Todd Martin

Todd Martin

Sales Strategy

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Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Applications: Similar Features, Different Approaches

August 18, 2014

Let’s back up a little and explore the innards of CRM solutions.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post titled “7 Questions to Ask When You’re Looking at CRM Solutions.” It occurs to me that some of you may be new to our profession, and you haven’t been properly introduced to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and websites. Others might be experienced salespeople, but you’re still using paper and pen, or a hybrid of computer software and Rolodex, file folders, paper calendars, etc.

Todd Martin 081514 imageSo I wanted to use this space to briefly talk about the elements that comprise state-of-the-art CRM applications. In 2014, there are dozens of them, and they’re all over the map:

  • Some are still desktop-based.
  • Others are desktop-based with links to the internet.
  • Many reside solely on websites.
  • Some offer only the traditional CRM features that we’ve seen since the 1990s, while others have moved beyond those basic capabilities.

All, though – at least the best of them – have similar characteristics. I’ll outline those most commonly found today.

A contact database. There’s a class of software called “contact managers,” like ACT!, GoldMine, and Maximizer. Many of these products are still available as desktop software. CRM software and websites still have this core attribute, a series of pre-defined screens with specialized fields for storing information about your business contacts. If you already have a computer-based file containing contact data, you can often import it.

A history log. Your contact database has another element that is critical in the sales process: a record of your past interaction with every individual and company. CRM software and websites have built-in fields – or entire screens – for logging phone calls, meeting notes, on-site-visits, emails, etc.

A mechanism for tracking opportunities and leads. This means more than a list of dates and meetings and other activities. Many CRM applications offer tools for visualizing the sales pipeline.

Integration with other related applications. State-of-the-art CRM solutions can be integrated with dozens of other applications, ranging from word processing to email marketing to accounting, as well as general productivity tools.

Searching and reporting capabilities. The busier you are, the more critical it is that you can find information quickly and get customized overviews of your sales status.

“Social CRM”

Today’s best CRM applications provide an easy way for you to create a much more comprehensive profile of your customers and prospects. They help you find their activity and connections, their likes and dislikes, their challenges and their needs, by seeing how they interact on social networking sites. You can actually view those “streams” of updates within your CRM application, right in the individual person or company’s profile.

Social CRM solutions fill in some of the blanks, providing insight into who your contacts are, not just how they prefer to be contacted and what they purchased from you most recently. A good social CRM application can help you know your customers and prospects to a degree never before possible.

Manage Relationships with Your Star Customers Using These 7 Tips

June 26, 2014

CRM solutions can be tremendous sales tools, but the old rules about customer relationships still apply – and still contribute to successful sales.

Todd Martin 062514 image 1Although I survived – and often thrived – as a salesperson before I started using CRM software, I can’t imagine going back to a bulging Rolodex and file folders and paper scheduler. I still spend my days chasing leads and talking to people and continuing to school myself about the myriad ways that people can benefit from using my company’s products and services.

My CRM solution does a lot of the heavy lifting now. I’m not as mired in tedious administrative details, and my workflow is much more economical. I’m more productive both in the office and on the road, thanks to mobile technology. And I’m able to make more – and better targeted – connections through email and social media.


9 Tips on Getting Your Emails Read

November 14, 2013

Do you sigh and start deleting when you look at your inbox? Your customers do the same thing. Don’t let them.

I’ve talked about it before here: Email is still one of the most effective social sales tools you have available. While you need to continue to build your brand on social networks, your email communication has the potential to bring you a greater return, say many experts.

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The trick, of course, is to get your prospects and customers to keep their fingers off the delete key when they see your company name as the email originator.

Think about your own reaction to email subject lines and senders. What makes you open some and not others? Here are some of the approaches that make me at least pause before deleting sales messages:

  • One-day or limited-time, limited-customer sales from recognized vendors
  • A “Welcome Back” message with a special offer from someone I haven’t patronized recently
  • A clever or funny or otherwise-unusual subject line that looks like it took some creativity and effort, and
  • An offer for something free from a credible source.

So how do you set yourself apart from the onslaught of emails that greet most people most days? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Don’t write your emails like you’re addressing a crowd. Compose — personally — like you might to a business associate. Use the word “you” instead of “small business owners.”
  2. Use an individual’s name (From: Your name, or the appropriate co-worker) as the sender.
  3. Be careful with “clever.” Be straightforward unless you can engage a twist in a natural, unaffected way.
  4. Try to put a number in your subject line when you can, and just enter the numeral. Grammar rules want you to spell out some numbers, but “7” is more effective than “seven” because it looks quantifiable and factual. And the digit itself actually stops people briefly and catches their attention.Todd Martin 103113 image 2
  5. Take note of any email “envelope” that catches your eye and start making a list of what works.
  6. Tell your audience what might happen if they read your message. Will their hair loss stop? Will they avoid a mid-winter breakdown of their home heating system? Will they finally find a holiday gift for that one person on their list who is impossible to please?
  7. Focus on benefits, not product specifications. You’re selling something tangible, but what they’re really buying is a solution to a problem.
  8. Use vivid language where you can. Scan your inbox and see how many of the sales-oriented subject lines sound similar, even using the same buzzwords. So open a thesaurus. Jot down effective language when you see it. “Speak” like you’re communicating with a 9th-grader (no complex words or phrases).
  9. Above all, be judicious in your scheduling of mass sales emails. Experiment with various intervals between dispatches, but don’t make your audience roll their eyes when they see your name again.

Todd Martin 103113 image 3Of course, you still have a challenging task ahead of you in composing the emails themselves. In a way, though, crafting intriguing subject lines is the hardest part. It’s the online equivalent of getting someone to take your phone call or not say “Just browsing…” when you offer to help. There are a thousand ways to direct that ensuing conversation, but you get one shot with your email subject line. Make it count.

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