Customer Relationship Management - The Key for Better Sales Management

By Marc Kermisch, VP & CIO, Red Wing Shoe Co.

Marc Kermisch, VP & CIO, Red Wing Shoe Co.

Insights, analytics, raw data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence dominate the headlines every day. Advancements in compute power and capabilities is moving at a rapidly evolving pace and our customers and consumers have the power of choice like they never have before. How do we as businesses look to differentiate ourselves in this hyper competitive landscape?

"Sales operations functions can span from reinforcing the sales processes, to training and coaching on sales tools"

First, getting back to basics is important. This includes reviewing your sales processes from identifying prospects to caring and feeding your existing customers. Second, is building the proper data sets around your customers and consumers. Third, is deriving insights so you can better attract new customers and serve your existing ones.

While the basics include defining your sales process, how you are going to organize your sales force, and most importantly how you will compensate them. It also includes setting up the software you will use to capture information about your customers, track activity throughout the sales process, and manage customer contacts post the sales close.

Many companies have a CRM software already picked out. For Red Wing Shoe Company, we use Salesforce.com. Most CRM’s can provide a sales force work flow capability, customer activity tracking, and a case management system for customer service inquiries. However, it can be a struggle to gain adoption, have a clear picture of their customers, and access data and more importantly derive insights. A common mistake is looking to the software to solve broader underlying deficiencies. So many companies believe if they implement a CRM, their sales woes will disappear. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Like any software, you have to start with defining your business. Including the process flow you will enable with the technology, the business problem you are trying to solve, and the behaviors you are looking to from your employees. No software system can do that for you.

As you look to either implement a CRM or maybe re-implement your CRM, start with how you want to structure your customer base, then define the sales process that will allow you to best capture and serve your customers based on that structure. Finally, think through how you will ensure that the new system is used, and that data input into the system is set-up correctly. Thinking through these steps often leads to a realization that a Sales operations function is needed to best use and deploy a CRM tool. Sales operations functions can span from reinforcing the sales processes, to training and coaching on sales tools. Regardless, your sales operations organization becomes the experts in how you enable your sales team from process to technology.

With the basics defined, getting into key data sets to measure and drive your business can now be accomplished. Once you start to build out your customer profiles into your sales systems, you can start to augment that data with external sources. These sources can include Dunn and Bradstreet information, stock prices of your customers, key industry data such as the number of barrels of oil produced or the latest employment numbers. With the availability of public cloud and Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence services, you can now start to capture social sentiment about your market segment or even customers. Capturing this external information, when combined with your internal data, results in a rich data set that you can use to power your business.

Some popular software vendors, like Salesforce.com have already introduced “Intelligent” computing. Salesforce.com’s Einstein technology can start to correlate activities of a customer and recommend next best action steps to a sales rep or customer service agent. Using the external data sets listed above, a company could create correlations between market trends and customer buying habits, potentially enabling them to take advantage of an early buying trend or prepare for a pending slow down in business due to a negative sentiment analysis.

Focusing on the basics, enriching your data with external information leads to insights. Capturing that full 360 degree of your customer now allows you to derive better insights creating a refined customer segmentation. This ultimately allows a company to better personalize each interaction with their current customers and prospects. As we know and mentioned earlier in this article, the customer and consumers have more information at their finger tips and have more choices than ever on whom they do business with. Knowing as much as you can about your customers, making it easy for them to do business with you, and ensuring your sales team can react in near real time to market changes, is critical for success in today’s business environment.