There’s no Doubt that Selling is an Art
By Lisa Witepski
(The following article appeared in an edition of The Journal of Marketing)
There’s no doubt that selling is an art. And, just as a conventional artist uses a paintbrush and an easel to perform his craft, so does the salesperson require the right tools for the job. The salesman’s tricks of the trade may be a little more high-tech than a palette of colours, but like that palette, they can all be found in one place: the CRM system.
“Think about it,” says Mark Annett, general manager of Camsoft Solutions. “A good CRM system will include programmes that allow you to view your daily tasks and appointments and company announcements. It will facilitate easy access of your email, and logs those emails under separate client folders so that you can easily keep track of all client interaction. Because this information is web-based, it’s available round-the-clock, from your cellphone or laptop. And perhaps most importantly, it’s shared, so all members of the organisation can keep abreast of new developments.”
How does this help the salesperson? Simple: “Your CRM system enables you to manage your customer at the same time as managing yourself; significant, because your activities are geared to answering their requirements,” Annett says.
Put differently, a salesperson’s job entails either servicing a need, or creating a need. CRM provides the tools to do both, quickly and efficiently. For example, imagine you phone Acme Booksellers in search of the latest Wilbur Smith. If he’s clever, Acme’s salesperson will log your call, capturing all your personal information and details of the transaction in the company’s CRM system. That way, next time Wilbur Smith writes another book, he can give you a shout, knowing that you’ll probably be interested.
Similarly, Acme’s salesperson might stumble across your name as a potential sales lead. By entering your details into the CRM system, he can easily keep track of how your relationship as a client develops: when the first meeting took place, how you reacted to his sales proposition, and whether he was able to make a sale. The CRM system can also be used to send handy reminders to follow up on such leads.
CRM is a great tool for managers, too. Tired of hounding your sales team to find out how targets are coming along? Wouldn’t it be easier to find out by logging onto the system, and tracking the various sales on the go, or monitoring the team’s activities?
In this manner, CRM is also helpful in forecasting trends and assessing pipeline reports, Annett points out. “A good CRM system will enable you to manage your sales opportunities, revealing how many potential sales are in the pipeline, how close the salesperson is to concluding a deal and what revenue can be expected from the completed sale.”
This ability to assess anticipated revenue is also useful, particularly as it works retroactively, too – your CRM system will allow you to compare how sales are looking in relation to the same period last year. “Traditionally, people have accessed this information from the accounts department. The drawback of this approach is that salespeople aren’t accountants. By using the CRM system, you’re empowering the sales team to access their own sales figures,” says Annett. The advantage is clear: with those figures in hand, you can forecast budgets, determine how much profit is entering the company compared to running costs, and plan accordingly.
Then there’s the fact that most companies’ business is based on repeat buys; in fact, only 20% of an organisation’s business originates from new clients. Obviously, taking care of those customers who are already hooked is paramount; and this is where your CRM system can play a starring role. With your clients’ demographics are already stored in your database, you can quickly establish data like their birthdays, whether they have children and what products they favour. Why not use this information to your advantage: send a birthday message on the day, wish your Jewish clients well over the fast and tell parents to drive carefully as they make the trek coastwards for the school holidays. It’s cheaper than advertising, but it tells your clients loud and clear that you care about them, and value their custom.
Of course, there is a flipside. Some customers may view this type of messaging as an infringement of their privacy, so make sure your CRM system allows you the option of excluding them from such correspondence.
One of CRM’s most useful applications lies in its ability to generate client profiles. If knowledge is power, CRM puts salespeople in the pound seat: before contacting a client, a quick glance at their transaction history will put you in the know about their likes and dislikes – making it that much easier to clinch your sale.
In a nutshell: the advantages of using CRM as a sales tool
1.Provides a quick and easy platform for accessing client data.
2. With all the information you need at your fingertips, it’s a great time management tool.
3. There’s no need to scratch your head – all the details you need about your client are right in front of you.
4. CRM functions like an electronic rolodex on steroids, maintaining not only all the details of your diary and daily activities, but storing all the correspondence you’ve ever had with the clients you’ll be seeing today. Plus, you’ll have access to transactions those clients have had with other members of your sales team, so there’ll be no nasty surprises.
Do’s and don’ts of managing your CRM system
1. Make sure all the client information stored in your CRM system is current. Know which people in the organisation they’ve been chatting to, and why. This will prevent pesky repeat phone calls from different people in the same company – after all, if they were offered the opportunity to buy your product yesterday and declined, it’s unlikely they’ll have changed their minds by this evening.
2. “Rubbish in, rubbish out,” says Annett. It’s important to manage your data storage to ensure it contains useful, up to date information. The onus is on individual salespeople to recognise the importance of the CRM system, and to update information accordingly. “A salesperson who does not take advantage of the available tools obviously isn’t that serious about doing a good job, while a champion salesperson will use every tool at his disposal. That’s what makes the difference between a star and a non-performer,” Annett says.