Know Thy Prospects

By Cindy Waxer

Long gone are the days when all it took for a customer to win top billing on a sales rep’s roster was lucrative purchasing influence. Nowadays, the measurements used to prioritize clients and prospects are more likely to fall along the lines of staying power than buying power.

Says Dick Lee, president of High Yield Marketing and author of The Customer Relationship Management Survival Guide, “There’s less and less new business available, and there has to be more and more emphasis on holding on to what you have. When you look at holding on to what you have, then you start to really get into individual customer strategies.”

So how can a CRM solution enable salespeople to improve retention rates, rather than simply acquisition prowess?

For starters, Lee says, a CRM system should be used not only to determine which existing customers demand the most attention but also what kind of attention they crave. “You need to make sure that your top customers are all covered in the way they want to be covered, ” he says.

Does your client prefer to be contacted via the telephone or by email? Does prompting the client to make purchases involve handholding or a hands-off approach? Is your client happy to have a single point of contact in a sales rep, or does he or she prefer to receive additional input from a company engineer or senior-level executive? The answers to these questions can be gleaned from a CRM solution if the proper data is accurately and consistently fed into the system. For example, by carefully aggregating CRM system data, sales professionals can determine what sales efforts preceded which sales and prioritize accordingly. After all, says Lee, “technology is only as good as the information you put into it.”

Still, he warns that it’s never wise to put all your eggs in one basket. While a CRM system can generate streams of vital information, nothing can replace a sales professional’s instinct for gauging a client’s loyalty – an attribute that can identify where the best, and worst, sales opportunities rest.

Nor should a CRM system be used to control clients and prospects. Rather, if deployed to prioritize customer expectations and needs, it can serve as an excellent adjunct to time-tested selling principles.