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“People buy from people that they trust” … is this really true in this day and age? Today, for instance, if you are buying online - chances are there are no people involved at all in the sales transaction.

If you are selling directly to the consumer, there is a fantastic array of cost-effective technology designed to automate the process from online advertising to ordering and even to delivery. That said, even with these huge advances in technology, the more complex sales still require systems capable of supporting people to maximise their success.

In this article, I will focus on what key sales solution capabilities to look out for when sales are more complex and people are involved.

Having been in IT for 32 years now, I’ve seen massive change in the ability of software solutions to support sales, and for the last 6 years I have focused on working Dynamics Customer Engagement (CE) into some of the largest global clients that Microsoft manage out of the UK, including Rolls-Royce Aerospace, Capita, BP, and others.

Taking a risk...

It’s fascinating to see that it’s not the software and its capabilities that restrict a business these days – it’s the ability of the business to understand the possibilities offered by technology advances. Also, their willingness to implement these advances into a business. Companies who cannot accept these advances risk withering on the vine as more advanced competitors quickly take market share.

Some companies still get by with Excel and Outlook based management of Sales reporting and Contact Management, and for me this is scary!

The inevitable churn of accounts and sales resources means that information is always lost in the churn. Most companies lacking good sales support systems blame the impact they experience on poor sales reporting, lack of sales pipeline accuracy and visibility, and increased overheads to manually integrate sales and finance for quotes, invoicing and other finance-related communications that come out of Sales.

So what might you expect from a modern customer engagement suite, such as Microsoft Dynamics CE, that gives companies a real helping hand?

  • Leadership acceptance by the analysts
    Microsoft is a leader for Sales Force Automation according to Forrester, Gartner, and most of the other analysts
  • Seamless Social Integration with LinkedIn
    LinkedIn, THE Business social platform, now has full 2 way integration with the Dynamics platform
  • Seamless Outlook Integrations
    Sales people live in Outlook and use this from their phone, from their tablet, and from their laptop. Microsoft made the Sales Application work seamlessly with Outlook across all of these platforms and to made it run and look the same across phones, laptops, and tablets.
  • Sales Insights using Business and Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools
    The nice thing is that this requires very little work to set up, as the AI intelligence is already there – you just switch it on, and then use the Dynamics 365 sales functionality across your business.
  • PowerBI Analytics
    Microsoft have created a full Sales Dashboard that you can use immediately and, if needed, you can change this to suit whatever you need.

It’s critical that the salesperson can see the value this solution can bring to them, as well as the wider value it can bring to the business. It needs to be easy to use and dovetailed into their daily lives.

Core Sales Force Automation (SFA) is not enough, and while a lot of businesses implement SFA purely to deliver improvements in management reporting, Dynamics 365 for Sales delivers so much more than that. It is a platform that can dramatically improve the ability for sales to find leads, manage contacts, increase sales velocity and conversion rates.

Targets drive behaviour, and most salespeople focus on their ability to hit their sales targets!

If you would like to know more, please read on…

What the Analysts say is...

CE forresterMicrosoft is a leader for Sales Force Automation according to Forrester, Gartner, and most of the other analysts – the software can support traditional lead to qualification, opportunity to cash scenarios, including full reporting of all activities back and forth with the prospect, generation and management of quotes, invoices, products, and pricing.

Social Integration 

LinkedIn has emerged as THE business social platform of the last decade. It holds detailed information about companies, contacts, history, updated news, people promotions and moves from company to company. Microsoft took a brilliant decision to buy LinkedIn, and has now implemented a full 2-way integration between the Dynamics platform and LinkedIn using this in the following ways:


1. For Account, Contact, and Lead Management supportthe creation of leads from LinkedIn into Dynamics, tracking contacts – skills, connections, movements, and tracking company changes. Your salespeople and account managers will be able to keep ahead of any changes as well as connect to important people in clients and prospects, and this will enable them to manage clients and sell to them much easier.

CE 1

Understanding your prospect or client is a lot about understanding where they are going, who is there, and the current news about them. LinkedIn surfaces a lot of this information inside Dynamics now and Microsoft calls this capability “Relationship Selling”. So, if you read about this, know that the core of that capability is the tight coupling of LinkedIn with Dynamics 365.

2. Microsoft has also integrated LinkedIn into its Talent Management offering – I won’t talk about this any further here but will do another blog on this later.

Outlook integration

Microsoft includes a full application for Outlook that ties the outlook contact management that most salespeople and account managers use closely to Dynamics. 

CE 2At a business level, most people use Outlook, together with the Exchange Mail Server to read emails from and to contacts, maintain contact details, and to maintain appointments via the inbuilt calendar.

A lot of salespeople live in Outlook, and use this from their phone, their tablet, and from their laptop. Mobile office workers will sometimes use a Windows device but are as likely to be using an Apple phone, or an Android-based phone.

So Microsoft made the Application for Outlook work seamlessly in Outlook across all of these platforms and made it run and look the same across phones, laptops, and tablets. CE 4Another great benefit is that the Application for Outlook doesn’t require any installation (or maintenance).

Once Dynamics 365 is enabled for a user that user has full seamless integration and tracking between the communications between a contact in Outlook and Dynamics 365.

Sales Insights

For a while now Microsoft has been deepening the AI services that sit within its Azure platform, anCE 5d now they’ve released a Dynamics 365 Sales capability that uses these AI services to analyse the interactions your business is having with your clients, and this then provides sales and other users with deep and valuable information about your relationship with your clients.

The nice thing is that this requires very little work to set up, as the AI intelligence is already there – you just switch it on, and then use the Dynamics 365 sales functionality across your business.  

One of the really nice features built into this is the analysis of who in your business is talking to CE 6whom in your client. The Azure services analyse the emails in your exchange server, and these can tell you the depth of conversations which can sometimes give you conversational routes into your client that you may not have known existed.

PowerBI reporting 

In the past 30 years, I have used SAS, Business Objects and a plethora of other reporting tools, I even attended the Business Objects admin course. Without a doubt, PowerBI - which is owned by Microsoft, is the most powerful analytical reporting and dashboarding tool I've ever seen.  CE 7

You can very easily display your Sales information inside PowerBI and can also display PowerBI dashboards and charts directly inside Dynamics 365. Microsoft have also created a full Sales Dashboard that you can use immediately, and if needed you can change this to suit what you need.

Microsoft Dynamics CE can be just the solution sales teams need

This may be a generalisation, but in my experience, salespeople often struggle to adopt an automated sales support solution such as those supplied by Microsoft, Salesforce, and others.

 

Adoption of Dynamics 365 Sales should include the adoption of the critical LinkedIn integrated functions, adoption of a fully unified Outlook to Dynamics approach, adoption of Sales Insights, and adoption of PowerBI based management reporting.

 

Alongside the quality of a product, people will still be one of, if not, the most important factors in selling successfully.

 

It needs to be easy to use and dovetailed into daily life.

 

Core Sales Force Automation (SFA) is not enough, and while a lot of businesses implement SFA purely to deliver improvements in management reporting, Dynamics 365 for Sales is much more than that. It can dramatically improve the ability for sales to find leads, manage contacts, increase sales velocity and conversion rates.

 

With all these extra capabilities, the business will benefit from increased sales velocity and conversion, and much better reporting and accuracy of the sales pipeline.

 

Learn more about the capabilities of the Customer Engagement platform by downloading our factsheet below.

How D365 can enhance your sales and marketing

 

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