Best Practices

Extending the Cloud to Further Drive The Sales Cycle

Christopher Tuttle

Cloud-based hosted CRM and sales force automation (SFA) systems live fairly far downstream in the actual customer buying cycle. Beginning with broad-level marketing and demand generation, there are a number of elements that can now be added to a CRM or SFA that provide real results in leading customers down the buying cycle.

Demand Generation / Marketing

Most people seem to have already bought in to the new wave of web advertising and marketing techniques—social media, pay-per-click, targeted ad space, etc., and CRM provides a great landing point for incoming lead and prospect data.

But as many organizations have discovered, it’s becoming more and more vital to close the loop from the top of the demand generation funnel, all the way on down the line to the sales close.

Lead Capture and Analytics

As companies are forced to become ever more competitive with their sales and marketing dollars, the smart ones don’t just want to drive web traffic, they want to infiltrate into the behaviors of those who visit.

SEO and pay-per-click has further matured, as well as techniques to leverage them. Web 2.0 analytics standards, Cloud computing, and online marketing have made it much easier for companies to leverage content, track and measure real marketing conversions and ROI, and get real, actionable data back to sales and marketing teams about what’s working and what’s not.

Marketing Automation

One of the primary functions of marketing automation is in the lead nurturing space—as many have discovered, many sales leads are not initially ready to buy within the sales organization’s typical cycle. Yet statistics show that over 80% of sales leads will buy within 24 months of their initial inquiry.

Thus, marketing automation’s job often is to maintain “touch” with leads until they become sales-ready. One of the primary vehicles for this has remarkably been email. Considered dead in some circles due to the proliferation of spam, most companies now take deliberate care to keep good opt-in prospect lists for future marketing use. The result is that over time, even small organizations can have thousands of email addresses in a database that could potentially be used by a good marketing automation system to create demand.

Lead Response Management

This part of the sales cycle is one of the least understood, yet most powerful opportunities for companies to make real, significant gains in their overall sales.

As noted in the chart, one of the primary activities of Lead Response Management is immediate, persistent response to sales leads. Statistics show that companies don’t respond fast enough to their marketing-generated leads and they don’t manage or track their sales qualification actions to ensure that they’re giving themselves every possible chance to generate a sale.

CRM

Our old friend customer relationship management is the final phase of the “sales funnel,” with its opportunity and account management features.

CRM is pretty well established as a net value for most organizations now; even “Naked” CRM software (i.e., CRM systems that aren’t integrated into other business processes or Cloud systems) still offer value to sales teams as they provide clear, actionable data for management, and can automate professional sales organizations’ most common activities.

The net result is that now more than ever is the time to move forward with the “New and Improved” CRM—or in other words, don’t leave your CRM naked.

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