Picture the scenario. Your organization is a sales-led enterprise with a motivated and well-incentivized sales team. To maximize their performance, you’ve empowered them with CRM tools that they use every day to build their sales pipelines.
It seems to be working: sales are going well, and your business is achieving healthy growth. But one of your direct competitors seems to be doing even better. Its sales teams appear to be both more efficient and more effective, always targeting the right potential buyer with the right offer via the right salesperson at the right time.
How are they doing this? What’s their “secret sauce”? The answer may well be that they’ve centralized the way they manage relationships – thereby relieving their salespeople of the burden of researching prospects themselves, and freeing them up to what they do best: selling.
What Does Centralized Relationship Management Look Like?
The bedrock of centralized relationship management is smart use of data. When salespeople are given CRM tools, they’ll often go away and set about funnelling a sales pipeline on their own. This can create a very fragmented approach to revenue generation, with each salesperson working in their own silo and nobody taking an overall strategic view.
There is a better way: a unified, data-driven approach to developing and managing relationships across the enterprise. The way it works is that one function – usually marketing, though it can be the office of the COO or business development – takes responsibility for producing smart target-driven strategies and providing high-quality leads to the salespeople.
The effect is that marketing becomes the research function for sales. The quality of the leads it provides is increased by the fact that, during the research process, the centralized team looks not only to unknown contacts but also existing clients and contacts to source leads. This means combining people and company discovery with insights into who they service and count as being on their books; who their competitors are; and, finally, understanding whether anyone at their firm has an existing relationship with the lead, or knows someone who does.
How does this work in practice? A real-world example comes from a salesperson at a telecoms company, who said a divisional CEO of theirs used to serve on the board of an FMCG business that was a customer of the telco. The global account director for the FMCG client had no knowledge of this – until it was surfaced through BoardEx by the central relationship management team that the company already had a potentially valuable relationship worth exploring.
Why Focus on Centralized Relationship Management?
Such case studies underline why centralized relationship management (RM) has the edge over a fragmented approach. The centralized RM team’s more rigorous research means there’s a trade-off between the volume and the value of the leads: actionable, high-quality leads take precedence, increasing the likelihood of success. And when a lead does get passed on to sales, that lead has been pre-qualified not only as a potential buyer, but also against many other criteria – including which individual salesperson is best qualified to drive the deal. This in turn encourages collaboration among the salesforce, as people are encouraged to put their name openly to contacts rather than trying to keep these to themselves.
A case study of these benefits in action is a software client that uses a central team to support its largest global customers. Its use of BoardEx is strategic in that it carries out a “social profiling” exercise aimed at matching its best-placed leadership team members against buyers in its global accounts. This approach gives the global account directors the right level of leverage with the client, while also matching up relevant expertise and relationships where it matters most to its business.
To increase the benefits still further, a centralized RM function can also look beyond the CRM system for leads, and probe who the firm’s CRM contacts connect them to. This process can become institutionalized, and underpinned by a strategy around using existing relationships in the most beneficial and advantageous way for the organization. It also ensures relationships aren’t overused or exhausted by being approached too often.
Prerequisites for Success
For all these reasons and more, growing numbers of high-performing organizations are moving to centralize their relationship management. But what does a business need to make the move successfully?
The main requirement is a strong executive team committed to promoting collaboration among the salesforce and leading by example. This top-level buy-in and culture are vital if the centralized function is to be respected by the sales team.
“Given the advances in sales technology, sales leaders also need to equip their reps with the tools to drive better decisions. For example, the increased use of inside sales as well as remote and digital channels has made it more critical than ever to ensure that customer-relationship management (CRM) is up-to-date and clean. Companies should consider investing in CRM modules that can automate data population and enrich CRM data with insights from external databases (for example, intelligence on key stakeholders).”
– Five actions to boost your sales organization’s resilience, McKinsey, July 1 2020
Also needed is a network of contacts that’s been pulled into BoardEx. We’ve just launched a powerful new way of enabling users to import their contacts into their accounts. We also offer a matching service where we look at a client’s CRM system, clean and de-dupe their records, and match the ones that have a BoardEx profile into their BoardEx account.
How Does BoardEx Help?
A CRM system relies critically on user behavior and the quality of the data entered into it. There’s no magical transformation: the data you put in is the same data you get out. So on its own it won’t revolutionize the way you do business or tell you anything new.
Add BoardEx, and this changes dramatically. Why? Because of the BoardEx matching service that maps clients’ CRM contacts against the BoardEx universe, creating immediate lead generation possibilities. Each mapped contact can introduce you to hundreds if not thousands of new – and otherwise unknown – prospects. These are the people who are not in your CRM system. This is valuable data, which often gets lost or overlooked.
An example here is a UK-based investment bank that has a concierge team, who use BoardEx to understand the bank’s best entry-points across its most valuable clients, and map how the clients are connected to the market via their Board and leadership teams. The bank also keeps track – within BoardEx – of all its active relationships, including its Chairman’s contacts, as well as maintaining its past clients in BoardEx where the relationship ended on good terms.
Overall, the message is clear. Left to their own devices, sales teams are known for amassing whole toolboxes of sales and effectiveness solutions. Centralizing relationship management plays to everyone’s strengths, by leaving the analysis to those who are expert in it, and sales to those who are best able to convert leads to revenue. It’s a win-win-win for marketing, sales – and the enterprise as a whole.