Whether you’re selling insurance, software, used cars, real estate or any service, your business’ lifeline are your leads. Running a business without a healthy supply of leads is like flying a plane without enough jet fuel to at least do an emergency landing.
Investopedia defines a sales lead as a prospective consumer of a product or service that is created when an individual or business shows interest and provides his or her contact information.
Usually, leads are harvested from marketing efforts like advertising, campaigns, events, mailings and other online sources like web forms, ads, and banners. Many businesses even invest in buying leads from third-party companies.
Suspect – Prospect – Customer
Sales leads are not sales prospects. Seasoned sales professionals know that not everyone they meet is a prospect. But everyone is a suspect. Probed on a tad deeper, and he might be the right prospect. Leads are nothing more than just a bunch of information about people. BUT, with the right tools, you can spin the straw into gold!
So how do you profit from all these leads? Customer Relationship Management.
What is CRM?
Customer Relationship Management is a business tool that involves the customer-facing facets of a business: marketing, sales and customer service. CRM increases the productivity of your company by leveraging on the automation of sales activities while improving customer experience.
The leads that are fed to the CRM system are churned into something that your sales team can digest in order to qualify them into sales prospects. Once converted into prospects, they are funneled through the sales cycle to eventually be buying customers.
A CRM system doesn’t just help turn leads into customers. It helps in retaining them by nurturing customer relationship. Sales doesn’t end when a lead becomes a customer. In fact, we should consider sales as an open-ended process. It is equally important to take care of your existing customers as you do your leads. And a good CRM system covers this as well.
Effective lead management makes sure that no potential lead is wasted. and sees it through as it moves along the sales process, maximizing the marketing resources that you put into generating these leads.
So what are the lead-tracking features that an effective CRM should have?
CRM software tools are now equipped with tools that automatically extract information from multiple lead sources. One basic kit functionality of your CRM should be the ability to connect to your website and automatically capture leads from user clicks and possibly cookies that refine qualifications.
Some features let you connect to real-time data sources like Data.Com and Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) for the information on prospects, contacts and businesses. This feature eliminates hours of research which can be used for more sales activities.
What’s important is that the software gives you a peek at each lead by tracking their origin. Which campaign did the lead come from? Which marketing channel? And that is including social media. This helps you see which marketing efforts are working and which should be improved. This also gives you an idea which leads have the most impact on your sales pipeline.
Basic lead information should at least include an address. The system should be able to utilize this information to automatically assign the lead to the right sales reps who cover that specific geographic area.
Timely and efficient appointments with leads not only lessen the expenses but increase the probability of making them promising prospects.
Ease of Conversion
We always want to be optimistic that the generated leads are going to be converted into qualified prospects. Therefore, it should be easy to convert a lead into an account/contact after the sales team has determined that the lead is something they can work on. It should also be simple to move to another stage as it progresses along the sales pipeline.
There are CRM systems that let you drag and drop “lead cards” from one process to another, so you can graphically see how these leads move along the process until the sale is closed.
Quick and real-time updates
There is nothing more embarrassing than approaching a lead that has already vehemently turned down the same product or service from a colleague. It is crucial that lead statuses are updated the moment an action is done. This is most especially important when the leads database is not yet deduplicated. Updated statuses also help the manager evaluate the strategies being implemented and more accurately project sales trajectory.
Built-in social tools that help sales reps and other members of your staff collaborate are more than “nice-to-have” features. Features including a social newsfeed to allow for discussion and the sharing of files, insights, data, sources, leads and more, will definitely sustain a robust channel for interaction, even if all this is done remotely.
Think of it as your company’s own Facebook where status updates of closed sales can be used as inspiration, or as a tool for direct messaging a staff on special instructions.
Reports and Analytics
With all the sales activities on your plate, admittedly, making reports comes last in your priorities. But we all know that this is a necessary evil, and although not a revenue generating activity, ALL business activities are driven by the results of these reports.
Fortunately, report generation is an indispensable part of a good CRM. In fact, more than just generating reports, it should be able to analyze the output and give you a good big-picture view of where your business sits. There are CRMs that feature drag-and-drop reporting tools that include real-time charts, graphs and the ability to study categories to the smallest details. The dashboard should be able to display these readily.
Sales reps who are always on the go will benefit largely from the accessibility of data on different devices. While inside sales is mostly done remotely, there are CRM users who use the system when doing outside sales. Sales reps must be able to access data on their devices just as easy as they would use the desktop version. The cloud computing feature also contributes to the real-time integrity of data; status is updated blow by blow. As each of your staff owns a different personal device, compatibility across all platforms (iOS, Android, etc.) is also non-negotiable.
One of the biggest flaws any system can have is the lack of customization for its users. All businesses go through similar sales processes. But it shouldn’t restrict the management of its preferences of what to see when they open their CRM. Some managers like to see reports, graphs, and pie charts upfront. But some users prefer to see the status of leads first thing in the morning. Customizable dashboards personalize the users’ experience to make it more intuitive and ultimately more efficient to use.
It is hard to rely on a single tool to give you everything that you need for your business. Sometimes you can only afford the free or the professional version, but not the Enterprise version. A CRM’s API integration capability lets you use third-party tools to augment the limitations of your current system. Let’s say you found a third-party email that is more robust that what your CRM has. It should be fairly easy for you to integrate that third-party component to seamlessly be a part of the system. There are other plug-ins that you can buy off-the-shelf to boost your lead generation to its maximum potential, and your system should be able to accommodate this.
Choosing your CRM
There are the many CRM software choices in the market to choose from.
If you’re a loyal Microsoft products user, you might want to check out Microsoft Dynamics. It’s a comprehensive business solutions package that incorporates familiar products like Office, Skype, Sharepoint, etc. into your system. A windows user will find using Microsoft Dynamics fairly easy over other systems built by other developers.
One of the most popular full-feature CRMs in the market is Salesforce. With its cloud-based platform, users are able to optimize activities with real-time information across different devices. Salesforce’s AppExchange enables developers to share thousands of enterprise and small-business applications to other users, thanks to its open-source architecture.
If you find Salesforce to be a bit too complex for your startup, look up Insightly. It offers the basic features like contact management, project management, business management, social CRM, and mobile CRM – all you need to just get on with growing your business, at a fraction of the cost.
Free CRM, anyone? Yeah, other CRMs also offer free versions, but if you have to be picky among the free stuff, check out Zoho CRM. Zoho lets you use its necessary features of a CRM absolutely free for 10 users. It also seamlessly integrates with Google apps like Gmail, Google tasks and Google calendar!
If you like easy and step-by-step setups, SAP Digital for Customer Engagement has a wizard that lets you set up your CRM in minutes. At a small-business price, SAP offers scalable enterprise-level CRM tools. Its strong points include call center management, contact management, and lead management.
Of course, choosing the right CRM software for your company not only entails consideration for budget. Check out this list so you’re sure you’ve covered everything that needs to be considered:
Size of business
If you’re just starting up, settle for the basic CRM tools—they’re more cost-effective and gets you started with the minimum requirements. If you have a medium to large-scale business and you just had that eureka moment that you indeed need a CRM, choose the ones with full features.
Ease of use. Time is gold, so the faster you can train your employees to use the system, the earlier you realize the return on investment.
In sales, you try to avoid mentioning the limitations of your products or services, and highlight the strengths instead. This goes the same in the CRM market. Make sure you have a list of all the features you need for your business, stick to it, and try not to get side-tracked with glittery features that are not essential.
You don’t always get what you pay for. Sometimes you get more! Make sure your budget gets the most features in your list. If you’re shopping for less expensive CRMs, read up on feedbacks from users, so you know if you’re getting value for money.
Lead tracking = Better ops
The CRM features mentioned above focus on what can help your business track your leads and manage them. There are other bells and whistles that you can add to enhance your CRM software. Just know which can significantly have an impact on how you engage with customers because these are the ultimate measures of effectiveness for your CRM.
Happy customers = thriving business!
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