Your CRM is Not Actually for Managing Contacts

The problem with most CRMs is they’re not being used as CRMs. They’re merely being used to store e-mail contacts for mailing lists. What a CRM is actually for, is to help you make correct marketing and sales decisions. Almost any CRM will work for that purpose, because every CRM has the most critical things in common. It’s not about finding the right CRM, but about implementing CRM best practices, and sticking to them. If you do that, almost any CRM will upgrade your sales and marketing decisions. Here are the critical components:

Set Up Contact Record Fields for Marketing Analysis

zoho crmDon’t overload your contact records with fields you simply “might” use. It just clutters up the database and makes it messier to export later. Start very simple. For instance, create three dropdown fields you can use to select your most common flags:

  1. Industry: (e.g. legal, medical, financial)
  2. Business Type: (e.g. small, enterprise, agency)
  3. Service Segment: (e.g. building, remodeling, gut rehab)

Later, when you run reports, you’ll have critical information on who your converting and who you’re not converting quite so well. You might already know how you’re doing, but the numbers are still critical. Without them, you don’t know what constitutes moving the needle. You could look up in June and wonder if you’re doing better or worse than the same time last year.

Set Up Deal Sizes for Opportunity & Sales Tracking

Every CRM will let you create “deals” that have an estimated dollar value and associate contacts with the given deal. If you don’t assign a dollar value, you can’t gauge the value of a given business growth activity, short or long term.

Set Up Pipeline Statuses (also) for Opportunity & Sales Tracking

deal pipelineIt’s a one-two punch. Along with deal size, any CRM will have some means of configuring the stages of the sales process for your particular business model. For example:

marketing_project_manager

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  1. Contacted
  2. Scheduled
  3. Proposed
  4. Signed
  5. Won/Active
  6. Didn’t Win (revisit)
  7. Didn’t Win (not a fit)

As a prospect proceeds through the sales process, you update the corresponding pipeline status for that deal. This is important for showing you where your money is tied up and where the opportunities lie. If you have $75K stuck in the “proposal” but those proposals are sitting out there with no activity, you know you have sales opportunities with people who’ve already received a proposal. If that money is tied up in “initial contact” stage, it means your opportunities are for followup. The “won” status tells you the dollar value of sales for a given period of time.

Configure Automated Reports

dashboard reportingThis is where people fall down. Any CRM can provide automated reports, either by e-mail or as widgets on a dashboard or both. But the data will be misleading at best, or the reports useless at worst, if you’re not actually enforcing a policy of:

  • Adding all new leads to the CRM (when the leads are coming by e-mail or website form, this can be automated)
  • Updating the contact record fields and adding it to a deal with a projected deal size ($)
  • Updating the pipeline status each time the deal inches closer to being won or lost

This is what all the hype about automation MISSES. A CRM doesn’t actually work without some human interaction on a daily basis. Automation can reduce that, but not eliminate it. As long as YOU are the one deciding what a deal is worth, or as long as CONVERSATIONS determine where someone is in your pipeline, the CRM needs that human input.

Insist on Updating Records on Every Contact

Most companies should require that ANY/ALL contact with any prospect by any means is recorded in the CRM. Emails get attached. Calls have call notes (and some companies require notes for EVERY call for legal, sales, and collaboration purposes). Where contact occurs by e-mail (inbound or outbound), that entire process can be automated. Phone is a little different. Some CRMs are trying hard to support best practices (keeping the CRM open all day). They’ll put your inbox right in the CRM or they’ll provide outbound calling directly through the CRM. In that case, you should still take some call notes to summarize the call, but at least the contact itself is automatically recorded.

Reports should show you the successes, failures, and opportunities of your sales and marketing efforts in the aggregate. If you’re just using a CRM to store contact information or send some e-mail blasts, you’re missing out on its true power for your business. Since nearly any CRM will do all of the above, it’s not that finding the right one means you’ll begin to use it regularly. It’s about using it properly and consistently so you can learn what your needs are over time. The above items are all that are standing between you and that goal.

For help consulting on your CRM, contact MadPipe. Everything flows to your door.™

Daniel DiGriz

Daniel DiGriz is a corporate storyteller and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe, which provides leadership in marketing, educational programs, and organizational transformation for brands that want a stronger connection with their audience. A Digital Ecologist® applies strategic principles from both natural and digital ecologies to help organizations thrive across multiple ecosystems. Daniel hosts podcasts, writes a Forbes column, speaks at conferences, and his ideas have appeared in Inc, SmartBlog, MediaPost, and Success Magazine.

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