The right sales tools improve sales productivity and success rates. Whether you use a customer database, contact management software or sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM), sales software can help you understand your customers better and market more effectively.
Simple sales tools
Basic aids to sales efficiency can be important sales tools. Ready access to sales support information such as brochures is vital. Standardised documents such as templates for sales letters and systems for automating quotations can be significant time-savers.
Mobile devices have become indispensable for anyone doing business on the move - offering access to office systems, customer account details, sales presentations and so on, either via a secure virtual private network (VPN) or in the cloud.
Some form of customer database is also vital, even if it only provides basic contact details. More sophisticated use of databases allows automated database marketing: for example, easy filtering to find all customers purchasing a particular product.
Integrated IT systems can extend the value of sales software. For example, communication can be improved by giving sales staff direct access to customer account details. Sharing information across the sales team and with other employees puts everyone in a stronger position to progress sales and to provide quality, joined-up customer service.
Contact management and CRM software
In many businesses, sales software focuses on tracking customer contacts. Like a simple customer database, contact management software stores customer contact details. But a typical contact management system will offer additional functionality such as shared appointment diaries, reminders of when customers should be chased up, and so on.
CRM software takes this further by capturing more information about customer relationships. Every customer contact can be recorded, including copies of letters and emails and notes on phone conversations and meetings. Salespeople can use the system to quickly brief themselves before contacting a client.
Equally importantly, contact management and CRM software can offer powerful insights. Individual salespeople can be alerted to opportunities: for example, suggestions for other products that have interested similar customers. Management analysis can help show which sales activities are working well, how successful individual salespeople are, and so on.
Sales technology management
While sales tools can revolutionise the way your sales team manages customers, as with all business technology you will need to carefully manage how they are introduced.
A clear understanding of what you hope to achieve can help you make the right choice from the wide range of sales software and systems that are available. You'll need to assess what different solutions offer, how reliable they are, and what they cost.
Critically, you'll need to plan how to introduce any new tools or systems, and how to make sure that employees can use them. For complex projects, consultancy support and effective employee training are likely to be essential.
The right approach can involve more than buying sales tools as add-ons for your existing operation - you may need to entirely rethink your processes. While this can be complex and sometimes disruptive, you will end up with a more effective and productive sales operation.