6 CRM Best Practices

August 9, 2016

Today we have a guest post from Russ Hill, Founder and CEO of Ultimate Lead Systems. BestPracticesImage-300x171

With a couple of decades of experience helping companies with their B2B sales lead management and CRM programs, 6 Best Practices have revealed themselves that I would like to share. I’ve witnessed companies succeed and increase sales by diligently applying these practices. I’ve also seen organizations waste thousands of marketing dollars and lose thousands of dollars in sales opportunities by ignoring these practices. If you are serious about improving your sales and marketing ROI, these practices will lead you to some big wins.

1. Get your sales and marketing teams on the same page

First of all, Sales and Marketing need to re-think how they fundamentally interact. They frequently operate in their own “silos.” They need to learn how to support each other to release their inherent synergy to increase sales. Customers are rarely ready to sign a purchase order when reps first call. And reps are usually not present when the purchasing decision is made. Thus, today’s marketing programs need to nurture buyers throughout their buying process and notify the rep when a buyer is ready to engage. Marketers must send the right messages out at the right time that appeal to all of the buying influences. And the sales person must make multiple calls on the right people to further cultivate the relationship. It is a team selling approach. Everyone has a role and responsibility.

Industry research shows that buyers are 60% into their buying process before they engage your company or sales person, so it’s crucial to have sales and marketing working together.

2. Define and document roles for everyone using your CRM

CRM programs are tools for facilitating strategy, driving initiatives and measuring results. Each role has responsibilities along with goals and tasks. Many users will have access, but do they all understand each others respective roles? Roles typically include administrators, sales, marketing, email marketing, social media, html and graphic designers, analytics and management. Sales and Customer Service people are often charged with making or taking so many calls per day. Marketing people must manage and grow subscriber lists, execute targeted email campaigns, promote content on social media, drive web traffic, generate sales leads and more. Clearly defining all of the user roles and responsibilities, documenting processes and communicating it all to your team will provide everyone with deeper insight into how their role supports your organization. It will also help everyone better understand how you are leveraging the CRM and marketing tools to achieve company objectives and growth. Update your documentation frequently so everyone can stay on top of the latest processes and responsibilities, and make sure it is readily available via your intranet or network.

3. Send only “Qualified Leads” to your sales team and require follow-up

Today’s customers are likely to engage your company with multiple interactions via your different marketing channels before they are ready to talk with a sales rep. A sales person’s time is expensive and they are tasked with making productive calls and hitting sales goals. A sales lead sent to a rep that doesn’t pan out – is unqualified – undermines their confidence in the whole process and in the marketing team. It is paramount for sales and marketing to be on the same page when it comes to defining “what makes a lead a lead.”

Marketing must also understand the difference between an “inquiry” and a bonafide “sales lead” from the sales person’s perspective. They need to talk with sales and come to an agreement on what “qualified lead” means. Marketing is then challenged with generating sales leads that meet that profile. From the sales person’s viewpoint, the number of page views, click-throughs, emails received and opened is a lot of noise. Sales people want to know who has requested a sales call or requested a quote and is a bonafide prospect with life-time value. These qualified leads with details on needs and purchase plans should be passed on quickly to sales reps and accessed with easy-to-use tools for managing follow-up. The more leads they can close to sales, the more confidence they will have in marketing’s efforts. Sure there are always reps who “cherry pick” and look for business to fall into their laps. And some reps ignore leads no matter how much opportunity they may represent, so management must require follow-up. But good reps respond to quality leads and know how to effectively follow-up to cultivate opportunities and win sales. Research also shows that it takes an average of 5 calls to close the typical B2B sale, so reps need to put in the right effort and follow-up.

4. Keep your CRM data CLEAN!

Clean CRM data is the crucial for the success of your sales and marketing teams and for tracking success. Unfortunately, CRM programs are frequently “garbaged-up” making the job of everyone who touches the program more difficult.

Examples: Users enter duplicate accounts and contacts rather than looking to see if they already exist. Account and contact data isn’t kept up to date. Important data is inadvertently deleted. Call reports are not entered so contact history is not up-to-date. Order history is incomplete, etc.

CRM data quality assurance is everyone’s responsibility and that expectation must be made clear to all users from the outset and with regular reminders. It is the perfect environment for “garbage in, garbage out!” Quality data enables you to build effective business intelligence, improve customer service and drive more business. Here are a few things you can practice to maintain clean data:

  • Ensure the correct data is recorded at every entry point and for each user type. (Know all entry points and user interfaces in order to identify where problems are occurring.) Train your staff so that data quality expectations and the steps to assure quality are well known.
  • Maintain consistency in data values. (For example United States and USA, or state abbreviations vs. spellings.) Force data value selections by using drop-down lists where possible.
  • Avoid entry of duplicate accounts, leads and contacts. Always check for previous entries first.
  • Merge duplicate records. Establish program rules ensure that unique account numbers are not overwritten. Use built in dupe checking functionality for preventing duplicates or third party deduping tools. Maintain complete and up-to-date information on your records.

5. Train, Train and Train!

It is impossible to get everyone on the same page regarding your sales process, goals and expectations through a single memo or meeting. CRM programs are complex with many functions – many your team may never use. But they need to know the functions that enable them to fulfill their role. Pilots don’t become proficient after a single take-off and landing. Surgeons don’t master surgery with one operation. Likewise, your team and their CRM training. Training must be ongoing with the focus on important functions and with frequent review. There are no shortcuts. Memories are short. Mastery comes through repetition.

6. Measure Success

After all of the time, money and effort invested in your program, how do you measure CRM success? Consider the following:

  • How frequently do your users access your program?
  • Is your “qualified” lead volume increasing?
  • How quickly are your reps looking at and following up their leads?
  • What is your lead conversion rate?
  • Is it improving?
  • What kind of feedback are you getting from your users?
  • What suggestions are you getting for improvements?
  • Are you soliciting them?
  • Is your social media and other marketing activity actually delivering bonafide, new leads?
  • Is your sales team happy with the sales lead quality and quantity?
  • Are sales going up?

These are just some of the questions you may want to consider when exploring how to measure the success of your CRM and lead management programs.

When considering CRM Best Practices, ask yourself honestly and realistically: How good are you at applying best practices in order to improve your organization’s return on its marketing and sales efforts? Are your “best practices” leading your company to greater success?”

Russ Hill is the founder and President of Ultimate Lead Systems, Inc., a company specializing in sales lead management, CRM and support services.

The Evolution of CRM in the Age of Social Media

April 4, 2012

We are fortunate to have caught up with Russ Hill, President of Ultimate Lead Systems. His company has been helping manufacturers close the loop between leads and sales for over 25 years. Russ has been a strategic partner of ours for several years and we have numerous clients using his systems.

In the 25-plus years Russ has been in this business, he’s seen lots of changes in how leads are delivered and with social media, how they are created. This brings to light the need to develop a social media strategy to generate sales. It also requires CRM and lead management programs that ultimately enable companies to track sales results.

Listen to our conversation – click below.

Are You Talking to Professional Tradesmen?

April 3, 2012

I’m sure you’ll answer yes, but are you talking with them or at them? We all assume that email or phone calls are the best way to communicate with your customers. I’m surprised when I ask our clients that question that it’s based on their assumptions on how their customers wanted to be contacted.

It’s interesting that we all want to build relationships and engage our customers, but if you think about it, you’re doing it on your terms not necessarily on theirs.

Here’s what I’d suggest. Have your customer service department contact your customer base and ask them how they want to be contacted (most of this can be done on regular inbound calls), for example, regarding new products or new training that’s available. You may be surprised at their answers.

For new products, they may want a one-on-one with their salesman, and for training, they may want to be contacted by email. They should touch most of your customers in a normal period of a month or so, and for those that are reached from inbound calls, start an outbound campaign to those that haven’t purchased for some time. It will give your customer service people a reason to reach out, and who knows, they might even sell something!

I’m assuming you’re working with some sort of CRM system that can be updated, and when new things come up that need to be shared, you have a better chance of getting that message out if you deliver it the preferred way the customer wants.

Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

Leverage Your Presence on Social Media Sites

July 8, 2009

Are you taking advantage of the numerous sites out there that can drive traffic back to you? If your online presence is limited to things like banner ads and blogging, you’re missing out on some great social media marketing opportunities. socialsitesFollowing is a link to 50 sites you may want to visit. Granted, they may not all be applicable, but I’ll bet you’ll find plenty to keep you busy for a while. Take your social media networking to the next level. Enjoy!

Inside CRM, 50 social sites that everybody needs a presence on.

Nicky Jameson, There’s more to social networking than LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Why Your Sales Force Needs Social Media, and It’s Not What You Think.

June 24, 2009

11945 netwSocial media is always talked about in the context of being a marketing tool. While I agree that social plays a big role in marketing, it can also help in the selling cycle. No, I’m not saying that social media is going to sell anything. That’s not its purpose.

Social can help in the sales process, and according to a recent post by Nicky Jameson, Do social media tools help B-to-B companies sell?, she points out that social can’t help close the sale. There are CRM tools out there that serve that function. Nicky says that by using social in conjunction with a CRM program, it will help the sales process forge new relationships and connections based on trust. She stresses that the relationship comes first. You must know, like and trust someone before you start doing business with them.

Social can, though, identify, evaluate, engage, promote, measure and improve relationships with potential customers. All valuable info that sales would love to have before talking to a professional tradesman. The competitive landscape has changed and users are more likely to know a great deal about solutions to their problems before they talk to anyone. In a recent BtoB magazine post, the DMA conducted an online survey to more than 3000 companies. Here’s what they found:

More than 70% of companies are currently using social networks for branding and collaboration purposes, with many viewing it as a key voice-of-the-customer tool, according to a new survey by the Direct Marketing Association.

According to DMA’s “Social Media Survey,” conducted by the organization’s Social Media Council, almost 60% of those surveyed think that social networking can have a high impact on brand awareness, with more than 45% viewing social outreach as important in providing customer insights.

So many times the marketing departments are so busy compiling all this info on your customers and potentials that they sometimes forget to share it with the front line guys in sales. According to Aberdeen Group research, top-performing companies are turning to social media as a way to connect their sales force to subject matter experts within the company so they will reduce time spent in preparation and more time selling.

The bottom line is a well-informed and educated sales force (not only on products, but on what’s happening in the social space that they play in) will represent you better and sell more!

How are you using social in conjunction with your sales force?



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