Welcome to this discussion on what CRM can do for a business.
Today we will look at how CRM can impact the sales process. As we saw on the last posting, the job of marketing was to get the prospect interested enough to respond in some way. The salesman’s job is then to ensure that he makes timely and regular contact with the prospect, gathering his requirements on the way before making his ‘pitch’.
This may be a simple or a complex process depending on the type of product/service that is being sold. The principle aim of CRM is to ensure that the prospect is contacted within a set time and given the appropriate information. There is a saying that ‘…you don’t have to force the prospect to buy, simply make it as easy as possible for him to do so’.
Typical sales process
The prospect may contact a company in a number of ways, including;
and the salesman needs to be able to record the enquiry and respond to it. Here is where CRM starts to help the sales team. By making it easy to log an enquiry with all of the details to hand (more can be added later as the relationship progresses) and allowing subsequent actions to be scheduled against that enquiry the system ensures that none of the enquiries falls off the salesman’s radar. This process is made easier where the prospect has been marketed to as the relevant contact details will already be held in the system. This enquiry is often known as a Sales Opportunity or Opportunity for short.
Having started the sales process by entering the enquiry the CRM system should encourage the salesman to follow a proven methodology. This is often managed by using ‘workflow’ to move an opportunity from one sales stage to the next. Not only does this ensure that the correct process is followed but can also provide a ‘shortcut’ for the salesman by filling in relevant fields for him. He can then see immediately what is in his ‘pipeline’ and which opportunities are nearing fruition by the stage that they are at. The added advantage of this is that the Sales Manager/Director can also see this information thereby negating the need for sales team downtime while they compile their regular reports.
The CRM system should also provide the means to produce and send template emails, letters, faxes or text messages as appropriate. The use of template material ensures consistency of the message and quality of the material being sent, including personalising every message. An added advantage of having the system produce communications is that it will also record them. Provided the sales team can be encouraged to log their calls to the customer (some systems that are integrated with the phone system can record calls and store these against the appropriate record also) then there will be a record of all communication with a prospect/customer.
As well as being used to gather information and track potential sales a CRM system can often be used to produce quotations for the prospect. Again this has the advantage of using information already in the system to generate the quote and could include product and pricing information which will also feed back into the pipeline and reports. Like other communications this would also be recorded against the opportunity. Producing quotes in this manner can;
and so can save time and effort and lead to a greater conversion rate.
Another important aspect of sales both for the manager/director and the business as a whole is reporting on the sales pipeline and forecasting the likely income over the upcoming periods. Generally this can be quite time consuming either for the salesman compiling the information and/or the manager who has to collate it and send it on up the chain. With the current systems available it is normal to be able to view ‘live’ data or produce historical reports. The fact that the system can be set the task of compiling the correct information as and when needed should save time for everybody in the sales team.
CRM has a big impact on the sales department, not surprising considering that the roots of CRM lie in contact management and sales automation tools. A not insignificant part of this is in reducing the time a salesman spends at his desk (planning his week, creating quotes, compiling reports) so allowing him to spend more time interacting with the prospects (which is really what he is being paid for). It also has an impact on sales management, allowing the manager to spend less time collating reports and more time using the readily available information as a diagnostic tool both for the salesmen under them and the sales process itself.
We shall be looking in more detail at some of the aspects covered here in a later part of the series.