Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Which is the Best Way to Manage your Growing Customer Base?

 How do you manage your customer base?
I bet that when you first started your business, your dream was to have an ever growing customer base. And little by little, step by step, as you continued interacting with more people, helping potential customers become aware of your business, witnessing as more and more people bought your products or services, you also started to see an increase in your daily tasks, more phone calls to make, scheduled meetings, emails to be sent, proposals and presentations to be sent, documents, sales orders, and a number of small activities, all of them important, all of them necessary.

By this time, you might have noticed that having an agenda full to the utmost with small notes, sticky notes, reminders of events scheduled in your mobile phone's calendar, won't be enough for you to stay completely up to date with all your stuff.

Do you remember that one big contract you lost, simply because you weren't able to phone the client the day you both agreed upon, due to a real life emergency that came up, and the contract was awarded to your competition?

Do you remember how embarrassed you felt when, during a meeting with your sales staff, you angrily claimed to one of the guys why the company had not heard back about that interesting proposal that had been prepared and sent to the client two weeks ago, only to be confronted with the following reply: "But boss, at last week's meeting I told you this project's decision had been postponed until next year"?

It is then time to begin managing relationships with your customers.

And this expression "Managing customer relationships" has been around for quite a while, however, it's often associated with the use of tools, when it really should not be.

Managing customer relationships is a must for any business owner, regardless of the size of the company or the industry it is in.

To close a sale, you must be in the appropriate place, at the right time with the right information.

Every business depends on the effective management of customer relationships, if you don't believe so then ask any sales director who has missed the opportunity to close a deal for the sake of not having in his hands the required information in a timely manner.

The real challenge is that relationship management can be implemented in a highly sophisticated way or not, depending on how you, as an entrepreneur, understand and value the relationships you have with your customers and prospects before, during and after the sale is done.

You might think that it's an issue that concerns only to big, large business but not to small operations like yours, or just because you only have an online store and never see your customers face to face, but regardless of the type of customers you have, what happens before, during and after the sale is important to keep them coming back and doing business with you .

That is why you must manage those relationships effectively.

Here come the tools to help us all out: CRM platforms.

For over a decade I've been using CRM platforms for customer relationship management. I currently use Zoho CRM, but before this one, my favorite was ACT! developed by the people from Sage Software.

But far from simply going to recommend you one tool or the other, I want to share with you what I believe to be the main advantages you will get by using them, regardless of a thousand other things and wonders you can achieve if you really go deep and dominate them 100%:

  • Contact information of your customers and prospects stored in one place: Do you remember the time you had to fire a sales guy a couple of years ago who took with him all customer related information, and then  your secretary had to go back, invoice by invoice, budget by budget gathering all the information to again build the database? This problem is solved with a CRM platform. It allows you to store in one place all the contact details of your customers and their businesses: addresses, phone numbers, details of decision makers, in just one word: EVERYTHING.
  • You will be aware, at all times, of the current situation of each client and/or prospect: providing you with vital information for making timely and effective decisions. Having on your hands the results a sales guy obtained during his last meeting with that important customer, even if the meeting was held outside of your city, will allow you to make better decisions.
  • They allow you to manage your own schedule, and that of your own people, more effectively: with CRM platforms you can schedule on time tasks that are required to close a deal and all pending activities, therefore you will never start the day without a perfectly clear view of how you would invest your time, and which are the things that can wait .
  • Save time by automating certain tasks: And this is a point that often causes pointless arguments. There are jobs that should necessarily be automated and to clarify this point, I ask you the following question: Do you really think it's worth writing the same email 20 times and then send it to your customers? It may make sense when you have two or three customers, but how would you handle it if you had 50? And 150?
  • You can do effective follow up on all business opportunities that are pending: both those you're taking care of directly, as well as those managed by your sales representatives, so you will not miss any of them.

And these certainly are just five of the many benefits you can get from a CRM platform. As you can imagine, I mainly use them for business management, but justo the same way, all CRM platforms can provide you with relevant information to all departments of your company, from sales to administrative and billing.

People say information is power.

And this phrase is still as important today as it was 50 years ago, especially when the markets around the world are so competitive, and you have to be so en top of so many things.

That you own a small business and only have a few customers?

Well, you shouldn't think only about customers who buy from you. Instead try to think also about those customers to whom you would like to sell, and those that once bought from you, but have not done it again, or with whom you just had a couple of conversations and nothing else.

Customer relationship management goes far beyond the tools we use.

Don't you think it's worth to take advantage of the technology that exists today and use it to get more and better growth opportunities for your business, developing an excellent and effective management of your relationships with customers?

Keep always in mind that the sales you're not doing you, are been done by your competition. What are you gonna do about it?

Photo credit: peshkova / 123RF Stock Photo

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How can I Build A Company With a 2.0 Mindset?

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