If the product or service you are selling involves a considered sales process, then the likelihood is at anyone time you have multiple prospects involved discussions with your business. Depending on the size of the company, the number of people involved within sales and the number of prospects / existing customers you trying to manage, will impact on the systems and processes required to ensure the optimum sales conversion rate. In this article we will look at some of the main issues to prospect management and ways to overcome these issues.
Prospect and Customer Management – In the beginning
Firstly let me make this point. The people responsible for new customer acquisition and managing customers don’t deliberately set out to mismanage the process. What typically happens is that over a period of time
- The number of existing live customers increases.
- The number of potential prospects increases.
- The status of this ever increasing list prospects varies from
- I’m really interested but nothing is going to happen in the next 9 months
- I might be interested at some point
- Call me in 4 weeks and I will order
- Call me next week
- No idea who the decision maker is within the company – but the company would appear to be desperate for our product
- Met this person at a networking meeting and whilst they arent directly buying they know people who are
The problem with getting Prospect / Customer Management wrong
From a customer perspective
You work so hard to get a customer, but often once you have taken their first payment you forget all about them. (It is after all way more exciting chasing new business!!). So what often happens is that we wait for the customer to recontact us when they have their next requirement. If you have a long established relationship where the customer knows all about you then this is possibly fine.
Unfortunately things change so what happens if the person you were dealing with leaves; a competitor approaches the company; the customer suddenly has an urgent demand for a product / service but they didn’t know you did this. As a customer how long should I wait or expect between communications ?
In the end the worst outcome of not managing or keeping in contact with your customer to the correct level is that you will lose them – at what cost to the business.
From a prospect perspective
As we have seen prospects have multiple profiles often linked to where they are within the purchasing process, hence the terminology “sales funnel” . Whats the worst that can happen if you get it wrong with a prospect. Key to this is to identify how much time / cost you have invested. What could be worse than nurturing a prospect only not to contact them at the right point and lose the sale.
For many exhibitions and networking events are a core activity to meet people and build a list. What is the point of doing this though if you get a pile of business cards or contacts but never follow them up.
As Your Business Grows (Tries To Grow)
Over time as the business grows so the list of prospects and customers will inevitably get bigger. The simple spreadsheet (or multiple spreadsheets as many companies end up having) is no longer good enough. It doesn’t work for a number of reasons
- For the sales person – its really difficult to prioritise and requires loads of information to be retained in ones memory . (not a problem there but what if the salesperson is suddenly off ill)
- For the Director / Manager how do i easily see or track what prospecting activities have been carried out. Identify what stage each sale is and forecast sales projections over the next few months / year
A Better Approach To Managing Customers and Prospects
With increased competition the issue of managing clients and prospects has never been more important. To aid this a plethora of bespoke CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems have been developed. These range from the incredibly powerful and complex AX through to very practical systems like Workbooks. As with all systems the challenge is to get one that fits your business and people and can be implemented to help improve the management process.
We have been exposed to numerous systems and importantly the challenges of ensuring that the organisation embraces the system. As with all IT garbage In garbage out. You can have the best CRM system in the world but if sales / marketing people don’t update the system when they have an interaction then there is likely to be no business improvement.