Tap into Technology to Improve Business Development
by Sharon Day,posted Jun 10 2013 9:06AM
The plethora of technological advancements at our disposal makes this quite an exciting time to be in business development and sales. So many tools are available today compared to just five years ago. There’s no way that I could possibly list all of the products in this article so instead I’ll focus on the main uses for incorporating technology; the importance of understanding your purpose for using certain products; and, the need to factor in the human element.
Hands down the most important reasons for incorporating technology into your sales efforts are customer relationship/pipeline management (CRM); lead generation and nurturing; and capturing, interpreting and analyzing data from your branding/marketing efforts. However, before entering into agreements with any third-party supplier there are several things you should consider. What do you hope to accomplish that you are unable to do currently? What is the specific output that you desire? Why? Who needs to have unlimited access to it? Make certain the system you choose is web-based so it can be readily accessed from anywhere and that it’s somewhat customizable to best suit your needs. Be certain to protect yourself with a contractual ‘out clause’ should you find the tool less than desirable. Since the majority of business owners I speak with believe that their tools are being under utilized, I recommend that you understand all functions of the systems you consider and determine which you won’t need and use that knowledge in your negotiations. Then establish internal protocols for updating, utilizing and responding to opportunities discovered.
Some tools are geared more toward management reports and aren’t as user-friendly to the sales team; others vice versa. You’ll need to test drive a few products before making your final decision to understand firsthand what has to go into each in order to generate your desired results. Many companies use a different software product for each function, requiring their team to make multiple touches in order to generate the desired results. Additionally, these separate tools, while excellent on their own, don’t interface with one another. This is a choke point. Time is money. Wherever possible, strive to empower your sales team by freeing them up to enter data only once and have it populate elsewhere.
It’s also critical that you marry the products you choose with your stated goals as closely as possible. For example, if new business development and lead generation are important to you, what are your expectations? How involved are you prepared to be in the set up, nurturing and follow-up phases? Do you need a system that will pre-qualify and arrange appointments with prospects? Or, once pre-qualified, would you prefer your team contact the prospect to set those meetings up? Depending on your answer two distinctly different third-party suppliers would be considered. Your protocols, processes and what you deem to be measurements for success would also differ. Be clear about these before proceeding.
That leads us to communication. As succinctly and clearly as possible discuss with your team why you plan to incorporate another tool, what you need and are missing without the tool and what you expect of them when utilizing it. If your team has bubbled up the request for new software, have them answer these questions for you and outline how you/they will benefit and your business will grow as a result. While these products may be beneficial, they are not inexpensive. If you’re operating on a 40% profit margin and plan to spend $5,000+ on lead-generation software, you’ll need to realize an additional $12,500+ net in new business pretty quickly. Since that’s easier said than done for many small businesses, clearly state your ROI expectations so it’s fully understood how investing these monies impact your business short- and long-term.
Speaking of the team, you must consider that at the core of successfully incorporated software programs/tools are the people who utilize them. There have been countless conversations I’ve been privy to wherein the parties are frustrated with inconsistencies of their reports. Understand that “A” players prefer to be producing and when they have to stop down to enter data they see it as a major inconvenience. That said, your expectations of who will be involved, what exactly they need to include and how often/by when it should be completed need to be clearly understood by your team. If you rely on your CRM system for forecasting purposes the information for all pending business has to be up-to-date and accurate or it’s worthless to you.
Lastly, appoint someone to hold your team accountable for and reinforce the importance of using the tool. Then not only will you be able to take full advantage of some of the great technology and products available, you’ll also have the input you need when you need it to help you make timely decisions.