Forewarned is Forearmed: Understand your Customer before the Sales Relationship Starts


Written by: Seth Patton

Knowledge is power. We’ve all heard the saying, but the flip side of so much
knowledge is that we are no longer living in the Age of Information but the Age
of Information Overload. Today’s typical customer knows all about your
company and services before they ever engage with you, which means that
you have to know as much about them as possible before you
engage. And increasingly demanding customers may also expect that each
representative of your company is aware of all details of their previous
interactions with your company—purchase history, likes and dislikes, issues,
etc. As I mentioned in my blog, Becoming
a Dynamic Sales Team
, this rise of the empowered customer is forcing sales
executives to look for new ways to equip their sales teams and help them stay
ahead of the competition. A new generation of CRM
tools is making it possible for organizations to arm their people with the
foreknowledge they need to function in this new sales environment.

Thinking about CRM as going beyond managing the existing customer
relationship to managing the future customer relationship can help your
sales people close deals with new customers—as well as increase incremental
customer lifetime value. Companies that use CRM to bring together relevant
information in separate teams can extend knowledge about a case, customer or
scenario beyond what is stored in the system of record. Participating in
communities and using always-on tools, like Yammer and Skype, enables contextual collaboration
among sales staff and their peers in the company at large. With this access to
your organization’s “tribal knowledge” or anecdotal knowledge, your prospect and
customer facing teams are able to propose solutions to fit each situation.

Take it a bit further by combining
the information in your internal systems with data from social profiles and
third-party data services to gain real insight into your prospects and
customers. Solutions such as InsideView can be used to
deliver timely, relevant sales intelligence to sales reps when and where they
need it – in your CRM system. Serving this information up in the context of the
sales cycle will help your  people have more relevant and targeted
conversations. Better business intelligence can also enable proactive selling.
CRM tools today are not limited to intelligence just on the customer at hand;
rich analysis tools and BI enable you to cut across customers, segments,
industries, or geographies to identify trends or anticipate needs, which can
inform sales activities.

CSX Transportation originally deployed Microsoft Dynamics CRM for
sales and marketing, but as they brought their other teams on board, they found
that they could collaborate on customer accounts more effectively, thus
establishing a much more comprehensive view of their customers. For the first
time, their sales people can see the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ involved in the
service they have sold. With this insight, they can engage all the way down to
the people who operate the trains and those most familiar with the customer to
collaborate on accounts. CSX
now does more team selling and cross-selling across business groups, such as
intermodal transportation, to offer customers the best fit of services.

U.S. Xpress Enterprises was able to recover
as much as $350,000 in lost-opportunity costs by deploying Microsoft Dynamics
CRM. Previously their salespeople spent as many as seven hours preparing for a
sales meeting. Now they know their customers even better than before and
gathering information takes minutes. They are able to accelerate the sales
cycle, giving them more time to reach out to prospects and put deals in the

dealer network recently deployed
Microsoft Dynamics CRM
and integrated it with business analysis and
enterprise resource planning systems. The solution enables territory managers to
analyze and review sales data by dealer segment, drilling down into dealer
information, such as issues under resolution, sales numbers, and sales targets.
As a result, territory managers can approach dealers with just the right
products and promotions, help them reach their revenue goals, and more
efficiently meet their own sales targets. Likewise, company leaders have a high
level of insight into market trends that affect dealer sales and can adjust
company goals accordingly.

With the purchase experience being a key influencer of loyalty, equipping our
sales people as best we can will pay huge benefits—not just in sales, but for
the life of the customer-company relationship. New CRM tools can provide them
with all the knowledge and insight they need, not only to sell more effectively,
but to become the chief creator of the customer experience.

How does your company use CRM?

Post originally written for