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June 2008

Why CRM Software Is Like Sheet Music, But It Isn’t The Software’s Fault!

A friend, Bill Herr, got me thinking one day when he said, “CRM Software is like handing a salesperson sheet music and expecting them to sing a few bars.”   How true I echoed.  Considering I failed in my first implementation of a rudimentary CRM system by failing to properly train the salespeople, I understood what he meant.   Yes, they had a few hours of cursory training but certainly not enough.   This was the mid-80’s and I am still smarting from the experience. 

From observing many companies, not much has changed.   The salespeople have the laptops, but knowing how to use the most important piece of software the company can give them is still hit and miss.    I run into this failure when I call on clients in my consulting business and I hear of it from SLMA members.

“Huh, oh, yes, we got the software,” the manager mumbles and looks at me side-ways.  “Do your salespeople use it,,” I ask.   The answers range from no, to hell no, to kind of.   On occasion they are using it in the way it was intended, but that is more often the exception.    It doesn’t have to be this way.  It can be solved the old-fashioned way with leadership.  But before we apply the “L-Word” to the issue, lets start with some factual barriers.

1.       Salespeople must be sold.  Unless you really sell them on the system, they think it is optional.  Salespeople approach all new processes and systems with a passive aggressive attitude.   Change is not their favorite word or activity.    If you do not explain to the salespeople why they must learn the software they will passively resist until they see if you are serious about enforcing usage.    In some cases they will aggressively resist, especially if item 5 below is detected.  

2.       Corporate managers aren’t using the system.   When salespeople detect lukewarm use of the system at corporate they will stop using it or use only small parts of it that help them personally.   

3.       No sales steps.  The CRM system for the salesperson’s use must be based on their sales process.  Identify the steps to the sale and if it makes sense, they will go along with you.  The place to start?  Ask the salespeople first and check with them last before you go live.  I have seen company presidents create the sales steps and then it all had to be revamped six months later when the salespeople rejected the process.  

4.       What’s in it for them?  Salespeople must get more from CRM system than anyone else in the organization.  If the CRM program helps them sell, reduces paperwork, eliminates the dreaded spreadsheets, and has a superior calendaring system, etc., you may convince them to use it.   

5.       Integrate key sales functions.  If you can integrate your quota system, automatic phone dialing, etc., into the process, you will get more cooperation.   

6.       Sales Management.  You must have all levels of sales leadership buy into and use the program.   If this doesn’t happen there will be CRM brownouts and blackouts and most of will be traced to lukewarm acceptance by sales management.    

7.       Enforcement.  You must enforce the usage of the program.  No exceptions.   This is where leadership enters.  Leadership for many is really another word for coaching.  Coach them into using it.  

8.       The system must address the issues of sales lead management.   As strange as it may sound many systems are not configured to process and sales inquiries.  I have seen systems that were good contact management, had great pipeline reports, served the needs of customer service and still couldn’t deliver a sales inquiry to the right salesperson; campaign reports were scanty to non-existent.  I have witnessed systems that cost millions and still could not deliver a sales inquiry, much less a qualified lead.

This is just my opinion. What’s yours?

Sales Lead Management Association Exceeds 500 Members

Los Angles, CA - - June 12, 2008 – Mark L. Friedman Executive Vice President of the Sales Lead Management Association (SLMA) announced today that the seven month old organization reached its 500th registered member on June 9th, 2008.   Mark said, ”We are dramatically gaining membership and with each new member benefit we help to enrich the sales lead management community.”

Brian Steel of Performark, Inc., said, “The SLMA growth curve proves the value of the association goal of providing tips and useable information for the sales lead management community.  They have done amazing work in a short period of time.”

Executive Director, James W. Obermayer said we have:

  • 108 articles and 35 authors.

  • 12,672 visitors have come to the site

  • 10,001 unique visitors

  • 33,283 pages viewed

  • Visitors from 79 countries

  • Two marketing studies have been done: one on lead generation with BtoB Magazine and one on lead management.

  • Blog and Newsletters

  • Bookstore, Book Review and Book Giveaway

  • A Professional Development affiliation with the Business Marketing Institute

  • The SLMA Group on LinkedIn is now at 208 members

  • National Sales Lead Management Week was June 9-13th and will be repeated in 2009.

Membership by job title: 

  • 31% VP or Director

  • 22% C-Level

  • 21% Manager

  • 16% Other

  • 7% Partner

  • 3% Consultants

When asked about the future of the organization, Obermayer and Friedman said, we are bringing on new association benefits each month including a speaker’s bureau, vendors and job directory.   New courses on sales lead management practices are due by fall.

Media Contact: 
Sue Campanale

To Get Sales Lead Follow-Up You Still Needs Rules!

A recent (May 08) survey by BtoB Marketing and the Sales Lead Management Association (circulation and membership) showed, among other things, what percentage of sales inquiries follow-up are being reported.  273 of those surveyed answered this question.                               

57.1% said they have less than 45% or follow-up.  Obviously, there are no follow-up rules in these companies.  Salespeople are in charge of the Asylum.  They are left on their own to decide if a person who has come to their company to ask for information is worthy of follow-up.  How insane can a company to be to spend the stockholders money and lose control over the result by allowing individual salespeople to make this decision?  The way to solve the problem:

  • Follow-up of inquirers is not an option but mandatory by salespeople who are given inquiries.

  • Marketing departments must prove the ROI of the lead generation dollars entrusted to their care.  They put money at risk and must report on the dollar returned in final sales dollars and units. 

Anyone have any ideas that will motivate salespeople to follow-up every inquiry, not just those they like?

The report is available from BtoB or the SLMA.  This report contains research and opinions on marketing spending in the last half of 2008, obstacles to spending marketing dollars to drive sales, immediate priorities for the remainder of 2008, the percentage of business from sales inquiries, and the percentage of salespeople who report on the disposition of inquiries. These results were published originally by BtoB Magazine in it’s BtoB Special Issue S15, Lead Generation Guide 2008. 

Click here for the online version.

Cooperation Always Based On Self-Interest: Reprinted With Permission From BtoB

BtoB Online - The Leading Source of B2B MarketingThere, I've said it. Self-interest tops the bosses' orders, loss of market share, missed sales quotas and good, old-fashioned altruism (which took the last train for the coast in mid-2001).

We are a society of “What's in it for me?” or at the very least, “If I have to do something for you, I'll make sure it doesn't hurt my budget or my reputation.” Painful as it may seem, until the good times roll again, marketing and sales have staked out opposite sides of the turf, and defense trumps offense if it means that the two sides must play together to win.

The loser in this “Retain-my-job-at-all-costs” battle is the company that hired marketing and sales executives to find new business. The issues are pure and simple leadership values. Of course, fear drives foolish actions and decisions—and seldom innovative thinking—but we can jump the chasm of fear by understanding that when our backs are to the wall, we always step up. When we feel there is no choice, choices appear. When sacrifice is asked of us, real leaders come through because ... it is just the right thing to do. I suggest that for sales and marketing executives, the time to step up and be counted is now.

When something as unpleasant as lagging sales hits the fan, and marketing and sales refuse to work together to find new business, every one of us gets splattered with the consequences—some more than others. From shareholders to workers who are laid off, life becomes difficult for many.

One thing I have encountered in many companies is that when times are tough, the pipeline is drained of opportunities; and salespeople with limited time cannot recover without help. Help can only come from two directions; marketing or a recovering marketplace. Few people can wait for marketplace demand to shift back in their favor. The only solution is that marketing must step up and create the wealth they are capable of generating. Marketing and sales must put aside their differences, step up and make a difference.

I suggest there is a recipe for this. Do not leave out any ingredients. You have plenty of opportunity to put your creativity on the outcome, just don't change the sequence. But before listing the ingredients, I'd like to note the following facts.

* Regardless of the severity of a downturn, someone is always buying and someone is always selling.

* Pipelines are drained in difficult times and must be rebuilt.

* Growth is sustained and built on a formula that simply says the larger the pipeline of opportunities, the more we will sell.

* To increase sales, increase sales activities.

* Marketing and sales can build a pipeline together to a greater degree than if each were to work alone. In this instance one plus one equals three.

* Without the cooperation of sales and marketing people to build an opportunity pipeline, salespeople can seldom do it on their own; and they are left to the recovery of the market place. Exceptions to this fact appear in small companies but never in large ones.

Ingredients for cooperation:

Marketing must know the quotas for the salespeople. You must know:

* What has to be sold and exactly how much in dollars and units by product and by salesperson?

* The closing ratio of an opportunity. If a salesperson gets 10 opportunities, what percentage will be sold?

* The average sales cycle for the products that have to be sold. How long does it take to sell the product?

* How is the commission plan structured?

* Do you have to make up for the past (lost sales) or can you be satisfied with just the future growth?

Marketing must create the most-qualified opportunities possible. The more qualified the sales lead is, the less valuable sales time will be wasted on talking to unqualified people. Marketing must find out the prospect's need, desire, time frame, application, budget, etc.

When marketing knows the closing ratio of the inquiries and sales leads, they will know how many opportunities have to be created to reach the sales goals in the time allotted.

Sales must follow-up 100% of the prospects. No buts, no arguing. They have no choice but to do it. Complaining and whining about lead quality won't sell product; only sales calls will sell product.

Marketing must evaluate every inquiry and lead created in the campaign. They must know the raw inquiry cost, qualified lead cost and closed lead cost.

Sounds simple? It is more simple that you can imagine for some companies. Marketing and sales must cooperate in building a predictable pipeline of opportunities based on quotas. When both do their parts, the company wins, no one in HR is laying people off, there are happy shareholders and life couldn't be better. Can you rise to the challenge and stop the turf wars? After all, it is in your self-interest.