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.


Watch Their Language: Policing Comments on Your Social Media Sites

July 25, 2013

The comments sections of your online sites can be quickly compromised. 7 tips on keeping them clean.

Todd Martin 071713 image 1Complaining to a vendor about a product used to takesome effort. You had to find a piece of paper and an envelope, write a letter, find the company’s address and a stamp, and mail it off. Or at least hunt for a phone number and make a call.

Not anymore. You know how easy it is for your customers to file a complaint with you. And these days, it can be seen by many, many people, not just the person who happens to open the envelope.



Be on the Alert

What is now easy for the public has made your customer service work a lot more challenging. You have to be vigilant about the comments that people leave on your social media sites.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s good to have comments on your blogs or social media venues. They illustrate that people are reading your work and caring enough to respond. And they help you get to know your audience better. But here are some things I try to be conscientious about in my constant efforts to minimize the negativity:

  • If you can’t moderate your sites regularly, don’t allow comments. You don’t always have control over that, but when you do, shut your comments sections down unless you’re going to be watching them like a hawk.
  • Delegate this important work if you must. Maybe you simply don’t have time to keep monitoring your feedback. Ask a trusted associate to take this on, or spread the work out among several of them.
  • Handle complaints gracefully. This isn’t always easy, depending on your mood when the Todd Martin 071713 image 3grievance appears and its decibel level. But when one comes in, act quickly and graciously. Provide a contact point for the individual, and handle it away from the site. Use private messaging wherever possible, but do leave evidence near the original post indicating that you’re responding to it so that other readers can see that.
  • Resolve the problem publicly when you can. If the comment may be something that other readers might bring up, post a general reply addressing the issue. But don’t let yourself be dragged into a long, drawn-out comment thread.
  • Delete outright insults and spam immediately. Your readers will probably recognize an unwarranted snark, but don’t leave negative verbiage that can linger in their minds. Competitors may even try to invade your space to do just that.
  • Never argue publicly on a social media venue. Often, the complainer is misinformed or incorrect or just not that bright. Or it’s someone who wants to goad you into a less-than-friendly response. Don’t let sparring mar your personal image or your brand.
  • Block repeat offenders. You have every right to ban visitors who have earned a swift kick.

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I think that the ability to send and receive comments on social media sites is one of the ten best characteristics of those social selling tools. But try your best to keep the conversations civil and positive.



Google Analytics Supports Social Selling Using Sophisticated Reports and Analysis

February 1, 2013 1 Comment

This great, free tool reveals critical information like where your traffic is coming from and how visitors are spending their time on your website or blog.

How many times have you heard or read the phrase, “…and how did you hear about us?” That’s not just a polite query: It helps businesses develop elements of their marketing strategies.

Knowing where your website and blog visitors were immediately before looking at your site helps you promote your business more effectively. Google Analytics can give you that information – and much more. It helps you measure sales and conversions and lets you learn how visitors are using your site, which means you’ll be able to shape your online presence based on what’s working.

Wouldn’t it be helpful to be able to see data like this about your sites?

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Your Google Analytics Dashboard shows you your current visitor volume, your visitors’ locations by country and the referring sites (you can also see what page they’re currently viewing).

Real-Time is one of Google Analytics’ most useful social selling data-gathering tools.

Like the name says, you can see data about site activity as it happens.

It’s easy to see how this could be helpful in your social sales and marketing efforts. You could, for example:

  • See whether anyone is noticing your new or updated content
  • Evaluate which blog entries and social media posts – and other sites — are driving traffic to your website, and
  • Analyze the effects of a promotion you’ve posted elsewhere.

Letting Google In

Google needs access to your website, of course, to be able to provide this information. So after you’ve signed up for an account, you’ll go to this page to set up your web tracking code (this requires access to your source code).

Myriad Types of Insight

Once you’re an established user and start using Google Analytics, you’ll have a much greater understanding of who visits your site, why they’re there and what they’re looking for and responding to.

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This report displays your traffic sources – sites whose links sent visitors to your pages (the bounce rate indicates the percentage of users who left your site without accessing any additional pages before a session timeout occurred).

The site’s Conversion Suite can be very helpful in your social sales analysis. Through a variety of tools – most of which are free, and some of which may require help from a specialist – you’ll gain a better understanding of what motivates some customers to buy from you while others don’t.

Everyone’s struggling to find ways to learn just who is visiting their websites, how to build relationships with them and what triggers sales. There are more sophisticated tools and services than Google Analytics, but none that are free and this robust. It’s well worth the time you’ll need to master it.

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Social Selling Impact Quantified By Study…

November 1, 2012

A recent study revealed some good news about the efficacy of social media engagement– and a bit of caution. Here are 6 tips to consider.

It used to be easier to measure your sales success, didn’t it? You worked your list by making phone calls or personal visits, or maybe sent out a mailing. When someone responded, you knew which effort had closed the deal.

Today, people have unprecedented access to information and opinions about what you’re selling. And when they do buy, was it that Facebook ad? The how-to series you posted on your blog? A particularly intriguing Tweet? It’s hard to be sure.

Keeping it in perspective

A recent report, the 2012 LoyaltyOne Social Media Transaction Impact Study, found that social media engagement led to a direct, tangible, positive impact on the business.

The study’s authors predicted that customer engagement through social media would continue to be important, but warned that it should be considered a relatively small element in a much broader marketing mix, a rudder rather than an engine.

Making social selling work

I think this is good advice. Having worked in the technology field for a couple of decades, I’ve watched businesses quickly incorporate a new tool or technique simply because it was being talked about so much.

The social selling model is here to stay, and I’m a firm believer in it, but I agree that it should be approached with a great deal of consideration and deliberation – and as a part of your overall sales and marketing strategies. So:

Be flexible and adaptable. The social media universe is just beginning to unfold. Prepare to modify your strategy as it evolves.

Experiment. Try out different tools, approaches and sites. Pay close attention to what works and focus your attention there.

Always be soliciting feedback. Social media is about dialogues, not monologues.

Create strong calls to action. Do you want prospects to call you? Download a white paper or attend a webinar? Request a sample? Tell them clearly and frequently.

Find or develop a good tracking system. Social selling involves your active engagement on numerous sites and with a wide range of individuals. Document these relationships conscientiously.

Finally, try to resist succumbing to the constant hype. Take social media in stride, and budget a reasonable amount of time for it. Don’t overextend yourself at the expense of your other sales efforts – and your core work responsibilities.

Got a comment? “Not enough time” is often named as the biggest problem small businesses face with social selling. Is that your most significant stumbling block? If not, what is?