Powerful technology that can make sense of ever-increasing bits of data can make the the difference between a successful, happy sales team and one that can frustrate themselves with inefficient sales processes from decades ago. And if it hasn’t changed the way your business makes a sale, a day is coming when it will.
That’s what Rick Middlemass, vice president of the National Association of Sales Professionals, and Sinan Kanatsiz, chairman and founder of the Internet Marketing Association, have to say about technologies like customer relationship management software, which can keep track of sales leads; big data, which are large sets of information, and marketing automation, which can make it easier for companies to find customers ready to buy.
Sales has come a long way from times when salespeople made 100 calls a day just seeking out basic information about their clients, Middlemass said in an interview for this article. Now, CRM software can share
information with marketing automation software, which qualifies the sales leads based on their interaction with emails and what webpages they may have visited, giving salespeople a better picture about the needs of buyers.
“When people are getting to a certain point of qualification and it really makes sense to get them on the phone and talk to them live, the handoff from marketing to sales is in a highly automated way,” Middlemass said. When the buyer says they’re ready for a conversation, the technology can “automatically look at the sales person’s calendar and the salesperson can have a full day of calls that has a pretty high level of qualification for those prospects without anyone having to do anything manually. …I think that’s something that’s come a long way.”
There’s a word Middlemass uses to describe what it’s like to sell the old-fashioned way: painful. Actually, “Very painful.”
“Every, day every call, every email, you’re missing information,” Middlemass said. Worse, if a salesperson leaves, and their notes are not stored someplace where other salespeople can find it, they’ll miss out on that information too.
“Without the CRM, … you’re doing a lot of flying blind,” Middlemass said. “A lot of effort is going to waste because you don’t have the data from that effort.”
Without a CRM, companies may have a hard time attracting or retaining employees who used the technology in previous sales jobs, Middlemass said. “If you’re taking a step back in time in terms of the software and the tools that you had at a previous company it’s going to be frustrating,” he said.
Every business should have some sort of customer relationship management software that is tied in to its website, said Sinan
Kanatsiz, chairman and founder of the
Internet Marketing Association. “Whether you’re a small business, a small dental shop, or a multinational enterprise, you should always keep records of the people you do business with and or prospects that are in your database. And even people that you’re not doing business with anymore, because those are all touch points to help communicate and market your products and services.”
The biggest obstacle to success with a CRM is user input, Kanatsiz said. “Most people who install a CRM, it’s like going to 24-hour fitness: You’ve got a gym membership. You never use it. They get the CRM, they don’t input the data.”
Manual data entry can lead to
fatigue among salespeople, but
increasingly-available opportunities for automation can handle that task.
“So let’s say you and I just had a phone call,” Kanatsiz said. “Our phones should know that we just had a phone call and logged that data in the CRM and then that gets shared with the workforce. So that way we’re not actually manually entering it.”
Kanatsiz recommends working with a CRM solution or platform provider that has access and partnerships with other technology platforms. “That way you’re not having to plug in a bunch of, you know, Christmas lights, int one socket and then overload and you know bust your circuit breaker. It’s better just to have one that’s a comprehensive solution that is already pre-authorized to these other platforms and then you can actually build your CRM ecosystem all in one dashboard rather than having to have multiple dashboards open.”
Much of what salespeople used to do over the past 20 years can now be automated,
Middlemass said. Marketing automation software can keep track of how users interact with email and with websites to generate sales leads. As users interact, the software can determine their levels of interest and trigger action from a salesperson.
“That significantly helps us save the time of the salesperson, because there’s a lot of self-qualification, versus the salesperson having to reach out to everybody and do the
qualification themselves,” Middlemass said.
Even beyond tools that qualify leads, other menial tasks can be automated to make sales more efficient.
One example of a menial task that salespeople can now automate is scheduling meetings by letting qualified sales leads schedule directly onto a salesperson’s calendar, without human involvement. “How much time have salespeople spent in the last hundred years going back and forth to find a meeting time?” to set up the interview for this report, Middlemass replied to BetterSMB’s email with a link that could be used to book time on his calendar.
Another avenue for automation is automated telephone dialing. For a salesperson who makes thousands of calls over a period of a few weeks, that can save hours of time and increase productivity, he said.
Having a CRM that integrates with marketing automation software empowers businesses to make better choices about how they market to potential customers, Kanatsiz said. Sometimes they may have an initiative that targets a cluster of leads rather than the whole lead database.
“It’d be more appropriate for me to send a more specific email to this dataset than if I just blasted my entire database — shotgunned my database — which is probably not going to be relevant,” Kanatsiz said. “So that’s why you’re seeing such a nice collaboration between these (email service providers) and CRM providers.”
Email software providers such as Apple and Gmail have made it simpler for their users to opt out of marketing emails, which often required jumping through virtual hoops. Kanatsiz sees that as a challenge for email marketing, especially in cases when users may perceive untargeted, less relevant messages as an annoyance.
“You can actually unsubscribe just by hitting the word unsubscribe at the top of the email, which is now causing a mass exodus of emails that people are opting out of around the world,” Kanatsiz said. “That’s going to destroy a good chunk of email marketing. I’m thinking like maybe like somewhere between 8 and 13 percent is what our indexes are showing.”
Plugging large datasets into a CRM can give businesses a sales advantage One trend in big data is letting AI analyze big data more quickly than humans can.
“Every company that has a CRM is tied into that somehow, Obviously the bigger the data the more you can predict outcomes,” Kanatsiz said. If you’re dealing with shallow levels of data, then you’re not going to actually be able to predict much.”
But automation can play an even larger role in marketing, Kanatsiz said.
“We’re actually building something right now where we can auto-populate content calendars based on predictive content and instead of our content writers actually writing the content, the content has already been written in their voice with their persona and they’re going to actually edit the content, and find ways to actually create unique content based on edited content,” Kanatsiz said. “So this is where the world is going.”
Middlemass sees a future in which artificial intelligence software can improve sales by providing insights into mental states of buyers.
“The confusing part about buying and selling is that people buy for emotional reasons and justify with logic,” Middlemass said in an interview for this article. “So the more that the … AI can can understand where people are at emotionally, and really just serve hungry buyers up to salespeople at exactly the right time — for their situation, for their feelings, for their problems, for their life — The more the more effective sales is going to be.”