A sales process is well defined, repeatable and technology-based tool in line with the organization's sales strategy. The sales strategy defines the broad parameters---target market, budget, competitive advantage and benchmarking of customer experience. In the era of data analysis and digital media, Customer Relationship Management or CRM is the cornerstone of the sales process.
Customer Relationship Management: In a broader context CRM encompasses practices, strategies and technologies that a company uses to manage and analyze customer database throughout the business cycle. The goal of CRM is higher customer engagement and customer retention, thereby increasing sales growth. A primary CRM software compiles diverse customer information in a single database so that the management may access and utilize the database. Customer data availability may be as comprehensive as personal data, buying history, preferences, satisfaction levels etc.
The CRM software has evolved over the years and it can be summarized as follows:
Traditional CRM: A traditional CRM is restricted to customer profiling, history and sales campaigns. It can also be called sales CRM.
Innovative CRM: In this CRM tool there is the application of cloud technology, mobile tools and social media.
Cutting edge CRM: It uses artificial intelligence and internet of things.
Sales process involves steps such as prospecting, contacting, presenting, objection handling, closing and nurturing. Technology has helped add new features in CRM leading to automation in the sales process. For example a new prospect may be automatically tracked by the CRM and may be provided with all relevant information via digital media. CRM database can also be used to identify new customers for the products or services. Customer contact may be automated by defining customer problems and providing solutions through pre-recorded audio. CRM may integrate GPS based tools to track the location and carry out location-based sales prospecting. CRM tools linked to social media may help the company understand customer sentiments about the brand on a real-time basis. As the CRM tracks basic business data, employees of the organization may devote more time to quality and innovative work. The CRM software also makes the task of human resource management easier, as contact information and success rates are readily available. The use of artificial intelligence in CRM has helped businesses identify buying patterns and customer behavior.
The leading vendors of CRM are Salesforce,Microsoft, SAP and Oracle.The CRM software may be installed in the company server or alternatively it may be stored on a remote external network. However the cost and data security are two concerns in choosing a CRM solution.
The success of a CRM depends on how datasets are organized and made accessible throughout the organization .Another challenge is handling duplicate data and eliminating outdated information.
The benefits of CRM can be listed as follows:
- A fan page may be created on Facebook about the company, product and services and thereby creating a platform of communication and feedback.
- Information flow about the new prospect is quick.
- Business conversation with customers in real-time and decision making can be quicker.
- It can be a platform for customer feedback that may help upgrade products or services.
Effective sales process:
However the success of the sales process depends on the alignment of the sales team with the CRM tool. There are indicators to show that the sales process is failing. Given below some of them:
- A small section of the sales team contributing the bulk of the sales. If the sales process is well defined then the success should not be restricted to select few.
- Due to complicated design, lack of training and conviction sales process is not even used.
- The sales team is acting on a subjective basis. The sales process is data-driven, honest ,free of biases and purely objective. Signs of failure of the process is evident when the sales team ignores CRM data and start working on intuition and judgement.
The following key factors may be kept in mind to ensure the success of the sales process.
Well defined roles and responsibilities: Customer interaction with the company may happen through various departments. The organization should demarcate the roles and responsibilities in such a way that there is no overlapping and customer interaction is seamless and also there is no duplication of effort. The CRM should have interdepartmental coordination functionality.
Synchronization of the buying and selling process: The sales funnel must keep track of the buying process as well. It should be aware if buyers are using the right technology and interface while communicating and take action appropriately. The sales team should be sure if it is interacting with the right person in the buyers' organization.
Understanding buying indicators: The sales team should be aware of the indicators that make the buying decision faster. It may be a new product launch or a price revision or a statutory change.
Continuous review: Sales efforts need to be continuously reviewed. Sales team should have an exit strategy also in order to avoid wastage of efforts with unlikely customers. In the sales process CRM should provide checkpoints to identify:
- Major customer issues
- The cost to the customer for the identified problem and non-resolution
- Important events that influence the buying decision.
- Cost estimation of postponed decisions.