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CRM Planning: Sales Must Target Whole Customer Lifecycle

“What’s the next, best CRM step for our sales program?” That’s one of the number one questions that I hear from sales managers as they plan their sales force automation (SFA) and sales program budgets for next year.

Our philosophy: To move your CRM program forward, don’t double down on what you’re already good at. Instead, invest in the capabilities that need work to make your overall sales program perform at a higher level. Here at Cloud Sherpas, we’ve backed up that ethos with our CRM Excellence Framework, which helps businesses identify which specific sales capabilities — sales leadership, territory management, relationship management, pipeline management, sales measurement — they need to improve to get the most bang for their buck.

But as organizations master these sales capabilities, they must also ensure that they’re looking beyond sales, to examine how — or even if — their sales capabilities intersect with marketing and customer service capabilities.

STEP BACK, FIND STOVEPIPES

Taking a closer look at the intersections between salesmarketingand service isn’t an academic endeavor. Indeed, by helping break down these stovepipes, businesses will discover new ways to increase productivity and sales, all while using their existing headcount.

For example, many of Cloud Sherpas’ insurance industry customerssell life insurance policies to organizations, who then provide them to employees as a benefit. Increasingly, however, insurers are spending more time trying to generate post-sale revenue, for example by selling supplemental plans directly to their customers’ employees. If an employer’s life insurance perk gives the employee a basic plan — say a $32,000 payout — the employee might prefer a $1 million policy and be able to get that by paying just $500 more per year.

WHICH CONNECTIONS DRIVE FASTER, BIGGER SALES?

Behind the scenes for insurers, two distinct processes support this up-selling: enrollment, which involves signing up employees in the first place, and underwriting, which is how — in many cases — premiums get set. Traditionally, however, enrollment and underwriting have had little crossover with the sales domain.

But insurers who find ways to link these processes with sales — perhaps by using technology to automate related workflows — stand to benefit on multiple fronts. For example, making each new employee a sales prospect ranked by what’s known about them (perhaps based on their job title) will help salespeople spend more time chasing the hottest prospects. Likewise, finding better ways tolink underwriting with sales might help an insurer automate more of these processes. And more automation gives salespeople a way to generate quotes more rapidly and, thus, pitch and convert more prospects.

LINK SALES WITH CUSTOMER SERVICE

In the high-tech realm, meanwhile, the hunt for more advanced CRM techniques for increasing revenue typically centers on linking sales with customer service. The goal is to arm the sales team with the best possible intelligence on any given customer before their contract comes up for renewal so that salespeople don’t encounter any surprises, such as customers with unresolved trouble tickets.

Many businesses have already linked pipelines with their marketing team to target customers with relevant communications during the lead-in to their renewal. But how many businesses have examined the role that territory planning plays in this process to ensure that they’re always driving all salespeople to focus on the right account, at the right time, based on the potential revenue to be generated?

SALES: MORE HOT PROJECTS

My recommendation to focus on the intersections between sales, marketing and service doesn’t mean that businesses should ignore point sales capability improvements that can generate big returns. Accordingly, some of my hot SFA project recommendations continue to involve:

  • Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ): “Quote to cash” — as it’s sometimes known — connects and automates otherwise slow and error-prone processes to drive increased sales and high revenues, not least by minimizing order errors.

  • Account Planning: Creating a blueprint for generating maximum revenue from your existing customers leads to better long-term sales returns.

  • Sales Analytics: Cloud-based SFA software lives in the current moment. Accordingly, businesses can benefit by investing inanalytics add-ons to provide them with an essential, historic view of the business.

FOCUS ON THE WHOLE CUSTOMER LIFECYCLE

Beyond keeping abreast of hot SFA projects — and future CRM trends — remember that it’s also time for us to step up our sales game. This won’t happen by focusing solely on hot projects or even by developing a 360-degree of your customers, because, really, no one needs to know everything about their customers.

Instead, prioritize building a more holistic view of the whole customer lifecycle inside your organization. By doing so, you’ll find new opportunities for connecting sales processes with marketing, service and other business areas, and thus discover new ways to make your sales team drive even more revenue.

LEARN MORE

Cloud Sherpas is one of the world’s leading cloud services brokerages and helps businesses adopt, manage and enhance their CRM investment by identifying desired business goalsfinding the right tools and technology for the job, and delivering rapid implementations that remain focused on achieving the desired business capabilities.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Boris23 via Wikimedia Commons.

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Cloud Sherpas [www.cloudsherpas.com] is a leading Google Apps Reseller, systems integrator and application developer. Our Google Apps Certified Deployment Specialists have migrated tens of thousands of users from legacy, on-premise messaging systems to Google Apps and Google App Engine. We help organizations adopt cloud computing to innovate and dramatically reduce their IT expenses. SherpaTools for Google Apps [www.sherpatools.com] is a free app from Cloud Sherpas that enhances the functionality and ease-of-use of Google Apps for both administrators and end-users.