Managing leads and customers with sticky notes? Time for a CRM?

Yes is the short answer, always. Look around at your desk right now, do you have more than 2 legal pads that you keep your sales notes on? Well if so, it is time to upgrade. Maybe you are running a small business where you are wearing many hats. You very well may be performing the tasks for a sales team, marketing team, and the admin team. All the more reason to use a CRM!

Lets start with the basics: A CRM is a Customer Relationship Management Tool. They are used to manage all of your prospects and allow for a more targeted, efficient sales and marketing effort. A CRM is the management tool that allows for internal and external growth by organizing potential money. The biggest reason a successful new company may fail is because they get overrun with sales and potential sales. This causes miscommunication with the customers and leads to dissatisfaction with current customers and prospects. Each and every customer or prospect needs to feel as though they are your only own and this simply cant be done with a legal pad. Sorry.

I was working with a very successful finance firm about a year ago that had seemed to have stagnated. The business had been around for about 10 years and quickly grew to a couple million dollars in gross revenue but could not seem to get to the next level. As I started getting into the books and the different departments I learned that they were not using a CRM. When I inquired further I found that each outside sales representative was responsible for drumming up business however they chose and there was minimal reporting of their success. This is a big no no. CRM’s allow for shared pipelines, monitoring of leads and progress, and most importantly are proven to be a more efficient streamlined sales process that leads to more sales. We quickly implemented a company wide CRM that office administrators had access to as well. This allowed for a streamlined calendar, timely reports for reps, and ability for managers to monitor their sales numbers. Within one month we saw a 20% increase in the sales pipeline.

The Sales team and sales process is the driving force behind every business. Of course, there are other departments that are integral to the growth of a company, the sales team is the heartbeat and ultimately what keeps food on the table. That is why the CRM is such a crucial tool to implement and guess what a lot of them are free or very inexpensive. (Remember something is better than nothing)

The critical elements of a CRM are as follow: Lead Assignment, sales representative monitoring, integration with advertising (No lost advertising dollars), instant scheduling with calendars, call logs, email tracking, and task reminders (Ex. email in a week). There are many more features but these are by far the most critical. Most reading this started their business because they were good at something, however, I would be willing to bet that most people did not start their business because they were good at running a business. Use the tools that are available to you even if there is a learning curve because you will see a nearly instantaneous ROI.

Taking my talents to South Beach

There are many factors to consider when expanding into new markets but the two primary thought points would be determining IF you can expand into a new market and the second would be the actual process of expanding. Expanding into a new market is predicated on your marketing capabilities, production capacity and most importantly, your ability to deliver. Those important factors help determine the”IF”. This is a decision that cannot be unilateral and must include department heads and management.

It’s important to consider the cost of expanding. That could include everything from physical space, manpower, marketing, and sales ability. The cost/investment must have an ROI that is worthy of the work and effort involved. This is an important point to make. I have worked with many companies that felt like they were leaving a lot of revenue on the table because they were missing specific markets. In many cases, once we crunched the numbers and looked at the timeline involved we determined that the ROI was not all that impressive and with a few simple tweaks, we were able to enhance their existing offering and the ROI was quadrupled.

I have also worked with companies where the due diligence proved that the expansion would be a fruitful and lucrative move. Do your due diligence to ensure the outcome you seek.

The bottom line and to answer the question of can I expand into a new market is yes. But it’s important to research the process and outcome in a way that reveals the ROI both short term and long term and make that decision based on the numbers and not on emotion.

Don’t be the last one picked at recess.

Personal efficiency is a highly sought after attribute. Far too many meaningless tasks get in the way and stray us from the must do’s. Eventually our to-do list has become a prodigious task that carries into the night or is delayed until tomorrow. In any case, efficiency = profit and it’s important to identify deficiency = profit loss.

Here’s a great example. I worked with a major coffee retailer that was losing money everyday. They were literally watching people come into the store and immediately do a U-turn and walk back out because the line was too long.

I am an avid coffee drinker and I like my coffee the way God invented it – black. It’s quick, easy and tastes like coffee. This company is known for it’s over the top, gourmet, 12 words in it’s name coffee. When a person orders one of those 12 word coffee’s it takes the person behind the counter quite a bit of time and if they are also ordering for friends, now you might as well pull up a chair and begin reading the news because you will be there a while.

I was in one of their busiest locations in my area and working with the District Manager we walked over to the line, which had 14 people in it, and I politely asked each person what their order was going to be. It turned out that of the 14 people 5 of them were ordering a simple black coffee. We sat and did the math based on a specific person behind the counter servicing customers who wanted a simple black coffee. He was astounded to see how many additional customers he could serve and what that translated into for profits.

The bottom line is the bottom line and it’s very important to take a look at what you are doing and how you are doing it. In many cases companies have a hard time seeing the forest through the trees because, as the saying goes, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always had.

Is there really such a thing as WIN WIN?

I have been negotiating projects and contracts for many years now. I have the ability to win and get what I want. Well, most of the time. However, I always know that when the negotiation is complete and I walk away victorious, there is someone, somewhere who lost. Although the agreement or contract went my way, I never feel good about being the superior negotiator in that fashion.

I have learned that negotiating a win-win is far more satisfying and honestly far more humbling to my Creator. I know that my desire is to control and steer the negotiation in a way that all parties walk away from the table happy that they got what they wanted and nobody lost. Distinction; this is not a compromise, this is a win-win.

I can remember negotiating with one of the areas larger general contractors about the amount of value engineering was needed to reduce the total construction cost and how the savings would be distributed once the costs were calculated if there was a surplus. Essentially the construction company was already awarded with the 27 million dollar project and we communicated that we were willing to walk away if we could not reach an agreement that was equitable for BOTH parties. We were able to achieve a win-win and all parties involved walked away happy.

There are many tips, strategies, steps or disciplines for negotiating and you can simply Google those things. My two basic tenants for negotiating are being willing to walk away and just as important, shut up and listen. When you listen, you hear things and when you hear things you can glean hidden needs or desires that will, if you allow, steer the negotiation. Don’t be in a hurry, just be patient until the end. In most cases, you will achieve a win-win which helps the relationship down the road – just be sure to listen.

If one party in the relationship loses and loses bad, do you think they will ever want to do business with you again? It really is all about relationships and building trust. Knowing that there isn’t a unilateral self serving motive really helps set the tone. Don’t get me wrong, I have been involved in some very aggressive battles where the gloves came off and those can certainly be fun, especially if you come out on top.

Be a Navy Seal QRT (Quick Reaction Team)

We all know that networking is a necessary strategy for success. Whether you are at a trade show, Chamber of Commerce meeting, or even at that barbecue that you volunteered to cook at. Networking can help you create exposure about you, your product or your service in a way that is somewhat innocuous. What I mean by that is most people that go into networking mode become immediately transformed into an obnoxious and cacophonous billboard/foghorn about all their company offers.

Networking requires specific tactics and talents in order to be successful. We all know that listening is a huge tenant of the sale cycle. The old adage that “God gave us two ears and one mouth” would indicate that we should listen twice as much as we talk holds true. In networking the first tactic that I would suggest is balance.

I have been to thousands of networking events and if you strike up a conversation with someone and stand there and listen to them pontificate endlessly then shame on you. Work to control the conversation gently, inserting your sales message and company information all while being mindful of the time. Networking is about quality AND quantity. If you attend a networking event that lasts 2 hours and you talk to 3 people then you have missed the boat. Basically act like a Navy SEAL QRT (Quick Reaction Team); infiltrate, meet objective, no shots fired, ex-fil and move on.

The objective is to meet as many people as you can, share your information, get their information and move to the next person. Hopefully you know what to do with all the contacts that you made. If not, do a quick search here, we’ve got you covered.

What is the Rule of 7?

In order to grow your company and develop a strong market share you must have a strong brand. There’s an old marketing phrase called The Rule of 7. It indicates that your brand needs to be seen seven times before it’s registered in someones mind. Your marketing message needs to be seen 7 times or your tag line needs to be read seven times. I have worked with dozens of companies where the company name is branded on all promotional material in Times Roman font. I’m certain that there is nothing more boring (or transparent!) than that presentation.

Now, it is true that there is a huge argument for repetition. I suppose if you were to take that same boring company name in Times Roman font and couple it with a massive (and expensive) marketing campaign, that would create recognition, but why would you want to do that or spend that kind of money?

Branding is in fact about repetition but let’s define branding. (whatever happened to Noah Webster?) defines branding as the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design. The important reference in that definition is “distinctive design”. A good example of branding would be the insanely fast growth of Planet Fitness. A health club started here in NH. One tiny and simple contributor of their growth is giving away vinyl stickers for members cars. Ubiquitous branding and recognition would be an understatement!

Two of the most prodigious monikers of success are McDonald’s and Nike. Nike has been known to take out a double, full page ad in the Wall Street Journal and simply insert their swoosh, that’s all. Remarkably successful and ostensibly simple. How did they get to where they are today? In large part to repetition of branding.

We have worked with many companies teaching them the need for a logo and the art of repetition. There are some basic facts that need to be in place and one of those is to know your market. More on that in another post.

Sales Department? Check the Janitorial Closet in the back.

If I were to ask that question to the president or CEO of most companies they would say something akin to: “Well, they are a rowdy bunch so we tucked them in the back far away from the front entrance”. There are 2 things wrong with that sentence. First, the energy and excitement that most sales departments have should be highly visible to the rest of the company, not stowed away in the broom closet.

Most sales departments have an energy that can and should be contagious. It should invigorate and motivate the rest of the company. Sales quotas met resulting in cheers. Large new customers closed and celebrated. Energy and synergy popping from every desk. If this is not happening in your sales department then we should schedule a meeting! For the most part the energy that comes from a sales department should be enviable by the rest of the company and should pervade thought the hallways and offices.

The second thing wrong with that initial sentence is that the entire company should be viewed as the sales department. That may sound a bit lofty but in all reality, it’s very true. I have worked with many attorneys (Not your typical sales career) throughout my career and the main guidance always comes back to sales. This means that for an attorney, the most important aspect is sales not business functions, not human resources, not legal training but sales training. At first contact, when a customer walks through your door, even for a scheduled meeting, the sales process has begun. A friendly smile, a polite offer to fetch a cup of coffee, or an interested discourse about the weather can go a long way.

Once you meet with this person, they have seen a nice smile, had a cup of coffee, and have been distracted by a delightful conversation about the weather. I would say that is a great primer for the sales funnel. Once they are in your office and they are not yet a customer – guess what – you are now a sales person. It doesn’t matter if you are an attorney or a mechanic. You need to first sell them on why you are their best choice. The bottom line is that rather than condemning your salesforce allow your entire company to be part of the process and have the success that you have been yearning for.

Who cares about what you are selling?

Trust and relationships are an integral part of any sales cycle. Far too many sales people focus on the process of closing a sale and not the relationship being built. It is true that through the use of sales tactics like presumptive closes, agreement building and “if I, will you” you can close a sale. The problem arises when that person walks away and feels like he/she was sold something, they take pause and realize that you had your best interest in mind and not theirs.

Nobody wants to be sold anything, they want to buy something and as sales people it’s important that we make that distinction when we are in a sales environment. Long term relationships are the high fruit and the hard close is all about the low fruit. Knowing that the person you just sold something to will benefit from your product and service in the long term will almost always guarantee repeat business. Repeat business is far cheaper than acquiring new business. It will also prove more valuable with regards to testimonials and referrals.

A relationship is far more valuable and profitable than a sale. If you go into a sales opportunity with the myopic goal of closing the deal, you will not develop a solid sales funnel. Conversely, if you go into the same sales opportunity with the desire to learn about the prospect and their needs and goals, you will develop a more trust centric environment and your odds of getting the sale will be much higher. Going into a meeting with the sole desire of closing a deal and you don’t, you will have a difficult path ahead of you to regain the sale. However, if you have their best interest in mind and you don’t get the sale, you have a better opportunity for follow up and a later close which helps fill your pipeline.