Monday, August 26, 2013

Better CRM Compliance by Sales Through More Signals & Less Noise

HubSpot's New Lead Tracking App Looks Promising

If No Sales Reps Use It, CRM Means Crappy Record Mismanagement

The biggest problem in any CRM deployment is getting compliance from your salespeople to actually use the tool. I can't tell you how many companies I've seen, large and small, who have spent a lot of time and energy implementing CRM or CRM-like tools (both off the shelf apps like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics and fully custom in-house apps), only to have none of their sales reps use the CRM or only do the bare minimum within it. Many still manage their leads in Outlook or Excel or just a plain old fashioned notebook. In my opinion. there tends to be much better usage and compliance actively using the CRM by services/support departments than sales. Not a big surprise given the inherent natures and incentives of those different types of departments.

In fairness to all of the sales dept's that I may have slighted just now by speaking an inconvenient truth, I understand why so many still refuse/ resist using the CRM to track lead activities. All humans, and especially sales reps are people of habit. Few people like change, being told what to do or feeling micro managed, especially sales. However, the way that most CRMs are deployed these days that is exactly what IT or Management is asking of the sales department. You must change. You must do things this way from now on AND we are going to tell you that you can't even use the normal email program that you've used for years. Plus you need to log everything (wasting your precious time) you do in a separate tool so we can track you (to make sure you are selling and working hard enough). Right or wrong, that at least is how the reps usually perceive it.

The saddest part about this non-compliance trend is that the reps actually would (and for those who use it already do) benefit from leveraging the CRM and putting their data and activities in there. The president of our cloud division, Keith Nealon, always says that a well maintained CRM database is one of the most strategic revenue generating assets that any company could have. He's right. You just need to figure out a way to convince salespeople to add value to the CRM.

The trick to getting better CRM compliance breaks down into two separate but related strategies:
  • Help reps close immediate opportunities
  • Let reps keep using the everyday tools they love


Ping It On

CRM advocates have always made the argument to sales departments that it is in their interest to use the CRM extensively because if they have richer data, that database will help them eventually sell more. Cleaner lead and account histories help you better identify dead leads that might be worth contacting again as well as who to avoid. More detailed information lets reps learn from others on what works and what doesn't and also helps them better prepare how they want to approach a prospect, etc...

That's all true. But sales is the most "now" focused dept. in any company. That tends to fit their personalities, but it also is reinforced with monthly and quarterly quotas. They have a ton of pressure to worry about the immediate and not the future. They are not alone either. We all know more or less that if we eat more vegetables, have less salt and exercise more we'd live longer and healthier lives, yet few can say no to that piece of cheesecake (or pizza or doughnut, etc.) sitting in front of them. Now usually trumps later.

That's where Signals from HubSpot comes in. I just learned about it at Inbound 2013. I sat through the product overview session and was able to meet with the two team leads on the project. I think that this has a real chance at getting sales reps to see the value of the CRM. I won't go into the full details on everything it, but one of the main values it has is that it gives your reps immediate feedback on active opportunities. Reps get a small ping like notification when people they send email to view their sent emails as well as when they check out links included in those emails, visit the sales rep's website and other interesting moments that occur in the sales funnel.

The appeal for sales reps is that they have easy to use, actionable info on their leads right from the two most common tools they already use: the browser (Chrome on PC & Mac for now) and Microsoft Outlook (for Windows). One of the truest clich├ęs is that time is money. For a rep, any time saved is more time to potentially improve their pipeline and you always want to take action at the right moment. Reaching the right person at the right time can make all of the difference. Without this immediate signal, reps are just guessing on when the right time will be to send that email or pick up the phone to talk to the right person who's ready to buy.

The analogy I came up with when first learning about the tool is to imagine an EMT driving around the city randomly, looking for sick or injured people who need to be taken to the hospital. That's ridiculous, I know. We have 911 and that is a big honking signal that tells the driver when and where the ambulance needs to be. Properly timed sales calls may not be a question of life and death like it is for an ambulance driver but it can be the difference between making quota or not. For most companies, sales reps are like the randomly driving ambulance EMT. With Signals on the other hand, that could be 911 for the sales dept.

Think of it as 911 for your sales department

Let Them Use What They Know

If you gave a shotgun to a caveman (no direct relation to salespeople although some may beg to differ with me -- I just like the analogy) and tell him to go hunting with it, he'll sneak up to his prey and will try to bash its head in by swinging the handle of the gun at its head instead of firing a shot. We are all creatures of habit and we do what we know. It takes time and effort to learn most new skills. That's why it's essential for successful CRM deployments that you need to tap into the tools that reps already use (or at least something that is very close to what they are already using).

My company's phone system has the deepest and most sophisticated integration with Salesforce.com in the market today (as well as plenty of other apps like NetSuite, most applicant tracking systems and other apps through our public API). It does all sorts of awesome things that improve customer service and notifies reps of activities in Salesforce.com etc. but the killer feature in my opinion is that it automatically logs to your Salesforce records all calls that you make and that you receive from your accounts. The rep doesn't even need to be signed into Salesforce for the call to be logged in the system. They could be on the street using their smartphone with our mobility app and the calls still get logged to the opportunity. They miss a call from a good prospect and get a voicemail instead? It's automatically transcribed and both the transcribed text and the audio are attached to the contact record in the CRM as well as sent via email to the sales rep.

Richer data in the CRM and no additional effort. #flippingsweet

What we are dong with the phone system, Signals is doing with email and your website (and LinkedIn BTW). Integrated with HubSpot and Salesforce.com, your reps can continue to send and receive emails from Gmail/ Google Apps and Outlook (both the Outlook client and outlook.com) while now logging that information into their contact records. Virtually no change is needed in the rep's current behavior and the installation and setup process seems drop dead easy. Want to get notified immediately when the VP of IT is looking at a page on your website? Done. Want to know when you just got a qualified lead handed to you from Marketing? Done. Need to know when your lead opens your email with the latest sales proposal? Done. Really.

Where to Go From Here - Dialing in a Better Signal

We are going to start testing Signals in our organization. I'm optimistic that it will take on quite quickly for the reasons mentioned above. Anything that seems this easy that can push the needle would be a big win for any organization.

That being said, this is still a very early stage product and there are areas where I already am looking for improvements:
  • Smartphone and tablet support for sending tracked emails. This will be a tough nut to crack given the lack of extension and plugin support for the Mail, Gmail and Browser apps on iOS and Android. More and more reps are mobile and depend on their post-PC devices to communicate. The good news is that those are more often "consumption" devices rather than "composing" devices. Perhaps a workaround would be to use a bcc email address to at least log the outbound email. Also, this could be built into the HubSpot mobile app but that would only be used most likely by the die hard, true believer sales reps, not the majority
  • Mail and Outlook support for Mac This is a first version of a new product, so HubSpotters need to be cut some slack. They built this for the two most commonly used email platforms on notebooks. With the growth of Mac, though, they'll want to quickly develop support for the Mail app and likely the Outlook app for Mac
  • Prioritize the stream. As of now, all notifications are treated equally in Signals. However, most social networks now use rich data to prioritize the notifications you receive in your streams to let you focus on high value updates. Signals should do the same. I'm not sure of all of the criteria that should be used in that but some things that come to mind are
    • Consolidate multiple notifications from the same person or account if they occur in a short period of time
    • Notifications from leads with higher lead scores are prioritized
    • Have default notification rules that can be changed by either reps or from within HubSpot depending on the organization's rules
    • NOT MY IDEA - Others have mentioned an ability to mute notifications for certain contacts. I think that is a must
  • Deeper integration with HubSpot. Let me setup rules so that interactions via Signals could trigger workflows and change lead scores in HubSpot. That would be hot stuff. They could also perhaps add this data (they would have to put these activities in buckets like "viewed emails" and "links clicked", etc...) to the reports section of HubSpot and show the Influence of these activities on prospects becoming contacts and contacts becoming customers
  • Use the data from Signals to prove the value. While the reps that do use the tool will anecdotally see the value of it, it will be more successful if HubSpot takes all of that data on notifications, better responsiveness and improved sales rep efficiency and ties that back to actual business performance. They could possibly even add some sort of gameification to encourage the desired behavior from its users
Do you see the potential? I sure do, and can't wait to get started. It's a Signal I've heard loud and clear (I don't know why that is the common expression when it should be "loudly and clearly").

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