Remember the Rolodex?
For decades that faithful rotary file occupied a sacred corner of every businessperson’s desk – from top manager to lowly salesperson. The Rolodex gave us the power to find people and organize information quickly and efficiently. And yes, that was back in the days when all the information you needed for someone could be jotted on a 3×5 card.
Then came the computers and the digital age, interactive websites and landing pages – and we still need a way to organize information on our prospects and customers so we can follow up, make the sale, wow them with our awesome service… and get more referral sales.
Goodbye Rolodex, hello CRM.
A Contact Relationship Management (CRM) system is an absolute must for any business that wants to compete and capture sales. That includes yours, too. More that just an electronic Rolodex, the current generation of CRMs not only organize your information, tasks, appointments and communications, many actually perform those functions for you with automated follow up campaigns, lead capture mechanisms, broadcast email and text messaging – even lead scoring features that tell you when it’s time to call a prospect based on that prospect’s interactions with your messaging.
And if you still think that a CRM just isn’t for you, or that it takes too much time to learn a new program, or that your sales team won’t use one, well consider this: over half of your competitors are already using one – and that gives them an advantage.
Here are 10 things you may not be aware of that a web-based CRM with marketing automation functions can do for you:
- Speed of Response
Someone responds to your online ad, goes to your landing page, and submits a form. Congratulations – you’ve captured a new lead. Now what? If you intend to wait for your salesperson to give them a call in a couple of days, you’ve already lost that lead. Those prospects are lookingWhen your customers find you online – and 80% of them do – they expect you to do business at the speed of the web, i.e., instantaneously. An effective CRM system should capture leads from your website, digital advertising and social media; send an automated response to new inquiries instantly and automatically, and alert you or your sales team that there’s a new lead that needs to be contacted NOW!
- You Can’t Rel on Your Memory
“The weakest link is better than the strongest memory” the saying goes. And it’s true. Today’s sales professional is just too busy – and the workplace too hectic – to rely on memory to follow up with potential buyers. Without a single, organized place to record all client data, you will end up forgetting appointments, misplacing prospect information – and losing sales. If you’ve ever grabbed whatever piece of paper is handy to record notes from an incoming phone call – and then lost or thrown away that paper as trash, then you know why you need a better system. Or, heaven forbid, a salesperson leaves your company and you need someone else to follow-up. CRMs can’t be carried away like the Rolodex was.
- Nurture Interest with Automated Follow Up
Once you have captured a new lead, you will need a means to nurture their interest and remain front of mind with them. While older CRM systems are simply file boxes that keep track of prospect and client information, the new generation of cloud-based Marketing Automation CRMs will allow you to automate much of this process, including emails, text messages, phone calls, letters or postcards – even let prospects automatically schedule appointments with you. The goal: compel prospects to get off their computers and come into your sales center. Nothing says “your not important; I don’t care” like failing to respond to a prospect’s questions or to follow up with them in a personal way. An effective CRM system keeps all that information where it is instantly accessible by a computer, tablet or smartphone; and alerts you to appointments, incoming emails, or when it’s time to follow up with a phone call. And the best CRM systems allow you to store all relevant files – quotes, letters, purchase agreements, photos, etc., in the same place, so you always have every piece of information you need at your fingertips.
- Sales Management
Sales managers need to know where leads are coming from, who is working them, where they are in the sales pipeline, which prospects are the most likely to close quickly, and what can be done to help move those urgent sales forward. An effective CRM gives you the vital numbers you need to manage your sales and coach your team.
- Reports and Projections
What are your most effective lead sources and ROI from advertising? What are your projected sales (units and/or dollar volume) for the next month or quarter? What is the average closing rate for your sales team? For individual salespeople? What is your average closing time, from initial contact to close? A robust CRM displays the answers to those questions as live reports on a simple dashboard and allows you to better manage your advertising and your cash flow.
- Streamlined Service
Because your CRM program allows you to schedule appointments, tasks, and alerts, you will be able to keep up with service calls or punch lists quickly, without ever worrying that an important call with fall through the cracks. Do you perform annual maintenance reviews, service calls or renewals? Schedule these in your CRM, with alerts 30-days prior to the scheduled date that send notifications to customers and/or service agents. And Marketing Automation CRMs will automate these notifications and communications.
- Earn Referrals
It should be the goal of every sales professional to increase referral sales. A good goal is 30% – 40% of total sales. How do you reach that? By keeping in touch, servicing and nurturing existing customers, clients or tenants. Every effective Customer Loyalty or retention program is powered by a CRM system that will allow you to invite past customers to any marketing events, such as open houses, seminars, or home shows, as well as send cards or congratulations on move-in anniversaries, holidays, etc. Marketing Automation CRMs allow you to automate all of these processes, including alerts and email notifications so that everything takes place seamlessly and without staff time to schedule.
While stand-alone CRM systems can keep track of your data and calendar, many will also connect and share data with other programs, such as your accounting program, inbound lead sources, rent or tenant management system, or point of sale program. This connectivity expands the value of a CRM to keep all customer data – from lead source to purchase history – in one place, saving time and avoiding ‘multi-system chaos’ that stifles use and frustrates business owners, managers, and salespeople.
- Lead Scoring and Prospect Qualification
The more advanced Marketing CRMs monitor your prospect’s online activity and alert you when someone is showing strong buying behavior – opening your emails, clicking links to your resources, coming back to your website – so you can contact them precisely at the time they are the most interested in buying. They also allow you to create interactive communications that actually ‘learn’ what your prospects are interested in and adjust the information they receive based on their actions.
- Automate Everything
A CRM can save you countless hours by automating internal communications. For example, when a lead moves to a sale, with the touch of one button you can set up a series of actions that notify internal staff of the sale, create a customer record, schedule time with your design team or assign a service rep – all instantly and automatically.
So, there you have 10 good reasons to stop using that old, outdated spreadsheet or restrictive paper system and step up to an Automated CRM system that will save you time, streamline your sales and marketing processes, convert more leads and make your team more effective in closing more new and referral sales.
About the Author:
Scott Stroud is a founder of Cumberland Marketing Automation, a company specializing in helping businesses choose and implement software to streamline marketing, sales, and internal processes and to better attract, capture and convert more sales.
Scott is the co-author of three books, including Managing Your Business with 7 Key Numbers and The Complete Guide to Marketing and Selling New Homes.
Born and raised outside of Louisville, KY, Scott lives and works from his home on the shores of Lake Cumberland in Somerset KY.