The Cost Marketing Pays When Sales Misuses the CRM

Bad things happen when sales reps ignore all of the insights their organization’s marketers place in the CRM system. From management not being able to discern how pipeline strength correlates to sales activity to them simply focusing on closed deals, erasing CRM’s impact on the sales cycle has consequences.

Bad things happen when sales reps ignore all of the insights their organization’s marketers place in the CRM system. From management not being able to discern how pipeline strength correlates to sales activity to them simply focusing on closed deals, erasing CRM’s impact on the sales cycle has consequences. In this post, we will explore why CRM misuse occurs, what the consequences are and what marketers can do about this issue.

First, a CRM Tale of Woe

Many years ago, I worked for a firm with more than $100 million in annual revenue. There, the worldwide sales VP refused to review the pipeline and sales forecast from the CRM system in the weekly sales call with his regional management. Instead, he had Excel spreadsheets his staff maintained for him. I urged him to use the beautiful reports and graphs in the CRM system, to no avail.

He didn’t believe the data. It’s a catch-22.

The problem with leaders not using the system and positioning the data as the single source of truth is that it forgives the teams from having to enter data into the system, and so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. The result is sales reps don’t add opportunities until the leads were much more advanced, at Stage 5 or 6, and thus avoided any management scrutiny over their nascent deals. Sales management gave them kudos for bringing in bluebirds (unanticipated deals), and the reps got the data in the system just in time to ensure they get their commissions.

Consequences of Underutilizing the CRM

The outcomes for marketers and organizations of management allowing sales reps to largely operate outside the CRM are:

  1. No visibility into the early sales pipeline.
  2. Management focuses entirely on the incipient closed deals.
  3. Marketing cannot differentiate between contacts who are in a purchase cycle from those who are window-shopping.
  4. Sales management cannot connect sales activity to pipeline strength.
  5. Marketing operations does not get feedback on successful campaigns until late in the buyer journey.
  6. Sales reps use the system largely to ensure they get commissions
  7. Sales reps might put activity (calls, meetings, tasks) in the CRM to ensure they drive a perception that they are busy, but might still not add opportunities until the last moment, and otherwise don’t use the system.
  8. Sales reps fail to take advantage of all of the recorded digital interactions prospects have had and are dutifully reporting the lead/contact record.

Running a business effectively requires the earliest visibility possible into the sales pipeline. It enables sales management to quickly see if new reps are working out, marketing analytics can pinpoint which programs are sourcing the best leads, what campaigns are moving leads along the funnel, which products are hot, which regions are soft, which reps need more training, etc. So, allowing the reps to not use the CRM until opportunities are well-advanced has many downsides.

The CRM system is the basis for tracking and enabling sales workflows in the same way a marketing automation platform enables marketing workflows. Prospects have workflows, too, as part of their buyer journey.

These three workflows are interconnected. Prospects interact with marketing content and online properties. Sales interacts with prospects via email and telephone calls. And marketing can interact with the sales workflow by providing visibility to the prospects’ digital interactions and helping move prospects along their buyer journey. Marketing does this by varying how they market to prospects based on their opportunity stage, for instance.

If CRM is lightly used by sales reps, they break the connection of these three workflows, and run the risk of marketing and sales looking uncoordinated in their communications to prospects and lowering productivity of both organizations, resulting in poor customer experiences.

Steps to get Sales Reps Fully Utilizing CRM

  1. Ensure they understand the value to them (WIIFM)
  2. Add more value to the CRM system. For example:
    • Enrich the contact/account data
    • Add plugins, like LinkedIn
    • Route new leads only through CRM
    • Enable sales reps to opt “not-ready” prospects into specific nurturing campaigns
    • Enable salespeople to send trackable emails through the CRM
    • Provide beautiful HTML trackable email templates for specific content
  3. Get sales management to agree that ALL pipeline reviews at all levels of sales management will be conducted using CRM reports, not Excel or another tool.
  4. Create reports that highlight the biggest users and the biggest non-users of the system
  5. Create reports on most recent and least recent contact/account updates by owner

Conclusion

When marketing and sales coordinate on communications with prospects and customers, magic can happen. When sales breaks that chain of communication by failing to fully utilize the CRM system, they isolate marketing from pipeline generation success metrics and ignore the digital body language of the people they are most hoping to impress — prospective customers.

The Best LinkedIn Message After Connecting

LinkedIn connections are seemingly a smart way to start conversations with potential buyers. But do they work? Are they helping sellers start conversations after being connected? The short answer is no, mostly not. Even when you personalize your approach.

After connecting on LinkedIn, what’s the best message to start conversations with potential buyers you’ve linked to?

Today I will provide a surprising answer based on:

  • Collective intelligence of my students (sellers);
  • A chat with Simon Marley, CEO of Growth Logik and;
  • A LinkedIn follow-up message example from a Chief Executive at a major CRM company.

LinkedIn connections are seemingly a smart way to start conversations with potential buyers. But do they work? Are they helping sellers start conversations after being connected?

The short answer is no, mostly not. Even when you personalize your approach.

Why Personalized Messages Often Fail

“Most people don’t personalize their LinkedIn invitation messages,” says Bruce Johnston, an expert on using LinkedIn to prospect clients. “But even if they do, many LinkedIn members don’t know how to see a personalized invitation.”

This is a serious problem. Your message not being seen leaves the invitation recipient to judge why you sent the invitation.

“Seeing ‘sales’ or ‘business development’ on a profile becomes the kiss of death for that connection possibility,” says Mr. Johnston.

You may interpret acceptance of a connection as an invitation to start a discussion — but the other side doesn’t. Why is that?

Short answer: personal messages within your invitation are increasingly not seen.

Why Most Messages After Connecting Fail

Most messages being sent after connections are made with prospects are focused on a near-term sales pitch. This is 80 percent of the problem. Sure, this sounds obvious. But major CRM companies — who sell clients prospecting support using LinkedIn — are using methods that don’t work.

At the very top. Officer level.

Prospects (in all categories) are burning-out on sellers’ LinkedIn pitches. Worse, connection requests are becoming a prelude to spam.

Even if you are good at using LinkedIn to start conversations with targets, others are not. This makes clients’ increasingly terrible experience (with LinkedIn’s platform) your problem too.

Asking to connect with a prospect is becoming less effective for many sellers. Because connection requests (as a first touch) is a tactic used by low-skilled sales practitioners.

Your targets are likely becoming numb to LinkedIn messaging in general because of this.

Example of a Failing Message

I recently received the below spam message from a Chief Officer of a major CRM company. Here at Target Marketing I’m withholding his identity.

I connected with this COO after he requested a connection using this seemingly personalized message based on behavior I demonstrated to his company:

“Hi Jeff, you recently subscribed to the ABC CRM blog and wanted to connect say thanks.”

Being connected to this person, to me, seemed wise. Especially considering the exceptional blog content on his site. I accepted and immediately received this spammy, pushy message:

Hi Jeff thanks for connecting! I’m the COO of ABC CRM (abccrm.com) and I connected with you as we both work in sales and have a lot in common. I’ve been following the growth of company name and wanted to see if I could be able to help out? I would love to speak to you about fine-tuning your sales processes, generating more leads and hitting targets using ABC CRM? Also, if you use Linkedin a lot for getting new business, I’d love to show you how our platform automatically syncs with Linkedin to achieve even better results? Keep in touch, Sam.

Let’s be clear. This message is probably not being sent by Sam. It’s being sent by a low-skilled administrative assistant who is using Pat’s LinkedIn account to identify and warm-up leads. Nothing wrong with that.

But everything is wrong with this message. Sadly, this company is providing services to clients using these kinds of messages.

Pushy templates don’t work.

The reason this message is likely not starting conversations for Sam is because it:

  • Pushes his desire to sell on me (I’m already primed to not be pushed)
  • Makes Sam look desperate (repeating words like “I would love to”)
  • Exposes a clear lack of research (knowledge about what I do)
  • Lies: claims to be knowledgeable of me with a shallow, canned line
  • Lies again: claims we have “a lot in common,” yet doesn’t name one
  • Doesn’t bother to replace “company name” with my company name!

Conclusion: This is a spam message from a Chief Executive of a large CRM company. And this is not only common practice, it’s an expensive practice many organizations are paying for.

Should you stop making LinkedIn connections?

Maybe, maybe not. Here’s the rub: Are you using LinkedIn to prospect near-term buyers or planting seeds to “farm” conversations over time?

Near-term conversations tend to be “push” oriented. Pushing for a meeting. Pushing information about your company. These are often needed, I grant you. But they fail to identify future-term buyers.

Future-term (longer sales cycle) messaging tends to be “pull” oriented. Less desperate. Less interested in a meeting, more interested in a conversation about a meeting.

It’s the difference between gunning for the meeting in near-term and probing for a qualified, future-term appointment. These days asking for the meeting too soon is a common mistake. Because clients:

  • Don’t (yet) realize they need the meeting;
  • Are overwhelmed with meeting requests in inboxes from pushy sellers;
  • Need time to manifest their nagging fear or objective into demand.

It’s more likely your prospects are open to considering a short “meeting qualification discussion” where a meeting becomes the outcome of the short email and/or telephone conversation.

Even if that meeting is months away … in the making.

Thus, using connection requests as a “farming” may make more sense for you.

Hunting vs. Farming on LinkedIn

“Over the past 6 months I have added 450 new connections,” says Simon Marley. “All the connections are C level. I can say all my sales start with farming LinkedIn … and yes I have made sales after people have ‘cold connected’ with me, but it’s taken time.”

Marley knows all his cold connections don’t know him. Thus, they don’t trust him.

“So the likelihood of prospects buying from me early in the process is unlikely. But if I have a connection, it gives me another opportunity to influence their thinking.”

He says he’s starting many conversations with a connection request. But 99 percent of these conversations go nowhere in the short-term.

“But that doesn’t matter as I’m playing the long game,” he says.

Thus if you are using connection requests as a primary means to set near-term meetings with prospects, beware.

Most of my students are good at starting conversations with prospects — across multiple industries. But they share a similar strategy. They are applying LinkedIn connection-related messaging:

  • Less as time goes on (due to lack of response from LinkedIn contacts overall)
  • As part of a multi-pronged campaign (phone, email, InMail, direct mail, etc.)
  • In a way that doesn’t rely on LinkedIn’s communications tools to start conversations
  • As a means to spark a discussion that qualifies a future meeting

Want better results when prospecting? Start asking yourself better answers.

After connecting on LinkedIn what’s the best message to start conversations with potential buyers you’ve linked to?

Back up for a moment. Consider the role of your connection request in context of your overall prospecting strategy. What is your communications technique on LinkedIn? Do you have one?

LinkedIn connections are not always the best way to start conversations with potential buyers. They should not be your default approach tactic.

Why Your Sales Email Sequence Isn’t Working

The best way to illustrate why your sales email sequence isn’t working is with an example from my inbox.

EmailThe best way to illustrate why your sales email sequence isn’t working is with an example from my inbox. Does this look familiar to you? I’ve disguised the name of the company to protect the innocent.

Email Sequence Touch No. 1

Subject: Quick question

Hi Jeff,

I’d like to introduce ABC, software that helps businesses discover growth opportunities while avoiding risks. ABC helps coaches and their clients discern the “story behind the numbers” that every business’ finances reveal.

Our coaching partners use ABC to offer additional value to businesses like THIS COMPANY and THATCOMPANY, pinpointing where problems might lurk, or where profitable opportunities might appear … based on data, not intuition.

I’d love to answer your questions, but if you’d prefer to learn on your own, here’s a link to ABC to learn more, or you can book an personal online tour.

Talk soon!
Phil

This “first touch” sales email doesn’t work because the:

  • subject line is a lie — the contents don’t contain a quick question!
  • first sentence wants to introduce me to a product (thanks for alerting me so I can delete it!)
  • problem this sender solves is way too generic (growth and reduce risks)
  • sender spends the entire time talking about themselves, not me
  • pushes information about the sender at me and encourages a website visit, rather than asking me a question!

Persistence is vital to success. Thus, a sequence of email messages and voicemail scripts is necessary. This is — and always will be — part of effective sales practices.

Need to set meetings? These days, it’s taking an average of seven touches in a sales cadence to yield an invitation for discussion. My clients report (on average) email No. 4 is where they generate the most response.

However, most sales email sequences don’t work because they:

  • are push-oriented (rather than pull, curiosity-focused)
  • contain an unsubscribe link (always a tip-off that this is NOT personalized)
  • are trying to “add value” rather than provoke a reaction
  • are not being complimented with calls and direct mail

Email Sequence Touch No. 2

Back to my example of typical sales email sequences — and why they fail sellers.

Hi Jeff,

It’s likely that your clients rely on you to advise them. ABC is a tool that helps business coaches with clients like THISCOMPANY to:

  • Increase revenue by modeling cash flow alongside longer term sales projections
  • Manage capital and avoid shortfalls by tracking invoices and bills
  • Track the break-even point by quickly building a powerful, repeating budget
  • Rapidly compile and compare “what if” scenarios to make solid operational decisions

I’d love to walk you through the benefits of ABC for your clients (or for yourself!) in a quick online tour you can schedule at your convenience.
– Phil

This email doesn’t work because the sender:

  • shows me, immediately, “this message is unpersonalized”
  • continues to talk about himself
  • guesses about me rather than proves he’s researched my business
  • keeps “loving” the opportunity to sell me (Phil is desperate)

If you want to fail, this is the way forward. Push. Most of what is causing failure in this case is this element of push, rather than pull. The other element missing is personalization.

Not that fake personalization (“I noticed on your LinkedIn profile that you’re my target customer”). Actual knowledge. For example, Phil should stop guessing that my clients rely on me to advise them and take the 5 seconds to say, “Jeff, your clients rely on advice from you to use email more effectively when prospecting. I noticed you work with ABC Client. I also help financial services customers.”

Make this email real to me. Stop cutting and pasting templates. Start talking to me. Use a template but customize it! Take a few seconds to research me, Phil. Prove to me you’re not a machine.