Customer Relationship Management: A Necessity for Highly Effective Selling

At 41 (soon to be 42) I have now been a professional sales person or sales leader for over ½ of my life.  I have sold folding cartons, computer systems, implementation consulting services, enterprise software, group insurance and prepaid cards.  My philosophy in approaching any marketplace is simple and straightforward:

  • Attract:

–      Create and track intricate, personalized marketing campaigns that speak to the value your company’s solutions create.

–      Prospect with accuracy and confidence. 

  • Acquire:

–      Sell in a collaborative environment that allows all company constituents (executives, manufacturing, engineering, etc.) to actively participate in the selling process.

  • Extend & Protect:

–      Indentify cross-sell opportunities.

–      Deliver unparalleled client service to ensure long term, mutually beneficial business partnerships….and repeat business. 

–      Create institutional memory that guarantees the historical accuracy of client and prospect interactions.

Selling complex business solutions to multiple constituents inside a prospect/customer organization is time consuming, resource intensive and ultimately fraught with risk.  The danger associated with most engagements centers around opportunity cost; if I (the salesperson) spend the extraordinary effort to engage with a company, am I potentially losing out on another opportunity of similar or higher value? 

Customer Relationship Management software (Salesforce.com, Pivotal, MSCRM, Oracle, SAP, etc.) allows an organization (specifically the front office) to efficiently manage the flow and constant interactions associated with an intricate sales cycle.

  • Marketing

–      Integrated marketing and sales application with automated lead conversion

–      Real-time analytics to measure and optimize campaigns for best results

–      Multichannel campaign management (email, direct mail, trade shows etc.) and analysis for a complete marketing solution.

–      Client profiling and lifecycle management.

  • Sales

–      Account Management

–      Contact Management

–      Opportunity Management

–      Activity Management 

–      HTML email management (creation, reporting)

–      Territory Tracking/Permissions

–      Imbedded Action Plans for Best Practices

–      Individual Forecasting

–      Proposal Generation (integrated MS Office)

–      Order Management

–      Commission tracking

–      Collaboration: Team productivity/automating workflow

–      Report on sales activities and effectiveness

–      Integrated Outlook

  • Client Service

–      Issue tracking and resolution tools needed to quickly resolve customer questions, issues, and requests and deliver a high-quality customer experience

  • Management

–      Scalable solutions rapidly integrate with existing applications and hardware investments

–      Immediate report on sales activities and effectiveness

–      Immediate overview of pipeline (group and individual)

–      Immediate forecast of company revenue

–      Creation of corporate best practices to be institutionalized

–      Create a collaborative environment for managing opportunities and service requests

–      Enable employees, partners, and customers to engage in discussions, share files, and manage tasks

A Customer Relationship Management package will NOT, on its own, create demand for or sell a company’s product/solution.  However, A CRM tool will allow a corporation’s talented front office team to maximize their time spent selling the right prospect

As a sales person who sold CRM, implemented CRM and uses CRM on a daily basis, my advice to buyers would be to decide early on if your company really wants to support the application, or should a Software as a Service model be considered?  Managing a CRM system is extraordinarily resource intensive; if you take the application in house, dedicate the appropriate talent.  While researching, do NOT rely on the opinions of industry analysts – they are a shill for any ISV that offers them cash.  Instead, evaluate a subsection of Best of Breed providers, and INVESTIGATE their deployments (both good and bad).  Get a realistic representation of what can be accomplished in a defined time period…..current clients will talk.

If you can justify the investment, have a sales operations person assigned to owning/managing the deployment.   This individual should not only understand the marketplace, but they need to clearly comprehend your company’s specific business.  Once committed, create defined business objectives with an educated resource; this person needs to truly understand CRM, and how your marketing/sales/service processes work. 

Prior to beginning the implementation, set realistic goals and defined milestones with your partners.  Pay the hired partner a retainer up front, and then only compensate them when they achieve agreed-to performance goals.  If the hired company says they can do something pre-sale, hold them accountable post-sale. 

Finally, be selective and demanding when assessing the different vendors in the CRM marketplace.   Once you choose a company, truly partner with the ISV/ implementation provider in order to gain the most return from your CRM investment.

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In the Market for a New Fly Rod & Reel?

I am a consumer that recognizes value, and appreciates great service.  As a new fly fisherman (but a veteran fisherman), I took significant time to research many of the reels, rods and terminal tackle available to me.  As a long time buyer of salt and fresh water products, I expected that quality equipment would cost me plenty.  That said, I did not expect that rods from Sage, Winston, G. Loomis and Orvis would start in the $350 range, and only head north from there.  Available reels from Tibor, Abel and Bauer also came at a high price ($300+).  The challenge for me was to find a rod/reel combination that allowed me to maximize results during my limited time on the water (and at a reasonable price).

My thorough investigation of the fly fishing equipment marketplace brought me to a Colorado based company called Elkhorn Fly Rod and Reel.  Historically, I have always supported local businesses that produce good products, and offer superior service.  The online reviews on Elkhorn equipment were very positive (and the price was right) so I purchased an Elkhorn Butler Series rod (5 weight), and armed it with an Elkhorn T2 reel.  Over the last 18 months, I have fished many rivers in Colorado and Wyoming; enjoying some of the best waters in the country.  The weather (snow, rain and wind) I have fished in has pushed me and my equipment to the limit.  Put to frequent tests, my Elkhorn rod/reel has performed extraordinarily well.  My Butler series rod allows me to quickly notice subtle strikes while nymphing.  The T-2’s (reel) drag system becomes noticeably relevant as a 22” rainbow rushes down stream with a small nymph clinging to the corner of her mouth.  I have been so impressed with Elkhorn products that I purchased 2 more reels (T-1 and MA-2) and the complementary rods (Traveler Series).

During my last trip to the North Platte River, I fell while trying to net a fish.  While I did eventually land the fish, I unfortunately dinged up my rod.  I asked Elkhorn to evaluate the rod, in order to determine if the structure remained sound.  Brian Chavet, the owner of Elkhorn, actually called me to discuss his findings after thoroughly testing the rod’s integrity.  It is that type of service (and expertise) that will keep me a long-time Elkhorn customer.

If you are in the market for a new setup, I suggest you evaluate the equipment from Elkhorn Fly Rod and Reel.

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Tegu: A New Toy, Inspired by a Child’s Imagination

Tegu Blocks

About 6 months ago I acquired a new and unique toy for our 5 and 3 year old boys.  The description of the toy intrigued me:

  • Tegu: 52 blocks in four shapes: Cubes, Long Planks, Short Planks, and Jumbo Planks. The blocks are made from hardwoods native to Honduras.  Magnetic connections between the blocks make for novel play that defies gravity and increases a child’s creative freedom.

Upon introducing the blocks to the boys, we emphasized the need to share and create together.  We spread the magnetic blocks on the living room floor, and observed their reaction from the kitchen.  The 5 year old dominated the set, and started building different structures.  Upon completion, he would bring his creation to us tell us what he had just constructed. Boats, houses, buildings, sharks and dinosaurs were just some of the objects he configured.  We also noticed that he would spend time rebuilding the same object in order to better represent its actual form.  

Our 3 year old boy would not spend as much time creating, but he still was intrigued with the way the wooden objects clung together.  This was his first experience with magnets, so they obviously captured his attention.   We concluded that the 3 year old needs more life experiences in order to take advantage of the magnetic blocks.

Tegu appears to be a rare company; they emphasize social responsibility and environmental conservation.   If you are in the market for an original toy for your children, check out the Tegu collection

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Breakage: Not an Industry Secret Anymore

The term “breakage” within the payments industry refers to the dollars left on a prepaid card post card expiration.  Those dollars are either funneled to the Program Manager (who constructed the initiative), or back to the company offering the card to their particular constituency.  Generally speaking, people outside the prepaid industry (consumer groups) have an erroneous opinion on how breakage works.  Here are some thoughts….

  • First, a network branded card (Visa, MasterCard) offers the cardholder choice.  The cardholder can spend the full value of the card wherever they want.  The only constraint is that they have to spend the entire load before the card expires.  Evidence suggests that the majority of cardholders are happy to trade the card’s ubiquity for the limited time restriction. 
  • Industry statistics demonstrate that less than 8% of the funds on a network branded prepaid card actually break.  As consumers become more prepaid savvy, I expect that percentage to decrease over time.
  • Generally speaking, only a single value prepaid card will actually break.  Reloadable cards (usually utilized in employee or partner programs) do not factor breakage as a source of revenue.  Once a reloadable card expires, the cardholder is usually reissued a new card, and their available balance is moved to that card. 
  • It is costly to support a card on a processor.  The technology and cardholder services infrastructure are significant investments for companies in the space.  Card breakage helps underwrite those costs.
  • If a cardholder has funds on a card post expiration, and they want to access their monies, they are reissued a new card less a nominal processing fee.
  • Without breakage revenue, consumers may not see the plethora of acquisition/retention campaigns available to them.
  • Companies initiating prepaid campaigns are now infusing cross-selling/up-selling strategies that overtly suggest what products the cardholder should spend their monies on. This tactic looks for the incremental consumer spend as a way to judge a program’s ROI.

Anyone looking to learn about the prepaid card space should visit the NBPCA website. You will find a plethora of relevant and objective industry information available.  

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The Unrelenting Dilemma of a Nine Handicap

The relentless quest of a manageable, confident golf swing has me perplexed and frustrated right now (as well as pissed off).  The one thing all passionate golfers have in common is the desire to constantly get better.  Practice, unfortunately is not the key to unbridled success…..unless of course what you’re practicing contradicts the thing that forced you to practice in the first place.  It seems that once you “fix” one part of your game, something else breaks.   Last spring, without anything I consciously did, I became one with my game.  Honestly I was hitting the ball 10% farther, while lowering my handicap to a six; it was heaven!   My brush with golf greatness lasted until late June as my game turned ugly, resulting in my handicap soaring to a 9 (mathematically almost impossible to do in 4 months).  A deep golf depression set in as I have yet to work it out. 

Here is the current, maddening issue that I am desperately trying to repair.

  • After completing a semi-hideous backswing, my right elbow detaches from my body, and points towards left field (classic chicken-wing), never to make contact with my right rib again.
  • As I awkwardly return to the ball, my best fly fishing technique takes over and fractures every angle earned during the prior motion.
  • The end result is a forced hand flip at the ball that miraculously gets the Pro V1 airborne.
  • Distance and accuracy are obviously compromised, but it is the consistency that has me vexed. 

I have searched for answers over the last 6 months.  Here is what I have found:

Golf Magazines                        

  • Most of the lessons/tips provided are difficult to understand.  When you do understand the guidance, generally the “move” opposes something from an article from a prior magazine.
  • Magazines shill for their advertisers – the equipment manufacturers.  When they tell me that after a custom fitting, an 18 handicap can now hit his tee ball 30 yards further, I feel like vomiting.

Training Aids  

  • I own every golf training aid produced over the last 15 years (if you do not believe me check my basement).
  • Some have merit…..most just become a short-term paycheck for a washed up tour player/swing guru.
  • I do not remember one training aid having a profound impact on my game….not one?

Your PGA Professional

  • How does the same swing issue result in differing root causes from 10 different instructors?  I demonstrate the same unappealing swing to all of these guys, and each one tells me something different is wrong.
  • Recently, I succumbed to a GolfTEC advertisement, and went in for a consultation ($99).  The instructor was pleasant, candid and insightful –then the lesson ended and the sales pitch began.  He told me that it would take “between 10 and 20 ½ hour lessons in order to fix my swing.” Of course those happened to be the premier instruction packages GolfTEC sells.   After multiple calls, I purchased the 10 pack – I will let you know the results over the next two months.

Equipment

  • Yes, I will spend thousands on a game in disrepair.  That said, I now realize that anything new from TaylorMade, Callaway, Titleist, Ping etc. only pacifies me until ball contact.  At that point I realize that my reverse Jim Furyk is still solidly intact.   

My dreams about playing in a state amateur event are fading by the day.  I can only hope my persistency pays off so I do not embarrass myself in the two member/guests I play in every year. 

More to come as the season pushes forward. 

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Working Hard so I can Hunt, Fish and Golf