Sales Lead Management Software Solutions For Your Small Business

So, you’ve built up a solid based of inquiries. But now that you’ve got your leads, what are you supposed to do with them? Believe it or not, this is a question that plagues many small business owners, time and time again. Getting prospects are important to building your new client list, but unless you know what to do with them, you’re doomed to fail. To make it worse, you could have completely avoided it with the right lead management system in place.

Lead Tracking and Management may sound tricky, but there are many solutions available to help your lead management responsibilities move as smoothly as possible. Lead management software is by far the most effective solution available, and it’s easy to implement. And, the lead management software options for your small business are astounding. Knowing what you want out of your lead management software, and knowing how to use the technology you purchase, will have a huge impact on how well the software system helps your business perform.

Hosted Lead Management Solutions

Software solutions are now available as hosted solutions and hence no need to invest in server hardware and special software. These solutions are also known as subscription based services or on-demand solutions. You can subscribe to lead administration solutions, accessible via internet for as low as $50 a month. You can start using the software in a day or two, if not in a few hours. The learning curve is not as steep as it used to be. Your administrator and sales personnel can manage the leads centrally and access it any time, anywhere. The pricing varies with the number of users / sales persons accessing the system and volume of your inquiries and drip / sequential emails sent for nurturing and follow-up.

Key Features

When choosing a software system for managing leads and prospects, there are a few key features to look for: database management, charting, and client management options. Database management will allow you and your employees to keep track of new client leads, manage current leads, and keep status reports for each track. Charting will enable you to create graphical depictions of your leads, and show you what areas are succeeding and where your company may need improvement. Client management can track individual leads, let you and your employees know if a client has an outstanding question to answered, and track previous orders and future interests.

These three aspects of the software can boost your company’s productivity. You and your employees can easily track and manage many different streams of leads, and break each lead down to a single entity to focus on client relations. This is imperative for one-on-one client interaction, which encourages new clients to purchase from your company and increases repeat client business.

Components of the Software

  • Sales Leads can be captured and aggregated from multiple sources such as web forms, third party solutions via API, and emails using an email parser solution. The leads can also be manually entered manually so that all leads can be managed in one place.
  • Software can automatically distribute or route sales leads to your sales team based on various criteria such as geographical area, lead profile, etc.
  • The lead administrator can qualify the prospects and rank them (ex. hot, warm and cold) based on the conversion possibility. This would help your sales agents to focus on top priority leads first.
  • The prospects can be nurtured using drip email messages (or sequential emails or autoresponders) and future conversion. Latest prospect management solutions incorporates in-built email marketing solutions for this purpose.
  • The leads can be followed up and tracked using the email management solution in order to provide full visibility to all concerned.

Lead management software should also allow you to effortlessly import your existing data and data from external sources, and allow for merging of other important data along with the information your software stores. Reports will be a breeze to create with the right type of lead management software, which will both cut down on time spent analyzing your information and allow you to see in real time where your lead management skills need improvement. This is an invaluable tool for your client management practices.

The Human Touch

When making the decision to venture into lead management software solutions, keep in mind that the software solution is by no means a replacement for your own hard work. The solution is meant to assist your company in lead management, and allow you to handle more leads with the time you can save using it. The software system is only as worthwhile as the people using it, so use it wisely. Remember that your leads want to deal with a real person, not a program, and don’t let possible clients slip through the cracks. Prudent use of subscription based lead tracking and administration systems can help your business increase conversions manifold and improve the bottom line.

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Will You Make it Through the Current Economic Turmoil? Part 2

Part 2 – How relevant is your current sales strategy?

In the last article, the first one in this series, we discussed the importance of having the “right people on the bus”. I also mentioned the exciting opportunity you have in front of you right now, without having to rush out and hire rainmakers and experienced sellers; because with the right tools and strategies, you can develop your own team of highly process directed and motivated sellers yourself.

As a sales leader it lies within your own locus of control to build a consistent, repeatable and predictable sales process, as well as train and develop a motivated and process directed sales team. Imagine a team made up of highly trained, motivated and process directed salespeople? Well, the good news is you can begin this practice immediately!

Key Code 1- Sales Strategy

The first element that will make an impact on the results you achieve is “Sales Strategy”. Before you even consider any of the other 3 Codes you must be sure that, as Stephen Covey says “Your ladder is leaning up against the right wall” Here’s the thing… whether you have a team of champions or not, if your sales strategy is wrong, in other words “if you are selling analogue systems and your market has moved to digital technology” then your ladder is leaning up against the wrong wall.

In this case, no matter whom you have on the team your sales efforts will fail. You’re heading in the wrong direction!

If I was sitting across a table from you and if you were sharing your concerns about your sales revenue raising efforts, the first questions I would be asking you are:

  • Is your current customer acquisition (new business) and retention (existing customer growth) strategy both relevant and effective in the prevailing market? In other words is your current sales strategy working, yes or no? How do you know?
  • Is your current market shrinking or growing or has it simply just stalled? How do you know?

Has your “Cheese” Moved?

In his landmark book, “Who Moved my Cheese?”author Spencer Johnson relates a simple parable that reveals profound truths about change. “Who moved my cheese?” is the story of four characters living in a “maze” that face unexpected change when they discover their “cheese” has disappeared. Let’s face it; it’s no secret that over this last year for many of us in business, our cheese too has moved. Many markets have shifted and some have even disappeared altogether. So pouring on more sales activity or investing money on more sales training or sales process improvement just means that your team will arrive nowhere quicker!

If this is the case for you, then it is an imperative that you look to implementing a new customer acquisition and retention strategy ASAP. The sooner you recognise that your cheese may have have moved and that you are existing on crumbs or in some instances only a whiff of what was once a whole storehouse of cheese, the sooner you can re-channel your sales teams energies into new markets looking for fresh opportunities.

This means re- appraising the value of your core capabilities*. It means clearly and objectively understanding what you are good at and what problems you solve and are your solutions still relevant? Then, if you suspect that your cheese has moved, you will then need to figure out who else has those problems. Having determined the “who else”, you will now need to assess what modifications you may be required to make at both a product and marketing collateral level to reflect your solution to the market.

On the other hand, if there is still strong evidence of an abundance of “cheese” in your existing market, then you need to be asking,

  • How sure are we that our strategy for attracting new customers and growing existing ones is still appropriate? How do we know?
  • If customer buying patterns have slowed or stalled, how can you help your customer to help their customers purchase more?
  • Does your marketing collateral accurately explain how you solve your customer’s current problems or help them achieve their current goals? How do you know? When last did you review your sales messages? What exactly are your sales people saying? Are their sales messages compelling enough?

A year ago most companies were interested in how you could help them grow. Today’s markets are focused on saving money, cost reduction and reducing risk. Do your sales messages reflect this massive shift in perception? Has your marketing collateral changed with the changing needs of your market?

An Example of Changing Market Strategy

I have been working with a risk management organization that catered specifically to the freight industry. They set up profitable in-house insurance funds, effectively allowing the freight company to self-fund an insurance program for their customer’s goods and packages. Well, talk about a “cheese movement!” When the economy swung south his prospects all but shut shop, (in point of fact many actually did), and going into complete survival mode, most became completely insular and refused to even take my client’s calls.

Our challenge was to shift strategy and go in search of a new market. On reviewing and answering some of the questions listed below we came up a few new target markets. Some new market suggestions were a little too far right of centre and would have taken a whole lot of product development to ensure a good fit, but one market in particular, only a mere 5% shift left of his current existing market looked potentially very lucrative. On-line, web based merchants who ship product around the country seemed like a reasonable bet, without having to re-engineer the product too much. After a little research and within a few short weeks my client had a number of large opportunities in the pipeline.

In the next article I will unpack the details of sales strategy.

* Core capabilities – Alternative term for core competencies. Cluster of extraordinary abilities or related ‘excellences’ that a firm acquires from its founders, after consistent striving over the years, and which cannot be easily imitated. Core competencies are what give a company/organization one or more competitive advantages, in creating and delivering value to its customers in its chosen field. (BusinessDictionary.com)

Is CRM Hurting Sales? The Answer Might Surprise You

Back in the 1990s when business was bad, and corporations were downsizing or as they laughingly put it, rightsizing, no one was safe from executive scrutiny and the corporate axe. With dwindling sales, sales management was an easy target. To survive in what was coined, ‘crises management’ one had to be able to demonstrate that they had a plan and/or were doing everything they could, to drive sales.

So, what did sales management do? Suddenly, sales reps had to fill out detailed micro-managed reports that monitored their every movement: The number of calls they made every day, the names of companies and customers they spoke to, what was discusses, how many phone calls / cold calls, et al. It was endless! The data, and the time necessary to complete the detailed minutiae, was ridiculous and often fictitious [made-up].

One could ask, who was served by this burdensome activity? The sales manager; who, when the corporate axe-holder showed up at his/her door, would survive because they could show reams and reams of data they hoped might do 3 things: 1) Demonstrate they had a plan and were working the plan, 2) Stand apart from other managers without a similar plan, and, 3) Their plan would send the axe-man down the hall to other managers – those without reams of ‘insurance’ data. Crises management – the way to survive! In hindsight, the irony was that burdening frontline sales reps with this reporting strategy actually drove sales down – demonstrably! Why?

With over 3 decades in successful frontline sales and, having a Masters degree in psychology, I can shed light on the empirical human factor that operates like a system-of-influence within the demands of professional sales and CRM.

Think about the behavioural attributes of the best sellers you have ever known. Outside of their innate people skills and high energy, what was it they did best, that garnered sales success? Their modus operandi was to ‘simplify’ everything. They were minimalists. But the question is, did they learn to be minimalists or, were they naturally [psychologically] wired to be minimalists?

I had the answer to this long before my psychotherapeutic training. In the late 70s, I was a national sales trainer and recruiter for a fortune 500 company. Every applicant had to take an aptitude test to determine whether they fit the traditional psychological sales success mould. I was trained to mark and measure the results of these tests that were surprisingly accurate. The fact is, there are ideal psychological profiles for almost every profession. I need only look at an individual’s profile graph and could say, “That’s an accountant, that’s a politician, that’s a scientist and ‘that’ is the perfect personality profile for a successful sales person.” All results – for the most part – as I said – were surprisingly accurate and beyond chance.

Within each profile there are detailed personality traits that exist on a spectrum that predict the adequate and sufficient fit of that individual within that discipline. For sales, high energy, above-average people skills, high need to control and dominate and high motivation to activate [get things done] are the essential components for ‘the right stuff’.

But they possess another strong personality trait. One in which they are not so strong. Detail!

In psychology we know every personality has its strengths and weaknesses. For accountants, doctors and lawyers, detail presents strongly within their unique personality traits. But rarely in the best sales people.

Sidebar: One of the challenges for those who suffer from Attention Deficit Hypertension Disorder [ADHD] is the inability to concentrate on ‘detail’.

You may find it interesting that psychological studies posit there is a disproportionate number of top sellers, business leaders/entrepreneurs [who often got their start in sales] who suffer from ADHD. In my case, I have ADHD and mild Dyslexia. Is it a coincidence that creative over-achievers like Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, John F. Kennedy, Will Smith, Jim Carrey, all suffer from ADHD? Despite their disorder, what were they all good at? They are minimalists. Einstein once said: “If you can’t explain something ‘simply’ then you don’t really know it”. The fact is, they possess the ability to take what for others in their profession is seen to be exceedingly complex, and make it look simple – minimize the detail. The same system-of-influence exists within the art and science of professional ‘successful’ selling. The question remains, however, do they do it because they want to or because they must?

Going back the question, whose needs is your CRM programme serving, you may find it’s not your frontline sellers but rather the ‘detail-oriented’ architects that crave data or the sellers of larger more complex [detailed] CRM solutions.

As a consistent top 1% seller in fortune 500 companies, I can unequivocally attest to the fact that too much of my professional face-to-face customer selling time [where sales are made] was sacrificed to filling out too many and unnecessary data reports. One could point out that computers have made CRM easier to monitor. I counter that with the logic in the early 1980s when I was selling photocopiers and network printers were introduced. It was believed that copier volumes should go down because computer printers would reduce the need for copying. The reality was, computers produced exponentially more data and printers produced exponentially more ‘originals’ that drove copier volumes and costs through the roof.

The Bottom Line:

CRM is essential and is here to stay. It is integral to sales and corporate success. There is no argument that too much of anything is bad. The danger with CRM is it is often designed to meet the needs of those who are detail oriented at the expense of those who are not – sellers… the lifeblood of any organization! So, how do you know if your CRM programme is right for you – is not hurting sales? Look at your sales, and then… ask your sellers!