• October 1, 2007
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

High-Quality Companies Rely on High-Quality Insight

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Starting a small business can be pretty easy. Entrepreneurs simply need to form a corporation or LLC, get a lawyer, find appropriate insurance coverage, and hang up a shingle. But making a business successful is trickier, especially if the company must extend its reach beyond its local community. For a small or midsize business (under 1,000 employees) to ship products to customers or deliver a service via the Internet, a Web site is necessary and getting the word out is critical. This is where SMBs can use some help. Email marketing is a good idea if you've already established a relationship with potential customers--otherwise you may be toying with violations of 2003's CAN-SPAM Act. However, there are some good tips in our cover story ("Are We There Yet?"
) by Editorial Assistant Jessica Tsai that will help SMBs get the best marketing bang for their buck, without incurring criminal sanctions from the Department of Justice. Interestingly, one SMB company mentioned in the story, a jewelry retailer, gains 80 percent of its new online revenue from pay-per-click advertisements -- a cost-effective marketing strategy that doesn't require a huge up-front cost. Read this story for more tips on how savvy SMBs are competing for more market share. Once the leads are captured, the next step is reeling them in for the sale, which requires a mix of art and science. In the column "Keeping Pipeline Insights Actionable," McKinsey & Co.'s Associate Partner Anupam Agarwal offers some tips for improving the performance of the sales team, such as developing accurate sales forecasts and optimal opportunity-management processes. Sometimes the solution can be bundling or discounting products--but don't always assume the problem is with the product or pricing. Often, it's an employee issue, and there are tools that can help identify why some salespeople are struggling. Jim Dickie, a partner at CSO Insights, mentions some of those tools in his column this month ("Analyzing the Sales Process"), and some of the vendors that provide them. These applications help sales executives generate better insight into sales performance and enable them, as Dickie puts it, to "understand which deals they're winning or losing and why; the real sell-cycle time for every product they sell and what best practices can shorten that time period; the right process to sell to different types of buyers; and so forth." Read his column to find out more about these vendors and their tools. Another important sales tool is sales compensation management (SCM). I'm actually surprised that traditional CRM and SFA vendors haven't embedded SCM capabilities into their offerings. Salespeople would have more motivation to use CRM/SFA if they knew they wouldn't receive their commissions unless they updated the system. For now, there are standalone applications. Read the feature story "Pay Day" by Senior Editor Marshall Lager to find out how these SCM applications can make your sales teams more effective. Whether you're at an SMB or a large enterprise, obtaining insight into sales and marketing performance is critical for making smarter business decisions. When it comes to business decision-making, you can do one of three things: establish tested workflow processes, use tools most suited for your organization, or heed the advice of Scott Adams -- "Informed decision-making comes from a long tradition of guessing and then blaming others for inadequate results." Contact Editorial Director David Myron at dmyron@infotoday.com.
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