Having worked in sales roles for most of my adult life I have seen a lot of things change over time. Of all of the things that have had a positive impact on the Salesperson’s role I think it would be a fair bet to say that technology has been a key factor in the way today’s Salespeople conduct business. With just a few keystrokes we can now, almost instantly, virtually search the globe for customers that were previously far beyond reach. We can use readily available applications to search out people or tools to help us get to the finish line quicker and of course we have social media to build our networks and reach new people every day.
For me personally, the tool that I have come to rely on most that wasn’t prevalent 20 years ago would be my CRM. There are many CRM solutions available to sales people out there. CRM’s can vary in size and features. From the pricey behemoth Salesforce, to the smaller, often free applications. Across the board there is a lot of latitude between functionality and price. I have used many of them. Today’s CRM’s are vastly different and far more sophisticated then they were just 5 years ago let alone 20.
One thing that has remained constant since their inception however is this….If you don’t use your CRM like a rabid dog, as if your life depends on it, your output becomes meaningless. Think about it, are you walking into your sales meeting with all of the answers? Even the most basic CRM will allow you to print an instant summary of all of your activity by day, by week, fiscal quarter or year. Some CRM’s will utilize infographics, others will export everything to an detailed .xls or .csv file and others will beautifully format data into easy to read charts and summaries. The power of the CRM is almost endless when properly used by both the Salesperson and the person responsible for the sales team. I can assure you that every time I accept an incoming phone call or make an outgoing call, send an email, reach an opportunity benchmark or meet someone new who may help me to my end goal, I immediately enter the relevant data into my CRM. Any excuse to do otherwise could only be based solely on laziness or the desire to sabotage what you are doing, there is no other answer. Using your CRM religiously is all upside. If you are committed to being in the 12% that I mentioned yesterday (anyone who follows up more than 3 times) you are already using your CRM quite effectively, you’d have to be. If you don’t know exactly how many current prospects you have in your funnel and how many times each has been contacted, along with where they are in the sales cycle, you are likely not making good use of the tools you have available to you. Like I said, there are many free and inexpensive solutions available to you. I myself have been using a CRM called Pipeline for just over a year and so far it seems to suit my needs quite well. I believe its price is somewhere in the neighbourhood of $15.00 per month and as a small but growing startup it seems to provide me with all of the horsepower I currently need and has some nice basic features like Mailchimp integration and an exceptionally easy to use interface. Many larger corporations opt for Salesforce’s solution ($1000’s per month in most cases). Salesforce can be a beast and when configured and used properly. I imagine it’s quite effective for many however, I will mention that I have had used Salesforce with 2 different employers and I would call my experience in both cases less than spectacular. I don’t really blame that on the software itself. I believe that in both cases it was rolled out to users far too early and with completely inadequite training. My opinion aside, I can still assure you that expensive or free, any CRM is only as good as the info that you put into it. Make the commitment to track it all, every call, every email, add activities that are date sensitive and stay on top of it like a rabid dog. Customize everything you can to make it relevant to your business. Once you have mastered your CRM, the benefits go beyond what you’re doing with it. The executive to which you report to will be able to use the CRM for forecasting based on probability metrics from sales team input. HR will see who’s taking their role seriously based on team activity vs. individual activity. A good CRM for your business will encourage transparency, identify gaps and issues, and get you to your goals as efficiently as possible. Be the rabid dog, you’re as rare as hen’s teeth