5 Tips to improve your personal productivity
Mike Richardson, Managing Director EMEA
I have spent the last few days taking some time to look at our forthcoming release of Maximizer CRM, which is due in the next couple of months. Given our recent push at Maximizer around productivity in business, and the associated benefits a well set-up CRM solution can give to SMEs, I naturally concentrated on the productivity aspects that the updates and new features offered. Of course, I am happy to report these are all very good and definitely worth a review if you are currently using our product, however it struck me that the real key to productivity in business is not a software solution or the way a person is managed, it actually all comes down to personal discipline, enjoying your job and starting the morning looking forward to the day ahead.
Taking a look at your own personal work ethic and organisation can reap dividends in terms of results and performance, and of course, supporting your daily routine through use of an effective CRM solution will also make things easier.
Here are my top five tips for ensuring personal productivity:
An old cliché, but true… Always eat a good breakfast: breakfast does set you up for the day and ensures you start your work routine with high energy levels and an associated sense of purpose
Start the day by reviewing your goals: when scheduling these, ensure to rank the hardest tasks first, whilst your motivation is at its highest
Don’t get distracted by emails or discussions with fellow employees that lead to lesser jobs throughout the day
Keep meetings short, 15 to 30 minutes, and always have an agenda: if the meeting starts to move away from the agenda or drags on, it’s best to close the meeting and re-convene once additional background work has been done. Always have actions resulting from the meeting and delegate responsibility for these tasks
If you are a Manager, truly learn the art of delegation and don’t get dragged into taking back the work or assisting the person who has been tasked with the work if you don’t like the way they are doing something. Give the delegated person scope to complete the task and then gently advise afterwards how they could improve the way they did it next time.
There are of course lots more suggestions and this list could go on, however as with organisation of your personal working time, keep the number of tasks low and the time available to do them high, this way you will see results – and results are in themselves a self-motivator.
Get over the Winter business blues – Part 1
By Anita Holley, Head of Marketing EMEA
The New Year appears to have brought with it the doom and gloom of a triple-dip recession and news of large retail names entering administration. As a member of the Executive Team of a SME, I panic! If the heavyweights can’t make it, how are we going to make a profit in 2013?
If you’re asking yourself the same question then the first step is to set out your business goals. Mine are;
- Retain existing customers – if I offer excellent service, then the chances of upselling and cross-selling will increase and I avoid the expense of acquiring new customers;
- Increase business productivity – if I refine our business processes, our productivity will increase;
- Reduce my operating costs – In refining the business processes, efficiency will also increase, reducing operating costs naturally.
Excellent, I’ve done it, saved the business – but now I need to put everything into practice. Easier said than done. So what to do next? Let’s look at the first goal, retaining customers.
First what do my customers want? That’s easy to answer, what do I want when I’m the customer? I want everyone in the company, whether I call, email or write, to know my key details, what products I’ve purchased, my likes, dislikes, whether I have a complaint, was it resolved etc. In short, I want to be recognised.
So how can you ensure your customers are ‘known’ by your staff across all touch-points? Introduce Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.
CRM systems are specifically designed to manage customer information, providing all staff access to a customers’ details instantly, even if that member of staff is out of the office, they can still have comprehensive access via mobile or tablet devices.
Imagine a customer calls with a complaint and the Customer Service Rep spends 5 minutes searching for the customers’ details, can’t respond to the issue and promises to call back… not a good representation of your business. But, in the meantime, your Sales Rep has just arrived at the same customer’s office for a potential upsell meeting. Your Sales Rep walks into the meeting knowing nothing about the complaint, what do you think will happen next? I doubt the customer will be impressed. In fact, they will probably spend the next 20 minutes repeating the complaint and any chance of the Sales Rep getting a cup of tea, let alone making an upsell has evaporated.
With a CRM solution this could be a different story… the same scene, but this time the Customer Service Rep answers the call and using the CRM system confirms to the customer their details, the products they own and asks, how can I help? On hearing the issue, the Customer Service Rep accesses the Customer Knowledge Base, a library of previous complaints and resolutions and quickly finds the answer, which they relay to the customer – everyone is happy!
Now, the Sales Rep arrives, after checking the customers’ history via their smartphone, can walk in and immediately confirm the issue has been resolved satisfactorily – and then continues with the meeting for the reason it was arranged: to sell.
Goal 1 achieved!
Get over the Winter business blues – Part 2
By Matt Ranger, Head of Sales EMEA
As mentioned in the last blog in this series, the economic outlook in the UK has been pretty grim so far this year. While the latest news predicts an unexpectedly strong performance by the UK services sector in January, which could mean the country narrowly skirts a triple-dip recession, there is certainly no reason for businesses to heave a sigh of relief. Just as the winter weather continues to be gloomy, the economic situation remains worrying and British SMEs need to make every effort to protect and create profits.
My colleague’s previous blog flagged up three ways of achieving this:
- Retain existing customers – by offering excellent service, so your chances of upselling and cross-selling increase and you avoid the cost of acquiring new customers
- Raise business productivity – if you refine your business processes, surely your productivity will increase
- Reduce operating costs – well, if you increase productivity and efficiency, then surely operating costs will decrease naturally.
In this article, I look at goal two: increasing business productivity, especially from my Sales team.
One of the best ways to boost productivity is to make individual employees more efficient. In Sales, if I utilise business tools to streamline operations, I can then free up sales reps to spend more time on activities that generate revenue, like selling!
So how can I, and you, do that? With Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.
Too many SMEs still have not implemented a dedicated CRM platform that captures, tracks and manages all their customer interactions and other key pieces of information in one central database. An advanced CRM system would cut down the time individual staff spend on admin and repetitive manual tasks, freeing them up to devote more time to acquiring new customers and retaining existing customers; in short, activities that increase revenues and make sure we hit our sales targets.
For many SME’s across the EMEA region, too much customer information sits in file folders, record books, notes and spreadsheets. As a result, salespeople and service reps find themselves either spending too much time looking for information or attending a sales meeting or responding to a service call without the information they require, leading to missed revenue opportunities and, as identified in part one of this blog, unhappy customers who are likely to move to your competitor!
In addition, as Head of Sales, there is only one thing as frustrating as missing a sales opportunity and that is the lack of visibility of my pipeline. So I weigh up the pros and cons, do I want my sales representatives spending hours each week preparing pipeline reports or out on the road closing deals. And then for me personally, where do I focus my time, on collating and summarising the information and reports provided by the sales reps or managing our key account customers and ensuring they are happy and satisfied.
Luckily I have access to Sales Force Automation, a key component of any good CRM platform and this cuts-out a lot of this unproductive and often redundant work and frees up my sales people to spend more time talking to customers, while I can still gain a comprehensive view of my pipeline through customised dashboards. And as the dashboards are in ‘real-time’, I can make strategy adjustments and respond to key customers instantly – even on the move on my iPad!
Plus, it’s not just myself and my team that can benefit from a well-designed CRM system. A similar range of functions can help service teams to be more responsive and marketers to easily segment and profile customers for more accurate personalised communications (which hopefully will provide my team with quality leads). All of this means less wasted time and resource, resulting in higher productivity across all departments, not just sales, for any organisation. And when economic times are tough, maximizing productivity is essential!
Get over the Winter business blues – Part 3
By Mike Richardson, Managing Director EMEA
If you have followed the previous two steps in ‘Get over the Winter business blues’ series of blogs then you’ll know all about retaining your customers and increasing productivity with CRM, but how can this reduce the immovable ‘elephant’ in the room – operating expenses.
Reducing your operating expenses is something all senior managers should look at in detail. It is not just a practice for struggling companies. All companies can improve their profit margin.
However, achieving any notable reduction in your operating costs without damaging your output is no simple task – there is a fine equilibrium that most business people don’t want to risk upsetting. I’m sure many will be familiar with the scenario in which you look at your input and output and are confounded at most attempts to reduce one whilst keeping the other stable.
The good news is CRM can provide various ways in which you can get around this age old problem of getting more for less:
- Firstly you can easily create proportional reductions in your operating profits. CRM enhances the productivity of your whole workforce, meaning revenues are likely to go up, whilst your overheads remain stationary. This may seem a bit of cheat as you aren’t actually reducing your operating expenses, but it makes good business sense if you’re panning for long term profit margin growth.
- Secondly you can cut expenditure on agency services. CRM enables you to bring certain agency services in house, without overloading your staff. Due to time saved on your staff’s everyday tasks they will have a growing amount of time going spare. If you have agencies handling telemarketing, lead processing, graphic design etc. you can bring these in house with a little staff training and save yourself a considerable budget.
- Third, if a head count reduction or freeze is planned you can sustain output. Reducing your staff levels doesn’t mean your output has to decrease, CRM can up the productivity of a single member of staff to such a level that they can take on the workload of a whole team in some situations, with the help of automated tasks and triggered events.
- Fourth, CRM allows you to find the inefficient areas more easily. In many cases knowing what to reduce and when to do it can be a big problem in itself. But with data readily available and automated through Action Plans, key milestone alerts and customised dashboard reports CRM enable you to locate what’s not working out from an operating cost perspective and act upon it.
- Finally, you can integrate home working, hot desking and other cost saving practices in your office more effectively with web access and mobile CRM. Good CRM solutions will provide full web access and comprehensive mobile access, allowing your staff to work anywhere, at any time on whatever mobile device or PC they have.
At this point, I’m sure some of you may dismiss a concept which implies the solution to cutting operating expenses is through the investment in what can be an expensive IT implementation. However, it doesn’t have to be, any top CRM provider will have various options around cloud hosted CRM solutions which come at a low monthly subscription fee, giving you all the benefits and none of the hassle or significant investment.
So, CRM really is the one solution for those of you wishing to retain customers, increase productivity and reduce operating expenses.