I know that before we can focus on closing sales, we have to button things up with putting leads on the table and keeping track of them. A couple proposals and follow ups slipped through the cracks recently, which has me worried. Want to work smarter, not harder. Need a system to know how we’re doing with the potential sales we’re working to get.

Thoughts of the Day: Marketing precedes sales, and it’s a huge topic. Build a system for tracking opportunities. Work that system to generate new business. Figure out how many opportunities convert from one stage of the pipeline to the next. Use the historical data to predict backwards and figure out how much you need at every stage of the pipeline in order to hit your goals.

Marketing is probably the broadest topic any business deals with – even more complex than the work it does to support itself. Marketing is about how to generate new business, how to connect with people who might want to buy from you, how to position your services competitively, what kinds of new business opportunities to go after, what customers value about your company, and why some customers go elsewhere.

Today we’re going focus on a narrow slice of the marketing puzzle: keeping track of leads.

How to keep track of people you’ve connected with, and how to know if they’re moving efficiently from initial contact to close for a sale. That’s an essential question in marketing. Many companies bleed away opportunity that they could have closed because they don’t do a good enough job at keeping track. Build a CRM, Customer Relationship Management system, to record suspects and monitor their progress from initial contact to close. Make sure no one gets overlooked, follow ups happen on time, and when a potential sale stalls someone can know that and address issues that may have come up.

For most companies, improving ability to keep track of leads will result in additional sales.

Often a few additional sales per year will more than pay for the CRM investment. There are lots of systems on the market. Do demos to learn about the features and benefits of each. Talk to peers about what they use. Pick a system and try it. If it works, keep going with it. If it doesn’t work, try a different system. Whatever system you choose, make sure that you engage your entire team.

Build a database of contacts.

Agree on stages that prospects go through from initial contact to close. Stages might include name on a list, started marketing to the list, made initial contact, identified needs, created a proposal, closed for new business. A good CRM system can help you with stages to track. Teach your employees how to log and update leads in your new system. Figure out how to use the reports to know what’s going on, and to identify what needs additional attention.

Consider big marketing questions you’d like to know the answer to. For example:
  • How many people did talk to, to close a sale?
  • How many people on a list will be interested in what we do?
  • On average, how long does it take to gather information about a suspect’s needs, write and deliver a proposal, close a sale?

These questions can be answered with data that you’re going to gather in your new CRM system.

The historical data in the CRM system can tell you about conversion ratios: how many opportunities convert from one stage to the next. Using that data, you can work backwards. Decide how many closes you need in the coming year, and you’ll be able to predict how many names on a list you need to add to your database to get those closes.

Looking for a good book? ROI from CRM, It’s about sales process, not just technology, by Brian Gardner.