Expert Interview: Why your Sales Team Needs a Sales Database

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Q&A with Andrew Friedenthal, CRM Market Analyst for Software Advice:

Recently Andrew Friedenthal, CRM Analyst for the online reviews firm Software Advice, released a new report studying the ways in which a comprehensive sales force database can benefit your sales team and customers. We had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Friedenthal to learn more about what his research uncovered.

1) What is a sales database?

The sales database is the heart of your sales force automation (SFA) system. This is where you'll store all the information about your clients, customers, leads and prospects. This information could include  their names, contact information, preferred method of contact, and a history of your team's interactions with them. A sales database  links up to all the other functions of the SFA software and allows you to track your sales performance.

2) Why is such a database useful to a sales team?

These days, A centrally-accessible database is really crucial in order for a sales team to work . When individual salespeople keep important contact information on their own computer—or worse, written down in their own notebook—that contact, and their business may be lost if one thing goes wrong. A database allows everyone on the team to access the same information. This way,one salesperson can jump in for another as needed and the company as a whole can maintain a good business relationship with each contact.

3) Given its usefulness, why do so many salespeople resist these databases?

Salespeople are competitive by nature; that's why they got into sales! They're very protective of what they see as their own proprietary information, and they're wary of management imposing a new or different workflow that goes against the way they've been doing business for years. When a sales database, or a new SFA system in general, is viewed as being an imposition from above, it faces resentment and resistance.

4) What techniques work to convince teams that the database benefits them?

The way to get your sales team to view the database as a beneficial toolis to choose a database that actually works for their benefit. Don't impose a new SFA system just to meet management's needs. Make sure the sales team is an active participant in choosing the system and its features, so that they have a stake in it from the very beginning. When the database is legitimately useful to them (by saving them time, allowing them easier access to information and eliminating confusion amongst their team) they'll have no compunctions against adopting it.

5) What issues should management take into consideration when choosing and implementing a sales database?

This will vary from company to company, and from team to team, so the important thing is to actually listen to the sales team and take their needs into consideration when you make your choice. Management should also have a thorough working knowledge of the team's workflow process. This is the best way to ensure that the new system complements the way business is already being done, rather than imposing changes from above.

6) What should managers consider about inside sales vs. outside sales database usage?

When it comes to a sales database, the difference between inside sales and outsides sales is ultimately fairly minimal. Both type of sales need to maintain detailed contact information, track interactions with those contacts, and monitor/analyze the pipeline along with other general sales metrics. The biggest difference is that a sales team involved in outside, face-to-face sales will need mobile access to the database with an easy, usable interface that they can utilize on the go.

The benefits of a sales database to management are self-evident—it allows contact information to stay centralized with the company, so that the information doesn't leave when an individual salesperson does.it also allows for a stronger sales team, rather than competitive team members withholding information from one another. However, in order for management to enjoy these benefits, they need to focus equally on the benefits that the database has for the team (easy access to information; elimination of conflicts; time-saving automation; etc.), and allow members of the team to choose those benefits for themselves by taking part in the process of selecting the system.

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