How to Extend the Power of CRM With Online Meetings

By Geoffrey James

Many CRM implementations simply use the Internet as a method of entering and distributing information. You can greatly extend the power of your CRM system by integrating it with an online meeting capability, however. For example, while provides many powerful functions for tracking sales and following sales processes, its effectiveness is increased significantly when combined with an online meeting product such as Macromedia Breeze.

Here’s why. One of the primary functions of a CRM system is to manage leads as they move through the sales process. Sales leads, in general, can be envisioned as falling into three categories—profitable, marginally profitable and unprofitable—all of which flow into a funnel, out of the end of which comes the actual sales that close. Using this funnel model, sales groups have three basic strategies for increasing sales effectiveness:

  1. widen the funnel to increase the number of sales leads, thereby capturing more potentially profitable customers
  2. increase new lead qualification so a greater percentage of time is spent on potentially profitable customers
  3. improve sales productivity, thereby decreasing the cost of sales and making more prospects profitable

Online meetings allow sales teams to move existing prospects more quickly through the funnel at an overall lower cost per sale. The advantage lies in the ability to work with a larger number of customers simultaneously. In the traditional sales process, sales calls are sequential. The sales rep begins with a personal visit, engages the customer through voicemail or email, exchanges documents and then, possibly, the process moves to a subsequent visit. This sequential process is especially true in the case of complex sales where a number of meetings might be drawn out over months and involve dozens of site visits.

By contrast, online meetings offer the opportunity for sales reps to more easily and quickly contact multiple customer stakeholders. This accelerates the sales cycle and lowers the cost of the sale.

The key to creating an effective integration is to build the online meeting capability on top of technology that’s ubiquitous so you aren’t limited to having online meetings only with customers who have installed a particular software package. Unfortunately, many of today’s Web conferencing systems require participants to download a special program on their computer. This creates enormous problems for IT staffs, which generally discourage users from downloading and installing unauthorized programs.

That’s why, if you want the full benefit of online meetings, you have to go forward with nonintrusive Web browser extensions such as Macromedia Flash or Java. A good choice for this is Macromedia Breeze, which leverages the fact that 98% of the world’s computers on the Web already have the enabling software, Flash, installed. The ubiquitous nature of the Flash software allows Breeze meetings to be conducted on an ad-hoc basis similar to email, rather than as a scheduled event. Because participants aren’t forced to download and install specialized software, a product that builds on a generally available Web programming tool, such as Flash or Java, also makes it possible for Web conferences to take place whenever necessary.

In short, online meetings represent an entirely new sales tool that allows sales reps to build stronger relationships with their customers and also improve their day-to-day interactions with employees in their own organization. As sales reps understand how to apply the unique characteristics of Web conferencing to real-world sales situations, they’re likely to find situations where Web conferencing actually is superior to face-to-face meetings as an effective sales tool.

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