Managing the Relationship.

I’m not a fan of cold sales calls.  I think, for the most part, they are ineffective and produce little result.  I prefer building a relationship over time that leads to not only a one-time sell, but repetitive business.

At times, it may be a “cold” introduction that bears fruit to a relationship.  But, I believe, the initial sell isn’t going to happen on the first ring.  In my opinion, that is why trade shows can be so effective – it’s a venue where you are engulfed in your target market to start and to build on your connections year after year.  Face-to-face meetings make for a more productive introduction.

That being said, relationships require TLC and in the business world that can be a bit overwhelming when you have so many contacts in need of fostering.  There is a great online tool on the market to help keep track and maximize the relationships we juggle:  Salesforce.

A customer relationship management (CRM) system is key whether your sales team consist of 2 or 300.  Wikipedia simply defines CRM as a “model for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers.”

I can speak to Salesforce because I am familiar with the platform.  This particular CRM software allows users to track the development of  customer relationships, execute timely customer service, and promote internal communications.

The Chatter feature of Salesforce is one that encourages departmental relationships and streamlines team communication.  Chatter offers companies a social networking plaform with instant message and group chat capabilities.  It’s pretty cool because you can crowd source a question by posting to a specific Chatter group.  Think about the endless possibilities for a well-connected sales team.

One of the challenges for a business with multiple sales reps is duplication and room for confusion on who has what target list.  The last thing you want is to have sales rep 1 call up John Smith in an effort to make a sell only to find out that sales rep 2 has already made a call and is cultivating the relationship.  It’s embaressing and a turn off to the prospective client.  A CRM is important to avoid redundancy and to ensure a contact doesn’t fall through the cracks.

Click here to read Salesforce customer success stories.  It’s really neat to skim through how companies have exceled by incorporating the software into the foundation of their company.

In 2014, one of my  professional goals specific to my work here at EnerNex is to utilize Salesforce to maximize and ensure the effiency of my marketing campaigns.  For instance, I can create campaigns within the tool that allow me to group contacts and leads specific to the trade shows/conferences our company attends throughout the year.  When time to measure our return on investment for a particular event or to review  the success of our conference involvement for the year, I can easily see how many handshakes actually resulted in a signed contract.

I don’t want to sound like a paid Salesforce spokesperson, but rather an advocate for relationship management tools in general.  Whether you buy a peice of software or you use an excel file.  To sustain productive customer relationships, they must be managed over time and with the right tool in place it sure can make it easier.

UPDATED POST.  1/13/2014.

I logged on to LinkedIn this morning and noticed they have added a feature for you to manage and track your relationships.  You can make notes, create reminders, record the first time you met them, etc. all in an effort to keep up with your network and make for more meaningful communication.  Can’t wait to use this!

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