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Face-to-Face Meetings – 6 Great Reasons to Have Them

meetings
meetings

Don’t get me wrong, I love social media and fully embrace all forms of electronic communications. They are woven into the very fabrics of our business and personal lives, and it’s an exciting ride.

But, these days of hyper-digital interactions and an utter reliance on technology, come at a price. it’s easy to forget the impact that good old-fashioned, in-person meetings can have in growing a business.

For most of us, and especially those in direct sales, face-to-face meetings are still by far the most powerful form of engagement. This fact seems intuitive, yet many salespeople continue to ignore them. They often use email or a social channel in situations that would be better served by “pressing the flesh.”

Every dialogue requires us to select the most appropriate vehicle. Sometimes email is best. In other situations, a phone call or web-conferencing makes sense. That said, there are times when sitting across the table from a prospect, client or partner, is the absolute best choice.

My rule of thumb when deciding what to do is to think about the purpose, complexity, impact, and sensitivity of any given situation. Sounds like a lot of decision-making here, but the process becomes fairly automatic if you make it a habit of considering your options.

We all strive to save precious time, so meeting in person has to be for a valid reason with a planned agenda and outcome. If you go prepared, it will be time well spent.

Face-time is of particular importance in B2B sales with high-ticket items or long cycles. In these situations, building credibility and trust is critical.

Key Benefits of Face-to-Face Meetings

#1 – Higher Impact:

Let’s say you just got handed a pre-qualified lead for a significant opportunity. Wouldn’t pushing for a meeting with the prospect be a better first step than a long phone conversation or multiple emails? You should assume the prospect has done their online and other research because chances are they have.

#2 – Leverage Non-Verbal Queues:

You can’t read body language over the phone or from behind a keyboard. Experts say that roughly 93% of communication in meetings comes from body language and tonal queues. Getting to know people, and helping them get to know you, is much easier when you have the whole picture.

#3 – Build Better Relationships:

It’s a fact that people buy more often from those they know, like and trust. I’ll concede that relationships can get built to a surprising extent in the virtual world, but you can’t beat the personal touch! Often you gain an advantage just because your competitors won’t bother to make the effort. And if you’re first in, that’s usually a definite plus.

#5 – Gain Valuable Insight:

Being in the lobby, on a plant floor, in a boardroom, or a prospect’s office can provide valuable insight if you look, listen and learn. The attitude of the employees, signs on walls, pictures on desks, and other clues can tell you a great deal about the company, culture, and its people. These nuances can provide essential inputs for your sales strategy and how you should engage moving forward.

#6 – Personal Fulfillment:

Forget closing deals for a moment – OK that’s long enough! If you like people, and you should if you’re in a job dealing with them all day, a meeting can be a very satisfying experience. If your interpersonal skills are reasonably well-honed, you can turn your face-time into real personal connections that can be rewarding and energizing for all.

Digital technology has enabled us to communicate faster and more efficiently than ever imagined even a few decades ago. But the next time you have a significant opportunity, or need to take care of a delicate issue, I urge you to stop and ask yourself a simple question, “would this situation be handled better with a face-to-face meeting?”

5 Steps to Better Business Communications

Better Business Communications
Better Business Communications

In a previous post entitled “6 Great Reasons for Face-to-Face Meetings” I wrote about the importance of connecting in-person when the situation warrants it and how sales people and others often miss great opportunities by opting not to have them.

That started me thinking about communications in a broader sense and how little we think about it in our day-to-day work. Every time we communicate, it’s a unique situation that happens only once. Most of the time we decide how to deliver the message almost unconsciously and I suspect that comes from years of practice and pattern recognition. Although this is undeniably efficient, there is also risk.

There are many factors that need to be considered when communicating. To keep it simple, I think along the lines of complexity and importance. Where “complexity” is about the nature of the information itself and “importance” is why it matters and how much impact it has. At one end of the spectrum are short “near-binary” snippets of fact – the “simple and usually unimportant.” At the other end, is when we need to express complex ideas and thoughts, or emotion – the “complex and usually important.” If a communication is more on the impactful end, I would suggest the following approach:

#1. Define Your Goals

Before pressing a button, picking up the phone, or grabbing your jacket – take a moment to think first about the purpose and objectives of your communication. Also, define what success will look like afterwards. Be clear about your intention. Are you trying to educate, persuade, smooth over an issue, share, or simply nurture a relationship? Don’t just go through the motions – have a goal in mind.

#2. Know Your Audience

Always the cornerstone of any effective communication, think about who you are reaching out to before you do. If you don’t know them, do whatever research you can ahead of time. If you have some history together, reflect on what they respond well to and what their preferred style of communication seems to be. You will be more effective if you can align with what works for them.

The age group of your audience may also play a role. In an interesting article by Ayaz Nanji called B2B Buying: Millennials vs. Gen X and Baby Boomers, he cites some IBM research that shows the changing communication style preferences between generations. The results illustrate how business people of different ages prefer different modes of communicating. It’s worth a read and you might be surprised by some of the findings.

#3. Choose Your Vehicle

Next comes the mode of communication. Whether you use a text, social media, phone, teleconference, web meeting, or an in-person meeting, decide on the vehicle that’s most appropriate. Make sure whatever you choose will deliver your message in a way that helps achieve your goals. Here are a few helpful hints:

  • Never use email for topics that are emotionally charged – ever!
  • If an email takes 1/2 hour to write or has 30 revisions, pick up the phone
  • Use proper email etiquette – estimates are that we spend 1/4 of our time sifting through them
  • If you’re writing, remember your personal brand is at stake – sloppiness doesn’t reflect well on anyone
  • If using teleconferencing or a web meeting – have the technology figured out before the call, not during the first 15 minutes of it – can you relate?

#4. Get Prepared

If your communication is important, prepare some form of “call planning guide” first and with the right amount of detail. If it’s a crucial conversation of some sort, consider rehearsing out loud before you engage. It may sound silly, but it works. If you have ever done this before giving a presentation (if not, you really should), you will understand the benefits. Also, try to visualize how the flow of the communication might go and if you anticipate any possible objections, prepare your responses in advance.

#5. Execute Well

If you have gone through the first 4 steps, you should be feeling confident and well-prepared – now it’s time to deliver. This should be the easy part if you’re ready and relaxed, and you just be yourself.

I realize some of this may seem a bit obvious and certainly for the large majority of our daily touch-points, we don’t require this much structure. However, if you get in the habit of thinking this way about your communications, they will improve and you will be more effective. Every time you connect with a prospect, client, or anyone else who impacts your business, you have an opportunity to drive an outcome – make it count!

Document Important Things or Pay The Price!

Document
Document

Think about how many times you communicate in a given day or week. Between email, phone calls, meetings, texting, and hallway chats, it’s a wonder any of us remember anything.

I was recently doing a “media buy” for a client and although the process was well managed and on track, there was a problem. At the last minute, we found out that the launch date and even the publication itself were different than what was originally proposed. Without going into painful detail, it was a communication breakdown that caused a great deal of confusion and stress for all parties involved and it could have been avoided with a simple email. Unfortunately, nobody took a few minutes to document any of the conversation and as it turned out, the information was important.

The root cause of the situation was a conference call that took place nearly 8 weeks before the proposed launch date. I don’t remember having that conversation, but apparently we talked about changing the original plan for more impact. A week following that call, I was given an insertion order to sign and a creative deadline that aligned with the initial plan. I signed it and never gave it a second thought. The process moved forward but when we started revising the final design and copy, it became clear something was wrong.

It’s not impossible we discussed the change and I was either not paying close enough attention, or I misunderstood. But that’s not how I remember it. In my mind, there was no reason to suspect anything was amiss. In a perfect world, the meeting organizer or vendor in this case, would have simply documented the highlights of the conversation and send it to us so everyone was clear.

This situation worked out fine in the end, but the lesson was a good reminder for us all. People don’t have perfect memories and information, especially on phone calls, can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. When you have a call or meeting to discuss key milestones, action items, or other information that has significance – get it in writing and make sure it’s fully clarified!

If you’re leading a process in a situation like this, document the key points immediately after the call while it’s still fresh in your mind. It only takes a few minutes and you will save a lot of time and grief later on.

Sales and Marketing – Why Can’t we be Friends?

Sales and Marketing
Sales and Marketing

By this point in time, wouldn’t you think that the age-old rift between Sales and Marketing would have completely disappeared? I was certainly leaning that way.

But in recent travels, the same old rhetoric used in both camps about people in the other, appears to be alive and kicking. I’m not saying it’s this way in every organization because I have seen some very good alignment out there. But the fact remains that in many companies, there is still an “us” and “them” undertone between these two functions that rely so heavily upon on each. After all, we do typically group them together as “Sales and Marketing” right?

So let’s have a bit of fun now. I have listed actual direct quotes from sales and marketing people about each other and their respective teams. Mind you, I have toned down the language in spots to be polite. I have served in both areas for years and heard many more comments like these in the past. I must reluctantly admit, I may have thought (even said) some of these things long ago depending on which side of the fence I was on at the time (come on, be honest – you probably have too.) It’s even trickier when you manage both functions – then you have no one to blame but yourself when sales take a dip! So here are my all-time personal favorites. 

Sales people’s quotes about their Marketing colleagues:

  • “What do those guys do all day? If we don’t get some more shirts and giveaways soon, I’m not going to close any deals this quarter.”
  • “Why do I waste time following up on leads from Marketing? they’re all garbage anyhow!”
  • “I don’t get why I have to go and stand around at these events – what a total waste of time.”
  • “Next to Finance, Marketing seems like our biggest sales prevention department.”
  • “Almost everything that comes out of Marketing sucks!”
  • “I would be making my numbers if the people in Marketing were doing their jobs right.”

Marketers quotes about their Sales colleagues: 

  • “We work our butts off, but Sales never bothers to follow up on the great leads we create.”
  • “We basically do all the work on these deals – I should be making commission on them!”
  • “What do Salespeople do all day? It’s a joke, they’re never around the office.”
  • “Why should I have to put together sales decks and help with proposals? That’s not my job!”
  • “I might as well go into Sales, half the work for twice the pay.”
  • “When we’re doing well, it’s because of Sales. When the numbers are down, it’s all our fault.”

I’m sure these quotes are bringing smiles to at least a few faces out there. Let’s be perfectly honest though – to much lesser degrees, there are grains of truth in some of these gripes because not all sales or marketing people are created equally. Sure, there are times when Sales drops the ball on leads and times when Marketing doesn’t qualify properly. However, there are usually reasons or constraints, and hey, mistakes do happen. Like any form of ignorance, when these comments become broad-stroked and reinforced until they form attitudes, the environment can become one of frustration, resentment and even hostility. The simple truth is that without marketing, selling would be even tougher and in some cases, nearly impossible. Without sales, there is no need for Marketing, or many other functions in the company for that matter. This all comes down to the crux of all healthy human interaction – empathy! Come on sales and marketing people – let’s start to understand, appreciate, support and respect one another! Who knows, we could even become friends someday!

CRM Best Practices: Building the Foundation

CRM Best Practices
CRM Best Practices

For most companies today, their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system is the primary tool for managing sales and marketing information.

A forecast from Gartner estimates the CRM market was worth $27.5 billion worldwide in 2015 and anticipates it rising to $37 billion by 2017. This year, Gartner expects Enterprise CRM will outpace ERP sales for the first time in history. As compelling as the story is for CRM, it’s not an easy road for some – especially if adoption is a struggle. Getting sales and others on board is often cultural or process challenge rather than issues with the CRM itself. Fortunately, research shows that adoption numbers are turning a corner as companies get better at deploying and managing their CRMs.

I have always been a huge CRM fan because I’ve experienced first-hand the many advantages. Of course, I’ve seen the “belly flops” in my travels as well. Through it all, I’ve learned much about how to make CRM add real value to a business, In this article, I’ll share six highly foundational and strategic tips that can help your CRM project get off to a great start. These are essential if you want to succeed and create a solid ROI – or any for that matter.

Shown below is an overview of the key benefits and capabilities sales and marketing should expect from their CRM if it’s done right. I’ve included a separate marketing automation system, which is an optional but integral part of an “ideal” scenario. Most CRMs these days include some level of automation built in, but they’re not as robust as standalone applications.

Ideal CRM Scenario for Sales & Marketing

Building a Solid CRM Foundation

#1 Gain Executive Buy-In
A high-functioning CRM can produce impressive results, but It’s usually a big investment among many competing priorities. The fate of CRM success depends heavily on the level of executive support. This means your CEO can’t stand in front of the team a few months from now talking about your new CRM, and then ask “how do I sign into this darned thing?” The sales, marketing, IT and other leaders involved must share the same level of commitment, or your CRM project will likely not survive. Success will rely on your people and processes more than the technology. For the owner of the project, this means a great deal of executive communication and collaboration – before, during and after the decision has been made to proceed.

#2 Create a Plan
CRM is typically a large-scale corporate undertaking involving many complexities and stakeholders. Before you deploy it, be clear about what you want to achieve. Decide who will use it and how. Understand what the data mapping will be relative to other connected systems. Clearly define how you will deploy, test, train, support and improve your CRM over time. It sounds intuitive, but you would be surprised how many companies fail to do this adequately and then pay the price later. Be sure to think about how success should be measured. It’s also important to know the needs and concerns of your different user groups and then plan how you will address them to gain support.

#3 Build It for Users
CRM is designed to improve effectiveness and productivity, but that can only happen when your users see the benefits and embrace them. Don’t design or position the system as a management tool for “big brother” to keep watch. Don’t make it overly complicated either. If you do one or both of these, the CRM simply won’t fly, so stop now and save your money! Some ways to help this will be presented at another time. However, the key themes are: keep it relevant, keep it simple, and ensure it’s set up to help people do their jobs easier and better.

#4 Provide Training & Support
This is two-fold. First, the people responsible for CRM will need to be well trained – including the system itself, plus the customizations and processes you will use. Most vendors offer a “train the trainer” program. The core team could be internal, consultants, or a combination of both. Next, come the end-users. Make sure everyone understands the importance of CRM to the strategy and growth of the organization. Ensure each user is clear on the CRM’s use as it relates to their respective roles. Document your training for new people coming in and as a reference for existing users. It’s better still if you can create instructional click-by-click videos. Once training is complete, there will be questions, so be sure to offer responsive support to help get users up to speed as quickly as possible. This is crucial during the first few months.

#5 Mandate Adoption
This area is by far the one that “makes or breaks” CRM success. For sales, in particular, I would argue that CRM usage should be part of the job description and have some weight in performance appraisals. There simply can’t be exceptions. I once had a sales VP tell me “our reps only have to bother with CRM until they make their quotas – after that, they can do what they want.” How well do you think that CRM program worked? Adoption starts from the top and must be continually reinforced.

One of the best ways to get sales people using CRM is to stop the “spreadsheet madness” that comes with pipeline and forecast review meetings. Don’t accept any data not sitting in the CRM – period! I like the adage “if an opportunity isn’t in CRM, it doesn’t exist.” It’s best to review the data directly from your CRM on a projected screen in sales meetings and use custom views showing the key fields you need to see. People will be a little embarrassed in this situation if they haven’t come prepared, and the behavior should quickly change. If not, the Sales Manager may need to take a more aggressive stance. Again, 100% adoption must be enforced if your CRM is to deliver on it’s full potential. Successful sales people usually see the value in short order and take full advantage of it. But, if others don’t get with the program, understand why and fix it. It does take some time to learn a new system, so it’s best to have a pre-defined cut-off point if you’re moving into a new CRM. A few weeks to a month after training should be more than enough time in most cases.

#6 Communicate Results
Track, measure and communicate results and benefits shown from using CRM over time. Show how it’s impacting sales productivity, marketing campaigns, customer satisfaction, and service (if CRM is used for that purpose.) The more value you can show to senior management, the more support you will have. When you create a positive buzz from end-users, they get others excited about adoption as well. Ideally, in your planning phase, you have established some goals and metrics that you can track against in a meaningful way.

Hopefully, you have picked up a point or two here that helps. I’m coming at this from the B2B sales and marketing perspective and didn’t touch on the many powerful CRM capabilities around service, support, social media tracking, and help desk integration. For B2C and retail, CRM tends to be more focused on direct customer interaction and end-client experience. That said, these tips are applicable to any CRM implementation. They build the critical foundation needed for CRM to have the significant impact it can and should. In the next installment of the series, I’ll focus on ways to make CRM easier to use, better maintained, and explore added functionality to draw out further value.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and would love to hear your thoughts about CRM implementations or any experiences you can share. Please follow us on your favorite social feed and contact us if we can help in any way.

CRM Best Practices: Make CRM Easier to Use & Increase Adoption

Making CRM Easier
Making CRM Easier

In a previous post called CRM Best Practices: Building the Foundation, we walked through 6 crucial steps needed to get CRM off to a great start.

In the post, we outlined the key foundational components of CRM effectiveness. In this article, we’ll look at 8 practical and proven ways to make CRM easier to use.

Today’s CRMs are incredibly powerful and robust but this can be a double-edged sword. As with most software programs, vendors continually increase functionality, flexibility, customization and integration options. These are all good things, but they also add complexity and can make the system more difficult to learn and use.

The following ideas will help make CRM easier to use for both end-users and the people managing the system. Full adoption of CRM is critical and most times it’s an “all or nothing” proposition. Your CRM must be fully utilized if you want to standardize and simplify processes, have accurate reporting and ultimately increase sales.

Here’s a quick re-cap of the “foundational” tips that were presented in CRM Best Practices: Building the Foundation:
1. Gain Executive Buy-In
2. Create a Plan
3. Build it for Users
4. Provide Training & Support
5. Mandate Adoption
6. Communicate Results

Ideal CRM Scenario for Sales & Marketing

8 Tips for Making CRM Easier to Use

#1 Minimize Fields
When deploying CRM, people have a tendency to include fields that are rarely if ever used. People think “we might need this” but don’t stop to ask themselves “why.” In the planning phase, a good approach is to critically challenge every field you want to include. Why is it important? What purpose does it serve? Does it feed a measurement that needs reporting? If you don’t have a valid reason for a field, exclude it.

#2 Customize Page Layouts
Most CRMs allow you to define roles, permissions and page layouts based on different user groups. Use this feature when you set up your CRM. Only show fields that are relevant to each user type. For example, Marketing often creates custom fields to track awareness and engagement levels before opportunities convert. If people in the Service department use the CRM, they don’t need this data and likely don’t care about it. So don’t include it in their respective views of the system. This keeps their screens from being too distracting.

Another aspect of simplifying page layout involves “related lists.” Accounts, Contacts, and Opportunities typically reside in distinct sections of the CRM and are often referred to as objects. These objects can contain data from other objects that sit under the main body of information. Often, the default includes a number of related lists that seldom get used. It’s best to take those off your page layouts if they’re not useful.

#3 Reduce Required Fields
The primary way to “force” a user to input specific data is with the dreaded “required field.” Some fields are absolutely a must, but think about your process and make sure you don’t have required fields that are not essential. Nothing annoys a user more than making them enter data they don’t think is relevant. If a field is important and should be required, a good start is explaining why it matters. Keeping required fields to a bare minimum helps productivity and reduces frustration.

#4 Simplify Lead Creation
When it comes to leads in CRM, most are early stage or not prospects at all. This is why CRMs typically use a separate lead database so you don’t clutter up your accounts with useless data. The idea is to create (or import) leads in a way that takes very little time. Keep your lead record simple! The company name, contact name, lead source, interest, industry, city, email, and phone number will generally do. If you import lists with full addresses and other information, that’s fine – but, don’t ask people to type it in. Once leads convert and there is substance to an opportunity, data will increasingly be added during the sales cycle.

#5 Use Automated Formatting
Most CRMs allow some degree of automation. It varies between products so to start you should invest time learning about your CRM’s capabilities specifically around: 1) Easing data entry by automatically formatting certain types of information and leveraging dependent picklists: and 2) Any other features that save keystrokes or unnecessary navigation.

#6 Simplify Field Names
Don’t confuse users with field names that differ from other internal systems. If your entire company refers to those who have bought your products as “clients,” don’t name the CRM field “customers”. Creating a corporate “standard naming convention” document is a great idea if you don’t have one already. The more familiar you make your field names in CRM, the better. If you use custom fields, make them intuitive, short and simple. Titles that are too long will make your reporting unwieldy.

#7 Use Help Buttons
A great feature of most CRMs is that you can customize help buttons (usually a question mark symbol) to provide real-time instruction if people are not sure about a specific field. If you have this feature, use it. Obviously, you don’t need to explain what a zip code is, but if it’s a custom field, this is a perfect way to help users understand what the field is for and how to use it properly. For required fields, this is a good place to describe why a field is needed. This also makes training for your CRM easier and helps people get up to speed faster.

#8 Make it Mobile
Like websites and other Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications – it needs to be mobile. Many users work in the field – especially salespeople. If they can’t access their CRM data in a way that’s productive, that is a severe limitation. The good news is that virtually all SaaS-based CRMs offer a mobile app version of their software. If they don’t, or you’re considering a licensed CRM without strong mobile capabilities – stop now and save your money!

Conclusion

If you have built a good foundation, making your CRM easier to use is guaranteed to improve adoption and effectiveness. Ease-of-use is heavily impacted by simplicity, a clean interface, and relevance. Think about CRM from the user’s perspective and always challenge yourself in your set-up decisions. It’s been proven time and again that whether it’s a machine, a website, or a software application – positive user experience is often the difference between success and failure.

Please share any ideas, thoughts, or experiences you may have on this topic. Contact us if we can help with your CRM project, or point you in the right direction.

Optimizing CRM – Part 3 of the “23 Tips Series”

Optimizing CRM

This is the third part of a series designed to help set up and manage a CRM to produce better results. Far too many organizations don’t reach the full potential when it comes to their CRMs.

In this instalment, we’ll focus on optimizing CRM. The next 5 tips will help your system run smoother and encourage you to take advantage of some powerful features. if you want to review the first two parts of the series before continuing, they are Part 1: Strategic Factors; and Part 2: Making CRM Easier to Use. By using these proven tips, you will get a faster ROI on your investment, and significantly increase sales and marketing productivity. Here’s a quick re-cap of the ideas presented in Parts 1 and 2 of the series:

1. Gain Executive Buy-In
2. Create a Plan
3. Build it for Users
4. Training & Support
5. Mandate Adoption

6. Communicate Results
7. Minimize Fields
8. Customize Layouts
9. Minimize Required Fields
10. Simplify Leads

11. Automate Formats
12. Simplify Field Names
13. Use Help Buttons
14. Make it Mobile

Optimizing CRM for Best Results

#15 Segment with Precision: This is one of the most important “must-do” first steps in optimizing CRM. Whether you’re running marketing campaigns, communicating with clients, or using sales reporting, you must divide and tag your clients, prospects, and partners into well-defined segments. A major benefit of CRM is its ability to slice and dice a large database to communicate with, or track, a specific target audience. This should be done as soon as CRM has been set up and before you start importing account lists. As an example, usually there is an “Account Type” record in the CRM. Use this field to divide your accounts into groups such as Customers, Prospects, Partners, Vendors, and Competitors. You will likely want to further divide certain groups into sub-segments for easier isolation. Customers should have a field defining whether or not the client is Active, Inactive, Former, etc. The bottom line is that the more you segment and sub-segment your account records, the easier it is to manipulate the data you want. This provides better list management, targeting, and visibility. It obviously takes some time and effort up-front. But, if you do this properly, your CRM will serve you well.

#16 Leverage Reports: Customizing the reports you’ll use should be an immediate priority. Ideally, CRM reports should be the only “voice of truth” when it comes to managing your sales and marketing activities – so lose the spreadsheets once and for all! I would suggest you train a couple people to become “report experts” – they’ll be able to fine-tune the key reports you’ll need to make CRM a success. There are usually many pre-made reports included in your CRM. However, you will need to tailor them, or create new ones to suit your specific needs. It’s important to think carefully about reports. Make sure they are user-friendly and only contain the information needed for the intended purpose. Pipelines reports, forecasts, marketing analytics and other outputs are fundamental tools for driving your business forward through CRM.

#17 Keep Data Clean: A common issue with many CRMs is the build up of “dirty data.” Duplicate records and poorly designed account relationships being the major culprits. If your CRM doesn’t tell you an account is similar to the one you are about to save, you need to train people to check for variations before they create, or import new accounts. Whether it’s duplicate accounts or other data integrity issues, you need to keep your CRM clean. A good practice is to have a scheduled process to “sweep” your data for duplicates, and inaccuracies. Most CRMs have features that will help with this.

#18 Standardize Data: It may seem trivial to some, but I have found that creating standard data formats will help avoid confusion and messy reporting. Paying attention to the detail from the beginning will save you time later. It’s best to create standards for date formats, state/province, and country abbreviations address formats, company name suffixes, and so on. Using CRM-supplied options can help with some of this and it’s usually easy to customize fields to follow a specific format. Some, however, may need to be taught and manually applied, or mass corrected as part of your data management process discussed above. Ideally, you should standardize at the corporate level so all your systems look (and possibly exchange) this type of data in the same formats.

#19 Automate Tasks: Today’s more robust CRMs let you automate repetitive tasks. It’s beyond our scope here to dig too deep, but one of your team members should take the time to understand and implement this functionality. You can gain huge savings in time and increased productivity. For example, you can “program” your CRM to close, create or modify records when certain conditions are met. Another great function is the ability to trigger email notifications to any CRM user when a variety of different conditions are met. For example:

  • when a lead converts to a qualified opportunity
  • when the sales cycle reaches a certain stage
  • when a deal closes and action is required
  • when a prospect fills out a web form or subscribes to your newsletter
  • When certain numeric thresholds are reached or exceeded
  • When activity due dates are close, or past due

These a just a few illustrations of the many time-saving and communication benefits available with CRM automation. I hope you have found some of these ideas helpful. Optimizing CRM takes some work to get the most out of it. But, the experience I’ve had, along with many others, is that if you do it right – the impact on your revenue far exceeds the effort!

If you are so inclined, please share any thoughts or experiences you may have on this topic. Contact us if we can help in any way with your CRM project, or at least point you in the right direction. Subscribe? If you enjoyed this post and would like to receive notification of future Think2Grow blogs and newsletters, simply fill in the subscribe section on the sidebar above. To follow us on your favorite social feed, select it below.