CRM Tips and Best Practices
In this episode of Selling the Sandler Way, Dave Mattson, the President and CEO of Sandler Training explores the Sandler Selling Philosophies behind the Sandler Selling System with Michael Norton, EVP of Global Accounts at Sandler Trainer.
Dave Mattson: Today we’re talking about how to use CRM as a tool. By now, most of us have been exposed to CRMs, if it’s on our own as an individual producer or our company has gone out and purchased one of the larger CRM tools out there. And most salespeople have fought their way through, “How do I use a CRM? Why do I have to do a CRM? And what are they doing with that information?” And so today, we’re going to kind of tackle how to use a CRM as a tool, and a valuable tool as a professional salesperson versus, unfortunately, the way some view that tool.
To help us do that, we’ve got Michael Norton, who is the Executive VP at Sandler Training for Global Accounts. Prior to that, Michael spent 20 years being the President of Zig Ziglar Corporation, which of course is, you know, very well known in the personal development area, and Zig’s been around for quite some time. And then Michael also is the Chairman of CanDoGo.com, which is a tool to help salespeople bring rich content to them whenever they need it. So, Michael has spent decades in the personal development business, and so we’re lucky to have him here today. Michael, welcome.
Michael Norton: Thank you, David. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Dave Mattson: So, Michael, I know CRM … Of course, you know, you’ve been dealing with CRM for decades. You’ve seen it enter the marketplace, right? And you’ve seen people trying to figure it out along the way. So, before we kind of start about how to make it, you know, a better tool for us as individual producers, what have you seen out there?
Michael Norton: Well, David, you’re right. I mean I’ve seen CRM enter the marketplace. Unfortunately, you know, dating myself, I can go back to when salespeople were using index cards and shoe boxes.
Dave Mattson: Right.
Michael Norton: And keeping paper files. And the advent of the CRM, as much as it was resisted, the people, the top performers, really learned how to leverage it and use it early on, and, you know, we’ve seen it go from legacy and enterprise systems all the way through now, web-enabled applications. You know, Salesforce.com first entered the space back in 2000, and now it’s just been getting better and better and more robust and more dynamic. But still, there’s a resistance to the use.
Dave Mattson: Yeah, there’s probably some myths out there, right, about CRM? And I know salespeople kind of look at it sometimes as Big Brother and thinking, “What are they doing with all this information?” Have you run across the myths, and if so, what do you think they are?
Michael Norton: Yeah, that’s exactly right. The common myths are, “Hey, this is a management tool. It’s not a sales tool.”
Dave Mattson: Right.
Michael Norton: “This is Big Brother. They just want to know what I’m doing. They don’t care about the deal. They just want to know when the deals are going to close, how much revenue I’m getting, and if I’m doing my job. So, the more information I give them, you know, it … Technically it’s to help protect my job, but they’re just using it as Big Brother.”
The salespeople don’t realize that … I’m sorry—or the other fear that they have in the Big Brother situation is, “Okay, I put all my data into the CRM. I put all of the stuff that’s in my head, all of my relationship knowledge. I put that into my CRM, and then they fire me. And then they have all that information, and they go right after my accounts.” So, you hear a lot of salespeople resistant to using their CRM about putting that information in there.
Dave Mattson: So, if you do that, though, for a second, let’s break those down because I think two of them are certainly accurate. I think if you look at the personal fear—as far as a management tool or not—I mean, I know that’s there, but I think the one that you hit second is the one that I’ve heard time and time again, and it doesn’t come out right away. I mean they always say initially—this is the sales group talking—”Hey, they don’t use that stuff anyways, and you know, at the end of the day, Michael, am I going to spend all my time inputting this data, or being in front of customers? Why don’t you pick?” You know, and they throw that monkey back on the management.
But when it boils down to it, and you peel back the onion, more times than not, the real issue is—you’re right—they’re vulnerable, right? Because now you know everything about that account, and therefore my worth goes down, whereas before, without CRM the management didn’t know that much about the account. They didn’t know it, and my job as a relationship-builder out there, you know, it’s almost like a black magic versus a science and the CRM product has kind of turned it onto a science as well, and it’s helped put that spin on it.
And I think salespeople feel vulnerable, quite frankly, and you know, I don’t know why they should. Because we know, being in the business for as long as we’ve been in the business, you can know whatever you want to know about the account, and in today’s world with LinkedIn and everything else, you can find out a ton of stuff. That’s not it; it’s the relationship that those two people have built that does help that along, but I think we get frightened, right? We get afraid, and therefore we see it as a way that we … Again, we lose the edge, you know, or “I’m afraid because now you know what I know” type of thing.
Michael Norton: Yeah, and I think there’s also a part of the psyche, when you think about different sales folks and sales organizations and sales cultures, that there’s a leader board mentality out there. And there’s a lot of times that we want to share knowledge and do knowledge capture and knowledge transfer amongst our sales organization, but we find with those same salespeople who are afraid to put their information into a CRM, they don’t want people shadowing them. They don’t want to give people their tips and techniques. They don’t want to tell them what’s made them #1 on the leader board. So, you have some of that fear going on as well.
Dave Mattson: Yeah.
Michael Norton: And it’s … You know, right?
Dave Mattson: No, it’s true. Yeah. No, of course. Listen, we’re both at Sandler. How many times have you had a top producer, let’s say in an insurance company, and management comes and says, “Well, what are you doing?” They say, “Well, we’re doing nothing.” You know, and you say, “Well, why didn’t you mention Sandler?” And they say, “Well, because, quite frankly, that’s my edge. I mean that’s what keeps me on top of the board, baby.” And, you know, it takes some coaching to get them to see, well, that’s probably not the best approach.
But you’re right. I mean, that competitive nature that they have kind of transfers over to: “If I share all the best practices and now they know the ratios, of course, everyone gets to replicate my success, and I don’t want that necessarily. I loved being on top of the leader board.”
Michael Norton: Yep. But your point of, you know, the available technologies like Hoovers or LinkedIn or any of the other business information systems—all that information’s out there anyway, so the top salespeople have really … You know, they’re getting over that hurdle mentally, and many of them are really understanding the power. And then I think that’s the intent of our interview today—really to talk about some of the tips and the things that some of the top salespeople are using, or how they’re using their CRM tool.
Dave Mattson: It doesn’t matter which one you’re using out there. There’s a lot of good ones out there, and there’s a lot of homegrown ones that organizations have developed over time.
And we talked a little bit, in our first break with our guest Michael Norton, who is Executive VP here at Sandler for Global Accounts and has been around CRM since the beginning of CRM, quite frankly. He has a ton of experience, certainly using CRM himself, managing sales forces with CRM, and leveraging the power of the CRM product regardless, as I said, of which one you use. Here we’re going to be agnostic today.
And Michael, what are some of the things that we can do to leverage the power of a CRM tool as an individual producer?
Michael Norton: Well, I think it goes back to what we were talking about in the first part of the conversation—you know, part of that fear and the thought process that goes on in not wanting to put information in. You know, salespeople like to keep control, right? They like to keep control of their accounts. And the best way to keep control of your accounts is to have all of that data in front of you at your fingertips all the time. Right?
Dave Mattson: Yep.
Michael Norton: You know, because you know how it works, Dave. The sales manager or VP of sales … If you have a sales culture that is only numbers-driven and they’re not worried about coaching their folks through a deal or an opportunity, they’re just going to use it as Big Brother or as a management tool. But how much time can we give back to our sales as salespeople if we kept it updated? So, we can avoid those calls each week from our manager, “Hey, tell me about ABC Company. Tell me about XYZ Company. Tell me about 123 Company. When’s it going to close? How much is it worth?” If you kept your CRM tool up-to-date, how many hours a month can you give yourself back for selling time, for personal time? I don’t care if you play golf or whatever you do. There’s a huge benefit in you keeping control by keeping the CRM tool up-to-date and keeping your manager off your back just asking for redundant information that should already be in your CRM tool.
Dave Mattson: It’s true. I mean, I think you’re … And you said it. If you would invest, let’s just say 30 minutes a day, to update that. And you can do it in the car, you know if you’re in the parking lot before you leave to the next account, while it’s fresh in your mind. That amount of 25 minutes, an hour, whatever you’re going to delegate to that each day would save you ten times that amount on the back end. But you know, Michael, everyone kind of judges how much time they have to put into a project, not how much that that saves them on the back end. We never measure that, right? That’s always the disconnect.
And, you know, I think the other thing that happens is that our minds tend to forget the small subtleties of things. And what I mean is, everyone, remembers, say, a prospect telling you or a customer telling you, “Hey, look, our budget’s up in February. There’s a good chance you’re going to lose this deal.” That’s a pivotal event. We all remember that point. But when they mention things on an account, little subtleties like, “Hey, you know, Fred’s now moved over to this division,” and you know that, hey, you need to call him, or, “My kid’s in a local championship for X, Y, and Z.” It’s these conversations that happen, and I think the longer you leave that particular event, the less likely you are to remember it. In today’s environment, salespeople, we’ve got to remember so many different pieces of product information, account information. Our employers want us to go deep and wide within accounts, and we’re trying to meet a lot of different people. I think that our brains … To do a good job, you need a library of facts, of stuff that you’ve gathered within the account. The CRM tool is perfect to do that. Perfect.
Michael Norton: You’re spot-on, Dave, because think about the economy that we live in right now. Think of the world we live in right now. Sales organizations have been downsized. Territories have been increased. Many salespeople have sometimes inherited tens of new customers, sometimes hundreds of new names and contacts and leads. There’s no way to possibly remember all of that information off the top of your head or to try to go back into notebooks and find it, right, or on index cards. And the more that they can keep that information current … And I think you said something else in there about the product information … Product portfolios are growing and growing all the time. So how do you keep all that product information, all the customer information, all of the anecdotal information about birthdays, spouses’ names, and all of that information—how do you keep that accessible and top-of-mind before you go into an account? The easiest way to do it is keep it inside your CRM tool.
Dave Mattson: Yeah, and I agree. Hey, listen. I was a convert some time back in 2004, 2002, somewhere in there, when I had an account that I had been dealing with for a long, long time. And I would remember, as I said, the key events. But they had mentioned something about their child playing in a particular tournament, and I put it into my CRM tool, and I reviewed it ahead of time. And you know, I mentioned it, and it was months later, and they’re like, “Hey, that’s great! I can’t believe you remembered that. And let me tell you something.” And then they went into this emotional talk for X-amount of minutes, but we really made a connection. Now, would I have remembered that? Maybe. But I don’t think so, and the busier you get, the less likely you are.
And we also know, Michael, that when it comes to behavioral styles, I tend to be a D/C, and with my behavioral style, I don’t necessarily jump into all the personal stuff and all the things that, you know, are equally as important when you’re talking to a customer. You know, that’s not my style, so, therefore, I may not remember that or I may not do that, but this helps me kind of deal with my, let’s say, inefficiencies when it comes to my behavioral style as well. So, I think with that tool, you have to play up to what your strengths are but also help backfill your weaknesses. CRM does that for you.
Michael Norton: Absolutely. And what you just said is so true knowing yourself, and you’re a D/C, as you’re going through that information. But as you know, we teach that DISC profile, and you as a salesperson, if you know what your buyer is or who you’re going to visit, you can just be sparked by going into your CRM tool and saying, “Hey, that’s right, that guy’s a ‘D’ or that guy’s an ‘I,'” right?
Dave Mattson: Yeah.
Michael Norton: And you’d better prepare yourself mentally for that call. Because you said something else that was key, and there was one word you said in there, Dave, and it was … You, back in 2002, 2004, before you saw a client with that personal information, you said you reviewed your CRM tool. And if you didn’t, this wouldn’t have happened.
Dave Mattson: No.
Michael Norton: You know, we can go back to the salespeople thinking, “Hey, this is Big Brother. This is management. This is just their tool.” And that’s where the myth is, because the accountability is on the salesperson, and the top salespeople use it. They review their CRM every single time before they’re making a phone call or before they’re getting in their car and going to see somebody or getting on an airplane to see them. The good guys, the good top-performing salespeople, know the importance of going in and reviewing that information.
Dave Mattson: Yeah, I agree. I mean, at the end of the day, let’s just be realistic for a second. You know, in your organization, your management team’s going to go in and hit the numbers to get a report, so they can figure out the funnel and all that other good stuff. That’s fine, but what we’re talking about now is managing yourself. Salespeople, I don’t care if you’re on commission or if you’re on salary, you work for yourself. If you do not produce, you will not be there. I mean, that’s the key. So, take out the Big Brother thing and just say, “Okay, how do I make my CRM tool make me better? How do I do that?”
And we’ve been talking about … And I think in buckets because again, my DISC profile is D/C. I think in buckets, so when it comes to things like, “All right, what would I want to know about all the personal stuff about these particular people and my buyer network? What’s all that? What are the politics inside?” So, you can think about all the types of information that you have to gather. You should be inputting that. And yes, the pre-call plan—you should be disciplined enough to print out or to look up what this stuff is so you can get back in the moment.
I mean, think about that for a second. So, yeah, we want to gather it. But secondly, I’m going and blowing all day long, right? So, either I hang up on the phone, and I’ve got to jump into another call, or I’m driving from one to another. You’ve got to make that mental transition to exactly where your customer was when you left them last time, not where you are, not all the stuff that you’ve, you know, made up in your mind about what’s going to happen on today’s call. No. You’ve got to go back in time to get exactly where you were when you left them so you can then carry on that conversation. And you’ve got to get your prospect to do that as well. So, you can learn all the Sandler techniques to do that, but you’ve got to do that yourself. And that’s really what the CRM helps you do as well. Fair?
Michael Norton: Fair. And let’s talk about it in terms of what … You know, following the Sandler process. You know, one of the things we teach—one of the big things that we teach—is the up-front contract.
Dave Mattson: Yep.
Michael Norton: And it’s not … The up-front contract is never used only in a very first call, right?
Dave Mattson: Nope.
Michael Norton: It’s used throughout the entire sales process. So, by reviewing your CRM tool, going back and looking at the information in a healthy, productive way, you can now set a new up-front contract. When you call your prospect and say, “Hey, Mr. Prospect, I believe we talked about these things last time, so in setting up our up-front contract today, I’d like to find out: Has anything changed since the last time we spoke?” And mention specific things that you spoke about last time. And the only way you’ll know the specific things is by going into your CRM and looking at them.
Dave Mattson: Yeah. I mean, I think also … And let’s talk about that CRM tool. At the end of the day, are there big things that we want to make sure that we capture? And a lot of this is … I’m going to call it sales techniques, right, in a way. But I think you can also train yourself to look for certain things in a CRM that you can put into a CRM tool, or say, “Hey, every time I’m going to look for: Is there a red flag that I need to deal with between now and next time? Is there a piece of information that I still don’t know about this person? Is there a piece of information that I have to gather from that person?” I mean, there’s a lot of things that we can start to figure out ahead of time because, especially if it’s not a transactional sale, but instead when it’s a sale over time, it’s a piece of the puzzle, right, Michael? If you think about it, I’ve learned this time, that next time, you know, they said this, and now there seems to be a threat. It’s almost like you’re a CSI, you know, putting all the pieces together as you build that relationship.
Michael Norton: Dave, when I have these discussions with the anti-CRM salesperson, or when I find myself doing coaching about the importance of CRM, I take the letters “CRM” out, and I talk about a storyboard, a book. What they’re creating, what they’re writing, is exactly what you just said. From the time they met the customer all the way through the entire sales process, they’re capturing information in storyboard fashion. And that’s what the CRM does. If they stop thinking about it as a technology or a hindrance or an administrative burden or task-oriented, and if they think about this just as the story between the relationship between them and their customer or their prospect, they view it in a whole different world.
Dave Mattson: Yeah. So, let’s talk about some of the things that … Is there anything that comes to mind of things that I should be paying attention to that may not be in a CRM tool? I mean, I know that our management teams have trained us all, really, to say, “Is it moved from Stage 4 to Stage 5?,” or, “What is your projection on closing?” You know, all that stuff, right?
Michael Norton: Yep.
Dave Mattson: And they’re going to have to that. That’s fine. But, are there other things that we will want to make sure can harness the power of the CRM? And you know, because I think we could have a whole discussion about, “Hey, be realistic as you start to do what’s needed to move it from a 78% to an 82%.” But that’s all a different discussion. That’s pipeline management, which we’re not doing.
Michael Norton: Right.
Dave Mattson: Is there stuff in a CRM that is probably underutilized by the middle-of-the-road, that moveable middle there in any organization, the middle 60%? And are there things where the top producers have really broken the code? What did they do well? What do they capture?
Michael Norton: What they capture, Dave, is an immediate next step.
Dave Mattson: Okay.
Michael Norton: And with a CRM tool, with all of the CRM applications that are available today, they’re all customizable. And to get your salespeople away from thinking that this is Big Brother and from management just saying, “Okay, what’s in the pipeline? When’s it going to close? Is there 70% chance of close?” etc. … Instead, we can get the sales managers to start thinking in terms of asking their reps, “Hey, what’s your immediate next step? Oh, wait, I don’t have to ask you that. It should be right in your CRM.”
Dave Mattson: Right.
Michael Norton: It makes us think like salespeople. You know the deal. You walk out of an opportunity and say, “Oh, that was the best sales call I’ve ever had.” Right?
Dave Mattson: Of course.
Michael Norton: And you go back, and you tell your boss, “That was the best sales call I’ve ever had.” And does the manager ever say, “Okay, well, what’s your immediate next step?” Uh, no. They typically don’t, you know, not most of them. The good ones, yes. But the one thing I’ve learned to add to every CRM is to find a field, find someplace where you have an identifiable, visible, not hidden behind screens, immediate next step.
Dave Mattson: So then, if I play that out … I think if we were to go through whatever the sales process is that you’re using, whoever is listening, right? I mean, obviously, we’re using Sandler tactics and strategies, and we’re going to philosophically follow the Sandler Submarine, but we all know companies have other steps that are going to be followed in there. So, do I need to then say to myself, “Okay, what are the two or three things that I must have, I must know, in this particular segment?” And it could be under, you know, the decision process. It could be under things that you want to know about—you know, all their background, personal stuff, and blah, blah, blah. But should I be identifying? Because you just hit one, which is “identify the immediate next step.” To me that would be one of those things that should flash up on your, you know, mental screen, certainly on the CRM, every single time. Are there others like, “Hey, name two things that you’ve learned today,” or, “Hey. Did other people’s names come up that you may want to investigate? What are two potential red flags?” or things that we need to train ourselves?
Michael Norton: Yeah. I think you hit two of them right there. One is, “Hey, who else needs to get involved in this process?” because we’ve run into it over and over again ourselves. We think we’re talking to the decision maker and we’re not. So, who is the UDM? Who is that ultimate decision maker?
Dave Mattson: Yep.
Michael Norton: Right? Is there a field for that? And have you’ve gotten to that person yet? Is it budgeted? You know, I mean, again, the people that manage, the sales managers, will talk about, “Okay, you’ve got a $250,000 deal. It’s going to close, you know, Q4. But is there a budget? Did you identify that there is a budget? Did you check it off someplace in your CRM tool?” Right?
And then the other thing that you mentioned in there was the red flags. We call them risks. You know, a lot of salespeople have “happy ears.” Do they take the time to go in and say, “Okay, why will this deal possibly blow up? What are my one or two risks that I should be aware of or my management should be aware of? Because maybe they live this also and they could share with me how I can overcome that risk or stop that risk before it happens.”
Dave Mattson: Well, let’s talk about my next steps—the immediate next step with the customer, but also what I’ve learned over time is, for my own personal action steps between now and the next meeting, I have to do the following items. And that kind of shapes what I need to do and progress, all of the things that I need to do from one meeting to another. CRM tools have always helped me do that because, again, left to myself … I mean, I don’t to walk in front of a client and have them say, “Hey, did you do X?” But those are the obvious ones that you need to make sure that you’ve always captured, the agreed-upon next steps.
Michael Norton: Correct.
Dave Mattson: It’s the things that are the light bulbs that have gone off for me as a salesperson, like, “You know what? They just said that. I need to go and figure out bum, bum, bum, bum, bum.” And that puts it up there because some of them are strategic thoughts, and some of them are very, you know, tactical like, “These are the things I need to do.” But it helps me, and again, it’s housed in one area, right? It’s all these pieces of the puzzle for my one account housed in one area. So, I always liked that one as well.
Michael Norton: Yep.
Dave Mattson: So, let’s talk a little bit about when it comes to dealing with others on the team because I think with CRM tools, we look at it from our own, you know, perspective. But when you’re working with service, or you’re working with partners or other people within the organization, certainly in today’s economic environment most management of companies are saying, “I want you to sell more products and services to our customer base,” which either means as a salesperson I’ve got to learn all those things, or we have internal experts. When you have internal experts, then they may or may not know everything there is to know about that relationship. They may not even sell the same way that you do. How does CRM help us get those people on board as far as sharing information, right? So, let’s say you’re the salesperson, Michael.
Michael Norton: Yep.
Dave Mattson: And all of a sudden, you’re going to bring in a third party on some other training. But, right now you’ve got to do a download to that person. But I think if you use CRM properly, you could use that as your pre-call planning document in a way.
Michael Norton: Oh, absolutely. You can share all the information in there. You can share screenshots, and you can give certain people access, especially within your organization, like somebody who’s running channels or somebody who’s running marketing or customer service. People can have access to this information. It’s all hierarchically driven, right?
Dave Mattson: Yeah. And I just think people don’t realize that. I mean, I’ve seen many companies using CRM tools only to find out that they’re not sharing the access between the groups of people. They do in sales because everybody wants to know the numbers. But I also think that if you’re selling and other people are servicing or touching the customer, then it’s a great way … They don’t have access, to your point, even for you to print out the information so you can backfill that particular person. You are in charge. I mean, as a salesperson your job is air traffic controller. You need the tools to do that. Your memory’s not the greatest, and, you know, what’s important to you may not be important to others. So, I think that CRM tool is the great conversation starter, and I always like to send it to them ahead of time, so they have time to incubate and absorb and then come up with some questions. So, that’s really … I mean, I think that’s a great use of the tool that’s not done.
Michael Norton: Right. But I think you were also touching on something there. You said something in there about growing an account. Right? Like how, you know, you’re touching different parts of an account.
Dave Mattson: Yep.
Michael Norton: Eighty percent of salespeople tend to live in their comfort zone. They sell the same product or service to the same trusted buyer in a relationship that they’ve had forever. If they would just go one level down and start introducing new products or services and another level down into new departments and locations … And how do they know what those products and services should be, and how do they know where those locations and other possible reference sources are? They would be inside their CRM tool.
Dave Mattson: Or course.
We’re talking about CRM today, and we’re talking about how to make it an effective part of your life. Quite frankly, it should be transparent. We should be doing it every single day. I like the fact that you shouldn’t even leave your customer’s parking lot if you’re doing face-to-face selling until that stuff’s gotten added in. It’d take you 15 to 20 minutes, but then you don’t have to think about it, and you don’t fall into the trap of, “I’ll update that when I have time.” Now, of course, we know that doesn’t happen. But even if it does happen, it tends to be really in exchange for your prospecting time or some other things that you don’t necessarily want to do. You tend to jump to, “I’ll update my CRM.” So, I mean, they’ll use it as an excuse. Fill it out quickly when your brain still remembers everything that was said and when it doesn’t take up time where you’ve already slotted that for, let’s just say, prospecting or something else. That should be done every single day. Have a cookbook for yourself and use it as a tool. Yeah, everyone looks over their shoulders. Everyone’s looking for, “Hey, how is management going to use this as a weapon?” And today, they need to know those pipelines. And I’ll tell you why.
And there’s a great story. There’s a worldwide consulting company that tried to institute a CRM product. And they tried all the logical reasons why this would help the group. Everybody fought it. As a matter of fact, salespeople would say, “I’m not filling it out,” and then management would come back and say, “Well, if you don’t fill it out, you’re not getting paid.” And it was going back and forth over a two-year period. Here’s actually what did it at the end. Salespeople would sell a deal, and they mis-forecasted it. Either they didn’t share it with anybody because, you know, it was super-secret and they wanted to be a hero at the last minute, or it had dragged from month to month to month, so therefore it was like the boy who cried wolf. Management didn’t know when it was going to happen.
And more times than not here’s what occurred. For those people who didn’t input the data, they found when the deal was sold; they didn’t have the resources. Either they didn’t have the product, or they didn’t have the consultants that were necessary to fulfill their deal. And suddenly it became, “Oh, my gosh. If I don’t input the data and know what’s really going on, management can’t forecast production.” And that, therefore, hurt their commissions and pocketbook because the customers that they had just sold said, “I am not waiting six to eight months for you to start this because you’ve been telling me you could start it for six weeks.” This was probably true if they accurately put the information in because management could have forecasted it. But they didn’t, and therefore that was the pivotal point for that organization.
You know, I think, Michael, CRMs do help management project product and resources. Fair?
Michael Norton: Fair. But it’s garbage in, garbage out, Dave.
Dave Mattson: Of course.
Michael Norton: So, that goes to the point of, you know, salespeople have to avoid putting fluff into their CRM and making numbers up. You know, they have to take a “less-is-more” approach. As a manager, as a VP of sales, I would much rather see the real deals that I know I can count on, whether it’s the 5% or 10% variation of will it really close or not, than have, you know, 200 deals in there and there’s a 20% chance that any of them were going to close. Because how can I possibly forecast how many technicians, how many drivers, how many support people I’ll need if the information isn’t accurate? Right?
Dave Mattson: Well, I think that’s the whole environment of the organization, right? It’s the truth.
Michael Norton: Culture.
Dave Mattson: Yeah, it’s protection and permission, to tell the truth. I think most of the time; managers want to see a full pipe, even though it’s all garbage, versus two or three things because they feel if they’ve shoved that upstairs, it looks like no one’s working or they’re not doing their job. And I just have to agree with you that managers and salespeople have to put in what’s accurate now. If you’re that fearful of, “Hey, if I tell the truth, it’s going to come back to haunt me”—okay, well, you may not be able to change that culture over a day, but certainly you have to realize that at the end of day it’s not going to prove good for you, either because they’re going to realize that they can’t come to rely on anything that you say.
Michael Norton: Right.
Dave Mattson: And that’s not great, either. I mean, I think most people would like to hear bad news versus artificial good news. Fair?
Michael Norton: That’s fair. But, you know, Marketing needs the information.
Dave Mattson: Yep.
Michael Norton: Operations needs the information. Your Chief Financial Officer needs the information. So, we have to put good information in, right?
Dave Mattson: We do. I think it’s the sales manager’s job to kind of set that tone, don’t you?
Michael Norton: Yeah. Absolutely. And then the salespeople have to live by it. They have to be held … Oh, that’s the accountability thing. Who’s doing this? Who’s using this? And one of the best practices that I’ve ever seen from a sales management team when we went in and worked with them, was that instead of having a typical weekly sales meeting, saying, “Okay, what are the numbers? When’s it going to close? We’re stack-ranking. Who did the best last week or the last month, the last quarter?”—instead, they war-room what they’re doing. They’d pull up their CRM. And when you’re the sales guy in front of the room talking about what you did last week, you pull it up through your CRM. And when you are going to forecast what you’re going to do this week or this month or this quarter, you’re pulling it up, so that everybody in the room can see who all the stakeholders are, the cast of characters, the budget, the risks, the immediate next step. Right? It was a great best-practice, and I applauded that sales manager for taking that-
Dave Mattson: For getting that done. Yeah.
Michael Norton: Yeah.
Dave Mattson: And what a great way to learn for everyone else, too. You know? When you say, “That top salesperson knows so much about that account. Look at mine. I only know two people that are in the buyer network. This person knows six …,” then I think you also learn what’s important and what’s not. So, I like that for a lot of different reasons.
Michael Norton: You know, we talk to sales managers and VPs of sales every day.
Dave Mattson: Yep.
Michael Norton: I mean, you know, I’m probably having five or ten of those conversations a day. And one of the other cool stories came from a sales VP who said he had one of his top-performing sales reps who started to get into a slump. And the slump went into one-quarter, then it went into a second quarter, and he got nervous because he knew the guy had it in him. He knew he had a solid territory. So, they went back into his CRM, and one of the things that he did was, instead of just looking at numbers, he said, “Let’s go back a year, and let’s look at all the tasks, activities and behaviors you had logged in your calendar when you were rocking it, when you were killing it.” Like, so that’s their online playbook, right?
Dave Mattson: Yep.
Michael Norton: It’s their CRM tool and cookbook. And he went back in there, and they looked at it and said, “What of these activities have you stopped doing? Let’s look at some of the things that are in the funnel. You haven’t scheduled these meetings; you haven’t done these calls.” It was a behavioral issue. And the guy was like, “You know, you’re right. I have to do that.” Within three weeks, the guy’s funnel was robust again; he was back. And he got the guy right out of the slump. But it was the way that they worked together, management and the salesperson, to use this data that was in their CRM to prove, to say, “Here’s what you did that demonstrated success. You stopped doing it, and you started slumping.”
Dave Mattson: Yeah, so they used it as an analytical tool …
Michael Norton: Yeah.
Dave Mattson: … and then recreated that roadmap.
Michael Norton: Coaching. Yeah, a coaching tool. Right.
Dave Mattson: Yep. And I could do that if I was just doing self-coaching.
Michael Norton: Yep.
Dave Mattson: I mean, really, right? I mean the manager went back and looked, but any individual producer could do the same thing. If they’re looking into a slump, they can go back and say, “What were we doing back then?” Because as you say, that almost serves as an x-ray, for lack of another term, about what was happening at that point in time.
Michael Norton: Right, because of look at the salespeople—I mean, salespeople who are unsuccessful. They keep doing the same behaviors, and they do it over and over and over again. And we know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. If they can go back into their CRM tool and say, “Okay, what am I doing? What are some of the top salespeople doing? What are their activities, their events? What are they scheduling? How are they managing their accounts? I have the CRM tool. Maybe I should change from just keeping notes and using it as a glorified contact manager. Maybe I should really embrace this whole CRM tool.”
Dave Mattson: Hmm. You know, at the end of the day, Michael, there’s a ton of stuff that we could be talking about, you know, when it comes to CRM and how we use it and how managers use it. Are there two or three things you could point out that if you were talking to sales managers right now, “These are the things that you want to focus in on,” or, “Here’s how you can help salespeople see the value of this tool”?
Michael Norton: Yeah. I would stop immediately just using it for pipeline numbers and, you know, closing dates like, “When’s it going to close?” Instead, next time you have a one-on-one, a weekly individual meeting with your salesperson, let them take you through their CRM. And not the entire thing. You can customize so many reports, Dave—dashboard-type reports.
Dave Mattson: Mm-hmm.
Michael Norton: If they’ve got a top five that they keep, or a top three or a top ten, whatever their number is for their culture in their company that they use, sit down as a sales manager and open up the CRM together. Go through it together. Have them drive it, though, not you. Have them drive it, and have them point and click and show you and walk you through it. Because two things are going to happen: (a), they’re either going to recognize quickly that they’re not using it to its full extent, and the manager’s going to be able to say, “Hey, you know what? Maybe you should start filling out this field, this field, and this field. It would be nice if you had this.” Right? It’ll be come self-evident of what they’re missing. Or, (b) the other thing that’ll happen is that the manager will say, “You know what? This is a great look. This is a great view of this account. We’ve been in this situation before. As a matter of fact, I had Bob do this once before, you know when he was in a similar situation. Here’s what we did.” And it’s sharing of best practices, an opportunity to advance that account from 60% to 70%, or to go from, you know, handling objections to the proposal stage.
Dave Mattson: I think that’s good. As I listened to you, I think as I said earlier, you know, sales managers could be doing that all day long. We could also use that from a personal production standpoint. Because I go back to that original comment, you know, at the end of the day we manage ourselves.
Michael Norton: Yep.
Dave Mattson: We need to get that done. And we can self-diagnose it lots of times. When you see certain things, it’s great, but it also allows you to say, “What am I missing?” And you can run your own statistics. I always tell salespeople, “Hey, know your numbers, man.” If you know that the top producers are going from, you know, ten first calls to six-second calls, and you tend to be a ten-to-eight, but you’re not getting anywhere and progressing, chances are you’re not qualifying strong enough. Or, if you get ten-to-one, what’s going on there? And you can really just kind of use that as a diagnostic tool to figure out, “What do I need training in? Where do I need to be coached?” And then try to find somebody internally that’s got numbers that you want to emulate. And figure out how they transition from that gate to the next gate, and be that sales manager to yourself. And it’s an awesome tool to do that, man. It’s really good to do that.
Michael Norton: It really is. What you’re talking about is stage-stalls. You know, it’s a manager’s worst nightmare—he’s got, you know, 150 sales reps and he’s got the majority of his deals that are just stuck. Right?
Dave Mattson: Yep.
Michael Norton: And how does he get … Again, using it as a coaching tool, if I’ve got 90 days going on, and something hasn’t moved from 50 to 60%, or 60 to 70%, or 80 to 90% and they’re all just stuck, what are we doing about that? Right? It’s not just, “Hey, the deal’s not going to close. It’s going to go away.” What are we going to do to advance it together?
Dave Mattson: Yeah.
Michael Norton: Right?
Dave Mattson: That’s right.
Michael Norton: And if I could give you one last thing, Dave?
Dave Mattson: Yeah, please.
Michael Norton: Because a lot of the people we train, a lot of salespeople, are not out on the street, and they’re not, you know, in their car making calls. They’re not getting on airplanes. They’re at their desk; they’re inside sales folks. And the best practice I’ve ever seen has your CRM up, the screen is there, and you’re entering your information while you’re on the call. You have your headset on; you’re capturing data. Because you’ve mentioned this a couple of times on the call, that if you don’t put it in right away, you’re not going to get to it. It’s just not going to get done. And so, I can sit in a bullpen, and I can watch, you know, a team of 20 people. Two of them are using their CRM tool and entering the information. The rest are trying to capture it on a piece of paper and then hope that they’re going to get back to it someday and put the data in. And you and I both know that doesn’t happen.
Dave Mattson: No, it doesn’t. As a matter of fact, I don’t even know what that little scribble meant in about 25 minutes after the call, right?
Michael Norton: Exactly. So, the best thing I say is, “Keep it live and keep it running. Keep it right in front of you, and enter the information as you’re talking to your prospect or your customer.”
Dave Mattson: Yeah. Michael, thanks for sharing today lots of good stuff on how we may be able to better utilize CRM. I appreciate your coming on.
Michael Norton: My pleasure to be here, Dave. Thanks for having me.
Dave Mattson: So, group, listen. CRM tools—they don’t have to be that big, bad, awful tool that sits in the corner, that you have to dust off each and every time your manager comes into town. I think if you were to use it every single day and play your own manager and say to yourself, “Hey, let’s look at our CRM. Let’s put in what I think is the most important pieces of information that I should be gathering from all of my accounts,” it’ll serve as a memory-jogger. And before you go into an account, look at the areas that you should be focusing in on. Look at the areas that you’ve already gathered the information. Make sure that you are back into the moment. What I mean by that is, it may be six weeks or six months since you’ve last seen that prospect. You need to get back into the zone of where you were when you left them.
So, look at that information from a historical standpoint. Look at that information from how to start that conversation today. But also look at the information of the things that you know and the things that you need to gather. Because if you’re in a long-term selling cycle or you’ve got a customer that you’re continually selling products and services to, I find that it’s like putting pieces of a puzzle together. And you may gather one piece today, one piece next time, but as you look at it, you’re going to start to see trends, and you’re going to start to see relationships. And you get to connect the dots that may not have been able to be connected on an individual call.
So, CRM is awesome. Use it as a pre-call, and use it as a tool to share information with others who are calling on an account with you, so you could use that as the starting base. But do that consistently. Fill it out, and do it as quickly as you can after the call that you’ve been on. You’ll find that this will become your best friend, especially in today’s environment where you’re expected to do more with less and less resources.
All right, until next time, good selling.
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