For sales people to influence and persuade buyers they need to create human connections and build relationships of trust with potential customers. As Buyers can increasingly obtain information through digital channels, bots and automation, these soft skills are becoming even more important ways that sales teams add value.
There are limits to how many prospective customer relationships that sales people can manage though. How can you help them maximise the value of their relationships? How can our businesses as a whole benefit from these relationships?
Most people maintain close social relationships with no more than around 150 other people. Robin Dunbar, Professor of anthropology and evolutionary psychology at Oxford identified this typical human group size – now known as the Dunbar number.
The Dunbar number has been broadly supported by research – and has not changed significantly over the millennia of human social development. Cultural and archeological studies ranging from the estimated size of Neolithic farming villages, to modern social media interactions all broadly confirm it.
Each member of your sales team may have thousands of potential decision makers in customer organisations that they interact with, and many of these individuals they will not meet or speak to for months or years at a time. So how can they maintain relationships with this many people?
By deploying appropriate technology and using it consistently we can enable our salespeople to drop back into relationships quickly, displaying immediate empathy and an understanding of the Buyer’s needs and circumstances. The most fundamental technology to support this is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Database.
Breaking the Dunbar number limit can be achieved in a number of ways:
- Providing easy access to all available information on an individual and their organisation, their needs and preferences.
- Identifying multiple stakeholders within a target customer and any existing relationships or historical contacts that exist.
- Providing access to internal information such as offered or target pricing, credit limits or payment terms.
- Displaying all the latest correspondence (including from other colleagues).
- Scheduling of reminders and tasks so that ‘call me back in 6 months when we are reviewing’ is never forgotten.
- Prioritising the most important prospects and the pipeline of deals that can be closed.
For the wider organisation a well-managed and utilised CRM also gives many benefits:
- Detailed information and a record of interactions means that if a prospect does need to be transferred from one sales person to another it is much more likely a positive relationship can endure the transfer.
- Sales activity and performance can be monitored and managed.
- Dashboards and information for sales managers helps identify where sales team are most successful or they need additional support.
A successful CRM system can be a foundation for other sophisticated technology to integrate with including; web analytics and tracking, email, form capture, marketing and sales automation. Once a CRM system is being maintained effectively the data within it can support sales teams and account management teams to supercharge the amount of business they win.
This is because the data can be used for directing highly relevant segment specific marketing messages across multiple channels. That means more leads, of better quality, that are more likely to close.
Salespeople often resent any additional time or admin burden that they perceive as getting in the way of winning business. They are also wary of what they may see as a management tool to control and oversee their activities. There is often genuine (and justifiable) concern from salespeople that the CRM transfers the ownership of key relationships away from the individual to the organisation as a whole – therefore removing much of their unique power and importance to the business.
To ensure a CRM implementation achieves the overall objectives it must be designed with the salesperson in mind – and must firstly meet their needs. The CRM can then be adopted as ‘the way we work’. There are benefits sometimes to adjusting the sales process with a new CRM implementation – but if this is the case then Sales need to be part of designing the new process to get them on board.
An easy to use, intuitive and simple system that limits any additional data entry or admin to what is absolutely necessary will be much more likely to be implemented successfully and be quickly adopted as routine by stakeholders. Additional sophistication can then be added over time.
Growthlabs work with many B2B organisations to develop sustainable increases in their Lead Generation and to help them to grow. To book an initial discovery call and explore how we can help – please get in touch.