by James Townsend
Sales force automation is one of the most popular apps of customer relationship management (CRM). Whether you choose Microsoft Dynamics 365, Salesforce, or another CRM product, sales is likely near the top of your priorities.
What makes a sales organization successful, however, varies significantly from one company to another based on the targeted sales segments and the position of the company within its industry. Companies that sell direct to consumers online may receive a large number of leads through search ads or email marketing campaigns, and deals may be closed without labor-extensive interactions such as phone calls or meetings which may be appropriate for large-ticket items such as finding commercial real estate or purchasing expensive information technology solutions. Large companies with dominant positions in their industry may take a different sales approach than startups trying to break into a new market.
The differences in sales processes mean that optimizing your CRM will make it quite different from that of companies in other industries, and perhaps even different from larger and smaller competitors. Indeed, your sales process may itself be a key differentiator between your company and your competitors. Low pressure sales models have been introduced for automobile sales to highlight differences with traditional car selling. Now you can purchase used cars entirely online and have one show up at your door.
Here are some of the key ways to personalize your sales process:
- Define how leads are handled. What do you consider a lead? Is it a marketing list that is used for prospecting? Does someone become a lead by visiting your website, downloading a whitepaper, filling out the Contact Us form or through some other action?
- Define when an opportunity exists. What is the trigger for a lead turning into an opportunity? How do you determine what the prospect is seeking and qualify them before creating a lead.
- Assign tasks to people. Who handles leads? Does a different person or team focus on opportunities?
- Define sales territories. How are leads and opportunities assigned to sales people? Based on geographical location, the products or services sought or a combination of these factors? Do you assign prospects and customers to reps or could they have different reps for purchases of different items?
- Define the sales process. How many steps take place from the time a lead appears until the deal is closed as a win or a loss? What do you call these? For government sales, for instance, there may be many additional steps for formal solicitations, responses, and iterations of contracts which would not be needed for a sale to an individual consumer.
- Define the opportunity. Opportunities are the heart of a sales CRM. Do you need additional forms or fields to qualify opportunities and describe the scope of what is being sold? Do you use a catalog of line items which apply to an opportunity? Do you have multiple pricelists?
- Define access. How does your sales team access the CRM? Do they work from computers or mobile devices? Who should be able to access which information? Can sales executives see opportunities that belong to others, or only their own?
- Define reports. While standard reports such as the sales pipeline appeal to a wide variety of companies, reporting (and dashboards) are typically tailored uniquely for the measures that are valued by a company. Do you emphasize the number and quality of interactions with customers? Are proposals tracked in your CRM or do they exist outside the system?
These are just a few of the ways that one size does not fit all for a sales CRM. Your software must be flexible enough to support your sales process and be adaptable for changes that you introduce in the future. More likely than not, your sales process will be different in five years than it is today.