Customers expect a lot when interacting with your business. The seamless, personalized experience provided by top brands means a customer will now assume every business knows exactly who they are, what they want and what happened in their previous interactions. The bar has been raised, and anything less than perfection is a disappointment.
Early sales management software made it easy for brands to manage these customer relationships by capturing customer data in a central database. This functionality has now been a fundamental part of the sales process for many years, but today there is a whole universe of tech that can make your sales teams more effective and efficient.
The question now is: which technologies are worth investing in, which part of the sales funnel do they apply to, and how will they integrate with your current tech stack?
Here’s a short guide.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Your CRM is the foundation of your stack. Acting as a central repository for all your customer data, it allows your salespeople to co-ordinate and keep track of customers, leads and prospects. A CRM system will typically host this information in the cloud, making it accessible to anyone in the business at any time.
There are two types of CRM systems available: standalone CRM systems that have a core set of features (but are open to integrations), and all-in-one CRM systems with some or all of those integrations built in.
A standalone CRM is designed (surprisingly) to build and maintain customer relationships. At its core, a CRM system stores data about leads and clients, including contact information, lead warmth, and account status.
Sales force automation (SFA)
Now that all your customer data is centralized in a digital workspace, it becomes easier to access and manipulate. Automation offers an opportunity to use this data to improve the efficiency of a sales team.
Time-consuming tasks can be handed over to an algorithm, freeing up staff to work on more valuable things. And as each automated task is recorded digitally, it also allows for more in-depth data analysis and ultimately optimization of workflows.
In practice, there is a strong overlap between sales force automation systems and CRM systems – most major CRM platforms will have at least some automation functionality in-built. Typically, this breaks down to the following features:
- Recording customer interactions – call tracking, email tracking, pipeline status
- Order management – creating quotes, product lists, prices and discounts
- Task management – assigning due dates, schedules
- Opportunity management – tracking progress of opportunities from leads to sales
- Deal forecasting – revenue projections by business and by individual
- Performance analysis – aggregated data for individual salespeople
Customer engagement tools
These are tools designed to enhance the way your sales team interacts with customers.
For B2B businesses, a sales content library can be a real asset. It gives salespeople easy access to things like proposal templates, one-pagers and whitepapers, which helps sales staff deliver content to potential customers at the moment it is most relevant.
Web conferencing can be used for clients calls and product demos. Advanced software options can integrate with CRM and marketing automation systems, and can be used by internal teams for messaging and file sharing.
Your CRM should also provide analytics to allow your team keep track of customer engagement, identify lapsed customers and reward loyal ones. This information can feed into, for example, re-engagement campaigns.
Business intelligence (BI) software
Business intelligence software helps your team better visualize and analyze the data you have access to. This is useful both internally (to understand the effectiveness of individual sales staff, for example) and externally when reporting results to clients.
Most BI platforms are built to accommodate data of almost any type – from rough spreadsheets and CSV files to other platforms, such as your CRM. The platform can then process this data and put it into charts, tables, dashboards, scorecards and more.
- Customer data should be at the core of your sales technology stack
- Use automation to improve your sales team’s efficiency
- Small tools can enhance customer engagement