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Archive for September, 2011

Lead Management To Go

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

An earlier entry on this blog delved into the Principles of Prospect Service. The thrust of this article was that Customers and Prospects are two fundamentally different entities, and that trying to provide customer service using customer service tools to prospects is a misstep. What a prospect needs is Prospect Service. First among the principles of Prospect Service is that a sales person looking to provide the best service to a prospect needs to be the first on the phone with the prospect; if for no other reason than there may be no opportunity to provide service of any kind if a competitor reaches the prospect first.

So it is important to be available when a prospect decides they want to get information about your product. This is accomplished through many different means. A lead management system can capture leads from any source and make them available for immediate assignment to available sales reps. Using a kind of intelligent lead distribution program called Shotgun Connect (named after the game of calling the passenger seat in a car by saying “shotgun”) the phones of all available agents ring and whoever is available to take the call and quickest on the draw will win the lead and be immediately connected to them.

It is also important to equip sales reps with tools to be able to stay in touch with their leads when they are away from their desk. For that reason, the Leads360 iPhone app enables sales reps to see all of their leads and connect with them while they are away from their desk. Easy to use, this app can be used to add leads, sort existing leads, place calls, send emails and SMS messages and more. Establishing contact and keeping in touch has never been easier.


Friday, September 23rd, 2011

What kind of service do you want to get? When you’re the customer, what do you want? Do you want a quick response? We’ve all been in a situation where we are waiting for help. Ready to do business with someone and they cannot find the time to engage with us. It’s a frustrating experience as a consumer, but even more than the frustration is something closer to befuddlement. Why, we wonder, why and what in the world do you have to do that is more important than engaging with your customers. If that is not your job, then what is? This experience is all too common in actual physical stores, but it seems to be even more prevalent with online inquiries. Secret shopper studies in the insurance and banking industries have shown that major players both industries are providing substandard service in terms of lead follow up.

It is entirely possible to respond to online inquiries within a minute. Meaning that if a prospect fills out a form on your website or the website of a lead provider, it is possible to have that lead distributed to whichever sales rep is ready to make the call. It’s an up-for-grabs type of situation where only the quickest sales rep claims the lead; and as soon as he does, the call is placed automatically. Leveraging the competitive nature of a sales team means a quicker response for prospects making inquiries.

If contact times of under a minute are more aggressive than what you are used to, consider this: Leads are 391% more likely to close when they are contacted in under a minute. If you’re tempted to think that internet response times should be longer than response times for customers who are waiting in a store, think again. With a lead management system that intelligently distributes leads and leverages an integrated lead dialer, response times can, should and will be shorter than those in a store.  It’s up to you if you want to be an early adopter of this technology, and scoop up market share from those who don’t or if you want to be the one who gets scooped.

Better Service for the Empowered Customer

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Everyone in marketing and sales knows that customers are a lot savvier than they were 10 years ago. 5 years ago. Last year. Customers are always connected to the internet and have countless resources to help them make informed decisions about where they are going to take our business. And it hasn’t plateaued. There is more content all the time and quicker, cleverer ways to leverage it. There are increasingly more ways for customers to shop without reverting to the bad old days, where a customers only choice was to walk into a showroom and fend off a pushy salesman.

So how do you serve a customer whose ability to serve themselves is constantly improving? It is all about technology. It is technology that is empowering consumers, and technology that will empower sales people to better serve their customers. Take for example when a prospect submits an online inquiry. Whether it is on your website or on the website of a lead provider, it is critical to reach that prospect immediately. Smartphones have made a consumers need for instant gratification even more pronounced. They can get information whenever they want in almost every case.  But what about when they want information from you via a phone call? Are they getting that instantly? They should be, and it is entirely possible if you are using lead management software with an integrated lead dialer.

Using lead management with an intelligent lead dialer equips the conscientious sales agent with the tools to immediately reach out to an interested prospect. But it even goes a step further. An intelligent lead distribution engine funnels each prospect to the sales agent who is best suited to help him; base on licensure, expertise or other soft skills. Doing right by your prospects means being at their disposal. When someone decides they’re interested in what you sell, you can be on the phone with them in seconds, regardless of where they are.

Shopping for Business Software at the Intersection of Research and Guesswork

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

CRM is huge. It casts a big shadow. Its scope is enormous; the problems it sets out to solve are legion. So expansive is the real estate occupied by CRM that its precise boundaries have become difficult to survey. For many businesses, incorporating technology into their business practices is a process that involves working with a lot of unknowns. That usually means some combination of research and guesswork.

There is an endless amount of information on the internet about CRM and other business software solutions. The glut of information available on the subject of CRM has an effect on consumers that isn’t always easy to see coming. Because at a certain point it becomes necessary to decide that you know enough and you are ready to make your decision. The point of ‘enough information’ too often ends with the conclusion that “CRM does so much, that I’m sure it will do what I need it to.”

In fact, CRM may not be the best fit for many types of businesses. CRM is great if you have existing customers who require ongoing service. CRM is a great tool for customer retention. But if you are focused on growth, and bringing in new customers, CRM is not the best fit. When choosing  a solution, it is important to make a distinction between customers and prospects and decide who you are willing to reach. CRM is a solution that is designed to maintain and nurture existing customer relationships that has been adapted to work also with prospects.

Lead management software is designed to manage relationships with prospects. Lead management helps turn prospects into customers. Lead management helps you be the first on the phone with a prospect. Lead management prioritizes your leads and automates follow up so every prospect gets the attention it deserves. Lead Management has easy to use reports that help you identify lead sources and which team members perform best, and which are under performing.

Technology in Higher Education

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

This article called For-Profit Schools: They Get IT delves into the differences between the adoption of technology at private schools and for-profit schools. The upshot is that For-Profit schools are better with technology. They spend more than 10% of their operating budgets on technology infrastructure where their counterparts in the private sector spend less than 3%. Among the reasons cited for making technology so central to the enterprise with the for-proifts is the desire to provide students with flexibility and to let them have the access to technology at school that they have in the rest of their lives.

There is an interesting section on Page 5 of the article that deals with the role of technology in marketing and student recruitment. It says that “When a student inquires at a for-profit, they’re going to get a response within a couple of hours. But when some of the not-for-profit schools get a similar inquiry, they might not respond for months. The for-profits know that they can’t afford to be that unresponsive-that students are their lifeblood-and they use the available technology to connect fast.”

Responding quickly to student inquiries is indeed critical to the success of the for-profit school. Response times within hours are not uncommon, but it is possible to respond to students within minutes. Using lead management software, students can be provided a nearly immediate a virtual appointment after submitting an online inquiry. Intelligent distribution of inquiries funnels students to the enrollment counselor best suited to help each student. Using lead management is the best way to intelligently distribute inquiries and speed up response times.

Principles of Prospect Service

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Should we even call it customer service? When talking about how prospects are served, it’s common to borrow the phrase customer service. But that’s really a misnomer.  It is not possible, strictly speaking, to provide customer service to a prospect for the simple fact that prospects are not yet customers.

It may not seem like an important distinction at first glance since so many of the principles of customer service would obviously apply to prospect service. It’s important to be knowledgeable, friendly, trustworthy, etc… whether you are dealing with customers or prospects. But using the same approach towards prospects that you would towards customers is a mistake.

Customer service is all about nurturing and capitalizing on a relationship that already exists. Prospect service is about establishing a new relationship. The principles of prospect service are as follows:

Be fast – The first principle of prospect service is that it is critical to be the first on the phone. If a prospect is of a mind to buy what you are selling, they are going to buy it from you or one of your competitors. They will be more likely to buy from the person who establishes contact with them first.

Be consistent – The second principle of prospect service is that fast and steady wins the race. When prospects do not immediately respond to a sales rep it is important to follow up consistently. It is important to follow up on leads strategically, providing varied and meaningful communication that makes it clear your business practices are sound.

Be aware – It is said that people walk backwards through time. They can see where they’ve been, but can’t see where they’re going. Given that serving a large number of prospects is in many ways a highly repetitive process, it’s critical to always be leveraging your experience and learning lessons from past successes and failures alike. Having an easy way to report on the performance of lead sources, sales reps, lead distribution strategies, etc. is an important way to make sure you are even trying to serve the right prospects.

Don’t be so quick to assume that the principles of customer service apply to prospect service. And by extension don’t make the mistake of trying to do lead management with a CRM.

Beneath the Surface of a Successful Sales Operation

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

A successful sales operation is smooth. It glides like a swan. Calls are made and deals are closed. It appears effortless and inevitable. The successful salesman is in complete command of his craft and navigates his daily challenges with grace. His success resides in the marriage of technique and inspiration. He knows the rules, and he knows when to break them. And his head is clear. He is not focused on the minutiae of handling his daily work. His work is organized and prioritized. He’s able to stay focused on the higher level tasks of meeting the needs of his prospects.

But while it may appear smooth, beneath the surface, there is a lot that goes into a successful sales enterprise. The organization and prioritization of leads and lead follow up has to be executed strategically. The more prospects there are in the pipeline, the more opportunities there are for drag to develop in the system. The triviality of the administrative aspects of the sales job decreases in proportion to the number of leads in the pipeline. So the successful salesman glides like a swan above the water, but is paddling like mad beneath the water.

In reality, it’s not necessary to expend so much energy on managing minutiae in a sales reps day. Lead management software is a great way to automate much of the administrative work that goes along with the sales job. Following up on leads, making and keeping appointments, distributing leads and contacting them as quickly as possible; all of this is part of the work done by sales teams that result in deals being made.  With lead management it is possible to automate much of this kind of work and free up the time and concentration of sales reps to allow them to do what they do best, sell.