Step Away From The Excel Spreadsheet. Step. Slowly. Away.
I know how hard it is to move away from Excel. All my account finances are organised in there; I colour in little rows and columns in a systematic way, every month (at least to me) and it all works. Very slowly. Not very efficiently. The challenge is to find the time to find something better, yet I know that once I’ve done this I’ll have more time to dedicate to revenue-generating activities.
The same goes for the CEO or Commercial Director, who has taken sole responsibility for the company’s revenue stream. Trusty old spreadsheets or basic contact databases work O.K to start with, but keeping track of early leads and seeing how they are (or are not) progressing into closed contracts quickly becomes impossible. Contact lists, email marketing, lists of contacts made at conferences; business cards from face-to-face sales meetings may be dealt with separately. Invoicing and forecast generation might be performed on yet more disparate systems. The result is a cumulative business inefficiency which leads to a lack of transparency for operational managers, board members and investors alike. Not to mention the completely boring and unnecessary monthly tasks that are created as a result of using different systems that aren’t integrated.
Without a readily accessible and easy to use CRM, it’s worth bearing in mind that a company increases its business risk every day that it’s in operation, because revenue-critical information is kept in places that can’t be easily retrieved if something goes wrong. What if your best sales person falls ill, or leaves (as they frequently do)? How will your company quickly pick up the loose ends and progress the deals that are in his/her pipeline? I’ve seen entire sales territory revenues crash (nearly taking the company with it) when a good sales guy leaves taking valuable deal information with him.
Fortunately (or perhaps, unfortunately), a seemingly endless choice of customer relationship management (CRM) software systems are available to take care of these problems. Ranging from the simple and free online service for the single business owner, to multi-functional app-ready cloud computing resources for the global enterprise, there appears to be a solution that fits pretty much everyone (see here for a sponsored free guide to the top 40 CRMs). In my view, this actually puts up one extra barrier to adoption because the market is so crowded and confusing.
Senior directors of most small to medium technology/service providers need to quickly retrieve a revenue forecast, see a snapshot of marketing return on investment and monitor business development team and individual performance. Their sales teams just need to view their accounts and active deals, see what to do today, make the calls they need to make and progress the contacts.
The following is a list of essentials that a CRM system needs to make their lives easier, reduce their risk exposure, keep the mundane monthly spreadsheet shuffling in check and keep everyone informed of progress:
1. Generate short, mid and longer term revenue forecasts, by maintaining information about each deal size, stage, close date and degree of confidence that the deal will close.
2. Produce a ready overview of the sales pipeline. For this to work, there needs to be a defined and agreed sales process that every BD member understands and adheres to, but the CRM should be able to generate accessible dashboard graphics of the state of the entire pipeline as well as individual BD staff member performances, at a click of a button.
3. Be a central repository of all conversations, emails and documents relating to deals and accounts. This should be a simple process which enables the sales people on the road to update deals and accounts even without thinking – by syncing with their mobile devices, using default settings that remove all the excuses.
4. Remove ANY need for record-keeping, including calendars and task-setting, outside of the CRM. Actually, for most CRMs out there, even the big ones, this appears to be a tall order. It comes down to finding a system that’s easy to use and works with (or instead of) Microsoft Outlook, especially when using mobile devices.
5. Keep track of where deals are coming from so you know where best to concentrate your budget and time in order to bring in new business in the future. Do they come from market research, conferences, webinars, PR, email campaigns? What worked? What didn’t?
6. Record WHY deals are lost - to develop an unbiased understanding of potential issues that may be hampering business development and long-term growth of the business. Competition in a certain sales territory? Price? Project re-prioritisations in large pharma accounts? You can use this information to improve products, positioning or pricing strategies.
7. Make marketing activities transparent and easy to manage. Use integrated apps to compose, send and track email campaigns, for example. Feed leads from the website directly into the system for sales people to act on. Automatically record the leads and contacts that have been generated as a result of marketing activities. Used effectively, a CRM helps communications between sales and marketing so that leads can be quickly acted upon, and doors that have been opened can be stepped through.
The bells and whistles that are being added to CRMs increases daily. Not all of them are useful (personally I think this might be apply to over 50% of Salesforce functionality). The key is to find a simple system that does most of these well, with an intuitive functionality which means you don’t have to go on a course to learn how to use it.
Have you found a system that works well for your business? Let me know!
If you need help choosing, customising or using a CRM effectively, I can help you. Just get in touch.