CRM platforms like Salesforce and marketing automation programs like HubSpot can be amazingly effective sales and marketing tools. It won’t be long until every company will need to master these tools or be left behind — way behind.
Programs like these have a steep learning curve, however. Adopting one without a clear idea of how to use it effectively is like buying a race car but not knowing how to drive it. Too often, the results are:
- Trying to floor the pedal before you’re ready. Instead of zooming across the track, you end up crashing like the last company that tried to use CRM or marketing automation as an “easy solution.”
- Investing in a race car that you drive as cautiously and slowly as a sedan. You don’t know how to drive faster to get the full benefits of these programs.
- Going off course in a car that’s meant to stay on track and help you win the race.
How Not to Use CRM
The VP of Purchasing for a large homebuilder sent me the following example of how these programs can hurt your sales when they’re not used correctly.
I have deleted the name of the builder and the building materials company to keep the focus on the problem instead of calling out anyone in particular. All you need to know is that they’re a large, well-known and successful company that sells products to homebuilders and others.
The manufacturer offers several types of products. The builder who wrote to me currently buys one type of product from them. The company would like to sell the builder additional types of products.
Here’s How That’s Going.
In the last two days I received two separate calls for a call center wanting contact information from me so a local sales rep can contact me to quote this company’s products. There are so many things wrong with this.
1. The national builder accounts sales rep for our region knows me very well and our situation on products that they sell. Why would I be placed on this list to call?
2. I also have known the regional sales manager for 20+ years and I’m still on the list to call for my contact information. You would think that they would have a process to remove builders that they know from the list so as not to bother us. If they can’t get something simple, like this, how well do they run their company?
3. They are paying a call center to do the work of their sales staff. They expect me to say, ‘wow what an opportunity to give someone that I do not know my contact info so they can bother me.’ I asked both callers who my local contact was and they had no clue. ‘Give me your information and I will pass it to the company to be assigned.’”
The problem is not the use of a call center or the fact that the company delegated or outsourced this task. The problem is that they didn’t bother coordinating this effort with their sales team. I have seen other companies make this same mistake with emails.
Converting a customer like a builder to your product is rarely accomplished with a single sales call. It takes time. One interaction builds upon the next. With each interaction, the customer is getting more familiar and comfortable with the company that wants him to switch to their product.
Over the course of each interaction, the customer is learning how they feel about you.
- Are the sales reps knowledgeable? Can they help me be more successful? Can I trust them?
- How is their product compared to what I’m using today?
- What will it be like to deal with this company? Will they be easier or harder to do business with than our current supplier?
- Are they congruent? If they tell me that we’re important to them, do they act like it? If they tell me they have excellent customer service and support, do their actions actually support this?
In the example I shared above, the company has undercut and undone the work that the sales team has put in with this customer. Any favorable opinion they had about this company has now been set back.
The customer wonders, “If you can’t manage your contact information better than this, how can I trust that you will manage my orders any better?”
Another Problem They Created
That was bad enough, but there’s more. Here’s the rest of the email.
“4. The one that is really upsetting and makes this unbelievable is why are they even looking for new business? They have very long lead times on the products that we buy from them today. They are causing delays and additional costs to us and our suppliers due to back orders.
We have some products that have been on order for 10 weeks and they cannot even tell us when to expect them. The normal lead time is 3 weeks. They have not indicated that these lead times will come down anytime soon.
They cannot even tell our suppliers what products are on a truck when it leaves their warehouse.
This really pisses me off that a supplier that cannot fulfill current demands from loyal long term customers is going into the market to get more business. Will they promise and execute shorter lead times to obtain that business?
I have sent an e-mail to my National Builder rep asking why should I ever consider buying more products from them with this going on?”
There is nothing wrong with pursuing new business opportunities. That’s how companies grow. However, if the sales people had been part of this they probably would have deleted this customer from this program.
Instead of selling this builder more products, this company is now at risk of losing the business they already get from him.
In their quest to add new customers, many companies forget that it’s much easier to retain and grow an existing contract than it is to convert new customers.
Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie
Before the call center reached out to this builder, he assumed that “We’re all in this together.” Yes, the lead times were longer but he was confident that the suppliers were working to improve things.
Many of your customers are very frustrated as they are trying to make their own customers happy during a difficult time.
When a company makes a customer or valued prospect feel that “We don’t know you. You are not important to us. The relationship you thought you had with us is obviously wrong.” they will lose them very quickly.
This builder is facing similar lead time issues with other suppliers but this company has now become the focus of his frustration.
Once a customer starts looking for what’s wrong rather than what’s right with a supplier, it’s very easy for them to find even more things that are wrong.
Before they were poked by this interaction, many of these issues were not a big deal. Now they’ve become more important and more noticeable, putting the supplier at further risk of losing their customer.
When you do something like this, you make it easier for the competitor that has been patiently waiting for you to screw up to replace you.
How to Avoid Problems Like This
These problems are common, but they’re not hard to solve. Here are two things you can do to avoid finding yourself in the same kind of mess.
1. Work with an outside CRM expert who understands the building materials business.
Training an internal person will not get you the results you want. As they learn how to make the program work for your organization, they will make mistakes like the ones described in that email.
Calling in the professionals will also improve buy-in. Everyone likes change as long as they don’t have to change. A CRM requires a lot of change from sales and marketing.
When a CRM is set up and managed internally, the person in charge of it usually reports to sales and marketing. This creates a situation where it’s the other department that has to change.
The right outside expert will make both sides aware of the changes they need to make and reduce resistance to executing those changes.
If you’d like to know who some of these experts are, reply to this email and I can help you find the right one.
2. Keep the sales team involved.
We’re moving toward a digital world where relationships are based on experiences rather than people. It’s a world where everything you need to know about a customer is stored online, meaning it can be accessed automatically and considered as part of each customer communication.
That might be the kind of experience we get with a commercial giant like Amazon but the building materials industry is still a long way off from that. Right now, the best customer knowledge is still locked up in the minds of your sales reps. Not getting them involved is a major mistake.
Take the Wheel
Sitting behind the wheel of a race car is a unique experience. It feels different than sitting in a regular car or truck. You can practically feel the power even before you turn on the engine.
But if you don’t know how to drive it without wiping out, how to make sharp turns at incredible speeds, or how to keep steady while going at maximum velocity, you’ll never get the actual race car experience.
That kind of thing takes a lot of practice and experience. The best most of us can do is drive it around like a go-kart.
CRM and marketing automation programs are like that. They can take you to new speeds, enable you to do things you weren’t able to do when all you had were phone lines and email accounts and that can give you a serious competitive advantage.
But if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can just as easily skid out of control or putter along as slow as you would with a passenger vehicle.
So, bring in the experts, get your sales team involved and make sure you know what you’re doing before you grab the wheel.
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