A step-by-step sales process can identify prospects, locate decision-makers, and gain customers. But using conventional CRM tools, following this process would take considerable portions of the account managers' time, raising doubts as to whether the process would be fully implemented. Software that integrates with Microsoft Outlook and is easy to customize can guide account managers through the process, making it easier for account managers to quickly provide required information and deliver live reports to sales managers.
Conventional CRM software packages are all marketing oriented; their default process involves the use of direct mail or a similar tool to generate leads that are then distributed to the sales force. While some software offers an opportunity-manager, designed to help implement a sales-driven process, it is usually an add-on product that is not tightly integrated with the core software.
A new generation of software is designed to work as an add-on to Microsoft Outlook and to implement an opportunity-driven sales process. Account managers are sales experts, not computer experts, so they need something easy to use. Anything that works within Outlook is easy for them to learn. This new approach helps account managers by guiding them through best practices developed by their company.
The first step is to configure templates that include the information account managers need to move new business opportunities forward. Account managers can set up an account in a few minutes by filling in a form from preconfigured menu choices, using drop down selections and check boxes whenever possible, to minimize the need for typing. A typical sales process requires specific information on each new business opportunity. An account manager can easily enter and manage the information, and keep his sales manager aware of all new business development for the sales team.
The account manager is then prompted to identify key players within the prospect company in areas such as project management, engineering, maintenance, and purchasing. The software also prompts account managers to determine the role of different people within the prospect's organization and classify them as decision-maker, champion, influencer, et cetera. The account manager then meets with these people and identifies sales opportunities. Each meeting's significant activities and action items are entered with the software. The software provides decision points that cause good new business opportunities to move forward in the sales process, and poor opportunities to fall out of the process altogether.
The information contained in the CRM system appears in reports the moment it is entered and can be accessed by authorized managers wherever they may be. For example, the sales manager can identify new business opportunities that are not moving forward in the sales process and determine steps to be taken to make further progress, or perhaps reconsider whether the prospect is truly viable. A sales manager can easily determine the number of new business opportunities that each account manager has brought into the process and the proportion of time spent working on new versus existing customers, allowing the sales manager to ensure that account managers are managing their time most effectively. Reports are also available that improve the sales process by helping managers evaluate which practices are working and which practices are not working.
This approach saves a considerable amount of time on the part of account managers and sales managers. The CRM software greatly reduces the manual labor by letting people check off boxes and pick items from menus instead of filling out forms or typing in information. When the forms are completed, it incorporates them into live reports that give managers up to the minute information on sales efforts. The management team now has complete visibility into the sales process, making it easy to track the progress of individual members of the sales team and also make much better forecasts.
Matt Hartman is the founder, president and CEO of The MRH Technology Group. In 1997, after spending 15 years as a principal in an industrial automation distributor, Mr. Hartman ventured out into the software industry. In October of 2001, Mr. Hartman founded The MRH Technology Group to continue the development and marketing of Tour de Force. Please visit www.mrhtech.com.
Don Norman is director of sales and market development for Neff Group Distributors. He has been in distribution sales management for over 15 years, prior to which he was a sales engineer in distribution. Neff Group comprises three companies covering four states with nine market regions in them. Please visit www.NeffEngineering.com.