Most companies struggle to get sales and marketing technology to deliver the results promised by vendors and consultants. To avoid frustration, failure or worse, follow these rules before deciding to buy the technology and throughout the time you use it.
Just like a car (or an executive jet), don’t buy it unless you have an experienced, licensed driver who knows exactly where to go.
Executives who need to improve revenues or keep pace with their competitors often rush to deploy systems that they are not ready to use. CRM and marketing automation software can make incredible things happen, but do nothing without planning, leadership and teamwork.
If you have not had a formal sales process, set up one before investing in the technology.
Before cars and airplanes, business people traveled on horseback, in carriages and on trains. Often, the best travelers were those who knew all the shortcuts and stayed off the crude trails and roadways. Just as the rise of the automobile required drivers to understand and follow rules of the road, companies cannot effectively take advantage of technology unless all members of their sales teams respect and follow new standardized methods of finding, qualifying, pursuing and keeping customers.
Customize the technology to fit your business; don’t change your company to make the technology work.
Frustration and disappointment are certain when companies try to deploy sales and marketing technology without: a) having sales processes in place, b) understanding the time and effort required, and/or c) assuming that users just have to take a few training classes and are ready to improve results. Under these circumstances, the tools will become an endless burden. When introduced properly, allow users to work as they always have but do more in less time.
You cannot avoid major change and disruption to your organization.
Anyone who has physically moved a family from one home to another knows that it is a messy, tiresome, stressful and loathsome chore. If you don’t prepare, it is even worse. The larger the family and the longer they have lived in the old house, the more challenges they will face. Moving from proven sales methods to automated systems is just the same. You won’t appreciate grunt work until all the boxes have been empty and you are luxuriating in your spacious new home. Too many corporate families think the work is done way before it is. They leave important things scattered everywhere while parents (managers) comfort children (sales people) who are crying that they have no place to sit.
To harness the most powerful (as well as misunderstood, feared and unused) functions of sales and marketing technology, everybody must have fun learning the new tools and helping close sales in real time. That requires using the systems to store, tag, house and tap into information about employees, as well as prospects and customers. When used properly, these tools will reveal a wealth of previously overlooked assets.
Challenge vendors and consultants on EVERYTHING.
People hear what they want to hear, especially executives with purchasing authority who are magnets for people who tell them what they want to hear. The job of CRM/MA vendors and consultants is to get companies to engage their products or services. Only through rigorous due diligence can decision maker understand that these technologies are not “solutions,” they are tools that can only be effective as part of a long-term holistic plan to improve the company. Unfortunately, too many executives acquire CRM or MA because they hear only the part about “doing everything in one automated computer system.” Without examining what that requires of their organizations and planning properly, the result is dysfunction and waste.
If the person on top (CEO) does not use it, your company has wasted the true potential.
The beauty of CRM and marketing automation applications is how they enable all proper team members to use all the specific information needed to for the enterprise to succeed. However, in all to many cases executives require underlings to enter and keep up information, then wait for and review various reports, while rarely (if ever) logging in to know exactly what people in their organization are doing. CEOs – as much or more than anyone else – can do better and cut complexity — by being users. If it is too much trouble for the person at the top, how can it benefit anyone else? If your system gets set up properly, it will make everyone’s job easier.
Address and solve every problem.
For even the smallest organizations, implementing and refining CRM and/or marketing automation systems involves customizing pre-formatted database architectures to the specific workflows and other processes of individual businesses. Encourage trial and error, and most importantly don’t ignore the errors. Your company will be more dynamic and improve continually when managers closely monitor how each of feature performs (everything from e-mail template content, revenue assumptions, timing of campaigns, relevance of field data, etc.) and push for improvements when required. Conversely, organizations that allow their systems to be cluttered with irrelevant and unused content will struggle to keep users motivated and achieve desired results.
Make sure the whole thing is rewarding.
Having properly prepared your team for the stress and strain of adapting to new technology (maybe 3 – 6 annoying months), they will not be motivated by broad claims about “helping you work better and faster.” You must individually counsel each and every user on exactly how his or her mastery will deliver personal benefits. Offer incentives for achieving levels of competence and/or contributing ideas and content. Because automation may disconnect certain people from some stages of the sales pipeline — in the same way that assembly lines disconnected factory workers — set up processes for acknowledging each person’s role in closing deals and serving customers.
Don’t lose sight of the future.
For 21st century sales and marketing leaders, there is truly no rest for the weary. Just when social media mavens could claim they were deftly pulling the strings on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn, along came Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram and more. For enterprise users of CRM and marketing automation, new add-ons, analytics and other bells and whistles are being constantly introduced. No organization can or should respond to new technologies as they pop up. At the same time, beware of losing ground by only considering upgrades during an annual planning process. Stay on top of the marketplace and your competition. Subscribe to blogs, news feeds and mailing lists that can for varied perspectives on how you can use technology to constantly improve the value you deliver to your team and customers.