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Featured Article—February, 2006
For some, information technology and automation has taken hold and they maintain all their sales records in one convenient place. Be that a laptop, handheld, or desktop, they are able to draw upon notes and contact information quickly and easily, often at the touch of a button.
But, for many that remains an elusive goal. Turning instead to some level of paper-based system, they often find their desk plagued by notes and musing over the day’s events. Some use spiral notebooks (or a multi-ring binder with a calendar); there are many who rely on sticky notes.
What’s important in record-keeping is a system. Although automated software may be best, 3 x 5 index cards or manila folders will do. Success comes from keeping all your notes in one place. You are less likely to miss appointments, forget phone calls, or lose important contact information when it’s all in one place.
Before you write the next note on the most convenient slip of paper, think about how you will go about retrieving that information. It may be time to toss the paper aside and use the computer for more than just email and the Internet.
Start small and begin with a contact management system. Microsoft Outlook may be enough to get you started. Often used for just email, there are features that will enable call notes, customer categories, flagged reminders, journaling, task management, and more. You may want to "take it up a notch" and adopt a higher level of sales force automation, too. This would afford you the opportunity to manage your contacts, customers, and sales opportunities in a more uniform and disciplined approach.
The benefits to a software and information technology strategy in sales goes beyond just record-keeping and making calls. You can now share information with others, and better manage your sales opportunities in a Team environment. In a customer relationship management (CRM) system, you and your customer will benefit from a 360-degree approach to servicing the customer in the most efficient manner. From contacting the customer to recording orders and payments, the CRM system will present a more complete picture of the customer to you and your company. Management can now view the sales forecast and results in a ‘dashboard’ view; or, they can ‘drill down’ for a closer look at the process that led up to an order.
The bottom-line is that no matter what system you adopt, keep all your information in one place. And, discipline yourself to make use of it on a daily basis. Letting things build up to post at a later date will most likely result in lost information, or missed opportunities.
Ron Zika is the Managing Partner of Waypoint Inc. (St. Louis, MO), a systems integration and process improvement consultancy.