Tag Archives: Sales

Do I need salesforce.com as a CRM for my second stage company?

Cartoon viking with a big hammerDo you need salesforce.com? Probably not.

For 9 out of 10 businesses I talk to, salesforce.com is “too much club”. Yet it has become so ubiquitous that many small businesses feel obligated to adopt it. The process usually goes something like this:

Someone speaks very highly of salesforce.com (or has used it in another context) + it’s a “known entity” + it’s easy to sign up = Viola! Simple, quick decision on which Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to adopt.

Generally, that’s a reasonable formula – I’m a firm believer that one of the best tests for how something works comes from the experience of similar companies. However, this is one of those cases that is the exception to the rule. I’ve watched enough companies experience enough pain to be compelled to start my own public service campaign about “right-sizing your CRM”. Here’s why.

A CRM that is “too much club” causes all sorts of issues, the most problematic of which seems like it would be cost, but really it’s the complexity that kills you slowly. Suffice it say that salesforce.com does a great job of making it sound like it can do everything under the sun – and it basically can – with enough elbow-grease, IT know-how, upgrades, and add-ons.

On the other hand, what are some good cases for using salesforce.com? The #1 reason to use salesforce.com:  If you truly have a sales force. In other words, it’s really designed for larger teams of sales people. Many startups and second stage companies don’t have a Sales Manager and a Sales Team – more often, the sales “team” is a single sales person supported by technicians and others as needed. In these cases, salesforce.com is typically too much club.

Choosing the “right-size” CRM in those situations means selecting for a couple of things:

  • Something simple, that actually gets used, and doesn’t get in the way of getting things done.
  • Something inexpensive, so you can invest the bulk of your marketing funds in reaching out to customers and growing your business.

If not salesforce.com, then what? Glad you asked. There are a dizzying array of CRMs out there, and I don’t claim to know them all. However, I have played with enough different CRM systems to have a couple of favorites.

Zoho will look familiar to anyone that has used Salesforce.com – it’s a very close cousin. Why do I like it? It meets both my criteria: simple and cheap. It had only 6 “tabs” (much like salesforce.com only had 3 when I first started using it 15 years ago) and it’s FREE for the basic team edition which includes 3 people. You can export data if needs change and you truly need a more sophisticated system later, so it’s not an irrevocable decision. It does have a few quirks, though I am willing to forgive them for something that’s free and provides a simple and clean pipeline view.

Membrain is the option I’d recommend for companies who need more full-featured functionality along the lines of salesforce.com. It’s typically more expensive than salesforce.com if you’ve only got a few users, as you pay up front for configuration.  However, it’s worth including as it does a few key things that salesforce.com does not. In particular, Membrain has built in sales automation that ensures the important stuff gets followed up on (you set the criteria) and that unqualified opportunities are automatically left out of the pipeline.

Membrain is also smart about reporting, giving the company a better picture of what opportunities are “real”, while also giving salespeople more time to spend doing sales because they’re not doing busy-work to make reports turn out right. Some of the value this software provides is a little bit sneakier – all that automation is possible because the configuration process forces decision about what criteria is/isn’t qualified, and what actions should be happening during the sales process. Often, one of the things causing issues within sales is a lack of clarity, which tools have a habit of making worse instead of better. Membrain may be the exception to that rule – in a good way.

Hope this helps with your CRM decision. Holler if you have any questions or want more specific examples!

When Should I Hire a Salesperson – Part 2

sales_street_signI gave a lot of general advice about hiring a new salesperson in a previous post, so let’s tackle the same question with more specifics.

If you’re comfortable hiring the salesperson before your sales team is overwhelmed (hiring “ahead of the curve,” as I called it in the other post), then there’s one step that I use to determine when you should hire…

You should write the “sales plan” that the new hire will follow for the first 6 months they’re on board.

In the sales plan, I’d put:

  •  Additional opportunities or relationships you’d like to develop with existing customers
  • Specific relationships that you already have that you’d like to develop more
  • New customers that you know you want to target but are not

Once you lay those possibilities out, then you should put them into a month-by-month schedule.

Finally, figure out the amount of money you’re going to pay the new salesperson over the first 6 months.

Now step back from the plan you’ve made, and look at the money you’re going to spend, and ask yourself if the ROI passes the “hurdle” for being worthwhile.

If it does, start recruiting.  If it doesn’t, circle the best 3-5 possibilities in your sales plan, and then see if you can find time within your current team to go after those.

Even if you don’t end up hiring a new salesperson, you’ve clarified your best opportunities to go after in the meantime.

For insight into what it takes to be successful in sales in today’s world, check out the book Achieve Sales Excellence.

-by Dave Haviland

When Should I Add My Next Salesperson?

sales_street_signThis is an interesting question.  It’s actually a subset of a broader question, “How do I know if I should make an investment?”

Unfortunately, investment decisions are usually uncertain, but there are a few things you can do to clarify the answer.

For hiring a salesperson, I’d ask…

  • What is the current capacity of the team, and could you get more out of the team by “training them up” or restructuring how they’re supported?
  • How hard will it be to find the right person for the job?  (“Finding a salesperson is easy,” a client told me once.  “Finding the right salesperson is what’s hard.”)
  • Being really honest, how good are you at hiring in general, and at hiring/selecting salespeople in particular?  How often do you find and select the right person?
  • Since you probably won’t be able to hire the person right at the point your sales team is maxed out, would you rather live with the risk of paying someone who is not fully utilized, or having your staff stretched and possibly having some errors?

I often talk to my clients about hiring “ahead of the curve” (before the business is there) or “behind the curve” (after the business is there).  The important thing to realize is that it’s unlikely that you’ll actually hire “on the curve.”  So, you just have to decide what kind of risk you want to manage.  You could make the investment before you know if you’ll have the business to support it – and be positioned for growth sooner.  Or you could overtax the organization with more work than it can handle – and keep your expenses down.

The “right” option for you depends on your situation (e.g., “We’ve got tons of opportunity we just need feet on the street to get”), your business strategy (e.g., “We have to grow”), and the level and type of risk you are comfortable with (e.g., “I don’t like to make an investment until the odds look pretty darn good.”)

With salespeople, there sometimes is a way to have your cake and eat it too – by paying someone mostly on commission.  The benefit of this approach is that you’re adding the bandwidth without the cost.  The danger of this approach is along the lines of “You get what you pay for.”  If you have proven that commission-driven salespeople can sell your product, and you can characterize the opportunity you have to offer, then you have a good chance of this working.  If you’re still figuring out how to sell your product, or your other salespeople are not commission-based, then it would probably be a waste of time to look for someone using that compensation model – it’s just not good odds that you’ll find theright salesperson with that risky compensation.

If you don’t want to hire a salesperson now, there are alternatives that can get your more “throughput” from your sales team:

  • “Training up” your current salespeople so they are more effective
  • Improving processes or systems to make them more productive
  • Having your admin staff (who are easier to hire than salespeople) handle more sales support activities for the sales team.

Lastly, there are a few things to keep in mind for hiring effectively.  It’s generally a tough hiring market, so start looking early, because it’s likely to take you longer than you expect to find the right person.  Also, plan to spend as much time on-boarding the new hire as you took to hire them.  I’ve seen many salespeople flounder at the start because the company didn’t help them get into the business.

If you want to learn more about what kinds of salespeople there are, and what kind you might need, an excellent book and enjoyable read is Selling the Wheel.

-by Dave Haviland