BIZTIPS - July 20, 2008

by Art Hill

Biz Tips: Sales Strategy Tune-Up is Good for Your Business

Many readers have said they enjoyed our three recent BizTips columns on trade shows.  More about that in future columns, but this week it’s time to take a fresh look at your overall sales strategy, not just a piece of it.  Think of it as your periodic sales strategy

Automobile manufacturers use technology to extend life and reduce maintenance.  Now you can use technology to extend sales and reduce selling expense.  Let’s start with the source of your revenue – your customers. 

The term “Customer Relationship Management” (CRM) refers to the system you use for interacting with your customers.  You introduce yourself and your products, get a business card, file their contact information, do the promised follow-up, communicate with them on a regular basis, and move them through the steps from “prospect” to “customer.” 

Then, because existing customers are the most cost-effective source of new business, you contact them periodically about additional products and services, changes in their business that create new sales opportunities, or just to maintain a personal rapport so when they’re ready to buy, they wouldn’t think of buying from anybody else.

That’s a simple CRM cycle.  You can work every step with no more technology than a telephone.  But let’s look at how you can use technology to make the process faster, easier, more reliable, and infinitely more productive.

In today’s global economy, you can introduce yourself and your products 24/7/365 through your company website to customers you may never meet in person.  Properly designed and managed, your website is your sales rep to the world regardless of the hour of the day, time zone, or distance to your customer.  There are lots of helpful on-line courses and webinars including “Designing Effective Websites”  at ed2go.com/bmcc.

Next, instead of carrying boxes of customer business cards, store them electronically using inexpensive but remarkably smart business card scanners like those from cardscan.com.  Look for software that lets you transfer the card information to your customer database, mobile phone, or personal digital assistant.

Use CRM software to expand basic contact information into complete customer profiles, to record customer communications, to remind you of follow-up, and to analyze customer buying patterns.  You can keep basic customer information in something as simple as an MS Excel spreadsheet, but do yourself a favor and look at real CRM software like “ACT!” by Sage Software.  It’s smart, easy to use, and has been continuously improved over 20 years in the market.

Next there’s the “staying in touch” step.  If you still think that contacting and staying in touch with customers around the world is beyond your reach as a small business or limited to e-mail, you haven’t tried internet long distance and international calling programs like Skype.  For less than $50 per year (that’s per year!) you have unlimited calling through your PC to any U.S. phone or any other PC-based Skype user worldwide.  Want to call an international office or mobile phone number?  At $.02 to $.22 per minute, it’s hard to use up the $10 or $20 credit you can have charged automatically to your credit or debit card.

And don’t forget that contracts, invoices, and even signatures can be sent and received instantaneously in electronic format.  More and more commercial documents are accepted as legally binding when their electronic formats conform to simple standards for security and authenticity.  In most cases, scanned documents are replacing faxes.

So look for areas where technology can boost performance, and ask your business advisor about new approaches to each step of your customer relationship management system. Give your strategy a tune-up and keep your sales machine humming.


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