Sunday, December 09, 2018
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Fairfield County's Internet Marketing Blog: Management of the Customer Relationship with an Online CRM Solution

Today's Five Minute Blog Topic is about how to manage the relationship with the customer.  My belief based on the experiences that I have seen in 20 years in sales, is that 80% of a salesperson success is based on how well they manage their relationship with the customer.  If you say you will give them a call on a specific day, and you do, then it builds a foundation of trust.  But how to remember to call a customer weeks or months later, especially if you are networking with dozens of people a week?

I have always hated the memory game.  As a kid I dreaded those classes where I had to memorize a bunch of dates and names.  I could never remember the details, and had to "work them out" each time, starting with a story or basic understanding and then working through the history, doing associations or applying logical processes so I could come up with the detailed facts.  When I got into sales, the toughest part was remembering to follow up with a new prospect.  If there was a specific need, a desire or call-to-action, I was ok, but if it was a "touching base" contact that I had to remember to do, there was a 50 / 50 chance I would remember to do it. 

A Paper-Based Customer Relationship Solution

My first sales job was with Northwestern Mutual, and they taught me to keep a "contact sheet" on every prospect and customer.  This sheet would have all the details about the person; Their contact information, when we had talked, what we discussed, what objections or stalls they had, what I have sent to them already and what was promised next.  To organize my follow-up, I was instructed to have two file folders; one with folders labeled 1 through 30, and one with folders labeled January through December.  I would take my call sheets and put them in the appropriate number folder for the day of follow up, if it was this month, or the month for the follow-up if it was in the future.  Every day, I would just pull the sheets out of this dates folder, and contact the appropriate people in my folder. This was a great system because I never forgot to contact people or the information about our last discussions.  The problems were that I hated writing, and I could not retrieve the contact's sheet easily if they called me - I had to search through all my folders until I found the right person.  Some of my colleagues had a Day-timer that they always carried with them, but such a duplication of effort (and even more writing!) seemed like a huge waste.

CRM Solutions - an Electronic-based Management of Customers

With the introduction of the PC, and Business Software, such as ACT!, I could take this whole system and do it electronically.  I loved it!  Until I started using a laptop and a desktop, my cell phone became a mini-computer, and I could not sync my many customer databases together, lost contacts, follow-up tasks, and had duplications everywhere.  Suddenly I was more dis-organized than ever.  Why is it that making a process electronic always seems like an efficiency improvement but often makes more work for us?

For the past year, I have been trying to come up with a system that wouldn't cost too much - as a small business start-up, I did not want to buy several copies of ACT!, and trying to use Outlook Business Manager was a major chore.  None of the solutions that I tried worked well syncing across multiple access points (laptop, desktop, iPhone, and soon the iPad). I had a patch-work process, between Outlook, Google calendar, ACT! and Excel spreadsheets, but it was not ideal. By "an ideal situation" I meant that I could make it work, barely, and I wanted something better, but my pain of using this system was not great enough for me to invest in something more custom.

Online CRM - Customer Relationships "in the clouds"

In the past few years, online CRM solutions, such as Salesforce.com (http://www.salesforce.com/) have been introduced to specifically meet this need, but they have a per user cost, and are often complicated to set-up.  I think they would have been good for organizations that had 10 or more salespeople, and could support the maintenance cost, but for my small business it was too much, especially as I wasn't sure if I would actually use their system: the more complicated the system, the less it gets used, especially with sales people.  So I had a solution, but it was still too much of an investment and risk, and what I could afford was not an ideal situation. 

Just recently I have heard about highrise (http://highrisehq.com/) which seems to be an easy to use, and low coast online CRM.  It even works directly with my iPhone.  Salesforce.com has also come out with lower cost Small Business solution (http://www.salesforce.com/smallbusinesscenter/) which is a much better solution for my business.  In the next week, I am going to evaluate both CRM solutions, and make a decision to implement in April.  If anyone has ideas or feedback about these tools, please send me comments.

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