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Category Archives: Sales Tools


Productivity Tips for Sales Teams with iPads and Tablets

by on May 11, 2012  

photo courtesy of Apple(R)

Did your team receive iPads or other tablet PCs and you find them under-utilized? As a long time PowerPoint user myself, I have felt guilty about my iPad being my glorified Evernote platform and e-mail source on the road.

Ashley Furness, CRM Market Analyst at Software Advice recently wrote about this very issue – teams of salespeople have received or will received tablets but do not have clear deployment plans. One company we know bought them to appear to be on the “cutting edge” over their competition, but they don’t do anything unique or amazing with them.

While 78% of businesses plan to deploy tablets by the end of 2013, more than half lack an articulate deployment plan. Ms. Furness asked 7 sales and technology experts what advice they would give to business leaders in this situation. Some top recommendations include:
1.    Monitor & set goals for usage
2.    Create dynamic content that goes beyond PowerPoint
3.    Invest in custom apps that address the team’s unique needs

I echo her point about thinking big when it comes to rolling out any new technology. The classic mistake is where you choose one app and in very short order, the sales team will want and need something to integrate with that. Instead of throwing together your plan as you go, create a deployment strategy. Read the insightful article here.

Marketo also has a helpful article written by Silicon Valley veteran Phil Fernandez on how sales teams need to adapt to the new ways of selling and using a tool like a tablet to do that.

Has your company invested in tablets throughout the sales force? If yes, what applications are you running, and how do they work for you and your sales team in general? Do you have a plan?

Post your answers as a comment, or email them in if you want to be anonymous. I’ll share the blended results at the end of the month.

Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the “Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012″ and one of “20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management”. Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for tips and strategies in selling.

Building Your Sales Pipeline Is Not a One Step Process

by on January 3, 2012  

sales funnel

Do You Have a Sales Funnel?

For many years, the “sales explanation industry” has worked with and discussed a Funnel or a Pipeline model to explain how you need many more leads to eventually turn into prospects, and then ultimately a smaller subset who become actual customers. Hence using a picture of a funnel gives a visual on how you need more at the top to end up with some at the bottom. I’ve used a pipeline for years rather than a funnel,  so I am used to talking about the front, middle, and end of a pipeline. Whichever works for your visual, use that.

To use a CRM, or Contact Relationship Management system well – you need more than tools – you must have a way – a process and a methodology –  to do the following things we will be talking about to grow revenues.

Can you find prospective customers – ideally who are “more likely” to do business with you than “less likely”. There is little point to attracting thousands of people your way who are not likely to do business with you. There is a whole lot of sense in drawing thousands of people your way who are more probable to do business with you someday. These are company and individual relationships that you want to nurture.  The phrase “nurture marketing” came from this idea.

People go wrong because they just buy tools– they import their mish-mash of “contacts” – names in whatever system they were using, such as their e-mail application. Contacts get imported in, and then sometimes people just wait for the magic to happen.

Magic?  Just like there is no crying in baseball, there is no magic in selling. It takes a clean set of nurtured contacts over time – who know and trust you, and who find the value in your offering to grow sales. Through multiple contacts to the right contacts (decision makers) you can create sales opportunities and bring them to closure.

Today we’ll talk about the front end of the pipeline (or for you funnel fans, ToFu – Top of Funnel, as coined by Hubspot).

You MUST have tools that can:

help you find and /or attract prospects

look for the trigger events in their businesses (for compelling reasons to contact them)

allow you to learn about them and what they need

offer them something of value – be it an idea or a whole e-book of ideas

build and maintain a robust group of people who are more probable to work with your company

This is the front-end of your sales process.

So, do you have tools that can do this for you? Do you have strategic partners, vendors or employees helping you with this?

It’s 2012. Don’t put junk in your sales pipeline.

Get rid of those in your pipeline who are just filling space. Remove those problem people who don’t seem that they will ever work with you. Delete them. Remove people you have not connected with in a long time. You need to focus on less companies and work to do more with them.  Why? To keep your focus, to keep your niched offerings (you do have a niche, right?) and to make it easier on yourself and those who work with you.  It’s also way easier to work with people who DO somewhat get what you do, or are more interested than others.

Look for these types of tools and services:

Lead list building

Web visitor tracking

Lead capture

Lead nurturing

Trigger Alerting tools

A Word about e-Mail:

No More Tacky E-Mail in 2012 Please!

Dear vendor: you are part of a business, and you need tools that manage e-mail so that no one is a victim of visible group email anymore. I, for one, won’t do business with a company who openly exposes my email within a group – this is a practice that should have stopped a couple years ago. Further, you need to use a tool that will track open rates so you know how effective you are.  This is very important also: segment your e-mail so that when someone does sign up for one of your offerings, they go into another bucket, and they don’t get any more “last chance to sign up” e-mails. Sophisticated e-mail tools have been doing that for years. If you are still doing any of these things, you need to stop these primitive marketing practices right away!

Let’s step it up this year with better management of the FRONT-END of our sales process. If you are already doing this, fantastic – post in our comments what you are using that is working to help you manage and grow the right prospects for your business.

Next week we’ll discuss the all too often forgotten middle of the sales pipeline.

Do you use a pipeline or funnel management tool? What tool is most helpful at your company?  Post as comments (below) as to what is working, because that helps others.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

Lori Richardson writes, speaks, trains, and mentors company leaders on tactical ways to grow revenues. Her company, Score More Sales helps with systems, lead development, and prospecting for technology and financial services companies. Sign up for the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for tips and strategies in selling.


Refine B2B Sales Process in 2012 with Tools and Attitude

by on December 22, 2011  

revenue Going Up, Sales Tips, CRMA new calendar year always brings the possibility of discussions of business process improvement and in particular, sales process improvement. There are lots of reasons for these conversations – many companies annually have them as part of their growth plan. Others have them because of a specific challenge they are facing:

Our Company Has Lost Market Share – A competitor (or competitors) is/are swallowing up our clients (in this scenario competitors are known and it is a fairly clear situation)

Sales are Down or Flat and Need to be Bigger – Our sales are lower instead of staying on our growth path. The economy is bad, so that makes sense, right?

Turnover of Sales Reps Meant Lost Sales Knowledge – We lost our top rep to another industry. He walked away with so much internal knowledge of how things are done and who to call on.

Our Sales Cycle Needs to be Shortened – It is taking too long to close deals now – an average of XX days/ weeks / months.

New Sales Reps Need More Guidance on a Process and Methodology – We brought on a new sales rep (or created an inside sales team) and nothing is documented – everyone around here seems to do something different. Doesn’t that impact sales?

People tend not to focus on the cloudy issues behind some of these problems. Each of the scenarios above offer many questions behind the scenes since using a sales methodology along with processes to run the business is just one part of the equation. Because we are dealing with people we need to also understand that sales results are affected by things beyond process and methodology.

Sales people and marketers are human. They need to be nurtured and they need clear guidelines for success. In addition to guidelines they need professional development because no matter how good they are – they will sometimes question their confidence and they will not always be confident of your products and service offerings which also plays a hand in determining their (and your) sales success.

So care about your team. Nurture their strengths, acknowledge their successes. Work on skills development. We’ll talk more about that in future posts. For now, though, let’s assume you are doing this and have an amazing team. How can our earlier scenarios improve with tools?

By using a newer generation CRM system you can get these results. How many do you have now?

Automated reports for territory management, sales rep management, forecasting, and on customer interactions (these are just for starters)

Tracking communication between us and our prospective customer as well as communication within the silos of our company. Is everyone on the same page? (hint: grow sales by reducing friction and sharing knowledge within your company)

Keeping track of (or updates to) customer financial activity within your CRM system will allow for smarter business decisions and greater flexibility.

Trendspotting – Its easy to know that XYZ Co. places a huge order every January, but by using a CRM system you can pull reports that show things you many have never noticed, such as weather-related trends or news-related trends. Are you aware of ALL trends in your business?

When it comes to shortening your sales cycle, certainly process will be helpful but I’d also look to the skills and knowledge your team has and see if there are some quick wins that could be made in terms of tightening up your value proposition or watching and listening to your team to see what they say, what they e-mail, who they talk to, and how often they follow up. These are basic sales skills that when implemented well can shorten your sales cycle. Get a professional to help you identify what potential issues are and do some trials to see if your (and their) hunches are correct.

Finally, the idea about cataloging and archiving as much institutional knowledge as possible is a big idea but worthy of your time to discuss. Your company information – about prospective customers, existing customers, internal processes and shortcuts should not reside in the brains of ANYONE without being documented somewhere in the business. At a minimum, make the next 12 months a time where you find a system to document and archive the important areas of the company – prospects and customers. Document how we gain new customers and what specifically we do with and for them to keep them as customers. This institutional knowledge is often referred to as a Sales Playbook, and consists of information about our products and services, the competitive landscape, clarity around who we sell to, our value proposition, and all sorts of best practices within the business. Like an athlete’s playbook, a new rep (or CFO) can get up to speed with the most important information outlined – the rest – also very important, is what is culled by talking with each of the most successful folks in the company over time.

What are your business challenges and weak links to growing more revenues next year or in shortening your sales cycle, or in raising your closing ratio? Determine how you can benefit from people, process, tools, skills, and a little inspiration. This combo is a winning strategy.


This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

Lori Richardson writes, speaks, trains, and mentors company leaders on tactical ways to grow revenues. Her company, Score More Sales helps with systems, lead development, and prospecting for technology and financial services companies. Sign up for the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for tips and strategies in selling.


 

Putting the Social into CRM Predictions for 2012

by on December 16, 2011  

Having a sure-fire repository, or “catch-all” place to help support your business growth was the original purpose of a CRM system quite a few years ago. Over time, new capabilities have been added and in some cases, really perfected to offer data intelligence (assuming the field reps all are keeping it updated). Exciting enhancements are on the horizon are new tools to work with CRM and Social CRM to bring knowledge TO the user, rather than the user doing all the thinking and pre-work.

My pet peeve for the longest time is that many small and midmarket sized companies, many doing millions of dollars per year in services business do not use consistent process and often a consistent CRM system in their company. They cannot do simple reports to determine the cost of a closed deal this year as compared to last year, and they often don’t know what is fully in the pipeline of each of their sales reps. Unbelievable? For those of you reading who do have a fully functional CRM or SCRM system you may find it hard to believe, but I see it and hear about it nearly every day.

Let’s look at an old definition, the challenges with CRM, and some predictions for 2012.

Definition: “True CRM (customer relationship management) brings together information from all data sources within an organization (and where appropriate, from outside the organization) to give one, holistic view of each customer in real time. This allows customer facing employees in such areas as sales, customer support, and marketing to make quick yet informed decisions on everything from cross-selling and up-selling opportunities to target marketing strategies to competitive positioning tactics” – source: Destination CRM 

In 2011-12, the addition of “social” to CRM (SCRM) integrates social tools to help business gain key insights from prospective and current customers in some orderly format. The SCRM market is valued at over $1B according to Gartner.

So what is next for CRM?  We talked with Gartner’s CRM Research Director Adam Sarner. He definitely has a wait-and-see attitude on the social component of CRM and gives us a lot to mull over and discuss over the coming months. Here is some of what he had to say:

“During the next two years, the success of social CRM will depend on how well companies and social CRM technology providers can accelerate through the inevitable disillusionment (i.e., “the social apocalypse”), and make social CRM projects more than just social objectives by tying them to clear and measurable business objectives.”

Gartner’s assumption:  “By year-end 2012, only half of Fortune 1000 companies will receive ROI from their social CRM initiatives.”

I’m a bit stumped because of all the ROI that I have seen so far  – in particular from the Fortune 1000 who are brands (B2C) who have some incredible stories to share tying social to increased revenues.  We are actively looking for B2B company success stories (if you know of any, please forward me information.)

Gartner’s Key Findings:
“Social CRM is still an immature market, with new and evolving strategy, technology and use cases still developing. As occurred during the dot-com boom of the 1990s, many companies have responded to the hype around social CRM by merely establishing a form of a social presence. Many client inquiries about social CRM revolve around companies who do not have a clear business performance objective for social CRM, rather they are still “getting their feet wet” when it comes to actual measurable business outcomes. In a recent Gartner survey of social CRM vendor references, fewer than 60% were measuring for ROI.”

Market Implications:
“ROI, measurable business value and budget justification for social projects are quickly becoming unavoidable topics for many organizations, particularly in more social-adopted industries such as high tech, media, retail and travel. Social data such as the number of fan pages, delta of weekly tweets and even areas such as sentiment analysis are not enough to correlate with the contribution of top business objectives, such as churn rate, new qualified leads or sales increases.
Unfortunately, for the 50% of organizations not determining or even measuring for ROI, ignorance will mean unfunded/failed projects. Of the 50% of companies who will not see a return, only 20% will even have the data to evaluate where their social strategy is falling short. These organizations will be unable to justify future funding. By year-end 2012, 75% of new social CRM initiatives that successfully receive funding will have a business case incorporating measurable ROI.”

Recommendations Based on the Survey, Sarner continues:
“Define your social strategy in alliance with your CRM strategy. A social CRM strategy should benefit marketing, customer service, sales and e-commerce.

Leverage similar KPIs, such as website conversion rates, product and service time to market, and sales lead close rates to determine social CRM’s ROI.

Encourage focused, experimental use of social applications, which can unlock benefits, but set a timeline for observing direct business value before signing a long-term agreement with technology providers.

Audit your social CRM projects against mutual benefits — what’s in it for your company, and what’s in it for the community? If you cannot clearly identify benefits for both, or if it is too unbalanced, the project will fail.”

CRM initiatives have been difficult for quite a number of under $30M/year revenue companies in the mid-market to put into place because of the integration myths / fears and because of the initial costs – not just for monthly subscriptions but for data cleansing, updating, and the fact that change can open up all sorts of cans of worms.  Is there ever going to be an easier way for companies to get data about their key contacts? We are getting closer and closer to that being the case. Experts predict new systems soon that help integrate a user’s contacts into their CRM system . What is great about this is that soon, it may not be just up to me to set a next action, but in fact, I may get an inquiry from one of these new services that asks me if I have followed up with someone. It also might let me know that there is someone else in my contacts who fits a similar profile of another prospective customer. This is the point where tools could really help the average small or mid-sized businesses grow.

It will be interesting to see what shapes up and how market share leaders in CRM as well as up-and-comers solve the ongoing big issues around CRM implementation, adoption and usage – and get systems in place to really help businesses analyze, tie in with social, and allow better opportunities for sellers.

QUICK Immediate Tips:

1)      Make sure you have a robust corporate page set up in LinkedIn.

2)      If you don’t have a social media policy in your company, now is the time to create one

3)      Learn what others in your market space in B2B are doing for social, and for CRM in general.

4)      Stay tuned for more, as our discussion continues!

 This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

Lori Richardson writes, speaks, trains, and mentors company leaders on tactical ways to grow revenues. Her company, Score More Sales helps with systems, lead development, and prospecting for technology and financial services companies.  Sign up for the award-winning blog for tips and strategies in selling.