You are on page 1of 16

How to Connect with Your Customers

Sales and Marketing Basics for Your Small Business

How to Connect with Your Customers
Your business may be solid and growing steadily. But creating
a successful marketing strategy, finding opportunities to sell
products and services, and connecting more effectively to current
and prospective customers is a demanding job.
Answer the following questions to see if your business can
improve upon any existing system inefficiencies.
Contents • Do you have a complete view of your customers and have you
identified the best prospects based on this view?
How to Connect with
Your Customers ................. 2
• Is your customer information dispersed among e-mail
messages, documents, and databases?
How to Create a
Marketing Plan .................. 3 • Do you need sophisticated marketing materials, yet you can’t
How to Create a
afford a professional printer?
Sales Process........................ 6 • Do your sales representatives have a process for following up
How to Implement on sales leads?
Your Sales Process .............. 9
This guide provides basic sales and marketing practices,
How Microsoft demonstrating how to develop and use a tactical marketing plan
Technology Can and sales process. You’ll learn about a range of Microsoft sales
Benefit Your Sales and
and marketing solutions you can use to manage your customer
Marketing Processes .......11
information better and engage your clients with professional
Summary ............................15 marketing materials you create in-house. It’s all designed to help
For More Information ....16 you attract and retain customers and sell more effectively.
How to Create a Marketing Plan

A good marketing plan can shape the way you connect to your existing Download these
helpful marketing
customers and attract new ones. It can also help you determine the types plan templates at
of customers you should target, how to reach them, and how to track the
results so you learn what works to increase business. planning guide
Marketing tactical plan
If you don’t have a marketing plan, creating one is not difficult. A successful Marketing budget plan
marketing plan doesn’t have to be complex or lengthy, but should contain Marketing strategy
enough information to help you establish, direct, and coordinate your
marketing efforts.

To help you through the process, we’ve identified five steps you should
follow. These encompass information gathering before you write your
marketing plan, the drafting of the plan itself, and updating the plan after
you’ve created it. Along the way we use Margie’s Travel, a new 25-person
travel service company, as an example.

Step 1: Position Your Product and entertaining travel packages
or Services to making special accommodation
travel plans with short or extended
To start your plan, keep in mind the
notice, flying domestically or
four “Ps” of marketing: product, price,
internationally. Margie’s Travel also
promotion, and place. Your goal is to put
has the advantage of being a home-
the right product or service in front of
based business that requires lower
the right customers, at the right price,
overhead and start-up costs than a
and at the right time and place. A good
traditional travel service business.
way to get started is to answer some
basic questions about your business. • Which marketing tactics will make
The following scenario for Step 1 is your products noticeable?
based on the marketing plan used by
Research indicates the most effective
Margie’s Travel.
advertising tool for a travel service
• Who are you selling to? company is small display ads in local
Margie’s Travel, located in papers, such as a weekly community
Burlington, Vermont, provides newspaper with a paid subscription
personal travel services to busy base of 5,000 to 40,000 readers.
working professionals in the Margie’s also places ads in the local
South Burlington area. Based on boating community newsletter, and
collected data, the typical clients sends brochures to larger businesses.
are homeowners between the ages By answering these key questions about
of 35 and 55, with yearly incomes your business, you can develop a solid
of more than $100,000. foundation on which to build your
• What do those customers need? marketing plan.

The target market for Margie’s Step 2: Ask for Input from
Travel is affluent working couples Trusted Advisors
with children who want travel
plans customized for a family. To ensure that you have a clear sense
The company’s goal is to provide of your own business, it is a valuable
convenient, unique, and relaxing practice to gather information from
travel experiences appropriate to those around you. Set up meetings
each family. with trusted friends, staff, advisors, and
peers, and ask for their input on the
• What distinguishes your product or following questions:
service from the competition?
• Who is your business selling to?
Margie’s Travel has a competitive
advantage in its ability to • What do your customers need?
accommodate families with children • What distinguishes your products or
of all ages, from constructing fun services from the competition?

• When and how often should you A typical marketing plan might be Good customer
employ marketing efforts? organized in the following way: relationships are the
• Market Summary key to your success.
• Where should your company be one
year from now? • Competitive Landscape “If you can put the
• Product Comparison and Positioning right product or
Getting feedback on these aspects of
service at the right
your business can help you prepare your • Communication Strategies
price in front of
marketing strategy as well as create • Launch Strategies the right customer,
targeted materials.
• Packaging and Fulfillment you’re cooking,” says
• Success Metrics Joanna L. Krotz, who
Step 3: Ask for Input from writes about small
Customers and Prospective • Marketing Schedule
business marketing
With a marketing plan in place, you have and management
To successfully market to customers, you the structure you need to keep your issues. She is
need to learn how they react to your business on track. the coauthor of
product, pricing, brand, or service— the Microsoft®
anything related to your business. Ask Step 5: Track Your Results, Small Business Kit
several of your current and prospective Update Your Plan (
customers what they think about: your com/MSPress/
Reviewing your plan every six months,
business, products and services, potential books/7123.asp)
or more often, helps you determine
to sell to them, and your competitors. and runs Muse2Muse
whether it is producing the results
You can ask them by e-mail, telephone, Productions, a New
you need. You can easily track your
or marketing postcards. Incentives, such York City–based custom
progress with a spreadsheet, where
as discounts or free samples, can also publisher (www.
you can also calculate your marketing
encourage feedback.
costs and compare them with sales and
other metrics.
Step 4: Draft Your Plan
Finally, update your plan regularly as you
Now that you have feedback and an
respond to changing market conditions.
outline, you can draft your marketing
For a guide to developing effective
plan. Start by summarizing your market
marketing strategies, see “Business
position and goals, and define what you
Basics” at For more
expect to accomplish in a specific time
help with building a marketing plan, visit
period. You can download templates for
the Microsoft Small Business Center at
marketing plans from the Office Online
Template Gallery at

How to Create a Sales Process

A sales process is a series of customer-focused steps that your sales

team can use to substantially build your customer base, generate
repeat business, and increase revenue. Each step consists of several key
activities and has a predictable, measurable outcome.

Why Your Business Needs a and establish a follow-up process after

Sales Process the sale to ensure customer satisfaction.
You might be wondering why a small Microsoft has worked closely with
business needs a formalized sales Sales Performance International (SPI),
process. If you answer “Yes” to any of a leader in sales process consulting, on
these questions, you could benefit from a sales process methodology designed
establishing an official process: specifically for small businesses. Using
SPI’s Solution Selling methodology,
• Have your customers become more
more than 500,000 sales and sales
demanding than they used to be?
management professionals worldwide
• Is it increasingly challenging for have seen opportunities in their sales
your business to attract and retain pipelines increase by 20 percent within
customers? six months. (For information, visit
• Does your sales force sometimes
react sluggishly when opportunities A formal sales process also helps you
arise? understand each customer’s business
obstacles, match their needs to your
• Do your salespeople have trouble
products and services, and deliver proof
projecting a consistent, professional
that your products can meet those
needs. With a strong sales process, you
• Is your customer data out of date can more accurately assess the revenue
and dispersed in multiple locations potential for a given customer. For
across the company? example, you can view consolidated
information for all customers in your
Having a well-defined sales process can
sales pipeline, consistently position the
help your sales force identify and qualify
unique value that your company delivers
leads, find more opportunities for repeat
versus the competition, and create
business, negotiate and close more sales,
stronger relationships with customers
and business partners.

Five steps define the sales process The goal of this step is to identify a Sales Process
methodology: prospecting for customers, qualified decision-maker, or an ally in Steps
qualifying them, developing a proposal, the organization who can help you reach
facilitating a decision, and assuring the decision-maker. 1
repeat business. Each step consists of
several key activities with predictable, Step 2: Qualifying
measurable outcomes. Prospecting
At this stage of the process you and
The steps help sales professionals the customer are sizing each other up.
succeed by: You are assessing the revenue potential
and costs associated with a customer
• Focusing on critical business issues
opportunity to decide if it’s worth
facing customers
pursuing, while the customer is assessing Qualifying
• Developing potential value for whether your company can meet his
customers to gain or her business needs. In this stage,
your sales professionals must be adept
• Creating a strong desire in the 3
at probing to unearth the customer’s
customer to buy products and
true needs, in detail. Then they need to
services supplied by your company
clearly articulate how your company’s
products or services can uniquely meet
Step 1: Prospecting
their needs.
At this first stage of the sales process,
The downloadable job aids can help 4
the salesperson is generating qualified
in this step of the sales process. For
leads, finding new opportunities
example, your sales professionals can use
among the existing customer base,
the Product/Service Benefit Statement Decision
and differentiating his or her company
template to help their customers
from the competition. Depending on
visualize what they can accomplish with
the type of business, prospecting can
your company’s product or service. 5
take many forms, including networking,
attending seminars and trade shows, The goal of this step is to convince the
sending marketing materials, and making decision-maker to move ahead with an Repeat
cold calls. in-depth evaluation of your solution. Business
More than a dozen downloadable “job
Step 3: Proposal
aids” are available to help with the
adoption of the sales process. These At this stage of the process, the
include the Business Development customer usually narrows the number
Prompter: three short, targeted scripts of companies it is considering. Small
that can be used to stimulate interest businesses must be prepared to
when making cold calls. respond rapidly and professionally
to potential leads.

Download 17
customizable job
aid templates at
When you reach this step, the promises much in the final negotiations, making
end and you must demonstrate to the the deal unprofitable. Or conversely, the smallbusiness/
decision-maker that your company can salesperson may have walked away from challenges/marketing/
deliver. You can create a mutually agreed a good sale when a low-cost giveaway jobaids.mspx:
upon product/service evaluation plan might have closed the sale. Such is the
that emphasizes key steps to prove your delicate and unstable nature of this step Business Development
capabilities and ensure a win for both the in the sales process. Prompter
customer and the salesperson. Customer Reference
The Give-Get List for Negotiation Trade-
The evaluation plan is an important tool Offs template spells out agreements you
that many salespeople overlook. After a are willing to make during negotiations Selling Points
customer agrees to the evaluation plan, (for example, the company supplies 100 Presentation
the salesperson is in control of the sales hours of training if the customer agrees Competitive Points List
process. This is because the customer can to be a reference for the company’s Product/Service
only afford to go through the steps of next six prospects), and agreements Benefit Statement
an evaluation plan with a single selling you should resist making (for example,
Follow-up to Product/
organization because of the time, cost, pricing discounts).
Service Sales Call
and resources necessary to perform each
The goal of this step is to facilitate deals (formal)
step. (View a sample evaluation plan and
that are beneficial to both your company Follow-up to Product/
other templates at
and the customer. Service Sales Call
sales-process-implementation.mspx.) (informal)
Step 5: Repeat Business
The goal of this step is to demonstrate
This step is critical to a sales process. Evaluation Plan
the value your business can provide
After a contract is signed or a sales Value Analysis
the customer, through successful
commission is paid out, the product Calculator for
completion of the evaluation plan.
or service must be delivered and Product/Service
The customer then requests a proposal
implemented as promised. A sales
from the salesperson. Give-Get List for
professional who is truly focused on
building a long-term, profitable business
Step 4: Decision Trade-Offs
relationship will take ownership and
By now, you are so near to closing this follow up with the customer to make Rebuttals to
deal that you’re almost prepared to sure that everything proceeds smoothly. Negotiation
celebrate. Unfortunately, plans and Satisfied customers are more likely to Roadblocks
details can change. For example, one of place new orders, and might be willing Negotiation Scenario
your salespeople may have conceded too to act as referrals for new clients. Product/Service
Satisfaction Tracker
Sale Follow-up Letter
Process Steps for Sales
to Large Businesses
Process Steps for Sales
to Small Businesses
Process Steps for Sales
to Consumers

How to Implement Your Sales Process

A well-defined, measurable sales process can make a big difference in your

business. But making changes to achieve this goal can be daunting to some
people in your business, who might choose to follow existing processes. The
following information can help you address these challenges.

Demonstrate management support. In general, more complex sales usually

The business owner needs to take result in a sales cycle that has more
ownership for implementing the sales steps, and vice versa. You need to adjust
process. As with any proposed change, these models to meet the unique needs
sales professionals will watch closely to of your customers and your own sales
see if a new process will be enforced by organization. (Job aid templates are
the organization. (Some businesses offer available to help with this process; visit
compensation to reward employees who
adopt the new sales process and succeed challenges/marketing/jobaids.mspx.)
with it.) Above all, business owners
Adopt a clearly defined approach.
should ensure that everyone participates.
It is important to understand that
Make the sales process work for your implementing your new sales process is
customers. Your sales process should not a one-step action; this integration
match your customer’s buying process: occurs in stages.
small businesses selling to medium
To approach your implementation more
or large companies; small businesses
easily, follow these steps: research,
selling to other small businesses; and
implement, evaluate, refine, and provide
small businesses selling to consumers.
ongoing management support.

Step 1: Research Step 4: Refine These are the steps
Speak with customers and reflect on the Your sales process needs to be a to consider when
process elements that have worked well dynamic tool that changes to reflect implementing your
for your top salespeople. the customer buying process as well as own sales process:
the evolving personnel and culture of
Step 2: Implement your organization. Look for trends and
clues in your sales process metrics and
Document your customized sales
consider doing a periodic review of the
process; tailor any tactical job aids
process to fine-tune it as needed.
that you want your salespeople to use, Research
and offer compensation to encourage
Step 5: Provide Ongoing
following the new sales process.
Management Support 2
Step 3: Evaluate Initially, a sales process creates
uncertainty and additional work, so
Quantify what is or is not working with Implement
employees might watch management
your sales process by getting immediate
closely for signs of a loss of commit-
feedback from your customers. For
ment to the new process. The business
example, has customer satisfaction
owner and sales manager (often 3
increased as a result of your new sales
the same person) must support and
process? Are they more willing to act as a
reinforce the process and changes at
referral? Are new leads being generated?
every opportunity. Evaluate
Are you generating repeat business?



How Microsoft Technology Can Benefit
Your Sales and Marketing Processes

Tracking customer communication can be a big challenge. Familiar

Microsoft Office System tools help you centralize customer information
and sales opportunities, even on a limited budget. Microsoft provides
solutions that can address your sales and marketing needs:
If your customer
informations and
tracking needs are
more robust, you
Manage customer information Market your business effectively. should consider
from one place. Keeping track of all When your marketing budget is limited, Microsoft CRM. It
your customer commitments and reaching customers and prospects can be offers integrated
communications can be overwhelming. difficult. Sales and marketing tools from Sales and Customer
With familiar, easy-to-use sales and Microsoft give you a cost-effective way Service modules
marketing tools from Microsoft, you can to quickly create customized sales and that let employees
centralize customer information and marketing materials for print, Web, or easily share infor-
sales opportunity leads to help everyone e-mail. This can help you remain within mation across the
in your company deliver the same budget, and respond faster to new and organization and
customer experience. You can also learn time-sensitive sales opportunities. enable businesses
valuable details about your business, with to implement
instant views into your sales pipeline and consistent and
revenue forecasts. automated

Work with familiar, easy-to-use tools. comprehensive view of your customer
Most businesses don’t have time to information and communications.
learn new ways to manage customer Easy-to-generate, customizable reports
relationships or market to their clients. help you track sales from initial contact
Because Microsoft tools are familiar and to close, so you can spend less time
easy to use, you and your employees gathering information and more time
won’t lose valuable time researching focusing on your clients.
the technology.
For example, the Opportunity Funnel
view provides visibility across your
Microsoft Office
entire sales pipeline. Job aids—valuable
Small Business Edition 2003
reference and analysis tools—give your
Microsoft Office Small Business Edition sales force customizable templates
2003 gives you the tools you need to that can be downloaded directly into
better manage customer information Microsoft Office System programs.
and sales leads in one place, create Information associated with a customer
professional sales and marketing or sales lead but dispersed across e-mail
materials in-house, and get organized, messages, appointments, notes, and
so you can save time and focus on documents can be contained in a single
your business. location. By getting a comprehensive
view of customer information, businesses
Downloadable templates for the
can more easily and efficiently follow up
Microsoft Office System can equip
with customers and sales leads.
your salespeople with all the right
negotiating tools—and help you avoid With Outlook 2003 with Business
unwanted surprises when the contract Contact Manager Update, you create
arrives. Keeping track of your customer Business Contacts the same way you
information and communications can create Personal Contacts, but now you
be a big challenge. Microsoft Office can connect all the Business Contacts
Outlook® 2003 with Business Contact for a given company into a consolidated
Manager Update can help you keep Account Record. You schedule meetings,
everything associated with a customer send out e-mail messages, and make
or sales lead—e-mail messages, task lists in the same way, but now this
appointments, notes, documents—in activity is captured in the Activity History
a single location. That way, you and for each account.
each of your employees can have a

Marketing your business can be a manage your information, and to follow
strain on your budget. Microsoft Office qualified sales prospects through the
Publisher 2003 can help you maximize sales cycle. This also enables faster
your time and money by creating your customer service, allowing employees to
own personalized marketing materials. spend less time searching for information
Easy-to-use design tools, customizable and more time working with customers.
templates, and familiar Microsoft Office Plus, you gain valuable customer insight
System features help ensure quick, with dozens of business reports, such as
impressive results for desktop printing, account history and sales pipeline, which
commercial printing, e-mail, or the Web. are preformatted and ready to use.
Who couldn’t use some help getting Microsoft CRM also stores all of your
more organized? Microsoft Office Small customer data in one central location, so
Business Edition 2003 offers a set of tools you always have the crucial information
to help you and your employees get the you need to take advantage of new
most out of every workday. Reclaim your selling opportunities and retain customer
e-mail Inbox with powerful spam filters, loyalty. And because all this powerful
Search Folders, and message flags that functionality can be used within the
help you cut straight to the messages familiar interface of Microsoft Office
you want to see. And in the unlikely System programs, Microsoft CRM helps
event that a Microsoft Office System you get even more value out of your
program stops running, the software existing software investment. You can
is designed to let you easily access the work with a Microsoft Certified Partner
recovered file or choose to automatically to customize your Microsoft CRM
save what you’re working on. solution for integration with third-
party applications. In addition, you’ll
Microsoft CRM get the support you need from a large
network of local Microsoft technology
If your customer information and
partners with expertise in helping small
tracking needs are more robust, you
businesses plan, install, configure, and
should consider Microsoft CRM. It
maintain CRM solutions.
offers integrated Sales and Customer
Service modules that let employees When employees can’t immediately
easily share information across the deliver consistent customer service, the
organization and enable businesses to result is a tarnished company image
implement consistent and automated or worse: lost sales and customers.
processes. Microsoft CRM can be easily With Microsoft CRM, your sales team
customized to meet the unique needs can quickly access and securely share
of your business. customer data, to ensure that all
customers receive the same depend-
You can use it to track leads, sales
able service every time they contact
prospects, and customer data, to better
your company.

For a comparison of the specific determine which Microsoft customer
features of Outlook 2003 with Business management solution is right for
Contact Manager Update and Microsoft your business.
CRM, see the following chart to

Outlook 2003 with Microsoft CRM

Business Contact Manager Update
Accessible from a Web browser l
Accounts l l
Business contacts l l
Business opportunities l l
Data recovery l l
Deployment Out of the box IT staff or partner
History tracking for accounts, contacts, l l
and business opportunities
Integration with financial applications Microsoft Office Small Business Microsoft Business
Accounting 2006 Solutions Great Plains®
Module for customer service professionals l
Outlook integration l l
Pricing Included with Microsoft Office Client/Server
Small Business Edition 2003, Microsoft pricing model
Office Professional Edition 2003
Purchase Included with Office Small Business Edition Partner
2003, Microsoft Office Professional Edition
2003, when purchased at retail or with a
new PC
Reporting Preformatted Preformatted,
Scalability/customer profile Up to 25 users Up to 500 users
Sharing customer information Peer to peer Server
Support for Windows Mobile™–based l l
Pocket PC
Supports third-party integration l
and customization
System requirements Microsoft Windows® 2000, Server
Windows XP or later
User level-based data access l
Workflow and process support l


The information in this guide gives you and your sales team the
knowledge you need to develop and implement a marketing plan and
sales process customized for your business needs. You can use our
guidance on specific technology options to help meet your company’s
sales and marketing targets.
Microsoft has created an array of sales and marketing solutions that let
you manage your customer information better and engage your clients
with professional marketing materials you can create in-house. With
Microsoft Office Small Business Edition 2003 and Microsoft CRM, you
can manage and access customer information from a single place, gain
insight into customer behavior, make better decisions, and maximize
your time and money by bringing marketing activities in-house.
By taking advantage of the tips and tools in this guide and adopting
Microsoft technology designed specifically for small businesses, you
can successfully—and easily—manage customers, information, and
your business.

For More Information
Learn more about the business solutions discussed in
this guide by visiting the following resources.

Interactive sales process demo

Explore the fundamentals of a small business sales process in this self-guided demo by visiting

Sales process reference story

Follow a sales professional as she implements and customizes the sales process methodology to help
close a big sale by visiting

Job aid templates

Choose from 17 sales-process job aid templates that you can download to help jump-start your own
sales process by visiting
Additional templates to help increase the effectiveness of selling to different types of customers
are available at in the Business and Legal section.

Microsoft Office Small Business Edition 2003

Discover how this collection of familiar, integrated, and easy-to-use programs can help you better
manage your customers and market to them more effectively by visiting
smallbusiness/products/applications/office/officesbe2003/features.mspx .

Microsoft Office Online

Gain access to online training resources, templates, downloads, and assistance from this Microsoft
Office site by visiting

Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager Update

Learn more about this enhanced version of Outlook designed specifically for small businesses
by visiting

Find out how to reach your customers and increase sales using Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 with
Business Contact Manager Update by visiting

Microsoft Office Publisher 2003

Read product information about Publisher 2003 by visiting
prodinfo/default.mspx. For content, visit

Microsoft Office Publisher and Microsoft Office PowerPoint®

For information about the benefits for small businesses of using these technologies within Microsoft
Office Small Business Edition 2003, visit

Microsoft CRM
To learn more about Microsoft CRM and where to acquire this solution, visit

© 2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Microsoft, Great Plains, Outlook, PowerPoint, Windows,
and Windows Mobile are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the
United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners. m