Does CRM really help make the sale? It depends

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Published: August 8,2005

Are you using some form of database management to “control” your customer data?

Customer relationship management or CRM has been around in one form or another for nearly 20 years. But in the last five years it’s become way more sophisticated, more of a sales necessity, and a lot more competitive.

The main multiple-user asp (now referred to as SaaS) programs include salesforce.com, Siebel and a new player Dovarri. And non-asp, or programs in-a-box, include goldmine, ACT! and the more sophisticated saleslogix. There are also large enterprise solutions that include Oracle and SAP.

Since I am often asked “which one” I recommend, I think it’s best to develop criteria for what I feel needs to be included (you should do the same), and go from there.

Logging on your CRM application gets you to your opening desktop screen. At a minimum there has to be an eyeful of “now.” Salespeople want to see hot prospects, top proposals, a forecast, their report card, today’s appointments — a quick path to contacts and a calendar — and maybe a motivational quote.

From there, it should only be one click to new leads, current accounts, opportunity accounts, activity lists, phone book, Outlook e-mail, Outlook contacts, Outlook tasks, a pipeline report, a won-loss report, a lead analysis report. And just a double click away from account detail, and a sales plan to close each deal.

New to CRM is sales coaching. Coaching helps the salesperson make the sale, either internally with product knowledge, or externally with sales answers by means of online coaching when you demand it.

If I’m a salesperson using CRM, I want to have access to better questions, a way to follow-up, pathways to decision makers, and strategies to close my sales AS I progress through each sales cycle.

Monitoring a sales cycle is one thing — that’s what databases are designed to do — but assisting salespeople with each step in the sales cycle is the future of CRM.

Now with the domination of e-mail communication to single and multiple customers, PDF proposals and Web site click-throughs, a new dynamic has emerged in CRM: Monitoring activity of sent e-mail, and tracking who opens the e-mail and when.

The tragic flaw in CRM is that salespeople (you) avoid entering sales data even though it could help them. Yes, salespeople are reluctant to enter data for one silly reason or another pain in the butt EVEN though it’s for their own good.

One of the reasons online coaching is so powerful is that the salesperson will use the program to get sales answers, and is more likely to enter sales data along the way.

Salesforce.com was the first to offer sales materials with their program. To date they have been the most innovative. They were also the first to offer a lower cost online solution for the small- to medium-sized business. The larger players, saleslogix and Siebel, offer robust software for large installations but are slower to update and innovate. Goldmine is more direct competition to salesforce.com-and smaller companies can use lighter versions or go to the originator, ACT!-predecessor to saleslogix.

Yes, Outlook can perform many of the database functions of a CRM, but still lacks the bells and whistles. Also note every major CRM is Outlook compatible.

I was test-driving the new Dovarri, and in addition to being well-designed, found an entire suite of e-mail, Web and eZine tools. Not only can you send e-mail, but you can get alerts that let you know when the customer opens them. Pretty slick tool for knowing exactly when to follow-up.

I assume the others will scramble to catch up, but Dovarri also seems to be ahead of the curve in coaching. The others all have a resource library — but not tied to a specific sales function or place in the sales cycle.

I am posting a full-blown comparison of the major CRM players on my Web site. I’ve taken the facts from their Web sites and their salespeople. I will not be drawing conclusions. Based on the features you need and the costs attached, you can draw your own conclusions.

Me? I look for what I need and the user-friendliness of the application.

Me? I look for what I use every day and how efficient it is.
You? Do the same as I do. Figure out what’s best for you and do that.

BUT, do something. If you don’t have a CRM application in your life, get one. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself at a technological and informational disadvantage. And in sales, that’s no place to be.

GitBit: If you want the CRM comparison, go to www.gitomer.com — register if you’re a first time user — and enter CRM in the GitBit box. I am trying to get each player to offer a free “test drive” to any of you who may want it. Check the Web site for details.

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible,” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail
salesman@gitomer.com.

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