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Transform your sales CRM from a taskmaster into a powerful tool

By employing customer relationship management (CRM) software, you will never be taken by surprise or left behind in the sales field. No more blind spots from inaccurate or out-of-date information. No more "gotchas" that steal money from your bottom line. In short, you can avoid most or all of those worst-case scenarios that keep you awake at night and hurt your most crucial asset—motivation.

This series of emails will show you how keeping current with customer requirements will improve your sales, increase your status in the company, and help you rest easy at the end of the day. You'll be confident knowing you've met or exceeded expectations from your entire business community.

Here are 11 blind spots that can surprise reps in the sales process and how you can use CRM technology to gain the upper hand.

Not buying into your tools.

Sometimes, you'll be faced with decisions from above that don't exactly inspire enthusiasm. Your boss says, "We've decided to implement CRM, and you'll be using this tool from now on."

Talk about a buzzkill! You have all these tasks to do, and now corporate wants to impose a new piece of software that you'll have to spend time learning. It's hard enough to fill in travel logs and expense reports.

The key is to remember that CRM is a tool, not a taskmaster. You can make it your own. Spend just a little time playing with the software, and you'll discover cool features that will make your work easier. Using a CRM with the right attitude can make all the difference between it looking like a waste of time or a path to business excellence.

Yes, your sales manager and the marketing team and your Directors will thoroughly inspect CRM. Just remember, they're looking to gain perspective on your company, not digging for a way to criticise you. If you use your CRM appropriately, they get the info they want, and you have a personal assistant to ensure you always look your best. Capturing new sales leads alone will add significantly to your sales commissions.

Losing contacts, losing potential deals

Ever been to a trade show? You know that it's easy to gather business cards. You might even jot down a code or note on hot new prospects. Then you slip that card in your pocket or wallet, yet when you get home, like magic, the card has disappeared.

Or you might meet someone on a chance encounter. You like this person; they seem to have excellent prospect potential and a business relationship to nurture. But when you go to put their information down in your sales notebook, you find the details you scribbled on that cocktail napkin unusable. The ink smeared, and you've lost another sales opportunity.

In business, your job is lead generation.

I always keep 300 current contacts on my list if I want to succeed in this business. I couldn't afford to lose those leads by not putting them into a system.

The quicker you can enter contact information into a central place, the more secure your knowledge becomes. You can also see where data is lacking because fields are left blank. Instantly, you can plan for the next call by knowing what information you need to gather. You can enter this information using a mobile CRM tool if you are in the field.  That way, you can catch a prospect's complete information before leaving your engagement.

Accidentally over- and under-selling

Every sales professional's primary focus is knowing where in the sales cycle a lead resides. Many pros will try to keep this in their heads, but information this valuable should not be left to chance.

Imagine Bill Smith and Will Smyth working for two companies at two other places in the cycle. Unfortunately, if either Will or Bill calls, it is easy to confuse the two names and lose sales time trying to remember if Will wanted widget A at £500 or widget B at £5,000. That could lead to a huge difference and a potential commission loss if you sell the wrong widget at £500. You might lose both sales completely by pushing a mistakenly overpriced solution to the lousy lead and company.

With a sound CRM system, while you're on the phone, you can verify which company your lead is calling from, what that company needed in your last conversation, and what you want to accomplish with this current call.

Forgetting sales specials

What happens if you're on holiday for the first week of the two-week special? You return to your desk, swamped with return emails and phone calls. It ends at week two, and you've forgotten to follow up on that special. You know a customer wants to buy an additional product from you but is waiting for a sale price. You'll lose that sale, if not the customer, too.

With the organisation that a sound CRM system brings, you'll never miss a special again. You can send yourself reminders, set up appointments with notes concerning your goals, or keep details of the sales special handy to answer any questions that arise.

A strong mobile presence for your CRM can also protect you against this situation. Even if you are on holiday away from your desktop, you'll receive those notifications on your mobile device. That means you can quickly handle or delegate the problem to somebody back in the home office.

Not responding to prospect queries.

With the Internet, more and more customers are weeding out seller prospects by doing most of their pre-sale research online. Yet, in business, for example, 64% of people asking for information on websites never receive a response! This means the sales pro has less opportunity for a personal one-to-one sale.

I can't win business without being responsive. My CRM contacts me by text and email when someone asks a question on my website. When I get that touch, I pull over if I'm driving or drop what I'm doing to respond. I aim to answer a person's request for information within ten minutes of receiving the call.

A robust CRM lets you give your clients that level of attention. It guarantees that a new prospect doesn't slip through the cracks and puts your customer relationships front and centre.

Letting your customers feel lost in the crowd

Human nature tells us that if all other things are equal, customers will buy from the person they like the most. Depending on the situation, some customers buy from the person they want most, even with unequal benefits. But if your customers, leads, and prospects number in the hundreds, how can you be that special friend who stands out in a customer's mind at buying time?

It would help if you were in regular, customised contact with your target market. Simple things like thank-you notes and birthday cards are essential when sent directly from the sales pro. If tailored just right for your contact, even a scripted message will create a lasting impression.

To solve the problem of making each contact feel necessary, you need a very detailed profile ready when the time is right. This kind of information—spouse's and children's names, hobbies and interests, budgets and product desires—can and should be stored in a way you can pull up anytime. CRM makes that possible.

Leaving the little tasks unfinished

"Your sales manager calls and says, "You were supposed to have that proposal on Ms Brown's desk yesterday. What happened?"

Some people like dancing on edge, creating excuses instead of closing sales. But leaving a job undone is leaving money on the table. The most important part of a salesperson's job is to deliver what you promise. Most businesses are closed on trust, and if you let people down on small tasks, you're dissolving that trust between you and your customer, your boss, or your customer and your company.

The solution is to set up a task list that's easy to see and stays in front of you throughout the day. CRM can do that for you. You can even set reminders on your computer screen, tablet or smartphone with sound notifications. A CRM will ensure you never lose track of an assignment, no matter how small. As a result, you'll complete your tasks on time and continually earn that necessary trust.

Losing opportunities with existing customers

Everyone in sales knows it costs less—up to five or even ten times less to sell to existing customers than new leads. The sales cycle is shorter, there are expanded opportunities for unused services or accessory products, and happy customers tell their friends about you.

But if you neglect customers, especially those who won't need to refresh their purchase of your product for a few years, chances are good you'll start over by the time you get in touch. Or worse, they'll find new, more attentive sellers, and you'll lose them altogether.

With CRM, you can implement a customer nurturing programme of newsletters, direct mail and other marketing messages from your inside team. You can then make a personal reminder to have face-to-face contact less frequently but more productively, as you'll know what information has recently been sent to these golden contacts.

Taking the news out of new products

As companies work to keep ahead of the competition, new products and services are great opportunities for press releases and blog posts. But often, what's immensely important to you and your team isn't even on the radar of your customer's wish list.

After a big announcement, a few months go by, and you'll be surprised that your best customer wasn't aware of a product upgrade. That customer may even be looking at a new product line from your competitor that seems to better fit their needs. But if you check your CRM system for sent notices and call history, you can see when to share your excellent company news with your buying community.

And here's a bonus: When you share your latest with a loyal customer, you're opening an opportunity for a testimonial or case study. Sales are all about immediacy; if you're behind on your customer knowledge, you're out of the game.

Forgetting to give back

Customers are the greatest assets any company can have. Balance sheets may even have lines to measure goodwill in the business community. While that goodwill will often result in a steady flow of repeatable income from items such as software maintenance, regular dental check-ups, or referrals of new homebuyers from satisfied customers, it is easy to take the best customers for granted. If a long-time customer is not in the active sales cycle, you may be tempted to put that relationship on hold until it's time to make another purchase.

Good customer relations are developed on a two-way street principle. When you provide customers with excellent service and help them purchase what's best for them, those people will come back to you in the future or give your good business word of mouth. But if every time you contact a loyal customer, the purpose of your call is to sell something, you may find these valuable people pulling away.

A sound CRM system will help you record what you discussed and when you last spoke with your customer. Make a habit of recording your calls with essential details, and you'll know when it's time to call for little other reason than to say, "I'm glad we're working together. How are you?"

Poorly managing referrals

Most people like to help. You share a challenge, and they step up to meet your needs. All you have to do is ask. This is the case when sales reps are looking for referrals. Happy customers are usually willing to pass along a name or contact.

The challenge is that it's difficult to remember who you've contacted for referrals before, and sometimes, you can fall into a rut of repeatedly asking the same customers. They spend time on the phone with your sales leads for hours they're not being compensated for. Don't risk overreaching on the good nature of a client by wasting their time and yours.

With a CRM system, you can note who you have asked about referrals and review your contact lists to uncover the customers you haven't contacted. You don't need to centre the conversation on referrals alone; use it as an opportunity to check in with that client. You may uncover minor problems that can be addressed and resolved before they become stressful complaints. This can save your company a customer and help improve operations that make everyone happier and more productive.

CRM: Knowledge at your fingertips

These blind spots detail just some of the many reasons a system to manage customer and deal information is essential in supporting your role in sales. There are other vital features of good CRMs you'll want to seek out when selecting a system. Here is a list that every good sale pro should ask for:

  • Call automation, tracking and related tools
  • Management of company information and personal contacts
  • Lead management
  • Easy team collaboration
  • Native apps for any mobile device and platforms
  • Email marketing and reporting
  • Reporting and analytics
  • Task tracking and notifications
  • Integration with other popular business applications

HubSpot is the next-generation CRM

HubSpot offers a powerful set of easy tools to use and supports your efforts to achieve great salesmanship. Here are a few of the things we think you deserve to keep business going:

  • Send emails from within a contact page
  • Flexibility to rearrange the order of your custom fields
  • Customisable pipeline stages
  • Automated and prioritised action items
  • Attractive reports to help you assess your performance faster
  • Chrome extension for capturing leads on Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Monthly fee structure for buying only what you need when you need it; you’ll never be locked into a restrictive annual contract.

Why You Need a CRM For Your Sales Team

Using CRM Technology to become 10x more productive