Get serious with your systems and put your data to work

Many businesses start their sales efforts with a simple list. Often, this is a spreadsheet containing names, contact details and maybe space for a date when the customer was last spoken to. It’s a straightforward method, but it’s not a sustainable approach in the long term.

In every old sales spreadsheet, there are bound to be a few hidden nuggets of gold that could transform a business, if only its owners knew about them. A lead that’s been unforgivably ignored, a conversation that wasn’t fulfilled, a call back that wasn’t made. The data on spreadsheets is incomplete and only really meaningful to those who added it. But, as the days pass by, memories fade, staff move on and opportunities are lost.

Many businesses also have active accounts that could be worked far more profitably if only they explored the available options. When a customer has bought from you once, they are many times more likely than a new prospect to buy from you again. People buy from people – but only from people who get in touch and ask for the business.

How can CRM software help?

The spreadsheet needs to be ditched in favour of a system that’s far more sophisticated and likely to lead to sales. Businesses that want to grow need to invest in customer relationship management (CRM) software. Understandably, many businesses are somewhat wary about such an investment. It’s a significant cost and represents a major step change in the way a business is run.
Implementing a CRM system is a business change project, not a technology project. The key to making it successful is to ensure that all the key stakeholders are on board from the outset, and that they remain on board.

The CRM sits at the heart of the business; its focus is your customers. It should give managers all the information they need to steer their business towards growth. A system like Microsoft Dynamics365 gives you real visibility of your company’s interactions with customers and sales leads. Information is no longer siloed in departments or with individuals. It won’t walk out of the door when they leave.

Those hidden golden nuggets of sales data are also far easier to find with Dynamics. A CRM like this plugs directly into accounts, operations, marketing and customer service. It should be the first port of call for directors when they are looking to create strategies for growth, as it will offer them all the information they need.
But implementing a CRM is not something a business should try to do alone. You’ll want a partner on this journey. That partner should be there from the beginning and continue with you on that journey once the system is up and running.

Deciding what to measure

When the CRM is fully integrated into a business then the magic can begin to happen. Managers can get the information they need and use it to drive performance. Targets can be more easily set and these can be stretched over time. But a word of warning on this point: be careful what you measure. Businesses are defined by what they measure. People respond to targets and metrics and this can be very impactful. A metric might make perfect sense in the boardroom, but it can take on another form for those who have to actually achieve it.

For instance, a call centre manager who wants to drive efficiency in customer care might set a target stating all calls should be handled in under three minutes. This might add a sense of urgency to the call and certain customers will appreciate this. But what about queries that are more complicated, or customers who simply need to take more time? Customers don’t like to be rushed or hurried off the line but, if you’re measuring staff by call time, then what do you expect?

Data is very powerful and can transform a business. Managers need to know both what’s happening in their businesses and what could be happening. It’s time for businesses that want to grow to ditch the spreadsheet and find those golden nuggets that can propel them forward.