Building Profitable Relationships

Building Profitable Relationships

Building profitable relationships – here’s what you need to know about relationship selling

I’m reaching out – but leads aren’t reaching back. Is it my approach? Is there another way to connect better or more meaningfully from the get-go – one I haven’t thought of?

If this feels familiar, read on.

The rise of relationship selling

It’s been quick, but radical. The nature of the sales game has changed – profoundly.

Gone are the days in which cold calls – or emails – could be relied upon to get you the connections you need. In fact, selling through any ‘cold’ contact is becoming more and more difficult.

Today’s sales landscape is, more and more, about one thing – trust. And not only the kind of trust that is built up over years of working together, but up-front, just-starting-out trust. And the way to get that trust going is: through relationships.

Consider this: A warm referral is four times more likely to result in a sale than a cold call.1

This is the world of relationship selling. Let’s explore it in more detail.

 

1. Identifying the right leads

This is a traditional step – and still necessary. However, it’s being remade through modern CRM solutions.

With LinkedIn integration and machine learning capabilities, it’s possible to not only quickly identify who matters most, but who is most likely to buy, and how you can leverage your connections (or your colleagues’) for a warm introduction.

Then, once you’ve got a foot in the door, it becomes possible to make the most of that new connection: to find other meaningful contacts at the same company – and elsewhere, too.

2. Keeping it meaningful

We’re all inundated with digital messaging every day. In this hyper-saturated space, the only way to stand out is through relevance. By understanding a potential customer’s unique pain points and challenges – and offering them a tailored solution – you show interest and build trust.

One way to do this? Keep track of what your connections share on LinkedIn and the discussions they participate in. Have they shared particular news articles? Commented on trends? With insight into this, you’re far better to understand their specific wants and needs.

3. Getting the timing just right

Contact a prospect or current customer when they’re overburdened with other things? At best, you’ll get silence. At worst, you’ll hurt the relationship, adding just one more pressure they need to deal with. You can leave the approach to chance or intuition, or you can get data-savvy.

How? By evaluating the health of your relationship, based on transactions, sentiment, social network messages, emails and the frequency and level of those interactions.

Predictive analytics allows you to identify not only where new business opportunities lie and which accounts to reach out to, but where potential risks for each account may lurk.

4. Have the right info ready to go

Managing many accounts – and doing it well – is tricky. Some people you interact with all the time. Others go quiet, only to make contact at an unexpected time.

When a customer feels they’ve caught you off guard or that you’re not ready to help just when they need it can mean a relationship red flag.

However, by keeping content ready to go when your customers are, you emphasise your interest and commitment. Moreover – you’re now able to tell when someone interacts with your content or if it’s been shared with other decision-makers, adding new leads to your book.

5. Get your priorities straight

It’s easy to lose focus – or to focus on the wrong client, at the wrong time. Trying to keep track of where every customer is in the buying process is impossible without a top-down, data-driven view.

Wading through emails and correspondence doesn’t work. And it saps time. However, it’s possible to easily prioritise tasks and opportunities with the right technology. Need some guidance as to what to do next? With machine learning and analytics, that’s possible, too.

The sum-up

Relationship selling is remaking everything – from how connections are formed and nurtured to how they’re grown and leveraged.

Today’s always-on world of business means that impersonal, untailored contact is ignored more and more – it simply forms part of the mass of unasked-for communication we’re all faced with each day.

The solution: trust.

By leveraging your existing connections, you move from a cold caller to a known caller. Moreover, with better insight into potential customers’ pain points and needs, you’re not only trusted, but able to offer more relevant, targeted products, at just the right time.

At every stage of the sales process, relationship building is coming to take centre stage.

To find out more about how you can embrace relationship selling in your sales process, check out our Microsoft sales solution.

1 http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/press-room/2015/recommendations-from-friends-remain-most-credible-form-of-advertising.html

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6 Ways Technology Can Supercharge Your Sales Process

6 Ways Technology Can Supercharge Your Sales Process

6 Ways Technology Can Supercharge Your Sales Process

Today’s marketplace is always on. And it’s always evolving. To keep up, leading-edge organisations are turning to technology. Why? Because technology drives market traction. Greater forecast accuracy, real-time insights, touch-of-a-button pipeline tracking and improved relationship management are all possible with the right tools. The result? A supercharged sales process that’s clearer, leaner, meaner and more effective. Better yet: more time to spend on the ground actually selling. So how can technology reboot sales? Here are six key ways:

 

1. Improved Forecast Accuracy 

Uncertainty is the enemy of every business. Access to the right data equals insight. By tracking your sales pipeline, you can help ensure you reach your targets. More accurate forecasts also mean enhanced stability and trust across the business. When sales managers and their teams have a definitive overview of the overall sales landscape, it’s also easier to put resources precisely where they need to be.

 

2. Opportunity Management

When you’re able to track your sales opportunities and keep a close eye on your pipeline, you always know when to take action to accelerate certain deals. Dashboards can provide a complete view of sales performance, allowing you to monitor close rates and see how your sales team are tracking towards their individual targets.

3. Activity Management

Admin saps critical time that could be spent on selling. By streamlining the back office, you free up time and resources that could be far better spent. The right tools allow emails, phone calls and appointments to be tracked at the click of a button. Customers and prospects can also be kept in the loop, with updates made from any device.

4. Single View Of A Customer

Personalisation is everything. In fact, customers have come to expect tailored interactions. With the right tools, even complex account hierarchies can be displayed in a single, simple graphic. Customer information can be shown with a history of every interaction. This allows salespeople to really connect with clients. Tailoring gets a further boost when you’re able to send targeted marketing information and shape interactions around your customers’ specific needs.

5. Mobile Sales

Forgetting files at the office becomes a thing of the past with mobile sales solutions. All your customer data is at your fingertips – on your phone, tablet or laptop. Better yet, new data can be automatically synced across all team members’ devices, ensuring everyone is always working with the latest information – whether you have internet access or not. Then there’s the final benefit: productivity goes up when you can work from anywhere.

6. Sales Reporting

When you understand your customers, you can build stronger relationships. By analysing sales data, you can learn how your customers act, turning data into key insights. Then, you can move from the big picture to the finer detail. By drilling down into underlying reports, you can see the impact of your sales efforts first hand. The ability to generate reports on salespeople, contacts or accounts on-demand can drastically reduce managerial headaches.

The Wrap Up

So – now you’ve got the low-down, here are two final pieces of the puzzle. First, your customers are often way ahead of you. Statistics show that customers are 57% of the way through the buying process before they even start talking to a supplier [1]. That means that to be – and stay – relevant, you need as much information as you can going into the sale. That information needs to be easy to understand and available at the touch of a button. Second, by increasing the time you spend on the sales process itself, you can leapfrog your competitors. According to the numbers, reps spend more than 67% of their time on non-selling activities [2]. With tools such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales, you can not only up the time you can spend talking to or meeting with customers, but better understand the market you’re operating in. This means the ability to offer your customers reactive, personalised service. All of the above combined can mean that critical edge over the competition.

Want to explore how we could help you transform your sales? Get in touch.

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How a CRM Solution Can Fix Your Sales Forecasts

How a CRM Solution Can Fix Your Sales Forecasts

How a CRM Solution Can Fix Your Sales Forecasts

Sweaty palms? Nervousness? Fingers hovering over the keyboard, afraid to commit to a single figure? Sales forecasting can rattle even the most seasoned sales director.

When forecasting – for the month, quarter or year – accuracy is everything. Boards, company management and shareholders all expect solid, reliable numbers. They’re a guide to how well the company knows itself – and how dependable its pipeline is.

At the same time, below-par projections leave no one smiling. Submit a less-than-fantastic forecast and you’ll need to explain those lacklustre numbers.

Particularly for publicly traded companies, accuracy and impressive projections are the key one-two punch. When a public company’s actuals fall even a couple of percentage points short of predictions, analysts begin to penalise, shareholders start to doubt and boards begin to grumble.

Exceeding expectations?

Of course, historic sales figures are an unavoidable benchmark. That one massive high will forever be remembered. Past performance doesn’t guarantee future returns – but it certainly sets an expectation.

However, boards and managers begin to lose trust when forecasts are consistently overstated. At the same time, understated forecasts imply a happy surprise – but a surprise nonetheless. In business, certainty rules the roost.

How do you deliver? With CRM.

A great CRM solution makes sales forecasting easy and accurate. Gone is the guesswork. And gone are the sweaty palms that come with uncertainty.

More than this, by allowing a company to engage meaningfully and personally with customers, it’s easier to build strong client relationships with CRM. The upshot? Selling becomes easier – and sales more predictable.

At the end of the day, forecasts are not only more reliable, they’re more impressive too.

The Fantastic Forecast – Here’s how a CRM solution makes it a reality

Every moment of every day, managers need to know how sales are going. Are targets being met? Are salespeople performing at their best? Are deals in the pipeline coming to fruition – or are prospective buyers pulling out along the way?

With a good CRM, real-time analytics, critical sales information like this is available at the touch of a button. Moreover, with predictive insights, there’s a window into likely sales scenarios and deal outcomes.

Accurate as-of-right-now forecasts also allow managers to take action. By setting team goals, monitoring outcomes and providing real-time coaching, forecasts become part of an active feedback loop – they turn into a ‘live’ number. This puts an end to the black box effect. Effort in becomes measurable in results out. This equals not only stronger forecasts, but more control – and control is key for forecast accuracy.

CRM solutions give sales forecasts yet another boost. One that comes from data-based insights into how customers think. Great CRM solutions take huge volumes of information and distil it down into informative – and often surprising – insights.

How do your customers want to be engaged? Could the way you interact be more personalised? More relevant? By understanding how your customers think, and what they want, it becomes possible to better engage in future. The result: improved – and more predictable – conversion rates. Sales forecasting gets a boost on both fronts.

A final forecasting fire-up comes with speed. Fast analyses mean fast figures and fast answers. Needing to wait for the numbers slows down decisions – it may also cast doubt on them – forecasting that’s not automated is both prone to error and a major time-sapper. With at-a-glance dashboards and contextual charts providing instant insight, you boost precision, speed and trust.

No more subjectivity, no more stories

A sales director’s reputation can be made – or destroyed – by their forecasts. Often-wrong forecasts cast doubt on competence. Yet, it can be a real challenge to tease out hard reliable data from salespeoples’ subjective assessments of how things are going.

Forecast reviews often start with a story. A story about why a certain deal is a sure thing. About why another has started to fall through – inexplicably – but why the next one won’t. We’re all loaded with subjective biases. We often overestimate our abilities. We also misattribute causes and effects. Managers needing to put together an accurate team forecast out of all the subjective noise face a mammoth task.

It’s an unnecessary headache. With a Sales CRM solution like Microsoft Dynamics 365 in place, forecasting becomes rapid, accurate and automatic.

Why not have a look at what a Sales CRM solution can do for you? 

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Automated and Amplified: Sales Meets A.I.

Automated and Amplified: Sales Meets A.I.

Automated and Amplified: Sales Meets A.I.

Sales is evolving. Predictive and powerful, it’s no longer just speed that separates the best from the rest – it’s processing power. Today’s strongest sales engines are not only blisteringly quick – thanks to A.I. they’re now intelligent.

Consider the research:

Why AI? To better optimise and prioritise

Consider a salesperson’s typical day: prioritise leads. Nurture some. Close others. Trawl customer data for new prospects. Send a follow-up email. Personalise a pitch…

At core is this: working out how best to spend the next chunk of time, when there never seems to be enough of it.

It’s a classic game of optimisation: working out how best to deploy resources – in this case time, energy and focus – in a resource-constrained environment.

So, optimisation is where it’s at. But here’s the kicker: the human brain isn’t all that good at optimising, particularly in data-dense environments.

And here’s the fixer: machines are great at it.

Using A.I. to simplify

Given the massive amounts of data salespeople need to draw from when both searching for new leads and managing existing accounts – data covering everything from business and personal details to buying histories and account statistics – getting machines to do much of the grunt work makes sense.

And it’s why many companies have already tapped into the abilities of A.I., in turn remaking how they approach the sales process.

5 ways AI can improve the sales process:

 

1. More accurate aim. A.I. is able to isolate the products, services and solutions that will best meet a specific customer’s needs with extreme accuracy. The input comes from data – a growing amount of it. Everything from internal customer records, customer interactions and a rising number of external sources yield the information needed to make suggestions and interactions more meaningful.

2. Superior speed. Real-time customer buying behaviour can be analysed by A.I. in order to refine its algorithms, meaning audience targeting stays dynamic. Moreover, admin is reduced. By automatically capturing the right data from email to populate CRM records, there’s less of a  need for manual updating by sales staff.

3. Better insight. By monitoring communications to and from a customer, A.I. is able to assess the health of that relationship. This allows salespeople to put in time where it matters most. And forcus on deal most likely to close.

4. Improved prioritisation. Analysing thousands of leads is an impossible task for time-poor sales teams. AI is able to identify which lead might benefit from a follow up email, specific pitch, or relationship nurturing – cutting through the complexity.

5. Better personalisation. The interactions that produce the best results – be that in terms of deal size, increased loyalty scores or customer satisfaction – are personal, tailored and above all relevant. In the digital age, customers expect personalisation as a given. By drawing on background data, A.I. is able to make targeted recommendations.

 

Microsoft Dynamics’ next-level A.I.

Over the last couple of years, Microsoft has been upgrading every node in its Azure cloud platform. This multibillion-dollar investment now allows Azure to run a host of A.I., cognitive computing and neural networking-based applications.

The result is that Dynamics 365 Enterprise Edition brings together Microsoft’s customer relationship management suites and infuses the entire platform with new, advanced AI capabilities.

Two new stand-alone A.I. apps are also debuting as part of the Dynamics 365 Enterprise Edition: Customer Insights and Relationship Insights. These apps leverage the power of Azure machine learning algorithms and Cortana predicative intelligence to bring new insights to data, whether that data is in Dynamics 365 apps or Office 365.

To find out more about A.I. and supercharging your sales process, check out our Microsoft sales solution.

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What’s new in Dynamics 365 for Sales

What’s new in Dynamics 365 for Sales

What’s new in Dynamics 365 for Sales

Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 for Sales is a sales automation and forecasting business application that is part of the Dynamics 365 platform. It enables salespeople to build strong relationships with their customers, take actions based on insights, and close sales faster. You can keep track of your accounts and contacts, nurture your sales from lead to order, track your opportunities and forecast accurately.

Here’s what’s new in the 2018 Spring release:

  1. Embedded intelligence

Embedded intelligence (previously known as Relationship Insights) collects, manages, and analyses the diverse data and communications created throughout the sales process. It captures relevant activities and then automatically suggests the next best actions. In streamlining admin tasks, it free salespeople up to spend more time selling. Embedded intelligence has the following features:

 

  • Relationship assistant offers timely and actionable insights by continuously analysing customer interaction data stored in Dynamics 365, Microsoft Exchange/Outlook, and other sources, and then generating a collection of action cards with suggestions for relevant next steps.
  • Auto capture scans a sales user’s Outlook inbox for messages and appointments relevant to deals they’re working in Dynamics 365, and then offers them as candidates for tracking.
 

  • Email engagement monitors actions taken by recipients such as opened, clicked on a link, opened an attachment, or replied. Sales users can schedule when an email is sent and receive follow-up reminders.

2. Relationship analytics

Relationship analytics helps salespeople manage the opportunities pipeline by analysing relationships and presenting data and insights about the health of customer relationships. Relationship Analytics includes sentiment analysis to enhance relationship health calculations. Sentiment health analyses a range of customer interactions and signals to inform salespeople the health of their customer relationship. A simple, good, fair or poor scale is used.

3. Deeper LinkedIn Sales Navigator integration

With LinkedIn Sales Navigator integration, salespeople can tap into their professional networks and relationships to improve their pipeline.

In the Spring release, LinkedIn Sales Navigator controls have been added to forms. These give insights and help salespeople build connections as they work deals. The controls provide a full view into Sales Navigator member or company profiles, or focused views into lead icebreakers, mutual connections, and related leads, as well as account connections, recommended leads, and news.

With the LinkedIn Sales Navigator integration, salespeople now see LinkedIn profile pictures on dashboards, grids, and forms for any contact record synced with LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Seeing LinkedIn profile pictures for contacts helps salespeople build recognition of their prospects, and helps deepen connections throughout the sales process.

InMail is LinkedIn’s way of messaging people. Now with embedded InMail communication within Dynamics 365, salespeople get one-click access to people in LinkedIn.

4. Standardised Dynamics 365 Sales Reports for Power BI

Using Power BI, Sales managers can easily take Dynamics 365 data and track sales performance across products and salespeople. They can also monitor the health of their pipeline and quickly identify at-risk accounts that they may want to focus their attention on. The standard report provides key KPIs like win ratios, lead conversion rates, and year-to-date (YTD) revenue.

As well as this, entire reports can be themed with your brand colours. When you apply a report theme, all visuals in your report use the colours from your selected theme.

These Power BI reports can then be embedded back in Dynamics 365 so that all your data is in one place.

Want to get more information around what a sales solution could do for you? Check out our solution’s page.

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Need sales to excel?

Need sales to excel?

Need sales to excel? Drop the spreadsheets.

1985 was a big year.

Madonna and Wham! were topping the charts with their songs: ‘Like a Virgin’ and ‘Wake me up before you go-go’. Ronald Reagan was being sworn in for a second term. And Microsoft launched Excel.

Excel transformed businesses. Accountants crunched numbers and sales managers tracked their deals. It was a game changer.

“30 years later, the world’s a different place. Excel is still a great tool – just not for sales managers.”

Here’s why:

1. No single, reliable source of data

Deal information is spread everywhere making accurate forecasting almost impossible. Collaboration on complex opportunities or tenders is frustrating. And different versions of sales proposal documents are stored in multiple places. Vital information can easily be lost, but it becomes impossible to know when or where.

2. Reporting is painful and takes too long

Sales reps should be maximising selling time. Instead, they are wasting hours trying to update shared spreadsheets and collate data from different sources. Usually just before the sales meeting. That means it’s nearly impossible to have truly actionable insights.

3. Limited visibility of sales activity

Adding info to the “comments” column in Excel doesn’t reflect the true history of sales activity related to the deal. When was the last meeting? What emails have been exchanged? Are there outstanding tasks? What makes it worse is that there are no reminders for follow-up activities in the future.

4. Information isn’t mobile

No access to important customer information while on the go. Getting access to your customer’s important information right from your mobile device is painful when it lives in a shared spreadsheet. We’ve all tried accessing shared spreadsheets from a mobile device, it isn’t fun!

5. Sharing isn’t caring

Scaling a shared spreadsheet across a team creates nothing but frustration. Online and offline versions, failed attempts to save new information and corrupt files when trying to save are par for the course with shared spreadsheets.

6. Every customer is treated the same

Not all customers are created equal. Without previous purchase history on hand, prioritising deals according to their likelihood to convert isn’t possible. That means all customers and deals are treated the same, and they shouldn’t be. Spend time on the customers or prospects that really matter.

Are you stuck on Excel? Here’s how to drop the spreadsheets in 2016:

After the Microsoft Office revolution, the next revolution was CRM (Customer Relationship Management).

CRM give you secure access to a single version of the truth. With all your important customer data in one place, reports are delivered in real-time and the insights gained are instantly actionable. All activities such as email, appointments, calls and follow-up tasks can be tracked  against a customer record. Keeping a comprehensive history in one place. This information is available on the go via any mobile device which means you have access to the info you need, when you need it.

Since it’s designed to scale from small teams up to tens of thousands of users, your whole team can work in CRM without anyone being locked out.

Best of all, customers can be profiled to ensure your people work on the most important deals first.

It’s simpler than you think. See it in action now:

At The CRM Team, we’re experts at streamlining your sales process.

Request a demo today. We’ll import a sample of your data and show you a different way of selling.

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