Sales reps have a hard time fighting the stereotype of the schmoozing, fast-talking, glad-handing people-pleaser. Indeed, the typical Hollywood caricature of a “salesman” usually has slick hair, a too-perfect suit, and a shiny smile. But is this an accurate picture of how real sales professionals operate?
Let’s set the record straight.
First, it is true that relationship-building is central to a successful sales strategy. But talking fast and making grand claims is a short-term approach with limited results. The smooth-talker never really builds the long-term, productive customer relationships that companies need in order to thrive.
Second, the truth about today’s marketplace is that selling is both a science and an art. It’s a science because there’s typically a step-by-step, methodical process for turning leads into customers. At the same time, selling is an art form because it’s ultimately those personalized connections that lead to long-term customer relationships.
Luckily, sales reps aren’t on their own when it comes to executing a balanced sales strategy. There are plenty of digital tools that can give them what they need to achieve their goals. One such example is CRM software; as the name implies, it’s designed to assist with customer relationship management.
Here are five reasons why sales teams will benefit from adopting a CRM solution.
1. Superior lead and opportunity management
The Broadway play Glengarry Glenross follows a highly competitive sales team pushing Florida real estate. If you’ve seen it, you may recall that the characters are constantly talking about getting their hands on “the good leads.”
While your team probably isn’t selling swampland in Florida, you can bet that your sales reps also want those good leads — the promising prospects that will get them off to a strong start.
A great CRM can be a valuable lead management tool that automates lead collection from a variety of sources.
For instance, you might embed a web to lead form on your website to send visitors’ contact information directly to the CRM. Many systems also offer email integrations that allow you to create new leads right from your inbox.
Once the prospects are in your CRM, your entire team will have centralized access to them, which improves communication and collaboration.
2. A sophisticated sales pipeline
Acquiring leads is the first step in the “sales pipeline”— a deliberate step-by-step process by which potential customers are converted into confirmed buyers.
Every business will have a slightly different version of this process, but here’s an example of a 9-step sales pipeline:
- Prospecting: Determining the potential customer’s level of interest.
- Qualification: Using criteria to qualify how likely they are to purchase.
- Needs Analysis: Determining whether your product or service meets their needs.
- Value Proposition: Understanding your value and determining how valuable the potential customer finds your offerings.
- Identify Decision Makers: Identifying people with the power to make purchasing decisions, and developing a relationship with them.
- Perception Analysis: Determining how your potential customer perceives your company.
- Proposal / Price Quote: Creating a quote and/or proposal for review.
- Negotiation / Review: Hammering out the final details of the deal.
- Closed Won or Closed Lost: Either the sale is agreed upon (and the lead is converted to a customer) or the lead does not pursue your product or service. Lost opportunities are tracked to gather data on how to improve your sales pipeline, products, services, marketing, etc.
A sales CRM typically offers built-in sales pipeline features that can be customized to your company’s processes and priorities. As a result, the software helps sales reps organize lead contact information, identify the most promising leads, and prioritize their follow-up activities.
3. Improved workflow management
The sales process involves countless time-consuming manual tasks. That’s why a good CRM is also an effective workflow management tool. Specifically, a CRM can make your workload more manageable and productive by simplifying common processes. It may do so by:
- Allowing multiple contacts per lead or customer, to avoid losing track of related conversations.
- Eliminating the need for multiple data entry. If lead or customer data is entered once, it should automatically populate in other areas of the CRM or even in other connected apps.
- Making it simple to complete administrative tasks like sending emails or documenting meetings.
At the end of the day, your sales team should be focused on making connections, not trying to keep track of those connections.
4. Stronger customer relationships
Sales professionals are driven to build and maintain customer relationships. But where should they start? How can they properly prepare for meetings, calls, and visits?
The answer lies in the right technology. The core functionality of CRM software is to give each team member access to each customer’s contact details, account history, and transaction history. As such, an effective CRM will quickly become your team’s go-to solution for superior customer management.
And what exactly does superior customer management look like? Well, if you’ve ever worked in the hospitality sector, like a high-end restaurant or hotel, then you know that the secret lies in anticipating the customer’s needs.
If you’re a step ahead of your customer in thinking about their business and their needs, then your service will be a step ahead as well. For example, your reps can use the CRM to review each customer’s previous orders, then identify potential reordering or upselling opportunities. They can also schedule reminders for follow-up emails, to ensure that personal connections are kept alive.
5. Improved alignment between sales and marketing
Here’s a benefit that will speak to the heart of your sales team’s frustrations. You hear it every day: the sales reps want a list of qualified leads to contact, but only the marketing team has that list. Meanwhile, the marketing team wants to share a compelling message, but they rely on the sales team to provide insight into what your leads or customers want.
Sound familiar? You see the pattern here?
A solid CRM brings these teams together and creates synergy between your sales management strategy and your marketing efforts.
On the one hand, your sales team will benefit from having direct access to new prospects as soon as they enter the system. At the same time, your marketing team will have direct access to insights on customer preferences and priorities, without having to ask the sales team.
A great CRM puts real power in the hands of every person at your business.
A bonus benefit for everyone
In the case of Method:CRM, there’s a bonus feature for your sales reps (and the rest of your organization). Method is a CRM solution that has a two-way integration with QuickBooks accounting software. Sales reps can view, enter, and update customer and sales data right in the CRM. This allows them to work independently and close deals sooner — and who doesn’t love that?