Given the turbulent few years caused by COVID, the speed at which the economic outlook continues to change in 2022 has surprised many businesses. At the start of the year, the main challenge for companies was how to manage growth amidst the great resignation. By the summer, they were experiencing high inflation and a reduction in customer demand. For many, this was cause to stop and take stock: rewrite growth plans and wait for 2023 to bring better economic news.
But it is clear now that approach will not succeed. Interest rates have risen, GDP has shrunk, and more than 610,000 companies are now in significant financial distress. Change is essential. Indeed, with warnings from the Bank of England of the most prolonged recession in 100 years, business success, even business existence, will demand a proactive approach and rapid decision-making for the long term.
Companies can use their CRM system to help get to grips with new economic realities in the following ways.
Businesses need to be more insight-driven and assess the implications of an economic downturn for both customers and prospects if they are to maximise sales and minimise wasted activity. Opportunities have not vanished overnight, but the impact has been far from consistent.
Companies need to identify customers who are still good opportunities, and who they could potentially upsell to. They need to identify customers who are unfortunately at risk – those that may not just stop buying but could be on the brink of failure. And they need to evaluate prospect buying behaviour to understand new buying cycles and assess when best to engage. Adapting to a new economic reality will be a struggle without this insight. So, where can it be found?
A CRM system is necessary to unlock vital information from across the business. Without one, transactional data will be locked up in finance systems, meaning sales and marketing teams cannot access buying and payment history. Individual salespeople will likely know how their customers are faring – but if a company lacks the tools and processes to leverage that information, it will be challenging to identify new opportunities or problems.
At the same time as coming to terms with economic challenges, management is still understanding how to engage and motivate a hybrid workforce – a model that adds time and complexity.
Businesses need to capture important customer and prospect information, and put the processes in place to actively and consistently use that information to drive revenue and business decisions. For example, it is now a priority to implement a customer risk process to improve the management of customer interactions. Combining accurate insight within the CRM to identify a customer at risk of leaving with a workflow to manage the process – for example, by colour coding customers, Red, Amber and Green – will highlight the level of risk and ensure sales teams know which customers to prioritise.
Using a CRM platform to record information is a good first step. A company achieves transformation when its language and culture are then adapted – and that information is used to identify business opportunities and better manage customers. For instance, in the current market, completing a customer credit check earlier in the sales process may prevent time wasted on a prospect that is high risk.
Companies need to adapt to these new challenges quickly. What will provide them with an edge over their competition? Is there an opportunity to approach things differently in one department? Those who harness the power of CRM to capture data and support effective, consistent processes are well-placed to respond to economic volatility fast.
CRM can also automate business workflows and reduce manual efforts – for example, by replacing manual processes with digital customer onboarding, online application forms and email reminders. Or when implementing an online solution in place of a face-to-face sales model.
With every change, businesses can use the data captured within their CRM to assess performance. What do the metrics show? Are any individuals within the remote sales team underperforming? If so, early intervention is key to protecting the sales pipeline and reducing the likelihood of losing a member of staff who is, perhaps, struggling to work from home.
In a good market, selling is easy. Today, however, with a recession on the horizon, successful businesses need to outperform the competition.
To do so requires immediate insight. In a fast-changing market, companies need to know what is and isn’t working. Where are the risks? Where are the opportunities? With excellent business insight, companies can adapt and make the right decisions in what will continue to be a challenging trading environment for some time.
Investing in ways to improve productivity and remove inefficiencies from business processes is, therefore, more crucial than ever. The right CRM solution will help future-proof a business against the unknown – joining up operations across the entire business, tailored to its specific goals, with the flexibility to adapt and grow.