Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: There are very few things as valuable as a Lead database. Of course, your Client List may qualify as being more valuable. We’ll give you that. But a lead database is up there. The two need to exist in the same place. We hardly need to explain why this is so, but we will anyway.
Existing Clients and Prospective Client Leads are the lifeblood of business. No matter where they originate, whether web, walk-in, phone call, whether referral or not, you must treat your Lead database (and, of course, Client database) as you treat your Client database.
It is vastly easier to upsell an existing Client than to convert a Prospective Client. And any sales pro will tell you that incoming unsolicited leads are preferable to cold-calling. The obvious reason is that unsolicited leads, even if driven by advertising, are easier to close than soft leads. But most sales pros are more concerned with today’s leads, with closing today’s deals–so focused on closing fresh leads that they forsake leads that hit the sales pipeline a couple weeks or months ago and weren’t immediately closed. Granted, this has as much more to do with human nature and dollars and cents than any intent to neglect viable prospects. It’s just easier to sell a Client than close a Prospect. And easier to close an unsolicited Prospect than drum up new leads.
Nevertheless, it is crucial for the organization to keep on top of all leads that failed to close immediately. The reason is obvious: Not all prospects are in the same place in the buy-cycle. Some are doing research as to who offers what in the marketplace. But these “window shoppers” aren’t looking just for the sake of looking. And they certainly aren’t instigating a conversation with you (in the form of a lead) for kicks. Sure, they may be 3, 6, 12 days/months/years until they are ready to make a purchase, but they will be making a purchase. And they can either buy from you or someone else.
Many organizations have strict disciplines in place with regard to “Client Touch-Cycles,” the idea being, 1) to make sure your clients “feel the love,” but also because, 2) the more love they feel the more they spend with an organization. Prospective clients are much the same. The more love they feel, the more likely they are to decide to become a Client. So ignoring these folks is stupid.
Touch-Cycles should be created that take prospects into account. The organization should be disciplined enough to be able to track and execute mid- to long-term relationship-building activities similar to disciplines in place for the organization’s established clientele.
If you don’t already have a CRM solution in place, you need one. There is no better time than the present to begin the process of putting one in place. There are no excuses left for not having one, and plenty of reasons to introduce one to your organization today. For most organizations, the price for a robust solution that meets the business’s needs is minimal. And there are some very fine open-source solutions which are free. Here are a few suggestions:
Whether you have a lead management (CRM) solution in place or not, invariably you’ve got a pile of leads here, a pile there, some from a convention in Vegas a couple years ago, others that have survived a couple sales managers, existing in 13 different format across 20 different spreadsheets, legacy systems, et cetera. Don’t let this scare you away from determining to improve your organization’s behavior and processes.
The first thing to do is identify where all Lead records presently exist. And once you’ve figured that out to the best of your ability, you’re going to want to consolidate all of them in a central CRM solution. It’s a pain well worth the effort. Again, it is unacceptable for anyone within the organization not to follow the rules with regard to Client records and Leads. Everyone must be committed to interacting with the central CRM solution–and also must agree to resist the lazy temptation to keep their “own list” using their “own lead tracking methodology.”
It used to be the case that cost was the primary excuse for not implementing a CRM solution. And in the olden days, that was a serious consideration. Nowadays, most of the hesitation comes from internal resources that are suspicious of “new initiatives,” especially those that might lead to heightened accountability. Then there are those who will gripe about the time and effort required to implement a CRM solution. For most organizations, though, this is an unwarranted concern. Things have changed drastically with regard to the CRM options in the marketplace. Unless yours is a truly unique organization that requires a truly custom solution, then today’s CRM solutions will work just fine for your needs. We promise. T his is largely because the CRM Solutions Industry has matured significantly in the last 5 years. And today’s solutions, while they can be customized to whatever degree you might think you need, are all “configurable” to such a degree that an out-of-the-box, standard install need only be configured for your specific needs.
The step after implementation and customization (configuration) is to train your crew and put in place rules of engagement for using the solution.
By the way, most CRM solutions include operations/production workflow modules, as well as proposal builders and the like. If you want to see what’s happening now in the world of “CRM,” check out Salesforce.com’s Appexchange: absolutely amazing. Key takeaway is that “CRM” is not and should not be taken to mean solely “Customer Relationship Management” these days . . .because CRM is much, much more than that now.
As previously mentioned, the best organizations, regardless of industry or size, maintain their Client and Prospects databases in a centralized location, with clear ownership delineation, responsibilities, assignments, procedures to maintain an up-to-date contact database, and “Touch Plans” for records of each classification, category, and status.
Whether a simple Client Check-up (check in) by your Customer Service Manager, an Upsell Program targeting existing Clients who could benefit from a new service offering, or an eNewsletter, or a courtesy call to a prospect at 3-month intervals, each contact in your CRM Solution, whether Client or Prospect, should be assigned to one or multiple distinct and complementary Touch Plans.
Again, we know it sounds daunting, and likely it will prove to be. But your competitors are doing this sort of stuff. And if they aren’t, there’s even more reason for your organization to be doing so. So no more excuses. It’s time to get your s**t together. The idea is to sell more stuff. And a good first step is getting rid of excuses.