YOU’VE SPENT the entire day making calls, enthusiastically conveying the benefits of various products to several prescribers. You’ve got their attention. You’ve taken copious notes. You’ve captured critical information. Now it’s the end of the day.
But your day is just beginning.
For many sales representatives, Part Two of the business day often entails entering data based on the information they have obtained during a full day in the field. A major shifting of mental gears ensues, as ‘right-brain’ discussions with physicians segue into ‘left-brain’ computer entries.
This is often the reality for field representatives. But so too, is Pharmaceutical Field’s annual Company Perception, Motivation and Satisfaction Survey, which detailed some disturbing conclusions about electronic territory management system (ETMS) usage and sales call reporting in its October 2005 issue. Despite responders indicating the use of a laptop (96%), a PDA (approximately 21%), or both (18.5%), the survey found that many field representatives described their reporting messages as being ‘never’ or ‘occasionally’ accurate.
How can reporting be improved?
Clearly, there is an urgent need to implement a stronger, more comprehensive solution in order to ensure accurate reporting. Representatives, who are spending a lot of time in the field and expending vast amounts of energy to break through to busy physicians – with up to 10 customers per day, every day – need a solution to make their end-of-day recording of customer interactions easier, and to ensure overall accuracy concerning the information that is entered.
Entering data as you go along may sound like the answer, but it’s not – at least not any more. It is quite logical, in any business, to enter information while it is still fresh in your mind. However, for the field sales representative, this would involve bringing PDAs or laptops into a healthcare clinic or hospital; and in today’s increasingly security-conscious environment, bringing electronic devices into public territory would jeopardise the safety of employees and the security of information.
So hard-working reps are frequently left with no choice but to save the end of their already long day for data entry. In addition, they are often entering information on electronic devices that vary within an organisation: while you may be using a laptop, your colleague may be entering information into a PDA. Technology is certainly available, but everyone seems to enter and manage their call details on different hardware platforms and applications. This, coupled with long hours and end-of-day data entry, might help to explain the findings of the October survey and underline the need for a solution that is easier for the reps and the organisation as a whole.
How can this be achieved? By implementing an effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution. You’ve heard it before, and may even have such a system in place yourself. But it’s clear that not enough organisations do so, and it’s high time that more people become serious about what’s at stake without it: weakened call reporting, data inaccuracies, not meeting sales goals – and thus a loss of competitive standing in the market. A CRM solution effectively streamlines business processes and workflows, improves the communication process and brings together information
from all sources in order to produce actionable data and ultimately to drive the organisation’s growth. Goodbye to laborious manual data entry and long navigation times; hello to automated platforms that strengthen sales force reporting methods, tracking capabilities and data accuracies.
With everyone on the same holistic CRM page, communications and overall workflow are improved and reporting inaccuracies are circumvented – in contrast to the often sporadic reporting accuracy achieved with ETMS systems.
Recording customer interactions
While ETMS systems certainly provide sales representatives with customer data, e-mail and diary-keeping capabilities, it’s not always truly effective (as the survey indicates). What get left out are the communications the organisation is having with the customer. While many companies have taken steps to link everyone to one central system, it is how this system is applied and used that makes the difference between recording beneficial interactions and recording time-wasting space-fillers.
While sales representatives may be used to or attached to existing systems and therefore resistant to change, the move towards a CRM system doesn’t necessarily mean a giant leap into the unknown. In fact, most CRM systems today offer an interface that is similar to Microsoft Outlook, bringing the same comfortable familiarity with the added bonus of enhanced information flow and heightened business success.
User adoption plays a big part in successful implementation: if the painful steps can be removed from the recording and logging of customer interaction, then representatives are more likely to be keen to use the system. Offer them a quick and easy-to-use interface that is based around click minimisation, minimal menu drilling and fast output of information, and you’ll see the results in the quality of the data being stored.
Working with your manager
Furthermore, the onus isn’t only on the representative. In addition to providing representatives with customer data and diary-keeping capabilities, an ETMS system is also a sales management tool that allows the sales manager to monitor sales activity. As such, the sales representative and sales management functions of the system go hand in hand, and their interaction is very important to ensuring reporting accuracy.
For this reason, representatives should ask themselves: “Am I being mentored effectively by my manager?” Representatives who are not having face time with their managers should actively seek to make this valuable time available in order to ensure that both parties are on the same page. After all, effective call reporting is not just about quantity (number of call reports): it is also about quality.
All the same, management must coach and mentor their employees to ensure that reporting is carried through properly. Proper reinforcement of awareness that making calls is not a one-time action that stops at data entry or reporting, but rather an ongoing process in which the reporting of details plays an instrumental role, will help to underline the importance of reporting accurately every time.
Benefits of a CRM system
In short, an effective CRM system offers a high level of configurability that is ideal for changing business needs and workflow options – for example, determining which activity assignments are given to whom and notifying managers, team members and customers of these assignments. Put simply, CRM configurability means that all users will have information the way they want it, when they want it.
A CRM system is also a cost-effective solution that delivers ROI. From development to rollout, CRM is an enterprise system that can prevent the higher costs incurred when organisations take on solutions to address problems on an ‘as needed’ basis. It’s important to remember that CRM solutions are not a one-time project, but an ongoing process that leads to a better-running organisation: ultimately this process will meet, and often exceed, the ROI.
Furthermore, CRM systems can also play a significant role in meeting today’s demanding compliance parameters by collecting, processing and securing data in accordance with various regulations and internal processes. Ideally, the CRM system should also provide the flexibility to determine when, where and for how long recorded interactions and transactions are archived, a critical ability for ensuring regulation compliance.
Finally, getting positive and measurable results makes it easier to conduct business by providing a single overview of the customer, thus enabling the user to respond to sales opportunities or impending support issues by taking the appropriate steps. Once again, the centralised capabilities and ease of use that a CRM system provides fosters more accurate reporting and improved customer retention.
Better reporting, better results
Automation of the customer-relationship management process has evolved to become business-critical for every organisation seeking increased profitability.
While reporting has so far been managed with the use of a laptop or PDA, it’s necessary for field representatives to realise that their management of this information can be vastly improved – and their lives made easier – through the implementation of a CRM system. A truly effective CRM solution brings together information from all of the relevant data sources within an organisation to provide a centralised, comprehensive and highly-targeted real-time view of each customer. In turn, the customers obtain information that is fine-tuned to their individual needs, further enhancing the ability of sales representatives to cross-sell and up-sell their products.
In summary, when sales representatives have a CRM system in place and obtain proper management coaching in its use, they will find that more information is available to them and that their daily routine is made easier. This will ultimately lead to more purposeful, confident and accurate call reporting.
Nigel Huxtable is the managing director of StayinFront’s EMEA operations. StayinFront is a global provider of enterprise-wide CRM applications, decision support tools, data services and eBusiness systems.
For more information about StayinFront, please visit www.stayinfront.com