Beyond the BlackberryBy Mary Sedor
Article Date: 10-01-2008
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
Consider the range of top tech tools your salespeople can use to beat the competition.
In the early 1990s, when the Internet was a new technology, people were amazed at the ability of the Internet to link people and businesses together. Back then, e-mail was just starting to gain popularity, and spam was something that came in a can. Cell phones were the size of bricks, and finding your way from place to place required a printed map.Fast-forward nearly 20 years, and the Internet is everywhere – it’s at work, in schools, at home, the coffee shop, the airport. People are constantly connected to each other, their jobs and their customers via cell phones and wireless networks. Today the Internet has evolved to include new capabilities such as social networking sites, podcasts, webinars, wikis and blogs. Cell phones have slimmed down, and can be equipped with GPS technology to help you find your way. Take a look at your sales department. Are your sales reps keeping track of appointments in Day-Timers or on their BlackBerries? Do they have to return to the office to print quotes, or can they do it from the cab of their pick-up trucks? Technology will allow your sales reps to do their jobs faster, more efficiently and even automate certain parts of the sales process. “The faster you can do something the better,” said Todd Youngblood, managing partner and CEO with the YPS Group, a sales process engineering and training company. “Technology allows you to get a smarter, more robust answer to a question in less time. Not too many decision makers wait a week for an answer. If your competitor can do it in five minutes and you take a week, you’re in deep yogurt.” Anatomy of a Sales Rep
In order to compete in today’s tech-savvy marketplace, it’s important for sales reps to be equipped with the latest technology to do their jobs faster, better, and from any location. One of the most important tools a company and sales rep can have is a customer relationship management (CRM) system. CRM software is used to handle all aspects of customer contact. When used properly, the CRM system can help a dealership identify leads, prospective customers, support current customers, enhance communication among departments and much more. CRM systems have been around for about 20 years, but the systems have undergone a resurgence in the last few years.
Don Buttrey, president of Sales Professional Training, says that five years ago the large dealers tried CRM systems and failed. “They tried it because upper management saw the power of it, but the frontline people were intimated by Big Brother and the data entry side of the whole thing,” said Buttrey. However, a renewed interest is starting to take place, and Buttrey says that nearly every dealer he’s working with is moving into some form of customer relationship management. Most CRM systems include a customer list and profiles in a database, and within the database there is room to add industry data, such as UCC data on machines. Most companies use CRM for call and activity reporting. Typically, service, parts and machine sales employees are all entering their customer contacts, activities, calls, visits and sales, thus maintaining real-time data regarding any activity with the customer.
“Bigger dealers have realized that in order to compete, they have to work as a team,” Buttrey said. “The only way to do that is to use customer relationship technology. Whether it’s some type of Web-based software or something from the manufacturer, the key to success is to adapt it so that you have minimal data entry so it fits in your market.” CRM systems give management the information they need to look at trends, but the systems give sales people insight into the customer before they even step foot in the door. “The sales person might identify a lead and he won’t be blindsided when he finds out the customer had a big blowup with the service department. He’d already know,” said Buttrey. “Sales people can use the CRM as a differentiation from the competition.” Buttrey says that a CRM is not a solution for a problem; rather, it’s a tool. The key is for the sales rep to have access to the CRM system out in the field, whether it’s on a laptop or smart phone. “The solution is when everyone buys in and everyone helps design a system that is simple and they can use it in the field every day,” said Buttrey. “The advantages of being able to know what the service department is doing and has done are phenomenal. Fingertip, real-time data is big.”Smaller dealers struggling with the cost of a CRM system might want to look into a simple system such as ACT, or just use Microsoft Outlook on the PC, says Buttrey. “The bottom line is that the dictated CRMs don’t work,” he said. “You have to have the buy-in and ownership of the front line. If there is anything I’ve learned it’s that the companies that get their employees’ early involvement in the process and find out that they will use it will be successful. Otherwise the sales reps will do what they are told but their hearts won’t be in it and they won’t get the data they need.” One Dealer’s Experience with CRM
Brad Haag, vice president of sales for Western States Equipment Co., a Caterpillar dealer based in Boise, Idaho, says they recently implemented a CRM system for the entire organization. The company has been fully integrated for about six to eight months. Western States is using a CRM system created by a Cat dealer for Cat dealers. “In order to meet customer needs with the CRM tool, we’re driving the behavior or culture of all our employees [and stressing] that they need to be connected with the accounts and be aware of what’s happening through the call reporting system,” said Haag. “Anyone facing the customer has access to the account. We feel that all our customer touchpoints can communicate internally, and that way we’re more integrated and partnering with our customers.” Haag says that the entire process has taken about 18 to 24 months to get the entire staff working on the CRM. He says it’s taken time for employees to get on board with the change, but it’s working. “Any time you change the culture it’s difficult for people,” said Haag. “But once they see the benefits it picks up. It’s a huge initiative for us but it takes everyone being on board with it for it to be successful. I believe our customer satisfaction and loyalty will rise because of it.” The internal customer-focused people see the CRM as an avenue to keep in touch with the outside sales force to provide leads, and whether it’s for customer follow-up or revenue, the CRM is helping to get the information into the hands of the people who need it more quickly. “It’s shaping everyone,” said Haag. “It’s an entire enterprise solution. In today’s world, without technology you won’t survive. The business world is too competitive and changing so much that if you’re not engaged in it throughout the enterprise, the success of the salesman is at risk.”Smart Phone
Whether it’s a Treo, an iPhone, a BlackBerry or Sidekick, being connected to the office and the customer is important. Yes, these phones do more than just make and receive calls. Checking e-mail, sending documents, opening PDF files, surfing the Internet, and much more can be accomplished right at your fingertips. Youngblood says he finds his Blackberry indispensable because everything he needs is right there in his phone, and he is almost to the point where he can leave his office without his laptop. Sales reps can use these phones for a variety of important functions, including typing quick notes, dictating notes, synching with their Outlook calendar, creating a To Do list, having all contacts in one location and more. One suggestion from Youngblood: “Learn to type with your thumbs.” “Smart phones are a serious tool that a professional sales rep has to have,” he said. “Most of the smart phones now are smart enough that you can get access into your CRM system from wherever you are.”
Buttrey says he’s noticed in the last few years that cell phones have gone from being a private thing to being everywhere. “It used to be that maybe a year ago you’d call and reach the receptionist and they wouldn’t give you someone’s cell phone number, but now it’s on business cards,” he said. “The cell phone is a key business tool. People aren’t calling the office and leaving messages on your voicemail anymore. It’s almost to the point where everything is individual. You can call the vice president of sales directly and they don’t hide his cell phone number.” GPS
“Any sales rep that doesn’t have a GPS system is nuts,” said Youngblood. “It’s a must-have sales tool,” he said. GPS navigation units from makers such as Garmin or Tom Tom are inexpensive and readily available. Smart phones such as the Apple 3G iPhone has GPS built in. Services are available for the BlackBerry phone, such as Telenad, to allow GPS navigation on the phone. “I do a lot of travel and before GPS I would spend 90 minutes mapping out a trip and printing it out,” said Youngblood. “Now I export the addresses from Outlook, turn on my phone and there it is. It saves time and paper.” Mobile Office
Another tool sales people need is a mobile office. No matter what kind of vehicle it is that the sales rep drives, having the ability to complete the job on the road is important. Youngblood says at the very least sales reps need an inverter – a gadget that plugs into the power outlet or cigarette lighter in the car that allows the rep to plug in his computer. With the abundance of wireless networks, the ability to get online using a smart phone and even a printer in the cab of the vehicle, a sales rep can have everything at his fingertips. As part of its Work Solutions technologies, Ford recently announced the introduction of an in-dash computer that provides high-speed Internet access and navigation right in the cab of the F-150 pick-up truck. The system allows customers to print invoices, check inventories and access documents right in the car. Also, Chrysler is introducing wireless Internet access capability in their 2009 model vehicles.“If your customer wants to buy an excavator, and your sales guy gets in his truck, drives an hour to the office, gets the information and drives back with the quote, he’s just burned two hours that he didn’t have to. If your sales guy can go to his truck and print the quote, you’ve cut two hours out of the sales process,” said Youngblood. Wiki
If you’ve ever Googled something online and gotten a Wikipedia page, you’ve seen a wiki. It’s a Web page or collection of pages that allows anyone to modify or add information to it and link the pages together. Named after the Hawaiian word for “fast,” a wiki facilitates easy online communication and is therefore an excellent online collaboration tool.Youngblood says this is a great technology for sales teams to share best practices. “The best use of it that I have seen is taking the sales process or just the funnel portion of it and creating a wiki page for each stage,” he said. “Then, if the sales team is working on a deal and uses some technique or methodology that was particularly effective, they would put it on the wiki page. As a team member I can see the tools you found to be effective.” Wiki pages are constantly updated as new ideas and techniques are added, so the sales team always has access to the collective ideas of the group. Podcasts
These audio files are great not only for following up and enhancing sales skills but also as a marketing tool. Ranging from short, three- or four-minute hits to 90-minute lectures, podcasts can be an easy way to brush up on sales skills. “There is an astonishing amount of really high quality educational podcasts on the sales process,” said Youngblood. “These are great for self-improvement, especially when driving in the car between appointments – you can spend that time in the car listening to the podcasts.” Youngblood even recommends that sales teams work with their marketing departments to create a podcast of their own to deliver their message. “As a marketing tool, if you can put together a collection of instant tips, knowledge or information and use it for your target market, then you’re educating your customer base,” he said. “Leave the sales pitch for later.” Linked In
While social networking sites seem like a good technology for sales professionals, they aren’t – yet. Sites like LinkedIn are specifically marketed as being for business professionals. “Instinct tells me that it’s a terrific tool, but I’m not sure it has all the functionality to be valuable,” said Youngblood. Buttrey says while your teenagers may be on Facebook and Myspace, don’t bet on LinkedIn for connections. “I don’t think it will take off,” he said. Buyer Beware
There is one caveat to acquiring all of this technology – know that the technology is not a replacement for sales skills, but merely provides the tools to enhance them. “Beware of using technology as a crutch,” said Youngblood. “It’s so easy to get enamored with an iPhone and how cool it is, but in terms of selling more and faster it’s not going to do that for you. Make sure the tool is positioned as a tool. The iPhone is not going to make you smarter about what is important to your customer.” First and foremost, figure out your sales process, then add the tools.
“First do the right things and once you’ve figured out what the right things are in your sales process, then get the tools that will help you do your job better, cheaper and faster,” said Youngblood.
Buttrey agrees, advising that sales reps have a good foundation before you give them these technologies. “All of this technology has to be married with selling skills training
and development,” said Buttrey. “Technology allows you to be able to do something you can do by hand or on paper way faster. Sales reps have to see the purpose and the value. Implement standard tools and disciplines with the team then add in technology.”
|What’s a Wiki? Just Ask Ritchie Bros. Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers rolled out an industry-first Sept. 22, a free online wiki at www.RitchieWiki.com. The new equipment wiki features reference-quality material on equipment, manufacturers, people, uses, projects and history. Currently, the wiki features specifications for more than 9,200 machines, 650 photographs, 500 articles, is 2,000 pages long - and growing. A comparison feature on the site allows users to evaluate up to four different models of equipment at a time. Information on the wiki can constantly be added, elaborated and updated by thousands of individual contributors, all with different information to share. Ritchie Bros. will moderate the site and will only allow reference-quality, encyclopedic material.
[ TOP ]