Nearly 20 years ago, one of my first CRM implementations was for a Baltimore-based, office interior company. I was young and confident that I had the whole sales process and CRM thing figured out. To be successful, clients simply needed to use what we sold, stick to the process we defined, and use the CRM the way we customized it.
Then I met Joe. Joe was an older, well-seasoned sales guy. He was the kind of guy that started his career back when we had secretaries, phones still had cords, and people smoked in the office. Joe called me aside before training and said, “Sweety. . . “, Joe was also the kind of guy that always called women darling, sweety, young lady, and he meant it as a term of endearment. It was not offensive, or condescending, it was just Joe. “Sweety, I’m never going to use your damned software.”
“But you have to. It’s part of the sales procedure. All sales reports will come from the database. You have to enter your Contacts, choose their status from the defined list, track your interactions and schedule the next steps. Sales is a cycle and it is all tracked in the database.”
Joe kind of rolled his eyes at me and said, “Follow me, young lady.”
I followed him to his office where he pointed to a shoebox filled with lined 4×6 index cards, organized alphabetically with index card dividers. Some of the index cards were handwritten, some were neatly typed on a typewriter Joe clearly had stashed somewhere in the office. Some even had business cards stapled to them with meticulous cursive notes below.
“This is my database. This section is everyone I have to call today. Next divider is tomorrow. The conversations are noted here. Key tidbits highlighted here. See this guy just paid for his daughter’s wedding in Hawaii. He loves to talk about that wedding!”
I was getting frustrated, “But how do you know who are clients versus prospects?”
Joe pointed to little colored circle stickers in the corners of the cards, “The blue dot in the corner means they are an active customer. Yellow means I need to follow up. Green means they have a proposal.” I respectfully listened. In my mind the whole time thinking, I needed to have a conversation with the VP of Sales to get Joe “on the system”.
Fast forward several and several sales status meetings, in which we used all the pretty, colorful graphs and lists from the database I built. Joe was top sales guy. Every. Single. Month. I sort of loved that he wouldn’t cave to “that damned computer system.”
After one of our follow up trainings, I popped into the VP of Sales’ office. We had tried everything to gain the buy in of the entire Sales team, including Joe. “I think we need to leave Joe alone and go ahead and assign his license to the new hire.”
What I was humbled to learn was Joe sold like a mad man without software. Software is a small piece to successful CRM.
A few things I learned from Joe about CRM:
- Keep it simple – Everything that was important to the sales process fit on a 4×6 index card.
- Track what matters – Too often we get lost in the minutia of data. Data that you think is important may not actually affect the sales process. You may also overlook the things that are helpful to sales, like key tidbits worth mentioning in client conversations.
- Standardize data input – This helps with reporting, sorting, mining data, and it helps users stay on task. For Joe it was the little color-coded dot stickers. Define clear, standardized field categories, values and entry rules. For instance, Prospects are contacts we’ve qualified as potential buyers. They aren’t called Prospects sometimes and Potential Customers another. Definition is key to quick data entry, and standardized data.
- Work your process – When Joe completed a call, the card was noted with the outcome and refiled accordingly. If you define a process and don’t follow it, it fails every time.
What we can take away from Joe is, it’s less about the software, and more about defining your process and using your system. If you and your team are diligent in that, the success of your CRM is far more likely.
We can’t leave Joe without one of my most memorable career moments.
“Michelle, I have something I want to show you before you leave.” There was of course a sweetheart or a darling in there somewhere. I followed him into his office certain he was going to show me he had entered some data into the database. “Look, I upgraded my system.” With a giant, snarky smile he pointed to the “upgraded” shoebox. His 4×6 index cards were now neatly organized in a clear, plastic shoebox with fresh new index card dividers.