Sales Strategy – Sales Pipeline – How your CRM system delivers customer data insights

Did you check your sales pipeline after our blog last week?  Do you have a sales pipeline to check?  Whether or not you’ve got a structure in place to attract, qualify, nurture and convert leads into customers – you will still have something incredible that can give you a whole lot of insight into how sales are going in your business.

Your customer data is gold for your business

That ‘something incredible’ is data.  More specifically, your customer data.  Data is the new gold.  You already have the right information to understand your customers – you just need to unlock the answers.

You can’t measure what you can’t see.  If you don’t yet have a cloud-based Customer Relationship Management system (or CRM), the info in today’s blog may help you to realise just what you could be missing.

As mentioned in last week’s blog post, businesses need to protect their data and ensure they maintain visibility over their sales and over their sales pipeline.  Once you get beyond five or so staff, you will become increasingly unable to personally all your team’s work.  A good CRM will ensure you have all the relevant information at your fingertips without you having to micro-manage your team.

Choose a CRM

From working with SMEs, usually on the ‘S’ part of SME, it’s clear that choosing a CRM is a real pain point with many small businesses.  Founders and owners are reluctant to commit to a system when they are still figuring out their direction for the next five years, let alone the next five minutes.  While there are costs involved for most CRMs, the benefits far outweigh any perceived choice that you may be losing.

Choosing a CRM is a bit like choosing a political party, or a rowing club, or a school for your child.  From several imperfect choices, choose the one that least offends or upsets you.  Deciding to make no choice at all will eventually mean that you have a more limited choice, possibly no choice.

Choosing not to have a CRM because you don’t want to commit, condemns your business to limited visibility at the best, and missed opportunities at the worst.

Of course, if you only ever have 50 to 100 names to follow up with, you can probably continue to hobble along with an excel spreadsheet.  Colour-coding can certainly go a long way towards understanding whether your prospective clients want to be contacted, whether they’ve said ‘no’, or whether you should check in again sometime over the next few months.

Whenever Magnify works with a new client, we always like to check what CRM system they are using, check that it is cloud-based, and check how deeply they are using their CRM.  Businesses who use their tools fully will always extract maximum value from their customer data, and from the investment in their business tools.  Every time.

Enhance your customer relationship management and data insights

The place where a CRM becomes a vital part of your sales engine is customer relationship management and data insights.

At some point after you have 100 names to follow up with, it will become difficult to remember who to contact, and when.  You’ll also find that you’re probably reading through a large ‘cell’ of notes before the call, to figure out what’s happened, what’s happening, and what you should be doing at this.  This will add an extra five to ten minutes into your sales time.  Time is extremely precious.  You could have used this time to send another email, or another LinkedIn in-mail message, or make another phone call.

All good CRMs have reminder systems that automatically send task messages to your email inbox each day.  These tasks are a great way to help you decide what to prioritise for the day.

Giving your tasks an agreed header format will help you to filter them even more.  One style is for task headers is City – Name of Company – Reason for call.  E.g. Wgtn – Magnify – write blog post.  This can also help if you’re scheduling visits in a specific geographic area.

Your cloud-based CRM should also have a tags system – a way of categorising your contact names.  This is helpful if you want to filter certain groups of customers, etc.

These two factors alone give business owners and founders far more visibility and understanding of your customer base than is ever possible by just using a google or an excel spreadsheet.

Increased visibility and transparency

Visibility and transparency will be very important as your business grows.  The trend to work with distributed and/or outsourced teams, the exponential change that all businesses have to deal with and the (apparent) increasing frequency of unexpected natural events are something that no business owner can fully plan for.  Having easily accessible customer data on your cloud-based CRM is a strong protection against any business surprises.

Think about it.  While you’re in Auckland or Christchurch or overseas on business, wouldn’t it be great to see what tasks your team is focusing on today?  That team member who is unexpectedly sick will feel comforted to know that they’re not letting the side down – all you’ll have to do is to filter the team tasks, select their name and immediately see what they were planning to work on today.

Busy days will be so much smoother, when you can easily prioritise the most urgent tasks if you don’t have time to do all of them.  As for any tasks which are not done – you can edit them to update their call-back date, or simply decide they are no longer necessary and delete them.

If you’re wondering just how healthy your Sales Pipeline and your sales in general really are – have a look at what the Magnify Sales Health Check offers you.  Your business insights gathered together in your own report, which you can implement in your business.

Make sure your team is using your CRM

Make sure your team is logging all their customer interactions into the CRM.  One common problem business encounter when they first install a CRM is team reluctance to actually using the CRM.  All the visibility in the world does your business no good if your team don’t or won’t use your CRM.  Salespeople and others on your team can sometimes see the CRM as unnecessary admin work.  If your team are busy (and who isn’t?), you may find that notes are incomplete or even missing altogether.

To really understand your customers and the metrics of their customer journey, everyone at your business needs to buy in to the value that your CRM delivers to the business.

Call a team meeting of everyone who ‘touches’ your customers in some way – from reception to accounts to social media, through to sales, new business development, account management, operations and customer success – and everyone else in-between.  Explain the value of the CRM to the business and to the whole team.  Discuss the kinds of customer insights which will become available with the rich data you all add to the CRM.  Show your team what they personally will miss if others don’t complete their notes.

Used well, your CRM is an incredibly rich source of data that can be used to grow your business strategically and deliver an incredible competitive advantage to your sales and marketing.

Full use of your CRM as a KPI for your staff

Sales people especially need to be encouraged to use your CRM.  It’s not unheard of for some top sales people to hold your valuable customer information in their heads.  This serves two purposes for them.  One – they believe they are saving time (by not stopping to enter ‘unnecessary’ notes).  Two – they may believe this helps to safeguard their role (if you’re completely dependent on your salesperson for customer data, this puts the salesperson in a very powerful position).

Many founders, before they hire their first salesperson, are also comfortable keeping all information in their heads.  Founders can struggle to trust a CRM system, let along their first salesperson, with precious client data.

If you suspect your sales people are not entering all their rich customer data, just make this task part of their KPIs.  Any team or individual bonus system you have should not just be tied to closed sales.  Establish KPIs all the way along the critical parts of your sales process to encourage the behaviour you’d like to see.

Agree on data rules for your CRM

It’s often helpful to come up with a set of ‘data rules’ for how you and your team will interact with your CRM.  What do you want to note, what is okay to leave out?  Do you have agreed short-forms or acronyms for technical or trade terms, especially if these are very long to write in full?  What about an agreed process to follow-up with current and potential clients?  These things are worth discussing among your team.

Your CRM should not only make your client data more visible, but also make your life easier.  Before choosing your CRM, think of all the other tools your business uses.  Many CRMs have integrations for email marketing platforms, project management software, accounting software etc.  If your business is complex, especially if your clients pay for goods/services online, talk to an integrations specialist to ensure all your systems are ‘talking’ to each other.

Are you wondering about best practice for your CRM? Let’s make some time to talk about the sort of customer data you need to power sales for your business

Your CRM and integrated systems will grow your sales and your business

Your CRM and integrated systems should help make your business more efficient, and create greater visibility and transparency for your growing business.

The ultimate outcome you’ll experience is sales growth and time/money savings, as your CRM delivers the sort of insights you may have only imagined.  Many systems have email and document tracking functionality – enabling you to know when your proposals are being read.  Again, these insights will inform your sales efforts. .

In addition, your CRM and will help to:

  • protect your business in the event of any ‘natural disruptions’ e.g. flooding, earthquakes, etc
  • help you to manage staff and their outputs
  • make your business a more attractive choice for any potential investors, business partners, etc

All the business owners who talk to Magnify want to grow their sales.  What if you could grow sales and save money at the same time?  Choosing and utilising your CRM will help deliver the sales you’ve always wanted at an investment level that your business can manage.

The insights you gather will also help you to serve your customers better, to develop more products/services that your customers want to buy, and inform your other business functions (marketing, operations, accounts).

If you’ve read this far and you’re still not sure about choosing a CRM – here’s one final reason.  Your competitors probably already have one.  Having a CRM in your business will level the playing field, and then tilt it convincingly in your favour, by giving you the insights you need to grow your sales this year.

The value you’ll gain will far outweigh any short-term ‘pain’ as you learn something new.  Who knows – you might even enjoy your CRM!

Do you have a specific sales question that is not covered in this blog post? Say hello – share the challenge you’d like to overcome and we’ll be in touch to talk further.