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Most of the Sales People I Coach Hate Their CRM Software…

Yes, it’s been some time since I posted…not because I’ve abandoned my blog, but rather, I’ve been heads down moving to a new CRM system!  For those who have made this move, you know it’s a big deal – but an important one. The fact is, most of the sales people I’ve coached over the past 10 years hate their CRM – why? Because all it does is slow them down.


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What CRM Software Should Do For Sales Reps

Customer Relationship Management Software – well, that about sums it up. The software should enable or automate customer relationship management…if it doesn’t, something’s wrong.

Does your software really help you manage relationships with your customers?

If you’ve been in this business for a long time you might remember the days of using Outlook or even manilla folders to manage customers.  Those days are long gone and I’m glad.

You might have used ACT on your PC at some point – remember, back before Windows. ACT was actually a great software program before they rewrote the software to truly be a Windows application.  I was on ACT early in my career.  It worked. But after the Windows version, I think I spent more time rebuilding my database than managing relationships. It wasn’t long before I made the move to

I also had some time with Siebel – another business inhibiting application. They must train their sales people to call high, because a sales rep would never have chosen this route.

What should your CRM software do for you? If I think back on my own sales, or those I’ve coached.

It’s the automated customer relationship aspect that really matters. I can look up people in Outlook, and even send a one-off email to them.  I can take notes in Evenote, or on paper if I have to.  But it’s the automation that I covet.

Many of us are keeping up with hundreds or thousands of contacts – looking for those ready to buy. We need a system that automates the “Keeping in Touch” aspect, so we know where to spend our time. No one has time to keep up with 500 or 2000 people by phone or with one-off emails. And you and I know, if you forget to contact someone for over a year, they’ll forget they know you. Somehow we all need a way to stay in touch.

Sales managers – you need to know if your sales people are getting the functionality they need on their current platform – If not, it’s either because it has not been properly customized, they have not been properly trained, or the software just doesn’t do it.


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Here’s what CRM should do:

1. Allow the rep to group their contacts into like-groups for prospecting and follow up.

2. Mass mailing  (Without the bureaucracy of getting marketing people involved). A sales person should be able to come into work, have an idea that includes reaching out to 50 or 200 people, and send out mail to that group…I’ve worked with several sales people who can’t send a mass email!

3. Campaigns – taking that a step further, a campaign process allows that rep to create a series of emails and set them up to go out sequentially to that same group. That means they can script them out, schedule them, and track them. To make this even better, if the system knows which clients responded to the first mail, and don’t need to be involved in the second, that would be great.  Supplementing with an auto responder would be another option – I recommend to my clients that they subscribe to an auto responder if their CRM solution can’t do this for them.

4. Organize information – emailing and capturing replies, deal history, etc. This needs to be easy and quick to use. If all of the email correspondence happens in Outlook, the history is either lost or saved, but not with the CRM record for that contact – which is useless in the long run.

5. Pipeline management – with an easy to navigate system. Of course, this has to be easy to use, responsive, and include meaningful reporting. But every sales person needs an easy to use system for tracking deal progress – one with meaningful deal stages.

6. Team work and Collaboration – If your team sells in teams, the system should allow for some way to collaborate in a social business-like atmosphere.

I’m sure there is more – but these are the basics.  Feel free to comment and add other must-have features.

What Sales Managers Need

A Sales Manager’s needs are much different.  But the number one thing a sales manager needs is a productive sales team. So when the software of choice is the sales manager’s choice, but not the sales person’s choice, the manager gets great reporting tools without the required information in the system. So the reports are meaningless.

The other  thing every sales manager needs is history after a sales rep leaves. If the system doesn’t encourage sales people to keep everything in their CRM application, when they leave, the company loses just about everything that rep has produced over their tenure. This data is important to the company…

Why I Moved From Salesforce.Com

I’m sure Salesforce has a great solution – I’ve used it for 10 years. I moved to Salesforce from ACT, and it was a much needed move for me. I used it as best I could and even recommended it to others – it’s been ten years!

My primary reason for joining the Salesforce customer list was uptime. I was tired of ACT and the constant database issues. The good news is, I don’t think my system was ever down. The one great thing about cloud applications is this – as a small company, I can suddenly join companies like Cisco, having access to the same enterprise tools as a 40 billion dollar company, without spending a million dollars. The problem is, I can’t afford the customization a company like Cisco will go through to implement Salesforce in a way that works for my particular sales process.

“Campaigns” is my biggest issue with Salesforce. A way to stay up with thousands or people while adding hundreds of people automatically each quarter through pay-per-click ads and landing pages. I also need a way to reach out to hundreds or even thousands of contacts at one time, with follow up sequences that make sense.

After much trial and error, I found the Salesforce Campaign process to be completely unmanageable. On the other hand, Infusionsoft Campaigns are easy. Set up a sequence on a map-like interface, write some emails, and click “go”. The software does the rest.

Hopefully this will allow me to stay on top of more campaigns, reach more people, and reduce the number of people who just don’t care about the things I offer. At the same time I would like those I do stay in contact with to get more of my time – especially those who I call customers.  After all, it’s a relationship that needs to be managed – or perhaps nurtured.

© David Stelzl, 2014

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The Numbers Game

December 17, 2010 — Leave a comment

Time and Material billing focuses on dollars for hours, methodology focuses on process, and features focus on product.  All of this leads to a price sale.  From there expect to be sent to purchasing, pressed for discounts, and pushed off to the end of the month.  I love Michael Bosworth’s explanation of negotiation.  Once you give in, he explains, they begin to squeeze you like a wet rag until there’s no more water left.  But as long as there are still drips coming out, the squeeze continues.  It’s hard not to get caught up in this, especially when it’s year end, your manager is breathing down your neck looking for numbers, and you’re being treated like it’s a numbers game.  And the point should be made, smart selling requires a proactive approach.  You can’t wait until month end to begin selling value.

I’d recommend starting 2011 with a different mindset.  Consider things you can be doing to create some focused expertise and stop being a traditional sales person.  Become a consultant that sells.

© 2010, David Stelzl

How will the next sales person be chosen?

So how are sales people chosen in today’s market?  It used to be  that a friendly, enthusiastic person, who was able to find common ground through activities and interests had it made.  Frank Bettger wrote a powerful book many years ago called, How I raised myself from failure to success in selling, focusing on these strengths; and they are still relevant today.  However, there are millions of sales people with enthusiasm, so there has to be more.  Here are the typical things I hear when I ask, “How were you chosen?”:


Word of Mouth.  This requires a reputation for results in a market driven by demand.  One or two opportunistic deals may come through word-of-mouth, but to rely on this method for new business requires a buzz in the market – meaning you are offering something in high demand and people are talking, and, you are fast becoming a leader in your space.  People talk, so make sure your reputation is above reproach.  Working higher up in the organization increases the effectiveness of this process as executives exchange ideas at social functions.  Few IT people ever interact with peers from other companies so don’t count on business growth through this channel.

Direct Reference. Trusted advisors are chosen by the buyer.  Gaining credibility in a crowded marketplace is not easy, but references can help.  Sales people that do a good job of collecting and farming references are way ahead if they use this information correctly.  When it comes to calling on clients, posting web content, or even sending a letter or datasheet, well placed quotes from recognizable companies can go a long way in establishing trust before work has been sold.  Sales people would be wise to take this into consideration on the heels of every  well executed engagement.

Vendor Affiliation. Established connections with other recognized organizations should not be underestimated.  This is particularly true when it comes to aligning with manufacturers.  I know many companies who live on leads from vendors they partner with.  That said, don’t be deceived into thinking that being a “Cisco Reseller” or any other brand reseller will help you.  It won’t unless the sales people on the street are aligned with you.  Channel programs rarely produce any reasonable leads – rather it is the sales people who are encouraged to push business to the channel that feed the reseller.  And they generally choose who they feed.

Personal contact. I generally steer away from selling to friends.  This is the problem with multi-level marketing; these people have no friends once they sign up.  They are encouraged to reach out to the neighborhood, selling to friends, church members, club members, and anyone in their immediate social circle.  It won’t be long before everyone is wary of spending time with this sort of sales person, knowing that every invitation or phone call is an underhanded attempt to sell something.  However, that said, personal contacts that are not used to overtly sell can be powerful, and establishing helpful relationships in the marketplace through LinkedIn and other business oriented networking tools or events can be powerful.  The key here is to become a valued resource to those around you.  One of the things that has worked well for me has been helping people who are actively seeking a new job or who have been displaced from a current position.   Pro bono, I offer to help them with resumes, interview skill, and contacts.  I don’t do this to overtly solicit their help in new business, but by being helpful.  The favor is often returned.  The idea is to become a valued contact rather than a leech, and as people observe your creativity and value, you’ll be remembered when they need help later in their efforts to succeed.  One word of caution, don’t keep score, just be helpful.

Educational Marketing.  One of the most effective means of winning new business in today’s market is education.  Consumers want knowledge, and those who establish themselves as educational resources become the advisors of the future.  Add trust to this equation and you may find yourself being chosen as the next “trusted adviser”.  Blogs, articles, events, and even sales calls that center around education rather than widget sales go a long way in establishing value.  They also create business where none existed.  Become the best educator you can be.  This is where your efforts should be spent…read, listen, learn,…teach.

* Advertisement.  I’ve purposely placed these last two items, well,… last.  Advertising in a crowded marketplace is generally a waste of time.  By this I mean, high-involvement selling such as programming, designing, integration, security, etc.  Print ads target masses of people who have no interest in hopes of finding that needle in the haystack.  Years ago this worked, but junk mail has taken over the US Post Office and they are non-profit.  No one looks forward to visiting their mail box any more.  When was the last time you received a personal letter in your mail box?    And email has followed.  Spam is a problem, don’t add to it.

* RFP Response. Here’s another waste of time.  Unless you are in the account, writing the RFP (Request for Proposal), chances are you’re wasting your time.  Some companies are required to do this (for instance, Government offices), however, when commercial companies do it, they are wasting your time.  The purpose of the RFP is to create a level playing ground.  Is that what you want?  Does it make sense to strip a company of their value, selling skills, creativity, etc. when looking for an advisor or solution provider?  No!  If you are making tons of money on RFPs, more power to you; feel free to keep going.  If you are like most, this is a losing game, one you would be better off avoiding.  If sales are lower than expected, choose to educate as stated above and build your pipeline accordingly.  Don’t mistake busy work for opportunity.

© 2010, David Stelzl

All Budgets Lie

November 5, 2010 — Leave a comment

No budget!  How many times have you heard these words?  “No one has budget, there’s no money to spend, we have to wait until next quarter…”  So just go back to the office and tell you sales manager to hold off on selling until Q1.  No problem, I’m sure they’ll understand.  Meanwhile, can you raise my base so I can live a few more months?

What if the doctor said, “You’re about to have a heart attack?”  Would you tell him, “This is a bad time – Christmas is approaching and you funds are tied up, or maybe the economy isn’t great so you’ll have to hold off on treatment?”  No way!  You’d be there, reallocating, taking money out of savings, or even taking money out of 401K with a penalty if you needed it to live on while recovering.  Remember, you’re on commission, so if you’re not selling, you’re not getting paid.  Insurance might cover some bills, but you’re going to need living money.  Yet, you still take care of the issue.  Why?  Because it’s urgent!  Because budgets lie.

Security is urgent.  There is no budget.  This is why I am always talking about selling security, or tying risk mitigation to product and project sales.  Would you believe I bought for security reasons?  That’s right, I was experiencing major problems with Act! and on the verge of losing my contact database.  After three corruptions I moved to a product used by major global companies, figuring that if Salesforce was experiencing problems, John Chambers would be on the phone pushing them toward a solution.  I bought is at a time when funds were low, but it didn’t matter.  I reallocated.

Find the urgency.  Every company is experiencing urgent threats, they just don’t realize it.  Be the one to show them the issues – but make sure you show the people that matter in a way they can understand it.  Then show them the solution.  If it’s as urgent as a heart attack, you’re in.  And for asset owners, losing 100 million credit card numbers borders on a heart attack.

© 2010, David Stelzl

Several companies ago, one of my employees, our security practice manager, made the comment, “Eventually everyone realizes that security is the place to focus.”  He is right, just about everything hings on security when it comes to technology.  You can have all kinds of ROI, operational efficiency gains, etc. But if it’s not secure, it doesn’t really offer any benefit to the corporation.  Here is Marc Benioff, CEO of reminding us that, security is a core part of the value proposition regardless of what technology you are selling.

© 2010, David Stelzl