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Arm Your Sales Teams
Technology can shorten the sales cycle, from prospecting to close.
Posted Apr 11, 2008
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Whether you are a small business or a Fortune 500 company shortening the sales cycle is one of the top activities that can really affect the bottom-line. If you are hiring new sales representatives you need tools to simplify the sale and get them up and running fast. At the same time your top sales reps need tools that simplify all the paper work and reporting so that they can keep selling. Companies should focus on sales automation tools that are easy to use and remove a step from the process. Many technologies add a step to the process, slowing down new sales reps and annoying your top sellers. I believe there are four key tools that can significantly shorten the entire sales process from prospecting to signing the contract.
  • Find It -- Identifying the right people in an organization should not take weeks or months. There are an abundance of solutions that help you find names and contacts for prospecting. A few technologies for prospecting are InsideView, Jigsaw, Demandbase, or Spoke. InsideView tracks news, leadership changes, acquisitions and alerts you to new opportunities to sell. Jigsaw, Demandbase, and Spoke deliver databases of millions of opt in business contacts that can help you identify the right people for the right sale.
  • Track It -- Hot leads can turn cold in a minute so it's what you do with those leads that matters. Market leading Salesforce.com is the tool of choice for companies around the globe. Another player in this space is Zoho CRM which delivers a completely Web-based solution from lead management to sales quotes. It's ideal for small businesses and companies that are using Zoho's complete list of Web office applications.
  • Work It -- Let's face it, in this economy all companies must go global. But the expense of connecting with people in person, half way around the world is a time and money pitfall. More and more companies and customers are amiable to Web conferencing and companies like Cisco Systems' Webex and GoTo Meeting from Citrix provide the most reliable and feature rich experiences for a virtual sales call and product demo.
  • Close It -- It's not closed until it's signed. Several analyst firms have reported that companies fall behind on the contract signing and management process. According to a report from Aberdeen (2006) -- "Over 97% of corporations use Salesforce and other systems to automate customer acquisition -- but less than 10% have any way to automate their customer contracts." Contracts have been signed and faxed since the dawn of time (well almost!). This is a very common solution to signing contracts, but clearly not the ideal solution -- especially at the end of the quarter. E-Signatures have been legal for almost 10 years and are gaining popularity as the means to closing contracts. There are many e-signature solutions on the market so make sure you pick one that is easy to use for both your sales people and your customers. A good solution manages the delivery, signing (both on and offline), reporting and compliance aspects of this phase in the sales cycle. Many of the products in this space are designed to be easy to use, cut the signature cycle by half, and enable you to recognize revenues more efficiently and effectively.
While every company has a particular sales process, whether your sale is complex or simple, your reps need easy-to-use technologies to help them sell more and sell better. If you can shorten the process in four key areas all your reps -- from rookie to top sellers -- are able to harness the entire process and move from find to close in half the time.

About the Author Jason Lemkin is CEO and cofounder of EchoSign. His operational experience spans the business development, sales, legal, human resource, and finance fields.
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