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.

7 Social Selling Habits You Should Break Right Now

May 8, 2013

Not clocking good responses from your social sharing? Maybe you don’t need to be doing more. Consider doing less.

In earlier social networking days, I think we felt the need to try every available tool out. After all, the company that developed them must have known more about their effectiveness than we did, right?

Todd Martin 041813 image 1Not necessarily. Application design is often done by youngish people who know computers but who don’t necessarily have the breadth of knowledge that you do about customer relationships. If you’ve been in sales for even a few years, you’ve probably developed good instincts about what not to do when you’re courting prospects.

So listen to those instincts. Think about the things that annoy you on social networks. Here are seven that I’ve found aren’t exactly best practices.

  • Automated direct messages on Twitter. You’ve gotten them. Gee, thanks for following us! Stay tuned for more insight from us! Use DMs sparingly, and make them personal. If you’re addressing a group that knows it’s a group to, say, announce a chat date, broadcasting a DM isn’t folly.
  • Dormant or sparsely populated social media accounts. Yes, there’s a new possible next-best-thing every week. But better to lurk and evaluate than to sign up just to have a presence. An empty feed looks worse than no feed at all.
  • Share or Like solicitations. Your audience knows you want them to make that riotous video from the office Christmas party or your how-to blog post on the correct way to stretch shoes go viral. Asking them to share or retweet looks desperate. Most people have been around the block enough that they’re judicious with those favorable mouse clicks. Begging may have the opposite effect.
  • And while we’re on the topic of sharing, don’t offer An abundance of sharing options. Those pretty buttons that make it easy for visitors to share your content on other sites certainly have their place. But put your effort into creating appealing content, not providing a pathway to numerous social networks. Look at YouTube. Videos have a simple Share link that doesn’t even use graphics or color – you have to click on it to get to your options.

Todd Martin 041813 image 2

Simple but effective: YouTube doesn’t overdo sharing options until you click.

  • Posts stuffed with hashtags. Another useful tool that should be used sparingly.
  • A one-size-fits-all social media strategy. You know how different the major social networks are in terms of user demographics, tone, visuals, etc. Focus your energy on just a few, and truly understand them as you’re developing content ideas.
  • A vital, dynamic social media presence accompanied by ho-hum search strategy and efforts. You still want your website and blog to come up when people Google your business type. While the pundits continue to argue about the value of SEO, use it anyway. It won’t hurt, and it will most likely snag some prospects.

It’s easy to get caught up in the gee-whiz factor on social media. Look at everything that comes along with a critical eye and stay focused on what you and your customers can gain from your social networking.

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