After more than a quarter of a century working in sales for US software vendors, Nick Squire has the scars:
I've been through the pain barrier of CRM systems on multiple levels.
Squire’s latest role is as Sales Director for Lincoln West, a UK events management company founded in 2007. It’s a micro-business he joined last year. Upon arrival he discovered what he terms “a CRM bucket of information” which the firm is putting to profitable ends using Zoho and a focus on process automation.
Process and procedure aren’t terms that always appeal to the sales side of an orgnization, he admits:
One of the traditional hates of sales and salespeople is being bogged down process, with having to do something to create a report, to be accountable. It's something that has always been a problem. The reality is, is we've managed to use systems now, through Zoho, which actually guide where you should be in the sales process and actually give you a good gauge as to where you really are.
This leads to changes in behavior:
The dashboards that we've managed to build through Zoho, if something's in the red, if you're driving the car and red light comes on, you do something about it. You start to micro-manage yourself. You find with salespeople, if you've got the process, the human process, actually built into the system, it starts to guide and drive how you work. It makes you more efficient. It makes you more myopic and able to focus on the things which are really important at the right time. That's one of the things is we found, which is accelerating the sales process in there.
Lincoln West’s sales processes come in two forms, he adds:
For me, one of the main reasons for, for using Zoho, using the CRM system, was there's a lot of automation which can be built into the sales process within there, through whichever channels you're actually using. A great example, - we run National Sales Conference. There are two different types of sell in there. There is the sponsorship/exhibition space sell which is a longe process. And then we have the delegate sales tickets processes, which are pretty binary decisions - you're coming or you're not coming. It's not really a value proposition, There are no quotations or things like that.
So we have two different sales cycles. A good example probably is that 10 days after our event, on 29 November last year, due to the automation, due to the ability to actually control our database to control the delegates, get the message out there, we managed to sell 350 tickets in 10 days to an event which had no agenda and had no speakers. There's some pretty good reputation in there, but the one thing that enabled us to do that was actually having that automated process behind it, which built workflows. It built lists, it told you when people opened emails or clicked on links. That gives you a prioritized list of people that actually work towards.
Squire argues that the systems and processes in Zoho deliver the firm more time to put the human processes in place. He explains:
Historically as a micro business, rather than hit someone up once every two months and say,'Hey, there's an early bird, you're going to miss this discount!’, it really is kind of not particularly nice sales processes. It really is a bit door knocking. For me joining the business, it was about bringing some value to two sets of people. One was our group of speakers, but most importantly was better value to our clients, to our delegates who regularly attend and pay good money to come to us. For us to just be communicating with them on a quarterly basis saying, 'Hey, you haven't bought a ticket yet', really doesn't add much value back into it.
The processes have made it more efficient to actually sell tickets and space and things like that, give us more time to actually go back and do the proper things on the true account management aspect of things, which are human factors, which we're allowed to do because we use the technology more efficiently.
When I joined the company, it was a 12 year old startup. Some of the things we've managed to do by changing all of those processes has changed the human interaction there. It's actually changed how people use the technology. There has been great adoption. I've hit the 5-0 and it hit me that I'm working with people who are the age of my son. And guess what? They're all very different and people in sales have changed dramatically in the last 10 years.
So adoption of technology is one thing. But equally looking at the sales cycle, that has changed dramatically as well. Ten years ago, if you were contacted, it was 30% of the way through the sales cycle. Now it's 70% of the way through the sales cycle. So for you to actually do something efficient, do it well and deliver for the customer, you've got a shorter period of time to actually do this because the client, the customer, the prospect is much more educated and informed about what they want, when they want it and how they want it.
To deliver all this, Lincoln West has been working with Zoho partner Ascent. Squire says:
We have the in-house skills, but again as a micro-business, it's about using your time in the best way possible. I'm a great fan of professional relationships. Ascent takes it from a Sir John Harvey Jones approach to business, where they stand back and look at as though it's their own business and implement on that basis. So they've taken the time to understand what we do as a business before actually making recommendations. But being mixed in with us, knowing what we do, makes it a real heady mix to get the right type of solution.
As for the CRM scars, he believes:
I’ve found a panacea.