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How sales reps can extend a customer interaction to a pervasive customer relationship

Our sales reps have been using a recently-adopted CRM system well for lead generation and follow-up, but after the leads become customers, CRM usage drops off. How can we encourage the reps to continue using CRM for existing customers?

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This is a great question because it is one that virtually every organization faces. Do you remember the movie, "Glengarry Glen Ross?" The (way oversimplified and tongue planted firmly in cheek) key lies in Alec Baldwin's character's new sales methodology, ABC: Always Be Selling. You can encourage sales reps to continue to use the CRM system for existing customers by helping the extended enterprise (sales, marketing, customer service, product development) to understand how to use the information contained therein for deeper account penetration. Thus, compensation to the sales rep.

Executing this is not as easy as it sounds. Let's assume that every customer interaction -- regardless of whether a transaction results -- goes through a lifecycle: engage (capture mindshare) --> transact (make deal) --> fulfill (deliver product or service) --> service (post-sale service and support). The participants in this lifecycle must all capture customer information, not only for the sales rep to have a panoramic view of all customer interactions, but also for every lifecycle stage to represent an opportunity to re-engage.

Although it is very common for a business to operate on more than one channel, invariably the businesses that will maintain the best long-term customer relationships are those that create a "pervasive" customer relationship – meaning those whose customer interactions are coordinated among channels and are meaningful to the customer (according to the customer's point of view). A pervasive relationship is an "always on" conversation, or a "dialog," which transcends individual transactions and interactions across all channels. The dialog is informed by the panoramic customer view and a customer's strategic value, and is considered by the customer to be useful, unobtrusive, personal, and respectful. Organizations with misaligned, poorly coordinated, or competitive channels can be perceived as "bombarding" clients and prospects with disjointed interactions.

Ultimately, this is why sales reps (and the rest of the organization) must use the CRM system once a prospect becomes a customer.

This was first published in August 2006

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