Sales Centric CRM

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Sales Centric CRM is familiar and comfortable for the salesperson to use and increases adoption. Winning sales methodology is baked into the app and provides a constant direction that the salesperson should follow for the best shot at winning. Sale centric CRM builds a platform of increased efficiency for salespeople to become much more effective. Double digit increases in sales are easily obtained and maintained through diligent use of the application.

Salespeople still have trouble adopting CRM. Surprising — because, way back in time, salespeople were first to adapt contact management apps to collect and store customer information to help them with the in the sales process. Sales opportunities were later added, and contact management morphed into sales automation. When other customer facing departments tapped into the customer databases to collaborate and share information, CRM came about.

At last, salespeople could check their service department’s activity before entering an account, avoiding messy situations they did not know about — thanks to CRM shared information. Leads gathered by Marketing became instantly available to sales, making it easier to provide faster response than competitors (unless competitors also had functioning CRM systems too.) CRM pushed transparency across the company, everyone knew what the other was doing.

CRM apps now store data that salespeople depend on to do their job (if information has been entered properly.) Account, customer, and opportunity data should be there in one place — there’s no need to go hunting for it in files scattered throughout the company. Importantly, customer interactions are recorded too, providing a historical record of completed sales which all the sales team can benefit from.

Information retrieval is one aspect of CRM that is appreciated by salespeople. This benefit is only possible though, if data on everyday customer interactions is diligently entered into the system. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. “Bad data is worse than no data” has a ring of truth about it. Salespeople themselves are a little suspicious of transparency and sometimes leery about sharing their knowledge around the company.

The shared customer knowledge store has had an instant positive impact on sales. This is pure CRM in action, sharing knowledge across many customer facing functions, but principally sales, marketing and service. Salespeople win because their efficiency goes up. They do more actual selling because they spend less time tracking and retrieving information needed for their strategies to win.

Sales Automation

But, salespeople need much more than solid knowledge surrounding the sale (the sales environment.) Selling, being competitive, depends on a strong sense of strategy and tactics that change and weave within the sales cycle — the time it takes to for the sale to evolve from start to finish. This falls outside the scope of pure CRM and is best described as sales automation. Yes, sales automation can be woven into the CRM application, but it can also exist outside it.

A company can operate a working sales automation app without using CRM. Don’t get me wrong, it’s better to have the sales app engrained or baked with in the CRM. CRM doesn’t help much with the strategic side of the sales process, but it is a great environment to house the sales automation app which does. Regular CRM provides efficiency and sales automation provides effectiveness. Sales centric CRM compounds the two e’s (efficiency and effectiveness), making it possible for real increases in sales. Both e’s depend on computer power and come under the general scope of computational selling. Let’s take a look at some capabilities of sales centric CRM.

T, A, S AND C, the four pillars of sales management

Salespeople benefit most from CRM if information is organized for easy retrieval and analysis in their daily routines. The TASC model of Territory, Account, Sales Opportunity and Contact Management concisely cover how sales related knowledge can be grouped into sensible silos that are easily understood and utilized by salespeople:

Territory Management

Mainly thought of in terms of geography, but not always. Territories define the accounts over which each salesperson has responsibility. Sales managers usually are more into Territory Management than the salespeople themselves. Dividing business into appropriate chunks for the sales team to handle is an ongoing and sometimes stressful chore.

Account management

Accounts are important. Sales activities are more efficient when driven at the account level. Customized marketing and sales projects target multiple contacts within an account. Good account management leads to very efficient selling.

Sales Opportunity Management

Sales opportunities are the life blood of the sales team. At any one time, even in a small company there usually hundreds of potential “deals” in motions. Some will be won and some lost. This is where sales automation really helps to improve the win/loss ratio in sales. A computer can keep track of multiple opportunities with varying sales cycles and carrying different degrees of risk.

A computer can be taught the vital timing and strategic direction of the sales cycle and the sales process. Until salespeople are opened up to computer automation that includes a model of the sale, they will be continually be held hostage by more agile competitors who have already adopted true computational selling.

Contact Management

This is where CRM has its foundations. In sales it’s impossible to know too much about the customer, and in CRM the contact management section is the place to go get it.  For an unambiguous description of a contact it’s easiest to settle on “a contact is a person.” Often accounts are referred to as customers, which doesn’t help the simple minded computer to be crystal clear. It’s another reason to have a hierarchy — contacts (people) reside in accounts, and accounts reside in territories. Sounds simple but good CRM apps are rigid about this and avoid the outcome of distorted, missing, or incorrect data.

So, sales centric CRM organizes and presents data in the way a salesperson likes to see it, and if salespeople like it, they use it.

Sales Opportunity Management

Opportunity management rises to the top of the TASC discussion because it is most important, by far, of the four organizational pillars. Grouping opportunities is important.  Looking closely at sorted lists of opportunities provides the salesperson and sales manager insights of time and resource allocation to get the best value — the most wins from the available business. This is sales centric CRM’s importance in creating efficiencies. The sales team wastes less time on following bad business deals.

Sales automation increases effectiveness. A principal indicator of effectiveness is priority — which opportunity to work on first. A list of opportunities sorted by priority will tell the salesperson to work one opportunity ahead of another. The thing is, the most attractive deal doesn’t always take precedence over one that looks less likely to win. This idea is not always evident to the busy salesperson. It runs counter to a natural instinct to go where you feel comfortable — a friendlier or more accommodating customer, or maybe a situation with a higher expectation of winning.

A sales automation app can provide excellent feedback on progress in the sales cycle if it knows a few things provided by the salesperson such as: the expected length of the sales cycle, which phase the sales cycle is in and a simple estimation of the probability of winning. Usually these parameters change to different degrees throughout the sales cycle and it’s important for the salesperson to stay on top of the changes. Winning strategies have to be continually reviewed and tweaked for the best results. Sales automation embedded and in CRM is in the face of the salesperson daily and ensures that nothing gets overlooked — moreover that precious selling time is maximized.

Sales Process Workflow

The sales process has attributes that are identifiable and repeatable — thats why it’s possible to teach a computer what to expect and predict in the progression of the sale. In this way intelligent advice can be passed on to the salesperson providing a winning edge over the competition.

David Allen is the best selling author of wildly popular books on personal time management concepts which he classifies under the general heading of “Getting Things Done.” In his book “Making It All Work” David postulates that the sales process could use the same ideas. He wrote, “. . one day someone woke up and realized that there was a characteristic, identifiable sales process. Some individuals understood it more intuitively and spontaneously than others, but it actually involved a particular set of procedures that could be taught, learned and implemented.” (Emphasis mine.)

It is this concept – a consistent and unified sales workflow – that we have identified as the basis for the getting things done in sales. And in sales, getting things done means opportunity management, and that is what we’ll be examining, the GTD of sales — Getting Sales Done.

In his book, Allen posits five stages of mastering workflow. Simply put, these are the five steps you take to get things under control so you can get them done. All of these have an analogue in sales, specifically in applying the principles of GTD in opportunity management, and we’ll go into greater depth examining them.

Our special insight into this is that, along with others, we realized many years ago that there is a definable sales process, and we took it a step further. If you can define a process, really define it with specific and consistent meaning and repeatable steps linked to distinct and explicit sets of circumstances, then you can automate that process. In short, you can teach it to a computer. All of our articles on Allen’s book and concepts bring this single, unique vision to the study of Allen’s work.

Computational Selling and Sales Centric CRM

In summary, if we bring technology to the parallel visions of CRM and SFA, we have achieved SALES-CENTRIC CRM – a tool to improve ways to move closer to the customer in synergy with making the sales team more effective at closing opportunities. We’ll have much more in future posts about this idea and how it works in practice.

The Difficult Close

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Most closing strategies assume that you developed the correct selling strategy for the opportunity and properly executed effective tactics. Closing then becomes the natural result of the strategy and tactics, and done right, it is seamless and predictable. Of course, it usually doesn’t work that way

Take a look at your won/lost ratio. It’s your professional batting average and what it tells you is the probably 75% of the time, give or take, you lose. So three times out of four when you arrive at the closing phase of the sales cycle, it’s, if not clear, then at least likely that you’re not going to win this one. So what do you do at that point?

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Arm Yourself With A New Sales Strategy and Sales Tool: Change

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Change. It happens all the time, and sales cycles are no exception. Maybe even more often than in other professions, change happens. You’ve got a mix of personalities and factors. You’ve got a winner-takes-all process with dollars and careers on the line. There is competition, sometimes severe competition. There are others out there whose goal is to screw you over. They make plans, set their tactics to do so in secret and will spring them on you unannounced.

And that’s just on the selling side. On the buying side, you have many of the same factors. Budgets disappear, organizations re-organize, schedules expand or contract, urgency disappears or increases, new solutions to old problems are found, and so on.

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Selling Is a Full-Contact Sport

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Times they are a-changing… and so is the face of selling. While selling remains a full-contact sport, there are some rules changes. Before we look at these, let’s examine the sport of Buying.

Unlike selling, buying has moved to being a non-contact sport for many items. Nowadays, buyers can actually sit in front of their televisions with a remote control and a telephone and make purchases without ever coming in contact with a salesperson. Within a very few years, buyers won’t even need the telephone. You’ll simply push a few buttons on your remote control and a signal will be sent from the TV to the remote site and the order will be placed, your credit card debited, and, in some cases, the product might even be delivered before you turn off your TV for the day. Sound far-fetched? It’s already a reality for pay TV, so why not with simple commodities?

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The Trial Close Surprise: I Want To Buy From You, But…

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“I want to buy from you, but the rest of the committee doesn’t.”

The words struck fear and dread in my heart. I was hoping to close the biggest sale I’d ever made, but when I called expecting to hear that the PO was on the way, instead I heard:

“I want to buy from you, but the rest of the committee doesn’t.”

“What committee?” I stammered.

“The other four professors. The rest of the purchasing committee,” came the reply.

“I didn’t know there was a committee,” I blurted out, incredulity infecting my voice.

“Well, you never asked. I just assumed you knew.”

This was the first I had heard about any committee. What the heck was I going to do now?

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What is Selling Part 2

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I’m tackling the answer to this question by focusing on just one angle—building up a model sales process to work naturally with sales automation. It’s of particular interest to me because I’ve spent a fair chunk of my life doing just that. Because I describe sales predominantly in the language I’m defining in these posts, you might guess that a conversation between myself and a sales trainer or sales guru of the standard stripe has no option but to get very loud and even confrontational. They usually invent their clever terms and are unlikely to agree with my pursuit of a common, consistent language.

But that’s OK—as Paul Young sang, “Everything Must Change.

We designed our first production CRM application in the early nineties. It was very much sales centric. Basically, the three cornerstones of CRM technology are marketing, sales, and service. Our business was sales—we were a national distributor of high technology products and our foray into CRM was designed to make our sales team flourish. To make the story short, the sales methodology we devised centered around the sales opportunity, which we called an IBO (Identified Business Opportunity). There was strong workflow for lead conversion and the sales process to win deals. So when we commercialized the program, that’s what we promoted to people who were interested in purchasing the technology.

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What Is Selling?

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A big peeve of mine is the terrible inconsistency in the language of sales. Ask five salespeople what a sales cycle is and you’ll get five different answers, and it’s conceivable that a couple of those may have no relation to one another. Considering the dearth of formal sales training at academic level this is understandable, but it can lead to enormous frustration in discussions about how technology may improve selling.

I don’t know of any other professions where this is true. Most professional vocabularies were decided and locked centuries ago, and sooner rather than later, sales and selling will have to follow suit. In a previous post I referred to my 1950’s series of business books. The book on selling has a small section titled “What is Selling?” that goes on for around three pages. It basically condenses to this:

“The successful sale consists of the following elements:

1. It induces others to buy a commodity or service

2. Which confers some needed benefit on them, and

3. At a price which yields a profit to the company”

This is also the way I understand it — it’s not rocket science. Selling is the ability of the salesperson to persuade a customer to purchase their company’s commodity or service, thereby yielding a benefit to the customer and a profit for the company.

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