Sales and the CRM: What Are You Waiting For?

aaronhowertonWritten by guest blogger, Aaron Howerton, Business Manager  for Cloud Interview,  follow Aaron on Twitter at @aaron_howerton.  Aaron is also a panelist for the Social Media/Sales Panel Discussion happening next Tuesday, November 12th during Entrepreneur Week

Sales and the CRM: What are you waiting for?

In many sales trainings, you’ll learn about the rule of 3rds.  It’s a simple concept that separates successful sales teams from average sales teams and it goes like this: one third of your leads will always buy; one third will be on the fence; and one third will always reject. What separates the average from the excellent salesperson is the ability to close that middle third where decision makers straddle the fence.   Closing that middle third really comes down to one key trait – having and using a system.  In today’s world that means having a CRM (Client Relationship Manager).

Let’s first list a few perks of a fully functional CRM to make a case for why it’s important.  Here’s a few right off the top of my head: on-the-fly access to client data, automated workflows to make sure you don’t miss a step with new client implementations, call logs, contact records, contract documents, interdepartmental communication, marketing automation, web forms, lead generation, documented sales cycles and accountability, live data on revenue, custom performance reports… do we need a few more?  With estimates on ROI exceeding 400% in many cases, I believe you should be thinking about adding a CRM to your operations to help maximize your potential for revenue through increased sales and more efficient operations.  That being said, choosing a CRM is challenging and there are several key aspects to consider when you start down this road.

Professionally Guided. Many businesses waste thousands of dollars on these tools because they fail to consider the value of outside help and try to go it alone.  Much like doing a remodel, getting halfway through and realizing you need help will almost always end up costing more than if you had simply gone with outside help to begin with.  While it’s completely possible to learn all you need to know about the platform, is it really the best use of your time?  For most people the answer is no.  Measure your strengths on this field and look for help if you need it.  In the end, having this partner in place can save you thousands and help ensure a successful implementation.

Selection.  There are a variety of CRM options in the marketplace today.  You have to choose between cloud-based platforms like Salesforce, Zoho, and Interactive360 or locally hosted options like Daylight and MicrosoftCRM.  You’ll need to consider the total ownership costs and which groups should be included (sales, marketing, service, projects, etc).   Ultimately, you’ve got to know why you want it and what you want it to do before you can decide which one to adopt.  As a general rule, smaller businesses with less than 100 staff don’t need the more expensive options and can suffice with lower cost or “freemium” (free entry level accounts) as a starting point for discovering their overall needs and a test deployment is always a good idea.

Implementation.  Successful implementation will make the difference between wasted money and efficient teams.  Most systems have an out-of-the-box set that works okay, but you’ll quickly find the need for customization to maximize efficiency.  To that end, you’ll have to think about workflow and assignment rules, user securities, calendars, chat, sales cycle, reporting… the list goes on.  Additionally, and perhaps most crucial, is employee training.  If you don’t train them and get them engaged, you can’t be disappointed when they fail to use it.  In fact, the same research touting 400% ROI makes a key differentiation between companies engaged in the use and those that are not.  I’ll give you one guess which one hits the goal.

Mobile.  Mobile is crucial because not all sales teams are anchored to a desk.  Having on the fly access to client data is becoming increasingly important, even in towns like Amarillo where you can still do deal on a handshake.   This also supports the typical sales professional’s personality profile – details are often not a strong suit (no offense intended to my sales professional friends).   Make it easy, make it mobile, and make it useful.  Most sales professionals don’t need one more thing to do.  They need the one thing that makes all the things they do make sense.

Regular Maintenance.  CRMs are a lot like vehicles in that they need regular maintenance and review to ensure things are still working optimally.  As you grow with your CRM, you’ll find it becomes easier to see gaps and identify improvement points.  You may also pick up the knowledge you need, either through training or simple daily use, to make small adjustments as you go.  Significant projects may require you again seek professionals that can help, but by that point you’ll readily see the benefit of having that help come in or be on staff full time.

Having an excellent sales team and ensuring potential deals of all sizes don’t fall between the cracks comes down to the professionally guided selection and implementation of a mobile CRM platform that is regularly maintained.  There is help available and with a solid adoption plan the returns can be substantial as you see more of your sales team reach that middle third.  The only real question now is what are you waiting for?  There will never be a better time to improve yourself or your company than right now.

May your story be your own!

 For more on this topic and to speak to Aaron Howerton about this blog, RSVP to the Happy Hour & Social Media/Sales Panel Discussion happening Tuesday, November 12th from 4 to 6pm at the WT Enterprise Center! RSVP to Entrepreneur Week!  

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