Consider you company’s new business pipeline for a moment, one of the most important areas for businesses of every sort. In larger SMB’s (Small to Medium-sized Businesses) these functions are supported by processes and systems; CRM (Customer Relationship Management) applications and Marketing Automation systems are used to track, segment, support and nurture a businesses’ prospects and customers. In larger Fortune 5000 organizations multiple tiers of systems, processes and people handle these functions.
All too often small businesses rely on unmanaged processes to drive their new business pipeline and to oversee their portfolio of customers. Appointments are loosely handled; follow-up processes vary greatly from one person to another. Metrics aren’t used efficiently or aren’t used at all, and marketing ROI is a guess at best.
In order to create success within your sales organization you must instill shared best practices, repetition, and similarity in approach so that results become measurable, and success becomes scalable. Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” In the Art of War Sun Tzu said “He will win whose army is animated with the same spirit through out its ranks.”
To make an entire sales force successful, in order to have repeatable and sustainable marketing success you must identify the tactics that lead to success, and have the discipline to share and drive adherence to those practices across your organization.
Systems and documented processes are critical to articulating, sharing and driving adherence to best practices. CRM solutions and Marketing Automation solutions are among the most critical tools in the Sales and Marketing arsenal.
Not all solutions are necessary or appropriate for all businesses however. If you are a small consulting firm that handles one hundred new prospect accounts per month, and ten or twenty new clients per month selling a four, five or six-figure engagement, a marketing automation solution probably isn’t for you. A CRM based approach however is critical to making sure that your sales pipeline and client portfolio is managed proactively and positively.
On the other hand, of you sell hundreds or thousands of $20 widgets or subscriptions per month a marketing automation solution and the rigor that comes from truly being able to track marketing ROI based on sales channel, leads source, ad creative, etc, can be transformative for your business.
Whatever you do today, you can begin to advance your business tomorrow. If you are a sole proprietor, and need to organize your new business prospects and clients today, you can begin with homegrown spreadsheets, or better yet, look into cloud based contact management solutions at the low end of the CRM spectrum. Simple contact management solutions like MailChimp are free for smaller accounts. A Salesforce.com cloud based CRM can start between $5 and $25 per user per month.
If you manage a sales force, you should be operating on an enterprise level solution, which can be affordably customized for your business. If you have already implemented such a solution, take time to benchmark your processes and make sure that you are gaining the benefits that these systems are meant to provide.
The insights and business intelligence that your company will gain by using documented, formalized and standardized processes and systems around your new business pipeline will allow you to manage your sales funnel, improve customer dialogue, and optimize the lifetime value of your customers while improving the client experience at the same time.