The entire process of selling is really all about people. “People buy from people they like,” is one of the greatest truths of all of sales. It’s all about people, and the relationships we create and maintain with them.
The earliest software designed to support the sales process was referred to as “Sales Force Automation” software, because that was what the developers of that software intended to do. They wanted to automate as many of a salesperson’s processes as possible to help make that salesperson more efficient and thereby increase sales.
Customer Relationship Management
The fact that sales is all about people, specifically people that we refer to as “customers” led to a change somewhere around 1993 when many people believe Tom Siebel, founder of IT software company Siebel Systems, coined the term “customer relationship management” (CRM), making the customer the focus rather than the salesperson.
Even though many make the distinction between “Business-to-Business” (B2B) and “Business-to-Consumer” (B2C) sales, today’s most popular CRM systems allow for the management of customer relationships in both settings. To make it easier to manage sales to businesses, CRM looks at each customer company as having one or many “contacts” in it, and so a relationship is created that relates each person to the company they work for. Since selling often involves interaction with many people in a company, this makes it easier for salespeople to track and manage those relationships and how they all relate to each other.
Robust CRM systems provide salespeople and their managers with the ability to record and track interactions with each contact. The salesperson can then schedule their next interaction with a contact and have the CRM system “tickle” or remind them when to execute on that activity. This can also take the form of planning and scheduling entire campaigns designed to “touch” many contacts and encourage them to take actions that are part of the intended sales motion.
Today’s best CRM systems address the entire lifecycle of the relationship between the seller and their customers, from the initial pursuit of a prospective customer candidate, to the automation of the actual sales transactions, and on to the delivery of customer services and support.
How CRM Increases Sales
In 1950, Henry A. Landsberger was studying workers at the Hawthorne Works, a Western Electric factory outside Chicago, to see if they would become more productive in higher or lower levels of light. The result was that productivity increased in both higher and lower levels, and then returned to normal when the experiment was over. What emerged from this was the observation that the mere fact that something is being observed directly affects the thing being observed. This was dubbed “The Hawthorne Effect.”
This can be directly applied to the use of a CRM system. The fact that the salesperson is recording, documenting, reporting, and tracking activities in a CRM system will likely increase their attention to their customers and the details surrounding them. When the “tickler” system reminds them to take an action there is a higher likelihood that they will take that action in a timely manner. When they know their manager is carefully watching their sales pipeline using the reports from the CRM system they will remain much more aware of their own progress working that pipeline.
Managers can and must leverage this example of the Hawthorne Effect in action. They do so by regularly reviewing those pipeline reports with their salespeople to continually remind them that they are, indeed, being observed. They can drive that message home even more powerfully be reviewing individual sales accounts with each salesperson to see if those “next interactions” are being executed as scheduled.
Knowledge is power, and knowing what each salesperson is doing with each contact at each account is the most powerful way of driving increased sales.
None of this occurs if the salespeople do not use the CRM software. CRM is not composed simply of software running on computers. That is a component of a more complete system that includes the salespeople, sales managers, and the various things they do to promote sales.
One of the clearest observations implementers of CRM systems have made over the 20+ years since Tom Siebel since coined the term in 1993, is that users will not adopt any software or system unless they can clearly see the value of using that software for themselves. In the case of CRM, when salespeople find themselves following up their customers more promptly and increasing their sales and the resulting commissions by doing so, user adoption becomes an easy task. Failure to manage the all-important process of user adoption has doomed many CRM initiatives to failure.
CRM used to be a big enterprise-wide decision. The software was expensive and could only be justified by deploying it to an entire company, usually a large one. Getting all those managers to agree to the deployment was a major effort unto itself.
With the introduction of solutions like Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online in 2010 and 2011 this changed entirely. Now companies could subscribe individual or small groups of users into a cloud-delivered CRM system enabling them to manage their customer relationships far more effectively without having to make a wholesale deployment decision and at immensely lower cost. The most fully-featured and robust CRM solution in the marketplace, Microsoft Dynamics CRM integrates powerful sales management features with a comprehensive set of marketing, customer service, and social media management services.
Since Microsoft Dynamics CRM uses a very familiar user interface similar to Microsoft Outlook and other products, and since it is so tightly integrated with those Office products, it creates an ideal platform for close management of customer relationships. New improvements to Microsoft Dynamics CRM include:
Tablet Mobility - Since sales happen where the customer is, mobile capability has been a major priority in the most recent improvements which include Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Tablets, which helps salespeople stay connected and productive wherever they are. Using Windows 8, iPad or Android tablets to stay up to date with customer info—even on the go. They arrive prepared for every appointment, and update notes, tasks, contacts, accounts, and leads while the details are still fresh in their mind. Data is cached for offline viewing so they can still access key data if connectivity is lost.
New Information Resources - Also recently added is a new service called Insights, which puts real-time company and contact information from 30,000 sources into Microsoft Dynamics CRM, helping marketing, sales and account management professionals engage more effectively with prospects to win more deals as a result of less time spent researching and more time selling.
- Millions of company and contact profiles from around the world
- Email addresses and phone numbers
- One-click data sync into CRM
- Financials, SEC filings, family trees, and industry profiles
- Breaking news (e.g. funding news, company expansion, leadership changes)
- Social buzz for target companies (blogs, Facebook, Twitter)
- Social profiles for decision makers (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter)
- Warm introductions through personal and corporate connections
- Aggregate personal connections from Outlook, LinkedIn, and Facebook
- Connection sharing (access all co-workers’ connections privately and securely)
Making CRM Your Own
P2 Automation has helped many clients make CRM their own, customizing
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