Throughout my career, first as an outside salesperson and then an owner for a rep firm, I don’t recall anyone asking about or reviewing my plan for sales calls. The requirement of my old company for each call was a couple bullets on a Lotus Notes calendar. There was no accountability for planning tied to the results of the call.
Fast forward to today, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions still do not bring transparency to the planning process, which is essential for effective selling. At a minimum, reps need sales numbers readily available. It is also beneficial to review the call history to prepare for any next steps.
How CRM Solutions Address Sales Call Challenges
Distributors typically have a growing priority list of new products and focus items. With multiple accounts consisting of several different departments, it is easy to become confused about which product was presented to which group. Without the ability to review which people have already been presented a line or product, it can create the impression that the salesperson is unorganized when the same products are presented again and again.
The culprit: Quite often, sales reps open their trunk, look for what is inside, grab a sample or pieces of literature and work up a plan on the fly. Although it may be a common practice, most are not aware of the effect that it has on their income and the cost to the firm for which they work.
In a recent article on Distribution Strategy Group, the author said that the typical distributor sales call costs the company $250 for every face-to-face interaction. That price per sales call for manufacturer reps is likely just as high or higher. One of the biggest negative results from not planning a sales call is that the sales call tends to only focus on one situation, product or manufacturer.
One thing that distributors and manufacturers’ reps have in common is that they are tasked with selling multiple products to customers; the more products and services they talk about, the better the results of their call.
It is simple math. One salesperson who typically promotes one item or line on a sales call, is relying on a limited number of people who might have an opportunity for that one item or line. Another salesperson who promotes five distinct products or services on a sales call, has a five times greater chance of identifying somebody in that group of people who might have a use for one of the products.
The idea of planning sales calls seems logical and simple upfront, but it runs into roadblocks.
- An increase in urgent customer issues is forcing salespeople into reactive mode, which kills their schedule unless they allot for crisis time in their schedule.
- Without tools for accountability to plan sales calls each week, the greatest of intentions usually dies a slow death.
- Salespeople tend to forget the professional steps they used to grow large accounts in the first place.
Modern CRM make it easy to plan your sales calls and provide updates to those sales calls with voice-to-text software on their smart phones. One tool enables both planning and results. CRM solutions even allow you to review all open quotes, jobs, orders, sales dollars and issues like pending returns as you plan your call. This gives you all the information necessary to have a relevant and effective business discussion.
A few CRM solutions not only make it easy to plan calls and update the results to the call with voice to text, but also use an icon to click and turn your information into a new business opportunity. Planning your sales call on the same tool that you post your results can also give you a true picture of your effectiveness.
Reps Need to Embrace CRM Solutions
Change is always difficult, but when you use a CRM software solution with the ability to see the history of calls, open quotes and other data to plan your call, you have a huge advantage. The automatic accountability that comes with a CRM creates discipline and the increased effectiveness brings greater increases in sales and commissions.
It is time for both distributor and manufacturers’ reps alike to start talking about the elephant in the room: sales calls executed on a whim. If reps want to reap the rewards of more effective sales calls, they need to prioritize planning.
Kurt Nelson served as President and Owner of Nelson & Associates with sales teams covering Electronic, Electricals and Network Connectivity markets. An early adopter of CRM systems, he attributes the company’s huge growth to CRM and building a culture that coached every associate monthly through applicable modules of their CRM. He currently serves as the Adoption Success Coach at Repfabric CRM, Sales & Commissions Solution.