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Sales Strategy & Management

Beat the Recession with CRM

Use CRM to protect existing customer revenues, safeguard customer loyalty and unearth latent revenue opportunities within your customer base

Monique Verduyn

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In a down economy, customers expect more for their hard-earned cash – more value, more service and more attention. In response, savvy businesses are being more frugal with their spending, putting their money into areas that improve sales, enhance customer service or help them gain operational efficiencies. Companies that stay current with technology improvements and invest in customer relationship management (CRM) solutions to better understand and serve their customers will capture greater market share now and have a competitive advantage when the economy bounces back.

The Value of Relationships

“Consumers are trimming their spending at the moment with many people feeling the pinch of the global slow down,” says Nathalie Ing, customer intelligence business lead at SAS Institute South Africa. “With a change in budget comes a change in buying habits. Consumers are better informed and are seeking greater value with less tolerance for irrelevant marketing messages and bad service levels.”

She recommends an approach increasingly based on value derived through the relationship with the customer. A critical differentiator will be to provide quality, relevant and accurate messages at the very point of contact, in realtime, with your customers.

“Customer loyalty can be achieved through the power of analytics: being able to gain more specific understanding of what your customers want through accurate segmentation, propensity analysis, lifetime value and customer profitability for example, to drive the efficiency of marketing campaigns. By targeting the right customer with the next best conversation or offer at the right time, reduced marketing budgets can be spent with precision,” adds Ing.

Converting leads to customers

The lead conversion black hole has long been the cause of dispute between marketing and sales teams. The challenge is to achieve what everyone wants: improved sales revenues through qualified leads. “There are many best practices you can tailor within your CRM solution which will guide people to process leads consistently and quickly to move them along the sales pipeline,” says Vivek Thomas, Maximizer MD, EMEA. “By using a lead or task module within a CRM system, the call-to-action items automatically appear for the appropriate member of the team and next steps and deadlines are clearly identified.”

Additionally, a standard list of lead qualification questions by customer to assess budget, authority, need, and timeline will help representatives understand and define customer needs. Whether a lead stems from a trade show, or direct mail, not all leads are ready to buy right away so it’s critical to standardise and update your lead status.

“It is important to stay in touch with organisations by building the following up tactics into your CRM system,” says Thomas. “To do this, segment and target your communications and intersperse them with actions such as event invitations, webcasts and seminars.” To ensure leads are followed up and passed through the lead cycle in a timely manner, you can use your CRM solution to monitor the timeframe in which tasks are completed by establishing system alerts for an effective follow-up process.  “This is where a CRM solution plays a vital role in the success or failure of a marketing campaign for your business,” Thomas adds.

Cost-cutting is not enough

Jeremy Waterman, MD of Softline Accpac, agrees that CRM is an invaluable partner in this economic storm. Cost reduction on its own, he says, isn’t going to steer a business safely through the slump; you need to also look closely at how to safeguard revenues and profitability, starting with your customer base.

“Companies have seen a rapid decline in cash flow as a result of slowing customer demand and evaporating lines of credit,” says Waterman. “There has been a sudden rush to cut spending, and while this has been understandable it’s simply not enough. Without looking closely at how to protect revenues, you’re just delaying the inevitable: more painful cost reductions and the very real possibility of sliding into an irrevocable decline.” Selling more to existing customers may be the first priority during a downturn, but the important task of acquiring new customers cannot be overlooked. Selling to new prospects, however, is generally regarded as being five to ten times more costly than selling to an existing customer, so improving sales and marketing efficiency will be vital for growing your customer numbers during the downturn. “CRM, and the latest generation of CRM products have an important role to play in this regard. In times of recession, CRM solutions can allow you to extend the reach and effectiveness of your new business sales and marketing programmes through ongoing process improvements, productivity enhancements and significant cost savings,” Waterman says.

Beat the downturn

Waterman explains that in a downturn, CRM enables you to:

  • Grow your revenue share within your existing customer base
  • Understand the true cross-sell and up-sell opportunity of every one of your customers in order to maximise the profitability of every relationship
  • Dramatically reduce your cost-per-lead by delivering highly targeted marketing communications to specific customers or segments
  • Cut the amount of time and cost it takes to resolve service issues without compromising an exceptional service experience that keeps your customers loyal
  • Provide decentralised empowerment to your customer-facing staff in a way that will drive their productivity and effectiveness while still retaining central control over headline resource, performance and budget management
  • Capture new businesses at a far lower cost-of-sale than was possible previously
  • Lower your cost-of-sale by always ensuring that your sales team is focused on the opportunities that are most likely to close
  • Dramatically reduce cost-per-lead by delivering highly targeted and consistent marketing messages to specific prospects or market segments
  • Introduce marketing accountability, so you can ensure that you are getting the right level of return from every marketing rand you spend
  • Ensure consistent processes are followed, with clear key performance indicators which create solid discipline and greater predictability for sales and service personnel
  • Strip administration out of your organisation, so there’s less paperwork, errors and task repetition, and less cost as a result
  • Provide decentralised empowerment to your business development staff in a way that will drive their productivity and effectiveness while still retaining central control over headline resource, performance and budget management

“In a downturn, CRM should not be viewed as a discretionary initiative; it is now an operational and financial imperative for all SMEs. It allows you to leverage opportunities and proactively grow your revenue share through highly focused business development programmes which replace sporadic interaction with true customer lifecycle management. CRM, therefore, helps you deliver exceptional and personalised service consistently to your customers during challenging times,” Waterman adds.

Answer that call – contact centre solutions for SMBs

For the smaller business, CRM begins with the basics. If you don’t have a full-time person to answer the phone, you’re losing business. Work With Me offers a simple service that diverts incoming calls from your line to its office. When a call is received, the system recognises the number which has been dialled and immediately launches your details onto the computer screen. Work With Me agents answer the call in your company name and either transfer the call to you or take a message that is SMSed to you along with the caller’s details. The service operates from 8:00 to 17:00 Monday to Friday. In addition, any information received via your allocated fax number and email address will be received by the contact centre and forwarded to you.

Incorporating CRM into your organisation

  • If you use popular software solutions like MS Outlook, choose CRM and contact management solutions that can easily be integrated. Embedded small business CRM software applications add value to Outlook in many ways:
  • Enhanced sales, service and marketing functionality
  • Improved email functionality
  • Shared Outlook address book across the network
  • Shared Outlook tasks and calendars
  • Improved record features and management
  • Industrial strength database for better performance

You can capture customer emails with a single click and with this capability you and your sales team can associate correspondence to the appropriate contact, account or opportunity for sales activity tracking.
Having an integrated solution means no synchronisation process is required; there are no external database hassles, and no problems when you work offline. Every contact you make, every activity you perform, every task you assign is automatically available in Outlook.

Choose an integrated sales, marketing, customer support and call centre automation solution that is Internet and WAP enabled, providing users with access anytime, anywhere via a web browser or wireless device. These are designed to integrate seamlessly with other business software and back office applications, providing you with a holistic view of each customer.  They allow your users access to vital customer, partner and related transactional data. Full integration to other business-critical solutions used every day, such as accounting software and proprietary systems, ensure that your CRM solution is a portal to all the data and applications you count on to help you manage your business.

For more information on CRM and call centre solutions, contact these companies:

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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Sales Strategy & Management

Get Those Quotas Moving (Upward!) In 2018! 5 Things Your Salespeople Can Do

Fewer than half of salespeople make quota, on average. Here are some best practices for to help them hit their targets in the new year.

John Holland

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Whether they had a tremendous 2017 or a difficult one, sellers likely hit the re-set button with the start of this new year. And that button push probably was accompanied by more aggressive quotas for those sellers to achieve in 2018.

So, what should sellers do to gear up for the coming year? As 2018 gets under way, here are five things I can share to help sellers get off to a good start.

1. Avoid stale quotes and proposals

Unlike fine red wine, proposals that have been in the sales pipeline more than 45 days old aren’t getting better. Many of them, in fact, are likely to have “no decision” outcomes.

So, if you’re the seller, what’s going on? There may be instances where your prospects have chosen a competitor and not given you the bad news. My suggestion is to send a snail mail letter, “return receipt requested,” to the highest level you’ve called on within the account. State in the letter how long the proposal has been outstanding, noting that you haven’t been updated on its status and that you intend to withdraw if you don’t hear anything back.

Related: 3 Questions To Guide You To Success In 2018

The hope is that your letter will cause the buyer to contact you and say there is still interest. If that’s the case, you can ask to revisit the opportunity (help facilitate a cost vs. benefit analysis) and see if a revised recommendation can be made.

If your letter doesn’t elicit a response, you can safely remove it from your forecast. While that’s not the desired outcome, you’ll have the benefit of a more realistic view of the size and health of your pipeline.

2. Create add-on opportunities

Sellers often believe that if customers have additional needs, they’ll proactively reach out. Certainly, close rates will be higher when there is an existing relationship vs. when sellers are closing new accounts. That’s why sellers should take a look at each client and try to determine potential business needs that might be addressed through the use of their company’s offerings; they should then proactively contact the key players who might be interested.

The key to initiating add-on opportunities is taking executives from latent to active need for a company’s desired business outcomes.

3. Be realistic with nurtured leads

If the cost of your offerings exceeds $50,000, you may want to take a hard look at the entry level that nurtured leads provide. My view is that many of those leads get sellers in touch with people that are doing product evaluations. So, those people may not be working with budgets and have not identified potential areas of value/payback that can be realised through the use of your offerings.

Ask yourself if the contact you’ve been given is a potential champion who can provide you access to the key players you must call on to sell, fund and implement the offering being considered. If not, I suggest you treat the contact as a coach that may be willing to get you an introduction to a higher level that may then serve as your champion. My thought is to gain access to people who will see value in your offerings.

Related: How South Africa’s Small Businesses Plan To Invest Their Money In 2018

4. Ask for referrals

Satisfied customers can be under-used assets, especially if sellers can help them quantify results.

My preference is that sellers break down benefits and values specific to titles and outcomes that have been achieved using those sellers’ offerings.

Once quantified, sellers can ask if their customers know of any other individuals or companies they could be referred to.

5. Plan a sales cycle ahead

When I was in engineering school, I was a “just-in-time” learner in that I studiously avoided professors who assigned homework and also approached midterm and final exams with some last-minute cramming.

Some sellers follow my academic model – and that’s not smart: In terms of their year quota, many sellers who are not YTD against their numbers believe they can close enough business in the last quarter to make up for their previous gaps. But this is a very stressful strategy, and there will be times when sellers run out of runway.

An alternative I’d suggest is for sellers to break their quota into monthly increments and multiply that number by the months in an average sales cycle. They can then estimate their close rates and set pipeline thresholds they should try to exceed.

Once they’re at the stage of interviewing committee members, sellers can then negotiate their activities and time frames via a written document with buyers (I call this pipeline “E”). Here’s an example of how to project ahead:

  • A seller has a $2.4 million quota ($200,000/month).
  • Her average sales cycle is four months and her close rate is 50 percent.
  • Therefore, her “E” target is to close $800,000 or more every four-month period.
  • At any time, if she is YTD or better, her E target will be $1.6 million in her pipeline.
  • In a given month, any shortfall from YTD must be doubled and added to that $1.6 million; business development efforts must be ramped up.

Being aware of YTD performance to date and projecting the sales cycle that’s ahead on a monthly basis can reduce stress levels during Q4.

And reducing stress is good, right? I hope these tips can help make your 2018 a great, and de-stressed, year.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Sales Strategy & Management

(Podcast) Are All Prices Negotiable?

Person, socialisation, product, place – what are the key differentiating factors between those who negotiate price and those who don’t? And who determines the value of a product?

Nicholas Haralambous

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What is up for negotiation? When should you be negotiating prices, and when should you be open to negotiating prices with your customers?

Person, socialisation, product, place – what are the key differentiating factors between those who negotiate price and those who don’t? And who determines the value of a product?

Listening time: 8 minutes

Related: (Podcast) Phone Calls Often Solve Email Problems

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Sales Strategy & Management

Sales Leadership: The New Frontier

The Leadership skill of Influencing people increasingly trumps “hard selling techniques” as people enjoy the feeling that they are forced into buying a certain product less and less.

Dirk Coetsee

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“Once upon a time only certain people were in sales. Every day, these folks sold stuff, the rest of us did stuff, and everyone was happy. One day, the world began to change. More of us started working for ourselves- and because we were entrepreneurs, suddenly we became salespeople, too. At the same time, large operations discovered that segmenting job functions did not work very well during volatile business conditions-and because of that, they began demanding elastic skills that stretched across boundaries and included a sales component.” – Daniel Pink

The transformation of sales persons to Sales Leaders is not only the essence of this article but increasingly becoming a necessity, considering the skills demand required to convince people to buy your product or service within an modern environment wherein the consumer is spoilt for choice.

Related: 3 Strategies For Closing Sales Without Picking Up The Phone

In general staples in the make up of old school sales training was and in some cases still is: Product knowledge, fielding sales calls in a friendly way yet creating urgency, learning the ability to overcome client objections and of course do not forget the all-important methods of upselling.

All those elements of selling are still important in general yet “soft skills” such as active listening, handling conflict, and above all removing the emphasis from selling a product or service to selling an enhanced lifestyle or life experience has become the new frontier for the sales game.

The Leadership skill of Influencing people increasingly trumps “hard selling techniques” as people enjoy the feeling that they are forced into buying a certain product less and less. The “parrot method” of drilling sales scripts into the salesforce of the company is slowly but surely becoming obsolete as people want to feel that they are being cared about and considered within the sales process as individuals. “Caring for the other person is the only leverage in any conversation”, Gary Vaynerchuk says.

The above theory calls for a balance between Sales Leaders whom inspires their sales teams to create a personal, professional, and vibrant environment for their customers wherein which they are highly motivated to buy, and Sales managers whom monitor the key sales metrics and checks that sales procedures are being followed. In the modern world both Sales Leadership and management are needed at each end of the balancing scale.

Still, to this day an unfortunate large proportion of sales people are like lambs put to the slaughter, within some situations, as the only weapon taught to them is product knowledge and wearing a smile and then suddenly a very unhappy customer unleashes their anger upon them, and now the poor sales person has no knowledge in terms of how to deal with conflict, generally speaking. How to cope with and overcome conflict and other negotiation skills has become paramount in sustaining very good client relations.

Ethical Leadership is also strongly put forward as a necessary component of any sales training or course through this article. Sales techniques filtered through the companies Vision, mission statement and value system to test its validity and alignment to the companies’ culture can be increasingly effective as opposed to simply applying generic methods of selling which is not always aligned to the company ethos. A high level of ethics amongst Sales Leaders can ensure that after sales promises are kept and that the product sold is in effect as good as propagated by the sales person.

Related: The 5 Best Actions You Can Take To Improve Sales Calls

When a servant leadership culture is prevalent within your company it goes a long way to ensure that your sales people create a caring and positive experience complimented by an enhanced after sales service. Servant Leadership within a sales context is to put the customers’ and teams’ purpose above the individual team members purpose and that by itself is a potential multiplier of sales performance.

A highly important factor within the context of sales performance is the sales Leaders’ ability to formulate the right questions to be asked of the client in order to create a very pleasant experience. Statements in general can be quite dangerous as it is normally viewed as final and very hard to take back once communicated. Questions on the other hand requires an answer and when posed in a caring way can quickly establish rapport with a client.

Subtle nuances picked up by the Sales Leader through asking the right questions can greatly assist in creating positive client engagement. A practical example would be to refrain from the very obvious question of:  how are you? People are so used to being asked this question that they are not likely to give you a very open and honest answer and will be likely to provide you with very generic answers such as, “Fine thank you, “Well thanks and you”, and so forth.

By very simply changing the question to: “How are you feeling today? “, the very perceptive Sales Leader can relatively easily pick up on the client’s emotional state and adjust the conversation from there in order to create rapport.

In Summary, this writing actually asks one question to all CEOs’ and/or boards that must take their companies forward towards a desired future state: Do you want sales people and managers whom are likely to maintain the status quo, or do you seek Sales Leaders whom will challenge the status quo and will always be willing to ask more of themselves in terms of increased skill levels and performance?

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