CRM is the Tool and Sales Follow Up is Key

What is the value of a saw if you never sharpen it? Having a dull saw will not allow you to get the results you desire when cutting wood. What is the value of dental floss if you don’t use it? The same is true with any cloud-based (SaaS) tools to help you in your business – they must be used, and used properly for you and your company to benefit.

Many still think that CRM tools are underutilized because of two things:

1) many that are widely in use are still deemed too complicated and

2) because most salespeople don’t want to spend time on administrivia. We need to bring the value of the tools – whatever they are – to the sales reps and show them what is in it for them. What is in it for a busy sales rep or sales leader who would prefer to spend any administrative time instead being in front of an extra prospect or two?

For starters, sales leaders benefit big time with a good, solid way of tracking metrics:

What are the steps in your sales process? These must be documented, and your CRM tool needs to be set up to support your process. You have multiple processes depending on the client? This also can be set up within a good, robust CRM system.

How long is your sales cycle? This is extremely valuable information because through knowing an average number, combined with pending sales opportunities, you can create a fairly accurate forecast.

What is your sales forecast? One way or another, you need to have an idea of what deals are out at least 30 and 60 days. Some companies have longer sales cycles and can forecast much further out. These numbers directly affect headcount and profitability and have all sorts of financial implications. Note: This means your sales reps need to understand what “qualified” is – not just “hopeful.”

What new opportunities are there? How many actual phone meetings or web conferences or in-person meetings are scheduled at any given time? Once you know each sales reps’ close ratio, you can further solidify future potential business.

What activities are going on that will lead to new revenues? Even if business is not closing this week, what are sales reps doing – how many outbound calls, how much response to inbound leads, how much customer service is happening – all metrics that should be understood.

Sales reps:

What if you could determine your annual income for this year? Good metrics can and will help you accomplish that (assuming your comp plan isn’t too convoluted).

What if you could be the most professional sales rep in your industry? Good data will do that for you. By setting next actions with clients and prospects, you will always have a future with that company. They will not fall through the cracks – something that does happen every day in business. Tomorrow’s big opportunity got put on a sticky note or was written down in the wrong place on Evernote and voila! Your competitor is now working with that next big project you should have had. Using a no-fail system to keep everything in about your prospective customer will prevent this from happening.

What if you could see trends with long time clients? Good data will do that for you as well. Before your boss wonders again this year when your client will place their reorders, why not have a system that will give you this information? You can cut down on hours of meetings and emails by being efficient and having real data to compare year over year.

Finally, a good system with clean, updated data will help you be your very best. You will actually save time (I know some people still dispute this) and will be able to make touches to your customer base and prospective customers much easier when your information is tagged and you have a marketing system connected in with this data. You have web visitors’ data going right into your CRM system, and your sales process actions mapped out for next steps.

Remember data does not work alone - it takes you to get it where it needs to be.

Before you shake your head and say it doesn’t work this way, see what others in your space or region are doing. Keep an open mind – open minds will often find small shifts (and sometimes larger ones) that create big boosts in profits.


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 is recognized as one of the Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012 and 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.

Topics: B2B

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