Okay, I know some of you are saying customer databases are marketing and IT’s problem – not mine.
Well, welcome to the new world of B2B selling. If you don’t have a customer database – use it correctly – and learn the importance of this profitable tool, then you will be the one having a sales production problem in the near future. A customer database is more than a glorified Rolodex file. It is much more when used correctly.
Let me explain the importance of utilizing a customer database. And, I will pick on me as an example. Here is my sad, yet, rebounding story.
When I first started selling to business, I had a simple, yet, very effective customer database. I tracked all my customers and created prospect databases for developing new business. Now, truthfully, when I started there was no email factor to track, just phone numbers and mailing addresses – and a notes section for tracking conversations with my customers and prospects.
This last part was very valuable then and probably more valuable today – especially if you are using a team selling methodology. Why is it important today? Because a customer expects and wants to tell their story once and for you and your sales team to be aware of all previous conversations. But I’m getting ahead of my story.
I kept a good customer and prospect database – with addresses, connections, notes, phone numbers and org charts within my database. Later, the email address became a key form of communication (especially before the spam blockers became the norm.) and while our database still had mailing addresses and phone numbers, we – I began to lapse in collecting the necessary data to maintain top of mind awareness with customers and prospects. And, my key databases become old and out of date!
Now for the bad news, I began to feel a loss of control in relationships due to poor record keeping. This was multiplied when our customer database was disconnected in our main computer OS. So we converted to another system with more bells and whistles, yet, with only limited access to the database our data – my data – became more and more outdated. Thus, I began to lose contact with my client and customer base. Now here comes the bad news.
Several of my top accounts merged, moved HQ and changed who they did business with due to change, and a couple even just went out of business. My contacts then moved around – company to company, city to city, and state to another state. Geez, I lost contact with hundreds of customers and clients.
How did this happen? I was not using my customer and prospect database the right way. It is as simple as that.
The solution was to find a customer contact software that ran on my computer and networks operating system. This took a while, but is done. Now, I can keep my customer database up to the minute rather than up to the month or year! Next, remembering the old MacKay 66 and how important it is to know as much about your customers or prospects as possible – I requested a larger number of custom fields to track information about my customers and prospects.
Now, I can maintain contact with customers and prospects using the phone, cell phone, Skype, IM, Twitter, LinkedIn, email – personal and professional, mailing address, and physical office address with Google Maps to find them. I’m not kidding about any of this information. The personal email is something you need to maintain so if the person leaves their current job and moves somewhere else – you can find them.
And the notes section to the customer record is a goldmine of information for me and the team. Every time a phone call happens – a note is entered and the primary discussion point is written for everyone. If a letter or email or brochure or sales sheet goes to a customer or prospect it is entered in the database.
Next, phone calls and meetings are scheduled with the customer and recorded for history – and others to know the topics of conversation. Again, this is a critical activity for gaining credibility and confidence with customers and prospects. They want to tell their story once – and know your team will become aware of the message.
Finally, this type of customer contact system allows you to “touch” your customers and prospects on a regular basis which gains a top of mind position for you and your company. This type of consistency of contact, provides the customer or prospect with a sense of confidence in your ability to get things done. Timely follow ups also assists you in the b2b sales game and top of mind positioning for b2b sales.
I know you may be using Outlook or some other system, yet, if it is not keeping a clear data trail for you to analyze regarding customer touches, the success rates of mailings or email blasts as well as face to face visits – then you may be missing the boat or the bigger picture. Business to business selling and b2b marketing do go hand in hand. The B2B Sales Superstars keep accurate and detailed records on their activities, customer details and data, as well as all targeted accounts.
Here is the minimum factors to consider when looking at your customer database:
- Easy to use or solid video training available
- Covers all the basics plus more – including the social media accounts.
- Be able to have templates for letters and emails written and capable of being merged with a group or individually.
- Ability to record all contacts, mailing, documents and social media information.
- Ability to network the database with all the team selling members.
- Ability to sort data for reports or analysis of contacts with sales process.
- Ability to automate customer touch campaigns using direct mail, emails, phone calls and other methods.
I could keep going however to much data for a b2b sales person is eye numbing for some of you. So I will quit here. Just remember, your true lifeline in b2b sales is your ability to contact and touch your customers and prospects on a regular basis. Use the power of technology to do most of the heavy or routine lifting and you will get more face time with customers and prospects to solve problems and start the sales process more often.