How to get and manage more customer relationships
One of the greatest challenge many business owners face is in business development. Time and time again, business opportunities are simply lost as a result of having poor or no business development processes in place. Those business that expect to have staying power in the marketplace must have those systems in place, and they must be updated and tweaked, continually.
The center of this process is typically around some method of customer relationship management. A customer relationship management tool is one that allows you to keep track of people that you meet, some of whom may move through a series of steps that will look something like:
- Lead – A person that may or may not have the potential to do business with you. They seem to fit into your target market and could potentially be someone with whom you could do business. Leads often fall into two or three categories:
- Cold lead – They’ve never heard of you, nor have you gotten an introduction to them
- Warm lead – They’ve heard of you, possibly through an introduction, but don’t know enough about you to make a purchase decision
- Hot lead – someone who knows you and or your business, and is open to purchasing from you.
- A prospect is a confirmed lead – someone who has a need you can fill, has taken an interest in filling that need, and has the resources to purchase from you. The key, here, is that they understand what you and your company have to offer
- There are a number of steps you’ll want to follow (and, perhaps customize, based on your industry and target market) in order to get them to the phase of client:
- Interview them – learn more about their needs, concerns, challenges and/or interests
- Analyze needs – determine how you can best fulfill their needs
- Present – present your solution or solutions set
- Negotiate – work around any objections
- Close the Deal – get the contract and money in hand!
- Client – you have fulfilled their needs in exchange for money or another medium of exchange
- Repeat client & referral partner – getting them to purchase more from you and (not or) get them to refer other people to you. This will be your least expensive form of marketing, since these people know you and your business and hopefully, enjoyed the experience.
The challenge many business owners find is that without having developed a strategy to manage all of this, money is left on the table and clients slip through the cracks. Even those that put money into a CRM system, such as salesforce.com, Maximizer and Act! will quickly find that the software does not automate itself; you’ve got to invest the time and energy into learning it and making it work for you and your business. Data entry and update is not a quick process. However, it will pay off.
The best recommendation from industry professionals (CRM) is to work with an industry professional who can get a good understanding of your business, your sales processes, your current lead generation tactics and other nuances of the sales process and have assist you with choosing, implementing and training you on how to get the greatest return on your investment. Like anything else in life, you are limited by what you know or have capacity to learn. Working with an experienced professional will likely save you time and money and get your CRM solution running on the right foot.
Customer relationship management can be the difference between growing an extraordinary business and going out of business.
Grow extraordinary. Try CRM.
Aepiphanni Business Consulting: The Business Strategy People is an Operations Management and Business Strategy Consulting Firm dedicated to serving the needs of small to medium sized business leaders. We specialize in helping leaders create extraordinary businesses.
We welcome clients in the personal and professional services industries, including Creative and Design Services, Software & IT Services, Professional Services and Specialty Consumer Services. As always, we welcome your comments, thoughts, questions and suggestions.
If you are seeking a business assessment, or have further questions about creating your strategy or developing your vision, please give me, Rick Meekins, a call at 678-265-3908, or email us at [email protected].
Rick Meekins is the Managing Partner at Aepiphanni, a Business Consultancy, an Atlanta, GA based small business consultancy that provides Management Consulting, Implementation and Managed Services to business leaders and entrepreneurs seeking to improve or expand operations.