Posted by: southwestcrm | June 29, 2009

4 ways to use networking events more effectively

Lessons in Selecting the Right Sales Channel

Lessons in Selecting the Right Sales Channel

Gathering business cards?
Do you follow up after a networking event?
Do you keep track of conversations and set reminders in your ‘CRM database’?
Is everyone in your company following up in the same way, using the same marketing tools and company branding?
Do you all share a common list of contacts and the ongoing conversations with each other?

Is all this an easy process?

It’s amazing the number of business entrepreneurs I speak with at networking events who want more out of networking but continue to do the same, ineffective, thing over and over.  Eventually they leave a network group because of the low level of return when compared with the time invested.
When you discuss possible improvements, most will confess that they know and should do “that stuff”, but nearly all just don’t.  There is a well known saying which, I think, is very apt in this situation.  It is “to know and not to do is to not to know”.  In other words they know if they do something it will be beneficial.  Knowing is one thing.  Doing is another thing altogether.  So is there a magic formula to more effective networking?  What stops people making the most of these networking events?
I’m certainly not the most experienced networker out there.  In fact compared to some of the people I have come to know and respect I would say I am a newbie.  What I have brought to the table however is computer-based help which automates a lot of the follow up “process”.  AND NO, IT DOESN’T DO THE FOLLOW FOR YOU 😉 but it does make it a much more straightforward, almost enjoyable, undertaking!
Rules:
•    Rule No. 1 – Block out time in your diary – but not for networking…
•    Rule No. 2 – Know who is in your particular network and target them proactively
•    Rule No. 3 – Support your efforts through social media and networking sites

•    Rule No. 4 – Put the business cards collected in a ‘proper’ database such as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
Rule No. 1 – Block out time in your diary – but not for networking…
Don’t just book the event time into your diary.  Instead, when you’re entering the venue details in your diary also block out 2 hours later on that day or the following day for follow up and general business card processing.
So many people only book the event into their diary and fit the admin and follow up around their busy schedule. Or rather they don’t get around to it.
Fact:  If you book time in your diary explicitly, chances are you’ll keep up with the relationship building opportunities and actually do the follow ups.  And actually build more relationships that bear fruit.
Rule No. 2 – Know who is in your particular network and target them proactively
A network event is not just about turning up and meeting as many people as possible in the hope to sell something to anyone. Get hold of the members list and cross check it against your target market.  On the day, make sure you seek out and speak to your targets.
You can do this much more easily if you add the target members to a database which is capable of categorisation and segmentation.  Use this information to routinely broadcast to them useful and relevant information.  Schedule emails and mailings to be sent out and use the system to book in phone follow ups.
A database marketing tool will simplify and help streamline this process and eliminate inertia due to the whole process taking too much effort.
Rule No. 3 – Support your efforts through social media and networking sites
You no doubt know that you’ll rarely make a sale on the first meeting at a network event.  In fact, it is often said that it takes at least seven meetings/interactions before enough trust is built and a sales opportunity is established.  With this in mind when entering all your contacts into your database, look up their details in places like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc.  Find their blogs, read them and, if you like what they write, add comments.
You’ll be amazed at the amount of spin-off business you can find just by adding a useful comment to a blog post.  I’ve had several enquiries from people I’ve never met who happened upon my comment and made contact with me as a result.  Give a little first before you get a lot back!
In my world all this is called Relationship Building Opportunities (RBO).  Keep track of your RBOs in your database.  Don’t rely on brain power alone.  If you do rely on the old grey matter, then you’re probably not talking to enough people!
Prepare action plans around each RBO including regular emails, phone calls, recommendations (to them!) and learn about their business using the wealth of Social Networking tools that are out there.
Rule No. 4 – Put the business cards collected in a ‘proper’ database
Entering business cards into a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database ensures that your follow ups are simpler to do and more likely to be actioned.
A CRM system will provide the following service:

  • a)    Support a marketing strategy or tactic (i.e. Think about a workflow that should take place when entering a business card into a CRM system.  An example here might be to automatically create a follow up call in your diary 7 days after the event).
  • b)    Personalised email handling including your branding.  Just enter the contact, choose a pre-built email template, add additional comments particular to the contact and click send.  Quick and Simple to do.
  • c)    Build multiple ‘target lists’For example, create a list called “My Exeter Networking Contacts”, add relevant contacts to the list, set up and schedule a list of emails to be sent at predetermined times.
  • d)    Record every conversation with each contact, the date and time the conversation took place and add a reminder to call them at a future date.  Read back over past conversations to refresh your memory.
  • e)    Categorise contacts into target areas. Who in your system is in your ‘inner circle’? who is an ‘advocate’? What are their dis/likes?  Are they a detail oriented person or do they like to hear only the headline?  This kind of information can help you tune your sales message to the individual you are addressing.
  • f)    Keep a list of RBO’s and their potential value. Add every whiff of an opportunity to your database.  You’ll never forget to follow it up.  It’ll keep you focused on what counts.  BUSINESS
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Posted by: southwestcrm | April 7, 2009

Connect LinkedIn to your CRM and watch your sales grow

It was an amazing turnaround in fortunes.  I was working on a large prospective client trying to sell them a system when I hit a brick wall with my sales contact.  Whatever I did the sale was stalling.

For a bit of background, I sell CRM systems and the buying decision typically involves several key players within the prospect organisation and it so happened I was talking to only one of these decision makers.  All be it the main guy.

At the time I was using a version of a CRM system (which I won’t name here because this blog is not about selling a particular CRM system).  I just want to put across the concept.  The CRM system kept track of the opportunity and whole bunch of pre-sales activity but that’s where it stopped helping on this occasion.

Until, that is, the CRM vendor introduced a new module.  A ‘social networking’ module that connected to social networks.  At the time I paid lip service to it.  After all, CRM for my organisation is all about business and not social networking….Social networking is all about keeping in touch with old school friends, right?

Anyway I installed the module into my CRM system, selected the LinkedIn ‘connector’ and tried it out…

Now, I’ve read about paradigm shifts but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.  Suddently right in front of my eyes, my CRM system came to life with really useful information.  The account I had been working began to show me all the employees at the prospect company that were in the LinkedIn network.  More to the point some of these contacts were actually in my network some levels down!!

For those that don’t use LinkedIn, my LinkedIn network is a list of people I connect with (e.g. business partners).  This network includes THEIR network and so on.  Before you know it your network starts to grow exponentially.

Let me get to the point.   I spotted that the finance controller at the prospect company (whom I had not spoken to or been in contact with) was in LinkedIn.  More to the point she was connected with one of my business partners as a first level contact.

Now you can probably work the rest out but suffice to say, my trusted business partner put in a good word and a new advocate was born.  The sales opportunity reignited with new impetus and a deal was concluded.  In hindsight I could have looked up the client in LinkedIn manually but the beauty of the CRM connector is that it told me automatically and in a system I live inside daily.

Moral: Connecting LinkedIn to your CRM system creates a true relationship building experience for business people.  Without this connection your CRM system is a good, but an underutilised, internal-facing resource.

More information can be found at http://www.southwestict.com

Posted by: southwestcrm | February 26, 2009

7 Ways to lose all your customers and create a big mess

7 Ways to lose all your customers and create a big mess

When a customer calls, make them wait while you dig out their account information. Often this means looking for the quote on a network hard drive, ringing accounts dept to find out if a payment has gone through or an order processed. But whatever the query is, if you don’t have a quick-to-access centralised system to keep together all this information you’ll leave your customer waiting, waiting, going, going, gone.

alternatively…

The phone rings, the customer account details pop up on screen in your customer relationship management system (CRM) showing account details, aged debt, order status, outstanding complaints, next visit date, product interests etc, etc… “Good morning John, I see you have an outstanding order… outstanding!, what can I do for you today”

2. During an active complaint about some widget they bought from you, Ring them to sell them more stuff

Imagine this. You’ve just bought a new all singing laptop with a 52.something terrorhtz processor. during a very important end of month accounts process, the bl**dy thing won’t start up. You ring customer service and wait for a call back while they (very nicely maybe) try and resolve the issue within 3.4 hours. In the meantime the sales department at “Laptops-to-go Ltd” (whom you purchased this machine from) calls you with a special offer on said laptop if you buy within the next 24hrs.

Now, not only do you want to send the f-ing think back, the company has the gall to reduce the price and taunt you with a “ha-ha, you’ve already bought one at the higher price”. A great way to lose a customer.

alternatively…

The salesperson at Laptops-to-go is working through their customer call sheet in their CRM system. Against your name is a flag alerting them to the fact that there is an active issue with your account. The salesperson calls you, empathises and promises to keep track of the issue. Once the issue is resolved the salesperson calls you to check you are happy, asks how the system is now, points out why its was such a good buy (or something like that) and suggests that some later models now include additional features….. you know the rest.

3. Keep sending marketing messages via email even though they opted-out from the last 20 you sent them

Here’s a great one to really p***s off your best customers and break the law at the same time. Perfect.

The best thing to do here is don’t give your customer a way to opt-out from a routine marketing message. This will irate the customer no end. Even better include a link in the email which they click if they want to opt-out from future emails, BUT just ignore this and keep on sending them important junk. Ok, so I’m being little facetious here but its easily (and innocently) done. Take for example the following story. Each member of staff at Widget Co. is responsible for their own activities and, accordingly, has developed their own systems. Some use Excel, others use their Outlook Contacts list. Each sends out mailings. Now, the issue comes when someone wants to opt-out from receiving future mailings from Widget Co. ummm. How to notify all the different systems? Not likely.

alternatively…

You deploy a CRM system for all staff to use. One shared contact list. The CRM system is web-based so that all opt-out links clicked immediately mark that contact as having ‘opted-out’. Now, whenever anyone in the company tries to send a marketing message to the opted-out contact they will be omitted from the send list.

Result: 1) Customer not p***ed off and may opt back-in the future. 2) No manual effort to process opt-out’s

4. Choose to keep all information hidden away inside Word documents and put them on some network drive where staff cannot find, can delete or can create a copy on a local hard drive.

You make damn sure that quotes etc are written in Microsoft Word, stored on the network somewhere so that they can be accessed by all staff. Even better, organise the network folders by customer name. Even easier to find, yes? Well, no actually. In practice this method becomes pretty inefficient and ineffective.

It’s not efficient because you have to create alternative processes to keep track of things like buying patterns and new business forecasts etc. Often when quotes become orders someone somewhere (maybe in accounts) has to retype the details into another electronic system (probably not Word).

alternatively…

The CRM system stores product and service lines and produces quotations which become linked to contacts in the database. One place to locate anything to do with the contact.

Now I’m not suggesting you don’t use MS Word or similar to PRINT the quote. It’s just that this way, analysis can be achieved without double entry. You can easily see the level of business potential by customer, market, product line, sales area or whatever tickles your fancy. And when it comes to winning the order, just press a button and produce an invoice… Hey presto!

5. Buy expensive CRM software and leave no money for set up. End up with the Rolls Royce of card index systems

I like this one. It happens a lot. You recognise that you need more enquiries and better customer service so you go out and buy the latest and greatest CRM system with x days set up and away you go. It’s pricey but functional and should pay for itself through increased new business and a happier customer base. You invest and 6 months later it’s a great system for looking up a phone number and logging stuff into it. Moreover, some within your organisation don’t use it or prefer to use their old system. You’re not sure what benefits have been realised. The CRM provider says you can get a lot more out of it but its needs setting up and this is going to cost you more. Ouch.

alternatively…

You look a little deeper into the CRM market place and realise that there are as equally capable systems out there for a fraction of the price of the mainstream systems. You decide to use the money saved on licenses purchased and spend it more wisely on defining effective workflows and processes that are easy to use and which are far more likely to be adopted by users.

6.Rather than buy the right TYPE of CRM system for your business and industry, you buy what was recommended to you buy a friend or because you liked the look of one.

CRM is an over used acronym which covers many systems and business functions. From specialist call centres to personal information managers. From systems for B2B marketing to B2C marketing. You wouldn’t buy a rally car to go circuit racing. If you do, you can be sure the customer and staff experience will be a frustrating one fraught with technology hurdles to drag down your business efficiency and hamper customer service.

alternatively…

Well. Just look for the right type for your industry, or employ a CRM specialist or contract in a CRM consultant.

7. Knowledge is power and ultimate job security!

Keep all information and call history about a customer in your head. This way everyone else in your company will be kept in the dark about a customer and will have to ask YOU for information.

alternatively…

Share the information with colleagues, put key dates in a shared database. Who knows, maybe your colleagues will do also and eventually you start to speak the same language and put your customers at the heart of your business. Where it belongs.

Posted by: southwestcrm | February 21, 2009

Blogs about software to manage customers and find new ones

Well, I’m new to blogging.  For the past 20+ years I have helped business people find new customers using specialist software that helps to manage their sales, marketing and customer service activity.  In short “CRM” which stands for “Customer Relationship Management”.  Blogging is another great way to get your name out there and pull people to your website.

My blogs will be about how you can proactively and simply find new business and look after existing ones using CRM technology.

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