No system for sales people

As a young advertising account manager I distinctly remember my excitement when I first encountered databases, hey I’ve been around a while! Suddenly I could answer the question of what was working and what wasn’t. I could track and record things, I could segment and target, I was in marketing heaven.

These were followed by the heady days of Rogers & Pepper’s 1-2-1 marketing and suddenly all we were talking about was Customer Relationship Marketing and CRM systems. We now had increasingly powerful tools at our disposal to help us market, all before many of us had been troubled by this internet thing.

Now, I hear you asking, what does this have to with sales people? Well in my reminiscing about the early days of CRM is contained an inconvenient truth. CRM isn’t a tool for sales people it’s a tool for marketers. We love databases and CRM is only a passive database with many fields that help you understand, target and segment. Sales people hate this stuff, they are visual and verbal. They run on emotional intelligence and gut feel.

More practically CRM systems are often missing the real stories that help sales people to do the two most important jobs in sales, to qualify and advance. And if the system does have space for this information by the time the poor sales person has completed all the information the marketers want their answers tend to be so cursory that they are of no real value to their organisations.

CRM systems should be able to answer key questions around the value of the pipeline and where sales are getting stuck, but the data is rarely there to support this. In the era of A.I. I’m sure the CRM vendors and ecosystem partners will come up with innovative solutions for this, which as a marketer I’d welcome but probably not as much as sales person who is out on the road and trying to update their organisations CRM system on the mobile device at twenty words per minute.

To get round this challenge our sales team uses SmartVideoNotes, short, simple storyboarded videos to capture real customer interaction notes that help qualify and advance opportunities. With DreamForce imminent in San Francisco shortly perhaps Salesforce will solve this issue, though capturing thoughtful data I suspect will always be a challenge without a tool like SmartVideoNotes. I shall look forward to hearing the reports from colleagues who will be attending.

A final reflection on the journey marketing has undergone. Marketing automation is all about data - harvesting and sifting of data in order to further automate the process. Unfortunately I think this had led to the rise of a different sort of marketing professional who is probably closer to a project manager than the creative marketers who I learned from. Of course there are still great, creative marketers out there but I fear that many will not be inspired by the world of marketing automation and seek other careers and the industry will find it harder in the future to find those inspirational, maverick individuals.

My solution to this was to join a start-up – yes we built the SmartVideoNotes app - and the creativity, energy and passion in this environment have brought back my own excitement for marketing. Though ominously we have just put our first CRM system in and already the sales team is fiercely debating it’s use. Perhaps DreamForce will solve their dilemmas!