Unless you are the kind of sales person who only works with one prospect at a time, tracking what’s going on with each of your prospects is vital. With so many moving parts in lead generation and marketing, a CRM is the best way to keep tabs on your opportunities as they heat up.
Organize your prospect data and keep it secure
Post-it notes are great for the guess who game. They’re a considerably less reliable way to manage your contacts at brands you want to work with. The problem with sticky notes is they don’t always stick so well. That note you made to yourself and attached to the frame of your monitor on Tuesday will probably have come unstuck by Thursday, and by Friday the prospect you forgot to follow up with is coming unglued.
You can avoid sticky situations like this by getting the kind of contact management software sales professionals use. There are literally hundreds of them, and while they all do more or less the same thing, they have different whistles and bells, integrations and price points.
What a CRM cannot do for you – and this is why this is #1 on the list – is keep you organized if you’re not committed to helping maintain order. [Tweet this!]
The benefit of most CRM and client database software is it’s very likely to be sold by a software-as-a-service provider, and rather than all your data living on your personal hard drive or your company server, it’s all uploaded to the cloud. If you’re wondering what's the benefit to your data living on the servers of your vendor, understand there’s value in their promise to keep your data safe from hackers. Data on your own hard drive or office server is likely to be a lot less secure than on your software provider’s servers; and for your clients, database management protocols will let them know you take security seriously.
At the very least, if you store prospect records on your office computer or laptop and someone steals your computer, you’ve lost them forever. Nobody’s walking into whatever location Salesforce keep their servers and walking off with your customer data. As an article on tripwire.com says: “The top cloud service providers’ data centers have multi-layered security defenses. Precautions include high fences, barbed wire, concrete barriers, guards that patrol the area, and security cameras.”
Better targeting of outreach
Unless you plan to hit up everyone in your contact list with the exact same message at the exact same time – or worse, write to every one of them with an individual message when it feels like the right time – you’re going to need to segment your prospect lists.
You should expect any sales contact management software to allow you to tag, bucket or segment the names and addresses in the database into meaningful groups. Maybe you’ll have some content you only want to send to prospects in a particular vertical; maybe you have a cadence planned for prospects who came in through a particular campaign, ad or landing page.
Segmentation will allow you to better target your sales and nurture outreach so you’re talking to the right prospects at the right time. What criteria can you use to segment your database? HubSpot wrote a blog post that has 30 suggestions for you.
Use data to make better customer decisions
Customer intention, if you haven’t heard the phrase, is going to be something you can’t avoid in the next few years (think 21 Pilots but actually useful instead of awful and pretentious). According to Google, it’s more powerful than demographics. It’s the question you ask when you see a customer downloaded an ebook or a white paper: but why? What are they going to do with it?
The fact is one data point doesn’t help you much. Two isn’t much better, but the more times your prospects interact with your content the more you should be able to get a better picture of what they’re trying to accomplish.
If you assume all your prospects’ interactions are in service of the same goal (and why wouldn’t you), the number of things they could be trying to do reduces as you add more data points.
For example, if someone is checking out at Home Depot and has a shovel you might think they’re going to do a little yard work. If they have a shovel and a saw you might also add in that they could be removing a tree stump.
But if you add in rope and a tarp, it starts to get creepy.
Opportunity tracking increases prospecting efficiency
In sales, tracking your prospects as they move toward being a customer means you’re looking for touchpoints to add value their decision-making process. This is the part of contact management sales people either love or hate. If your prospect told you they’d be going into budget planning in September so that would be the time to call back, you need a way to trigger a reminder to call them back. Calendars and tasks work fine, but they’re limited by how much information you can store before they get unwieldy.
Managing your follow up by tracking each opportunity that comes in, making notes about each conversation and setting alerts for future outreach are some of the most basic functions of contact management software for sales people. But these fundamental building blocks help increase the efficiency of your prospecting and nurture campaigns. If you’re not spending time calling people who have already told you they’re not even looking for another six months, you can spend it working other leads that might be warmer.
Analytics to forecast pipeline velocity, volume and resourcing
Depending on what you’re selling, you might experience the famine/feast wave of business development. This happens when you focus so much on closing a prospect that you forget to keep your pipeline full and flowing. So, when you eventually get the contract written you have an empty pipeline and no business closing any time soon.
A CRM will provide reporting data on how many prospects you have at what stage and, if you’re organized like this, estimated days to close. Being able to visualize where there are potential blocks, obstacles, and fast flows in your pipeline will help you identify where processes may have room for improvement and whether they’re impacting your pipeline velocity.
Understanding the speed of your pipeline will enable you to forecast whether you and/or your team are on track to hit your sales goals, and that has all kinds of implications for whether you’re properly resourced.