Posted by: Bill von Achen | September 17, 2009

Sales Prospecting Systems and Tools

Our Best Practices peer group meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week examined the various systems and tools that each of you use to track prospective customers through the various stages of the sales process.

 In all, six group members gave detailed presentations, and nearly everyone contributed some information on the systems and tools that are currently in use at their respective companies.  The systems that were presented ranged from simple spreadsheets costing little or nothing, to sophisticated web-based systems with annual price tags in the tens of thousands of dollars.  Yet, each implementation provided additional information and insights into the process of tracking sales leads, from which I’m sure everyone benefited.    

As promised during our meetings, I’ve prepared a brief summary of some of the features of sales and prospecting systems and tools that I think represent a ‘best practice.”  Here then, in no particular order, are eight separate features that I believe are essential to all such systems:

  1.  A single system that serves as a collection point for all sales and prospecting data—Multi-part systems that are not seamlessly integrated increase everyone’s workload (from data entry to reporting), and lead to inconsistent and error-ridden data and inaccurate information.
  2.  A system that can be customized to account for unique sales and prospecting processes—The closer that a chosen system mirrors a company’s actual sales process, the greater the likelihood of salespersons’ compliance, helping to ensure more accurate and useful information.  
  3.  A system that integrates both prospecting and sales data—A single system that follows customers and clients through their entire relationship with the company eliminates duplicate data entry, and offers a more complete overview of that relationship.
  4.  A system that incorporates a clearly-defined, multi-step sales process—Whether the process is ‘cool,’ ‘warm,’ ‘hot,’ and ‘sold,’ or ‘first base,’ ‘second base,’ third base,’ and ‘home,’ using a defined, multi-step sales process allows everyone to focus full attention on every sales opportunity.
  5.  A system that provides easy access to understandable ‘dashboard’ reports—The data collected in sales and prospecting systems is useless unless it is regularly reviewed and acted upon.  Good dashboard reports provide essential information for managing activity and identifying problems early on.
  6.  A system that is organized around projects and opportunities, not clients and customers—Again, this approach ensures that no single sales opportunity is lost, and that all are given the same attention.
  7.  A system that provides open, continuous access to real-time data and information—Salespeople are naturally competitive; providing them with access to up-to-the-minute information on their performance and those of others will drive accountability and performance.
  8.  An identified resource to ensure compliance with system data requirements—Finally, getting sales people to ‘live in the system’ and continuously update data on prospects on sales is the biggest challenge facing everyone.  It helps immensely to have a single point person assigned to monitor compliance with the data input requirements of the system.

 Of course, this is a highly subjective list, so I welcome your additional comments and suggestions on this issue.  In the meantime, thanks to everyone for sharing their approach!

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