In our constantly changing world, only a small percentage of companies use effective sales techniques within a wider customer relationship management context. This is the case, no matter what the stage, size, mission or context of the company.
Keeping your finger on your customers’ pulse is not easy, but if you do it all the right way, you can create the relationship that will allow you not just to respond to their needs faster you’re your competition, but also to anticipate those needs, improving your company’s services and cost structure before it’s too late for your cash flow and general market positioning.
In collaboration with London South Bank University, the Impact Hub Scaling Programme organised a two day practical and interactive training on this powerful way of undertaking sales. Anastasia Marinopoulou, Lecturer at London South Bank University guided us through the world of CRM, marketing and selling.
The contemporary marketing approach is based on choosing and understanding our customers, and thereby serving them profitably. Anastasia helped each participant to understand where their business already is and what steps they needed to take to better their services.
Although small businesses are knowledgeable, innovative and full of ideas, Anastasia said, most of them start to fail at around their 5th year, especially because they forget one important fact: value may be perceived differently by companies and by their customers. Value is produced when a company lowers its customers’ costs or helps them fulfil their strategic intent. It is not all about generating value, though.
Most of the organisations believe that purchasing a CRM system can solve all their customer facing problems. First, it is better to take a closer look at the processes you have around your customers and map the gaps and issues you experience within your company. Pay special attention to the issues that arise as a result of your teams (sales, customer service, etc) operating in silos, rather than communicating with one another.
A CRM-system doesn’t make our customer relationships and services better, it only facilitates and informs those working with your customers. So, before purchasing, let’s take a closer look at some of the important steps:
- Map your current customer relationships How do you manage them through each process where you are in contact with them? For each process, know the target you want to achieve, as well as the gaps and the challenges you have, so you can see what the real problem is. This mapping process cannot be done in isolation. Include as many employees from all across the company as you can. This not only shows the importance of the customer relationships, but also encourages the cross-company communication about the customer (and so breaks down the barriers of silo mentality).
- Define what you want your customers to remember you for Is it about the speed and efficiency you deliver? The quality of the service? Or is it about customer intimacy? Choosing among these will define your company’s culture and your operations.
- Define your value proposition What problem do you solve and what benefits do you provide to your customers? Which unique characteristics do your products or services have versus your competition? Then, communicating your value proposition the right way is one of the crucial steps towards your success.
- Categorise your customers. You can neither target nor serve everybody the same way. There are different types of customers, different customer behaviours and expectations, and different customer lifetime values. Segmenting your customers is the way towards deeper and improved customer relationships. It is also important to map your customers’ lifecycle to understand the value each segment comes with, and decide the services you want to provide to your segments.
- Specify the people and departments working around your customers. Who is in direct contact with your customers? Who does what (marketing, sales, customer service, staff, IT, project management, and so on)?
- To each customer segment, set targets, and analyse the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and risks they come with. Align your processes and communication for each segment.
- Improve your processes. In our constantly changing world, we cannot stay put. Using the targets selected, and continually updating your system with the trends, resources, challenges, and risks that are relevant now, you can stay ahead of your competition. You should regularly re-design your customer experience and reinforce your key messages to your customers.
It is not only about informing our customers, but also about educating and preparing them for the changes coming in the industry. This way, you can enable them to better understand your messages and open their minds towards your new services and products.
If you design your processes around your customers and invest time in nurturing your relationship with them, you will be better placed to create the competitive advantage you need to stand out.