Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
Look, you’re not a data scientist. Neither am I. Actually, my fiancée is, but she didn’t help me build out our Contact Relationship Management (CRM) tool, I promise. You and I are marketers (or maybe you’re a salesperson) who need to figure out how to better position our companies in front of leads, make the pass-off and deal creation of those leads smoother, nurture and engage with our current list of leads, etc. One major way distributors are handling this is to implement a CRM.
A few years ago, I had to transition my company off one CRM platform to another. I want to share with you some actionable takeaways from my endeavor and what I think wholesale distributor sales and marketing professionals could do with a CRM tool.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest… here are the things I learned from setting up a new CRM. By the end, I’ll want you to know what to do throughout your whole first year and feel confident in being able to implement culture setting practices.
CRM is growing fast around the world, leading to stats like this:
Buying into a system and industry so robust takes a lot of time and effort. The good and the bad of it is that there are a lot out there, so there’s definitely one out there that’s good for you. This also means it will take some research, trial, practice, and a decent chunk of internal selling.
CRM is also growing fast for distributors, but adoption is a little low. You have some problems with field sales reps wanting to control any information about their contacts or maybe they’re just not connecting on how it can help them. Part of your job will be coming up with a way to get everyone onboard with the tool.
There are a lot of reasons why a company, particularly a distributor looking to advance in their industry, would implement CRM. If it’s not to make decisions quicker, it’s to provide better service to your customers.
But one that I didn’t expect while building ours out was that our CRM helped us set up our sales and marketing culture here at HMI. Here are a few takeaways and things to consider while setting culture using your CRM.
Naturally, there’s a lot that goes into an implementation strategy, so we’ll be writing another article on How to Get Your Sales Team to Adopt Your CRM. Stay tuned for that.
If you haven’t noticed, everything is becoming more and more data-driven recently. I’ll ask this, if you have long-term relationships with customers, how can you be data-driven without CRM of some kind?
For me, implementing a CRM tool was like the road you can’t come back from. Once you recognize the power and automation that a tool like HubSpot gives you (segmentation, understanding behaviors, tracking interest in particular services or products), it’s hard (I’d say impossible really) to go back if you want to maintain the level of capability. Make sure you’re ready to go down that road and that your team is, too.
Let me start out by saying there will be things that change that you can’t expect, especially if you’re in a growth stage. CRM systems have built in properties, systems, and tools that only work if you use them as intended.
For example, while picking the terms we were going to use to describe our new sales funnel, we found that the HubSpot stand-in for those terms didn’t fit what we wanted. Unfortunately, that stand-in wasn’t editable, so we built a custom field instead.
Years later, we discovered all the useful things that HubSpot stand-in had and pined over all the reporting and nice-to-haves we could be using if we had just gone with it. It wouldn’t be worth uprooting everything now, as we have some good replacements for those things. But if I could go back and tell 2018 me to just switch the terms we wanted to use, maybe it would have been better. Oh, well. Onward.
That’s not to say that you can’t find work arounds, we have a few that work well for our business case. But workarounds require a very in-depth understanding of the tool and an understanding that those workarounds might not scale going forward. This is actually one of the reasons we moved off our old platform, too many workarounds.
Another thing to be cautious of… All CRM providers make it easy to transition to their platform. All of them also make it hard to transition off their platform.
This was even the case for us, moving from HubSpot to HubSpot. An example of this is the property “Create Date” in HubSpot. “Create Date” tracks when the company or contact is entered into the system. But this property is set automatically by HubSpot.
That means that if I have a database full of people with their actual create dates but want to move them into my new CRM, all their “Create Date”s will be the day I moved them into the new CRM database, skewing my data.
To combat data skew, you’ll need to create a custom “Create Date” property and likely any other important date-based property you may be pulling from one system to another.
Which brings me to my next point. What to do with all this information. We’ve talked about this a little in the past.
To break it down, it’s all about how you can personalize your messages. It’s the age-old marketing adage: the right message, at the right time, to the right person. That might seem like a tall order, considering marketing sometimes feels more like a spray and pray strategy.
But with a CRM tool, it really isn’t. The information and data you collect will tie directly into your ability to drive behaviors. Add in a nice incentive strategy on top of this, and you’ll be able to pinpoint the exact behaviors you need while reinforcing those that behave the way you want. Here are some examples of what you can find out:
If you’ve made it this far, you must be pretty interested, so I’m going to bestow upon you a checklist of things to do on your first day, in your first week, in your first quarter, in your first year.
On your first day (jump in and get acquainted):
In your first week (lay the foundations):
In your first month (trying out the bells and whistles):
In your first quarter (establish ongoing success):
In your first year (a little better each time):
I once saw an example of someone tracking outbound activities in Excel. From emails sent to responses, everything was captured in columns and rows in a surprisingly concise manner. I shudder at the thought of all the formatting that goes into that spreadsheet, though.
This is doubtless the way many organizations are still handling their databases and how they track CRM-like activities. Some companies can’t justify the annual costs. While they may be able to keep costs down this way, how scalable is it?
CRM tools are anything but perfect, but do they beat formatting in excel? In this marketer’s opinion, yes. 100% yes.
If it’s time for you to start looking for a CRM tool for your company, check out a few of these resources: Software Advice, G2, Modern Distribution Management CRM ROI Article, Modern Distribution Management, tips for finding the right CRM.