October 23, 2009

10 Reasons Why You Need A Sales System

Imagine an accountant without an accounts package, or an architect without a CAD programme! Well, most sales organisations do not have a widely used and effective sales system. That is costing them in terms of lost sales, as well as lost time and effort.

Here is a list of the compelling reasons why you need a good sales system and the benefits it will deliver.

Increase conversion rates at all stages of the sales cycle. A sales system enables sales opportunities, or leads can be managed more effectively, including the universal application of a more consistent and effective sales process.

A system enables a more systematic, structured and managed approach to the management of sales; leads, opportunities, etc. Nothing is left to chance as salespeople and their managers can, for example, immediately identify neglected accounts, leads that need to be followed up and opportunities that require more work before closing.

Provide increased visibility, predictability and control in respect of sales. That means managers can see what is happening, they can use this information to predict what is going to happen (including inbuilt forecasting tools) and can take action, without waiting until the quarters results are in, or the next sales meeting takes place.

More accurate and reliable sales pipeline forecasts. This is because more information is available and that information is more up to date. In addition the use of a system applies more rigor and consistency to how information is stored, including

Sales people are by nature optimistic, however a sales system tapers optimism with reality providing for a common sales language (e.g. when is a hot prospect ’hot’?) and relating opportunity ratings and close dates to the more objective standard of work done (e.g needs analysis completed) and progress made (contact with 3 senior managers in the buying group) in respect of each account, or opportunity.

See ‘Don’t Rely on Spreadsheets’ for details of the limitations of the traditional spreadsheet based approach to sales forecasting.

A sales system can reduce reporting time by up to 50%, eliminating the frustrating work of manually compiling written call sheets, cross checking spreadsheets, requests for updates, etc. With a sales system that is being implemented consistently all the information required by managers should be available through dashboards, or easily accessible reports.

Enables a more sales-led approach to marketing, facilitating a switch from expensive mass marketing (e.g. advertising and events) to on more measurable direct, or one to one contact with target customers. In this way it aligns sales and marketing more closely. Other benefits to marketing include, the automation of tasks such as capturing web generated leads, mailing of electronic newsletters, tracking of opt-outs, etc.

Makes people more productive and efficient, reducing time spend on paperwork, information search, personal organization (e.g. route planning and time management), meeting preparation, and, of course reporting. Functions such as diary reminders of scheduled tasks, integrated email and document storage (such as proposals) are particularly beneficial to busy reps.

Maximizes collaboration across sales teams and between sales and marketing by ensuring access to shared information and tracking of requests/activities/cases across different members of the team.

Enables managers to tracks and manage levels of sales activity and effectiveness across the sales cycle. It provides mangers with key metrics and KPIs in respect of sales and marketing, including number of leads generated, number of sales meetings, or conversion rates at different stages, for example from lead to meeting, or from cycle to close.

Makes leading and managing a sales force easier. This works in a lot of ways, here are just some examples:
  • A system makes sales meetings – managers have all the information (result of meetings, status with opportunities, etc.) from the system, so meetings can focus on a transfer of enthusiasm, knowledge and insights, rather than a role call of opportunities.
  • Managers get to do more coaching thanks to a sales system, which identifies what sales people, markets or products may be struggling.
  • What gets measured gets done, thus a sales system generally results in an increase in the levels of sales activity (initially at least).
  • As sales people are motivated by their performance relative to their peers, the introduction of a system that provides greater visibility of comparative performance, can when handled correctly, spur individual sales people to ‘up their game’.

More and better information is available to the people who need it. Such improved openness and communication, generally enhances levels of trust and respect and in turn performance. It also enables managers and their people to make better decisions, for example where to focus limited sales resources, what areas will delivery greatest results, etc.

In so many organizations the second-guessing by managers of the activities and progress of salespeople because they do not have accurate information available is unhelpful and can be demotivating. A sales system ensures that a sales person and his or her manager are constantly on the same page. It results in clarity of expectations and reduces the likelihood of suprises.

Customer relationship management. Sales databases began as a central repository for customer information and as their functionality expanded, they became effective tools for managing customer relationships. This is still a vital role for any sales database to perform, enabling managers and their teams to engage in more co-ordinated, systematic and proactive customer contact, resulting in more effective account management, increased customer loyalty and growing customer revenues.

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