Switch from Spreadsheets to Microsoft CRM and Close More Deals

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Many organizations are still using Excel to manage their leads and opportunities. Despite being the industry standard for spreadsheets, Excel does have its drawbacks when used to track and report on sales pipelines. First and foremost, the administrative overhead of using Excel for this routine results in top producers wasting valuable time. Since sales reps have to constantly input, revise, and exchange spreadsheets with their sales administrators and sales managers, they spend less time prospecting and meeting with clients to win new business. Besides being time-consuming, the Excel sales tracking, review, and reporting process is quite error-prone due to its manual-intensive updates. Other downsides of this cumbersome process have to do with a lack of auditing and revision controls and the potential complexity of the spreadsheet. For instance, the formulas and pivot tables can be quite confusing for someone who is not updating the spreadsheet every day. Generally, a Sales department relies on a reporting guru, who is responsible for organizing, translating, rearranging, reformatting, rolling up, and producing a master report that is reviewed in recurring meetings by Sales teams and Executive Management. The problem, though, is due to a key man risk as the master reporter often does not have a legit back-up. Unfortunately, if the master reporter is unavailable or on vacation, his peers will probably struggle and may be unable to figure out the calculations or unlock the spreadsheet. Thus, meetings or the distribution of a final sales report can get delayed. Moreover, I have seen firms not be able to access their spreadsheets on shared network drives because they were accidentally deleted, not backed up, or the network drive was inundated and temporarily unavailable.

It would behoove firms relying on Excel for sales reporting to rethink their process and switch to a more centralized, flexible, and robust CRM marketing, sales, and service suite, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. Unlike spreadsheets, CRM 2011 provides supporting insights, contacts, notes, and follow-up activity plans for any of the accounts with opportunities in the pipeline. Predefined workflows can define, enforce, and automate consistent sales practices throughout the enterprise, thereby increasing the collaboration and efficiency of users. Sales reps can close deals more quickly because all of their deal information is instantly accessible and available in real-time for themselves and sales management.

In particular, sales closers will benefit from the conditional formatting available in the Outlook CRM Client. As seen in the screenshot below, sales reps can highlight “hot” opportunities.

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With this great feature, sales reps and account managers can narrow their focus, better know where to spend their efforts and resources, and thereby increase the likelihood of closing higher revenue-generating opportunities. Overall, producers and sales management will spend less time giving each other updates, refining spreadsheets, or trying to find the reporting specialist, and thus be able to focus on what they do best – cultivating relationships and finding and closing deals.

Additionally, CRM allows sales personnel to not have to depend so much on their go-to reporting specialist. They can immediately view valuable info in CRM, such as targeted close dates, estimated revenue amounts, competitors, sales stages, influencers, allies, decision maker relationship hierarchies, possible roadblocks, contract renewal dates, lead sources, progress versus quota goals, and reasons won or lost. All of this embedded analytics data is viewable in lists, charts, and dashboards, such as the one below, to give CRM users visual clarity and better understanding of their sales pipeline and business performance.

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If you are a firm that is overwhelmed with a laborious spreadsheet sales reporting process, please contact info@customereffective.com. We can help you implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 to achieve lower levels of operational risk and improve your sales process and performance.

Post by: Kevin Wessels, Customer Effective

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