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Using CRM Is the Beginning, Not the End

Companies often make a big mistake when implementing a customer acquisition solution. They usually overemphasize CRM technology, and so they spend all their time, energy and resources deciding what to purchase, implementing the product and getting it to work. Then they cross their fingers and wait.

And wait. And wait.

Companies can wait forever, unless they add the other essential elements of the customer acquisition equation. While the technology lies at the foundation of any successful CRM strategy, it is more critical that companies have specific processes to acquire new customers, and a team that can execute the strategy.

Many companies fail to recognize this and lose out on opportunities to increase the sales pipeline, create more A-level leads and close more deals.

In common lead generation scenarios, companies generate leads from any variety of methods – marketing, advertising, public relations – and either give the sales rep only those deemed hot, leaving a large percentage to fall by the wayside; or hand every lead over, asking the sales rep to qualify each one.

This doesn’t happen to companies that aggressively focus on customer acquisition. These companies have a complete understanding of the sales process, recognize that sales is a cycle versus a timeline and have all the ingredients to manage that cycle through every stage, from prospect to customer to repeat buyer. They nurture prospects continually, which ensures they are in contact at just the right moment – when they’re ready to buy. They don’t ignore leads that aren’t immediately hot, and don’t ask their sales to participate in time-consuming qualification activities.

The essential elements. To be sure, the right technology is an important decision, and key to garnering strong results. Solutions designed to manage the lead generation process are best if customer acquisition is the objective. Tools that can easily integrate with other CRM applications are ideal, because by using specific solutions for specific problems, companies can do a better job of finding new customers – and keeping them.

Once the technology is in place, the people and the methodology must be added to the mix. There are two options: find internal resources or outsource to an expert. An in-house approach works well if a company has the expertise to take on the complex and challenging task of designing a customer acquisition process. They must also be prepared to commit the time and money to make it work. Increasingly, outsourcing is attractive to companies that want to keep internal resources focused on more mission-critical activities, and want not only a team who can execute, but provide guidance on the other elements of the equation.

No matter how a company builds its team, all customer acquisition methodologies must include three key components:

Identifying the lead. An in-house marketing database is a good start. These often include basic company data from outside data sources as well as additional records a company may have added on its own, such as leads compiled from trade shows, Web responses, marketing programs or public relations activities. Recognize that this is just a start, though.

To be effective, companies also must map the prospective account so each person involved in the buying decision – buyers, influencers and buying units – has been clearly identified. If there’s an existing opportunity, that lead is routed and distributed to the sales rep. If there’s not an immediate opportunity, it’s on to step two.

Nurturing the prospect. Just because a prospect doesn’t buy today doesn’t mean there’s not an opportunity in three months, six months or even a year from now. For business-to-business companies that are selling complex and sometimes expensive products, this is typical. To convert prospects who are interested but not ready to buy, a nurturing process is needed. By putting such a process in place, companies can connect with the prospect when they’re ready.

Closing the loop. As a final step, companies need to track and measure results. This can be achieved by comparing the cost to the number of leads that have been identified and sales that have been closed. By taking an extra step and determining the origin of those opportunities, whether the interest was generated through an outbound call, a trade show lead or an ad, companies can get a clear indication of which marketing programs are working and which aren’t.

Industry leaders are finding that a focus on the customer acquisition process results in increased sales and improved sales effectiveness. The sooner you make a choice to focus on acquiring new customers, the sooner your sales will rise.

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