Posts from July 2012.

Best Practices in Optimizing Sales Force Automation

The advantages of automating your sales force are many. That’s why sales force automation has emerged as a fast-growing discipline in enterprise computing. Other than automating the regular tasks, this also helps in deriving new customer insights from the existing data. In order to extract the most out of your CRM implementation, it’s crucial to optimize your software vis-à-vis the best practices followed in the industry.

Best Practices in Optimizing Sales Force Automation

Best Practices in Optimizing Sales Force Automation

Here are some suggestions:

  • Organizational alignment: It’s important that the entire organization—especially the top management—be in sync with the CRM implementation and how it evolves the existing process base. This “people element” will make sure that data captured gets used in the most useful manner.
  • Data management: A good sales force automation system centralizes data. This allows different teams to access and update the central repository in real time, and facilitates cross-platform intelligence based on data analytics. At the same time, customer data should be classified into multiple categories, so that querying the dataset later becomes easy.
  • 360-degree integration: There should be a special focus on integrating the CRM software with all the existing systems that capture customer data in some form. While this will be time-consuming, the benefits will be far more substantial in the form of reduced process times and increased interdepartmental efficiency.
  • Embed sales automation in marketing: Marketing functions should not be disjointed from sales automation. Lead generation and campaign management should include features from sales automation so that data sharing becomes easy and management time is reduced.

What best practices have you found useful? Are there any special recipes you have developed for your CRM implementation? Share them in the comments.

Using CRM Data for Future Sales

An important part of any business is predicting future sales accurately. This has a direct bearing on planned capacity of products and services, and also helps in keeping the supply chain flexible. Businesses that manage to do this well have the lowest inventory costs and the least waste of resources and efforts. While there are many ways to forecast sales, using CRM data gives the most accurate results. That’s because proper forecasting requires many-sided input and intelligent analysis to succeed.

Using CRM Data for Future Sales

Using CRM Data for Future Sales

The various important aspects of this process with respect to CRM systems are listed below:

  • Lead management: Captured leads are what directly translate into future sales. A CRM system lets you manage leads easily, be it lead generation, lead qualification or lead tracking. This way you are more sure of potential customers and can forecast your revenue figures confidently.
  • Customer insight: If you have high-quality data about customer behavior insight, forecasting becomes very accurate. This is made possible by a detailed historical log of transactions which can be analyzed for key metrics like average finalization time, frequency of purchase, variations in preferences, etc.
  • Market trends: By closely studying the market patterns and combining this with an analysis of the competition, a company is able to get a better hold on which way the revenue projections might go. This information is also captured by CRM systems, and needs to be exploited to the full.
  • Easy reporting: Automated filters and report-generation engines make sure that dashboards are automatically updated in real time. This reduces not only the time involved in the processes, but also the element of human error.

Tell us about the challenges you faced with traditional sales forecasting.  Do you have a CRM implementation, and if so, how has it helped form better revenue estimates?

Knowing What Your Customer Wants

While the rise of CRM software is impressive, its success depends completely on how well the business is able to understand the customers. It all comes down to the age-old question marketers have been grappling with, “What does the customer want?” Admittedly, no definite answer has yet emerged, and at best we can say that customer preferences do not follow a logical pattern.

Knowing What Your Customer Wants

Knowing What Your Customer Wants

But that doesn’t mean customer insight will be elusive for you. In fact, thanks to some modern  tools it’s now possible to connect with people at a deeper level and get a better handle on what they want. This means that as a business, you need to do these things well:

  • Gathering information: Especially when you are a B2B company, gathering information is the first thing you need to do. Much of it is readily available in the form of industry-specific publications, government websites, leading content resources, etc. A thorough study will give you many insights.
  • Listening effectively: Effective listening calls for using social media, but the trick is not to restrict it to a one-way tool. The best use of social media is to tap into conversation channels and listen to what people are saying about you. You might be surprised at the number of possible areas for improvement.
  • Monitoring search engines: Most of the world’s information is still accessed through search engines, which is also what you need to monitor. It’s important to understand what your brand’s perception is on forums, discussion groups and blogs. A good idea is to set up Google Alerts on your brand name and see what type of discussions are becoming popular.
  • Measuring sentiment: People connect with their brands emotionally, and that is the secret to repeated sales. This happens through sentiment analysis, which helps you estimate the emotional response your business is evoking in customers. The best way to do that is to pick a good sentiment analysis tool based on your CRM strategy.

Getting to know the customers is a constant process, because just like the markets, they are always evolving. Follow the points mentioned here for a better grip on it.

Tell us what secret mantra do you follow to know your customers better? We would love to hear that!

Twitter As the New Customer Service Tool

Twitter is constantly revealing new ways of doing things differently, and this time it may well transform the field of customer service. It’s not only networking, gossip, and news that’s floating on Twitter – a good number of complaints and feedbacks are also sent back and forth every day across the micro-blogging social network. Counter-intuitive as the idea might seem at first glance, customer service through Twitter is working out wonderfully for most companies, the result being an ongoing trend of dedicating a Twitter channel for grievance handling.

Twitter As the New Customer Service Tool

Twitter As the New Customer Service Tool

Here’s what makes Twitter tick for this growing practice:

  • Speed: Customer service is all about speed. If the problem is not resolved fairly quickly, there is a high risk of losing the customer permanently. This is where Twitter helps, because it gets the message across in real-time, also saving the customer the pain of having to type long emails of complaint.
  • Reputation: A business neglects customers’ tweets at its own peril. The recent storms of protest against indifferent brands have made companies realize that Twitter is not to be taken lightly. In fact, Twitter is making customer service transparent, which is restoring confidence. This is also good for companies because gathering and showcasing positive feedback is easier now.
  • Reachability: It’s now possible to reach the service provider easily. All you need is a Twitter handle and a 140-chracter message, which anyone who has a Twitter account can do. By contrast, it’s nearly impossible to make sense of the complicated calling trees, which take a lot of time and sometimes leave you with no option but to hang up.
  • Operational efficiency: For companies too, Twitter comes as a relief. Having to keep dedicated phone operators round the clock is not only expensive, but very inefficient. From Twitter, the incidents can be easily routed to the right department and resolved quickly.

It’s real-time communication combined with social reputation management that makes Twitter such a great choice for customer service. For companies looking to increase customer loyalty, this is the best way to improve engagement.