Tuesday, February 12, 2008

6) PACT - Communication after the sales call

NOTE TO READERS: This blog is NOT meant to be read "Top-down". Please explore my research starting with the oldest entry to understand the logic behind the CRM Dilemma.

After the sales call
With traditional CRM, after the sales call the sales rep is supposed to enter the details of the sales call into CRM. Typical details of a sales call include:

  • Date of visit and customer

  • Primary objective(s) of the call, by category or categories

  • Items discussed, or presentations made by category are recorded

  • Agreements reached with customer

  • Customer feedback is recorded

  • Evaluation if objective(s) of the call are or were achieved

  • Follow-up activities or appointments required by the sales rep, are recorded

  • Follow-up activities or appointments required by others, are recorded

There are many benefits to the sales rep, the company, and the customer in recording the above details of a sales call. Whether or not CRM is used, many of these details are recorded by the sales rep in a paper or contact management format. To follow, I will evaluate the benefits and implications of each of these activity details as they relate to the sales rep, the company, and the customer. Each detail of the activity will also be evaluated from the sales rep's perspective if entering it into CRM, rather than a paper or contact management system only the sales rep has access to.

Date of visit and customer: The vast majority of sales reps record this information as a reminder to themselves or evidence that the sales call was made. Usually, in the hands of the company this information is only used for quantitative and analytical purposes. This information has some value in the customer record if another employee is going to visit the customer and needs to know the last time the sales rep visited. In PACT, this information will be revealed based on the planning that was conducted for the appointment. This information is "Low threat" to the sales rep provided it is not categorized and only in the customer record.

Primary objective(s) of the call, by category or categories: Every sales rep should have an objective when they make a sales call. These objectives should line up with strategic initiatives set out by the company as well as the goals the sales rep is working towards. What differentiates PACT from traditional CRM, is that because reporting these objectives back to the company is strictly "Low Card", quantitative data, such reporting is not required.

Items discussed, or presentations made by category are recorded: Most sales reps will record this information for their own records. In CRM, this information is "Low Card" used for quantitative reports of negative value to the sales rep. PACT does not require this information, but does allow for uncategorized text notes created by and for the sales rep, if they choose to do so.

Agreements reached with customer: Such agreements usually have "High Card" value (Someone needs to know this agreement has been reached). The progression of these "High Cards" in PACT (Or CRM for that matter) is of high value to the sales rep provided the quantitative element of this information is kept to a minimum. Quantitative reporting (Usually indicated by "Tick boxes") can have the negative effect of causing the sales rep to use email to progress the "High Cards" because email is less quantifiable.

Customer feedback is recorded: Reporting the feedback provided by customers is of critical importance in PACT. Unfortunately, traditional CRM lumps this tool in with activity controls and as a result, many companies are not receiving this key information from customer-facing employees. By removing activity controls in PACT, employees will be more willing to record this feedback because they will not have to employ all the "Excuses" for not using the system. An important note: In my considerable experience, customer-facing employees need to be given access to cumulative customer feedback. Having access to these reports encourages employees that "Someone is listening." If possible, an automated "Thank you for recording this feedback" is also a good idea to encourage this behaviour. They also need to be encouraged to provide positive feedback from customers.

Evaluation if objective(s) of the call are or were achieved: In traditional CRM, this reporting is placed under the guise of "Program evaluation" or "Employee coaching." Employees see right through this and know that these "Low cards" will only be used for quantitative evaluation of their performance. Employees want to be judged on outcomes, not the activities completed to achieve those outcomes. Because this reporting is viewed so negatively by employees, they usually cause employees to avoid the reporting system altogether. Very often, this activity reporting doesn't jive with actual outcomes anyway. The reporting of these activities is not required in PACT.

Follow-up activities or appointments required by the sales rep, are recorded: Once again, because the quantitative reporting of sales rep activities is eliminated in PACT, the sales rep will be much more open to using the tools provided to record follow-up activities. Such a system works far better than paper-based systems because of the "Reminder factor."

Follow-up activities or appointments required by others, are recorded: The key in PACT is to attach these "High Cards" to the customer record. Even if the preferred method of "High Card" communication at your company is email, most systems integrate with Outlook so the customer can be attached to the email. In this way, anyone that opens the customer record will see the email or appointment that has been attached. Important Note: You may be tempted to create workflows to address these sales processes. I caution against applying accountability to those in the sales processes that receive these workflows. I offer the following scenario to illustrate my research findings:

Each stake holder in the sales process gathers in a room, to place parameters around a particular sales process from start to finish. Each department in the process is asked how long they feel it will take to complete their portion of the sales process. Their response is recorded and the entire process is agreed to by all stakeholders with a clear timeline firmly in place from inception, to completion. Each department will be accountable for the timeline they have agreed to live by. This is a process that goes on at most companies, with or without an automated system for tracking the progress. With an automated system, managers and others can receive delinquency reports on departments not achieving their portion of the workflows, in the time period agreed to initially.

The dilemma occurs when internal departments start moving away from the automated workflows that have been created and agreed upon. After a time, many revert back to old systems such as email or phone calls, and avoid putting the workflows into action. The reasons for this are very complex and hard to pin down. Inevitably, excuses blaming the "System" will arise as to why the automated workflow is not being used. The "truth" of the matter seems to point to human nature being the cause of reverting back to "Less trackable" systems for the following, usually unspoken reasons:

  • You can't "talk" to an automated system. The "system" doesn't care if you or someone in your department is sick. The "system" doesn't care if two people in your department just quit. If your department is assigned a workflow, a delinquency report WILL be generated if you do not complete your assigned portion on time. You can't phone the "System", explain your problem and ask for more time. It will then be up to you to explain why you are delinquent after the report is generated.
  • In an automated workflow process, if you need more time you can't simply phone or email the one that instigated the workflow. Instead, if you are unable to complete your portion on time, you will need to call everyone in the process and explain why you will be delinquent.
  • This dilemma seems to happen more often in "Team-based" corporate cultures. Because no one likes delinquency reports generated against them, empathy can cause a move away from automated workflows.
  • Automated workflows with accountability reporting, can have the negative effect of not being able to accelerate the process under special circumstances. Sales Reps and others usually try to form positive relationships with those they rely on to produce, ship and deliver the products or services they sell. Often, a phone call is made saying "I know you guys usually need two days to do this, but I need a big favour......". Usually the last thing someone wants is to create an adversarial relationship with those they rely on, by instigating an automated workflow process that will cause problems for those receiving it.

There are times of course when such tools are required and appropriate. This scenario is only designed to point out that agreements reached in stakeholder meetings, do not always result in "real life" work flow parameters.

The sales call by the rep has been well planned. The sales rep had a clear understanding of their objectives based on company initiatives and guidance that was provided in their planning process. The sales rep was also well-armed with information from PACT, that would help him or her both sell to the customer, and build relationships by providing valuable information and service to the customer. PACT provided this information customized as both a working paper and a customer leave-behind.

After the sales call, the rep was only required to enter "High Card" activities and customer feedback into PACT, so that recipients would quickly receive them and the "High Cards" would be attached to the customer record. The sales rep was also able to schedule any follow-up activities for themselves.

In my next entry, I will build on the value of PACT for companies and users. I hope to show that a tool based on Planning and Communication, even without activity controls, is far superior to a CRM system with activity controls, that no one is using.

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