecasting solutions are effective without senior-level support.
When it comes to implementing sales forecasting solutions, best practices start from the top and adoption by senior management is critical. Without a commitment from the vice president of sales, company-wide adoption of these solutions is extremely difficult.


The Bottom Line

CRM just isn't enough -- sales teams need sales forecasting technology solutions to help them get the results they strive for. Now is the time for organizations to move beyond traditional CRM. It is possible to have more accurate forecasts.

Companies deploying sales forecasting solutions today have this and more. Higher win rates, increased sales rep efficiency, and accelerated revenue are possible with the right technology in place

Friday, April 6, 2012

Enable Your Sales Team to Close Deals With Mobile CRM


People from my generation might remember the expression about the early bird getting the worm. Used to be that salespeople literally got up early, hit the road and started visiting clients. These days, things have changed. So how do you become an early bird in the computer era? One way is to adopt trending technologies, like cloud computing, that will enable your sales team to close deals with mobile CRM software.

Get the edge on the competition with fast response. It’s no longer enough to provide a good product or service at a competitive price; you have to be first, or one of the first, on the scene of the sale. Now that we can express ourselves with the click of a button or a mouse, and can change our Facebook status to reflect every change in mood, customers want things quickly. If they don’t get a fast response, they’ll move on. Heck, even the President of the United States relies on his BlackBerry for fast communication.

By equipping the sales force with mobile CRM software, they get full access to all the data needed to close deals. No one in sales—not the customer, not the salesperson—wants to wait longer than they have to; waiting for the laptop to get online or looking for lost notes prior to an important meeting just gets frustrating for everyone.

Mobile CRM, on the other hand, gives the sales representatives access to accounts, schedules, contact information, notes, customer details, previous sales, inventory, and even competitors’ prices. After the sale is complete, the rep has the ability to give real-time updates to the office, so that everyone can stay in the loop. This technology cuts downtime while it increases productivity. Customers get more valuable one-to-one time with less office detail time wasted.

Additionally, the sales staff can get little advantages that can help them beat out the competition, like being able to quickly review details about a customer and their sales history just prior to a personal meeting. They are better able to please the corporate office because it is so easy to do their reporting about customer calls they have just made.

For a case in point about the benefits of using mobile CRM, let’s look at the transportation and agriculture equipment supplier, Platinum Equipment. They track about 4,000 customer and prospect records on their mobile CRM software program. This allows their sales team to constantly update customer information about buying habits and equipment needs. This gives them a heads up when they have a special offer that a certain customer would most likely be interested in. The results? Higher sales figures by the field force. Sales representatives can also send their customers things like specification sheets and quotes on their BlackBerry smartphones.

In addition the sales force, those in the warehouse and main offices can keep tabs on inventory and orders with a good CRM system. Customers are always asking salespeople for discounts, and want to know if any sales are coming up. With a cloud-based CRM application, all relevant data can be accessed by the sales force, including future planning for promotions. Having this information available at the touch of a finger can make the difference between good customer relations and a sale, or a customer who will shop around for a better deal.

The better a company can enable their sales team to be flexible and have all the information they need when they need it, on the spot, the more deals those salespeople can close. Mobile CRM can really help your salespeople to be the early birds, and to get all the best worms—without too much digging.

Monday, April 2, 2012

11 Sales Tips for Cold Calling and Prospecting

Guest post by Steve Richard co-founder at Vorsight:
No doubt all of us need to get better about marketing ourselves and our offerings with creative content.  But what about maximizing your normal cold calling and prospecting activity?

11 Sales Tips for Cold Calling and Prospecting:

  1. What is your caller ID strategy?
  2. You are probably getting the title of your correct contact, but do you know the reporting structure?
  3. Do you understand why calling into direct lines is so critical and how to find your prospects’ direct lines?
  4. Have you optimized your time management to capitalize on call windows and phone stalking opportunities?
  5. Do you revisit your talking points periodically to more effectively tell your story and stand out from the vendor  noise and static?
  6. What conversational lead ins do you deploy to break the telemarketer role and quickly establish rapport as a business development professional?
  7. Do you overcome your prospects’ initial knee jerk reaction objections to taking a meeting the same way that you overcome objections to closing?
  8. Are you using non-commercial emails as part of your outreach strategy?
  9. Have you incorporated social media into your emails and voicemails to add an extra dimension of personalization and customization?
  10. Are you monitoring process metrics that serve as leading indicators to getting a meeting?
  11. What qualification questions (like BANT) are you asking to ensure that you spend your time on the prospects that are most likely to buy?

A Sales Prospecting Story.

Many sales reps really struggle with their initial lead in to build rapport.  Next time you’re making cold calls try using the title of the person you are calling as an ice breaker, then clarify their responsibilities to show them that you did your homework.  This lead in technique can help you convert 50% more initial cold conversations into meetings.
It Plays out on the Phone like this:
“This is David”
“Hi David, Steve Richard from Vorsight.  Do you have a sec.”
“Sure, what’s this regarding?”
“It’ll only take a minute to explain.  I understand that you are the VP of Marketing of ABC Corp, is that right?”
“Yes, on a good day.”
“And you oversee the online marketing strategy including email marketing, SEO, social media, etc, correct?
“Are you familiar with Vorsight?”
“Rings a bell, but go ahead.”
“We are an interesting story…”
Now you are free to tell a quick story to get their attention, do some initial qualification and set up a meeting if a fit for both parties.
Give it a try — it works!