Interact, manage & sell: CRMs breaking the mold
The notions we have of the ways which salespeople work are usually wrong. The big (and small) screen image of a salesperson is one of a stressed, overworked and under-pressure individual hitting the phones hard, cold-calling and lurching from one rejection to the next.
Today’s reality is very much different – apart from the hard work, and at least some of the stress!
In most cases, salespeople are parts of a team, and so there’s a great deal of collaborative activity undertaken: getting advice from colleagues, following tips, and reporting up the chain to the sales supervisor or manager.
And as for cold-calling, it does still happen of course, but the majority of sales professionals use social media, the web, direct referrals or networking events as the main sources of good prospects.
To develop opportunities, a sales team will hit LinkedIn (which offers dedicated services for sales teams), Twitter histories, social media timelines, web forms submitted from interested parties and the results of email campaigns. Apart from business cards garnered from physical events, the majority of activity is online. Even trade publications, which form some part at least of most salespeople’s prospecting, are read online in the main.
Careers in sales are seldom staid affairs, with the same routines followed day-in, day-out (albeit automated, technologically-based routines). Ask any salesperson about their job, and all will say that no two days are the same. On the modern sales floor, technology empowers the person, rather than change the nature of the job itself.
And sales is about human connections. It’s a rare event indeed that a prospect gets in touch directly with a sales department and hands over money without making that person-to-person connection. In this aspect, the art of sales of yesteryear is still alive and well, and probably on the phone right now!
Modern customers behave the same way as anyone else equipped with technology. We have come to expect emails, SMS or app-borne messaging, calls, social media messages and a whole host of Internet messages from different, ever-changing platforms.
The salesperson today, therefore, needs to juggle all the different methods of communication in opportunity development and deal-closing, all while collaborating with colleagues, reporting upwards, calling and visiting customers and working on networks.
Further up the food chain, the team leaders of sales forces will be monitoring his or her staff and their performance, keeping an eye on targets, adherence to process, and KPIs.
In some sales environments, the broad reach of communication channels and required processes are still managed manually by individual salespeople. There might be no structure to prospecting, no formality in requiring examination of previous comms, and no meta-examination of sales processes and data by supervisors etc. Time is spent inefficiently chasing and consolidating sales & results, rather than letting technology do what it does best: organize, automate and empower.
Without formalizing processes and setting out methods and expected standards (KPIs), vital signs and pointers get missed, and teams are not best-used according to their full potential, both individually and as a group.
Further up the line, management can’t accurately determine points of weakness in the sales process, other than to see those weaknesses’ manifestation as poor sales. Similarly, “over-performance” (aka great performance) can’t be recognized and rewarded.
Putting systems into place, ensuring unified sales structures and processes is an aspect of the latest generation of customer relationship management (CRM) software at which it can excel. It can cope with multiple digital channels of communication and reporting, show contact information and previous customer interactions, collate reports and show up weak points as well as successes – and that’s just the start.
The very latest in CRM is the use of machine-learning, which can process massive data repositories and identify trends, weak points in processes and suggest further changes to systems and automation which will drive significant sales improvements and overall customer satisfaction.
And as any salesperson, from any point in the last 100 years, customer satisfaction is what it’s all about.
Here are three of that latest generation of CRM suppliers which we at Tech Wire Asia think you should consider, to draw out the best possible customer outcomes from your teams:
Zoho is a virtual operating system for businesses. With over 35 integrated applications, Zoho has everything you need to boost sales, step up productivity, and manage all day-to-day operating activities.
Zoho CRM offers a single place to manage your sales processes and communication across multiple channels.
Features like Blueprint allow team leaders and managers to build scalable sales processes in software with the various touchpoints, inputs, and actions to ensure everyone on the team follows the right process. As staff move potential business down the sales funnel, results can be gathered as to the efficacy of both the individuals and the plan itself.
Zoho’s built-in AI function, Zia, is a virtual sales assistant that suggests how users might use the software’s automation features & solutions, and create intelligent predictions as to outcomes. It also suggests the best time to contact customers, predicts sales outcomes, as well as searches for anomalies in sales processes.
Along with Zia are real-time notifications which notify users when a customer opens an email, visits the website or posts on social media. This enables sales staff to have at their fingertips all the information they need for positive outcomes.
To read more about Zoho’s CRM software solutions, click here.
Salesforce’s ubiquitous position as the world’s largest CRM supplier was germinated when the company formed in 1999 and took the decision to be entirely cloud-based. While software as a service (SaaS) models are commonplace these days, in the last millennium, the common computing model which was prevalent even in the largest of enterprises was quite different: business applications either running on the endpoint or running via in-house LANs served from private data centers, often to thin clients.
The serendipity of the cloud decision and the skill of the founders has led the company to be currently valued at US$61 billion.
Salesforce’s offerings cover the full gamut of CRM provision, and much more, depending on industry and need. For the sales team, however small (prices are available for teams of up to five personnel), Sales Cloud, Salesforce CPQ, and the data.com Clean services will be of initial interest.
The latter service combines data cleansing routines with databases of company profile data from Dun & Bradstreet, the combination ensuring sales personnel are following properly audited leads. CPQ (configure, price, quote) solutions are, of course, useful when multiple, configurable products are sold down multiple channels, and quotes are complex.
Sales Cloud will be the core of any sales CRM, and all of Salesforce’s offering can be bolstered with the grandly-titled “Einstein” artificial intelligence (AI) for an additional fee as an add-on.
The inbound sales experts Hubspot were founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2006 and have grown since to specialize in helping businesses market themselves over social media & the web (SEO techniques) and use various analytic engines to segment customers and propose best strategies.
Unlike the other two offerings in this article, Hubspot’s capabilities can work alongside the others, either with direct integration, in the case of Salesforce, or via third parties, who make use of the product’s API.
In fact, Hubspot’s Mark Stoddard, head of sales for Asia stated in an interview that his personal sales software combination comprised a combination of HubSpot, Salesforce, and Gmail.
Inbound marketing, when done well, is usually considered superior in terms of results than outbound, as customers have been attracted by the business, or in some way encouraged, before any contact is made. Sales leads are, therefore, to a certain degree, “warm”.
The company is fairly consistently rewarded, both by local and international bodies, as a “great place to work”.
*Some of the companies featured in this article are commercial partners of Tech Wire Asia