The CX Angle Podcast: CRM Pitfalls and Recommendations

customer experience podcast series

We are in the midst of a Customer Experience (CX) revolution and customers are demanding an enhanced experience.  In this episode of The CX Angle, itelligence Corporate Communication Manager, Jeremy Cross, and Customer Experience Account Executive, Ryan Kubec, discuss three different pitfalls and recommendations that should be considered when implementing CRM for sales teams.

Read the transcript below or listen to the podcast.

(Jeremy Cross) Good morning and welcome back to another episode of the CX Angle podcast. My name is Jeremy Cross and, like always, I am joined by my colleague, Ryan Kubec. Ryan, how are you doing today?

(Ryan Kubec) Pretty good. How are you, Jeremy?

(Jeremy Cross) Oh, not bad. Not bad at all. Refreshed the coffee, so we’re doing well this morning.

So, in today’s episode, I want to get into something called CX Tech, where we really start to look at some of the technologies that are associated with customer experience. And today, specifically, I want to get into talking about CRM.

There are a couple of things that we could do here. We’re going to start out by focusing on CRM through the lens of the end user or the worker bee, when looking at it from a CX or a sales angle. And then we’re going to line up – and stay tuned for this episode – we’re going to line up a second part of this where we get into talking with sales leadership. What does sales leadership look for within a CRM, and we’ll get the flip side of this conversation.

But today, let’s start out with looking at CRM through the lens of the end user or worker bee, however you want to put it. So, Ryan, you’re out there, you’re in sales. What is it that you see or what is your perspective on looking at CRM as a CX Tech?

(Ryan Kubec) Good question, Jeremy. From a CX Tech perspective, CRM typically falls in that product group or solution group — whatever you want to call it — when you look up customer experience solutions, and a lot of the different tech companies have a different mix. But usually you’re looking at a CRM solution somewhere in there. And what that means is, you’ve got sales people out in the field and a lot of times they are the face-to-face or person-to-person interaction touchpoint with your customers.

So when you’re talking about the experience of the customer, that’s a good place to start; but you also have to look at the experience of the employee. We’re breaking this into, really, two episodes, where one is going to be focused on sales people actually using CRM and then also sales leadership, which typically cares more about aggregating and rolling everything up — let’s take a look at my forecasts or pipeline or some of those macro-level things by territory or by country.

I think a lot of times that’s where some of these solutions — the way they are designed or implemented by companies — falls short, as they only are focused on sales leadership. So now your sales people are providing a bunch of data and doing extra work that’s not giving them any value. It’s just rolling up [data] and helping their leadership.

And so when we work with companies on their design process, looking at CRM and what do they want to do, it’s definitely looking at both. What’s going to help your sales people, what are the challenges that you’re trying to help fix there? And then, what does sales leadership need or what insights must they have, and then design a process or solution that your sales people are actually going to want to use.

(Jeremy Cross) Do you think that those companies that are really doing well with CX — they’ve gotten this down or they’re using CRM effectively — versus those that might be out there still utilizing rudimentary ways, of just Excel spreadsheets — is there a gap, would you say that one is truly helping them become CX leaders in what you’ve experienced?

(Ryan Kubec) Well, what I’ve experienced has been really across the gamut of solutions. So exactly like what you said, a lot of the companies we work with, when we go in and ask, what are you using today for CRM, there’s usually laughter in the room. And they say, well, our sales people do everything in Outlook and Excel, which is incredibly common. So, for anyone who’s listening, if that’s how you run your CRM process, that’s all right; you’re probably on par.

But, taking that up a notch, how do you get people who have been used to running everything on their own calendar, on Excel, off their laptop — for the last 10, 15, 20 years sometimes — how do you get them to make a switch and start using an automated tool? And that’s where you’ve got to know your people. You have to absolutely get the input of those folks, because the downfall is, you may have a good, efficient process running through Outlook and Excel, for example, tracking your opportunities. The problem is when that rep leaves and a new person comes on … Jeremy, you and I are both sales reps. I’m about to leave. You’re going to take over all my accounts. I take that spreadsheet with me. You have no idea of the whole history of what’s going on.

So I understand from a business standpoint you want to have that continuity that improves customer experience. When they get a new rep, and the rep comes in and says, “Hey, I’m taking over for Jeremy. I know that he was with you for the last 15 years, but he’s on to another opportunity in his life. I know that you are interested in X, Y, Z solutions, or products or services.” You know, when you go in feeling like I’ve already done my homework, I’m up to speed on who you are and what you care about, that makes that transition a little bit easier.

(Jeremy Cross) So while Ryan is working from the sales capacity in a lot of conversations that we have, I’m coming from a marketing standpoint. I’m with our marketing team here at itelligence, and so I’m coming from a marketing point of view with a lot of this.

With marketing, we view it as, “If it’s not in CRM, it doesn’t exist.” That’s the tagline that we tend to use, that if it isn’t in CRM, it doesn’t exist. And it’s for that same reason, that in order to make sure that there is continuity, that there is this consistent, if you want to say customer experience, the notes have to be there. It has to be able to live past one person. And CRM is essential for that, at least from our perspective. And that it has to be there, and if it’s not there, there’s no way of tracking that. And if you think of just the inefficiencies of using or at least if you’re relying upon nothing more than spreadsheets, there are going to be gaps.

(Ryan Kubec) Yeah. And when you think of CRM, it’s easy to say it is siloed; it’s for sales people. But it does impact marketing. When you’re looking at the overall picture, this is the tool that literally the “R” stands for Relationship. This is the tool that manages our relationship with that customer. It does affect and impact a lot more people. And when you can put relevant data in there or notes, or things of that nature, that does help the overall team. Ultimately, it keeps your customer a little happier and more likely to be a continued customer in the future.

(Jeremy Cross) Well, it goes back to if I am a customer, and I’m calling in to a company, and if that company is effectively using CRM, they should be able to see every note in there for all of my interactions that I’ve had with that particular company — to where I don’t have to go back and rehash every single story. Or if I get sent from one person to another person within a single call, those notes should transfer. I shouldn’t have to repeat the story over and over again, because that impacts customer experience on the customer end of it. But that’s not exactly what we’re getting into now with today’s conversation, because we’re trying to focus on it from more the sales side of things. But it does go from top to bottom. Every single aspect can be influenced by CRM.

(Ryan Kubec) Yeah. And so it sounds like what we’re trying to get at is you have to have the right information in that system. So in order to do that, you have to have people engaged with it. And typically, that’s going to be a sales person. So how do you get your sales people to say, yes, I want to do these extra steps that they may not be doing today, or at least transfer those extra steps.

If they’re keeping all their notes in a spreadsheet because it’s easy for them, it’s what they’ve always done, how do you get them to say, yes, I want to adopt this new tool? Especially if you have a more senior and experienced sales team that says, I don’t need Big Brother watching everything that I do, or I don’t need you micro-managing me from a leadership standpoint.

That’s a question that we get a lot when we work with companies. They say, well, you know, our sales team, they’ve been around for a long time and they really don’t want Big Brother looking over them. We tried to do a CRM implementation three years ago and it didn’t go well. They didn’t want to use it. And usually when you do some digging, you find out that they didn’t really get the input from the sales people. They designed it typically with a sales leader and the IT team, and they designed a solution that was going to be technologically strong and built correctly.

So IT did their job and then sales leadership came in and said, we need all of this information because this is what we want to report on and we want insight there, and the people that were left out were the sales people. What do you need to help you be a better sales person? What data, what assets? What helps you sell more or remember more things about your customer? What are those different touchpoints?

When you can incorporate that, it’s almost like the quote from Field of Dreams: If you build it, they will come. If YOU build the solution, they’re probably not going to use it. But if THEY build it and you get their input and find out what’s important to them and what would help them in their daily life, now you’re adding value for the sales person, right?

I’m a sales guy. I’ve got my value statements, and what we try to sell on is all based on value. You have to sell this to your sales people, as well. And in order to do that, they have to be getting some type of value out of it. That could be a guided selling process; some of these solutions that we work with now have AI components in there, where I’m working with you, you’re a customer of mine, and based on your buying journey thus far, it can start proposing different content and assets. Right?

If you’re trying to buy a motorcycle, and based on your part in the sales process, we know through AI that buyers like you at this point in time in the buying process start to have concerns about how safe is a motorcycle. So you can propose an asset to your sales person on bikers and rider safety that they can proactively send to you. Maybe already like knocking down one of those barriers to buying and helping get that prospect to a close.

(Jeremy Cross) That’s actually something that, as you look at it truly from a marketing perspective, I see it as sales enablement. I’m providing you, the sales team, with assets that you need. Whether that’s coming from an AI perspective, which I think is fantastic; to be able to propose that or to even use AI-powered bots, where as a sales person you could go and interact with a bot, an internal bot, that would provide you with that smart asset that you need.

So we’re really now starting to kind of shift over to looking at what are some of the potential pitfalls and then what are the recommendations. I’m going to go ahead and recap, and we’ll start with this first one that you kind of laid out here.

The first pitfall is, we build these CRMs, but we don’t think about the people involved; we don’t get the right people involved. And so the recommendation is if you are jumping into CRM to help you with experience, or just in general, know your staff. And the way you know your staff is, you get them involved in the process. You have to build this out so you’re getting buy-in from the very beginning.

What would be another pitfall that you would say that people need to be aware of when we’re talking CRM? And what would be your recommendation?

(Ryan Kubec) Yeah. We’ve kind of touched on some of it. A common pitfall is these projects usually have a project sponsor; it’s usually a sales leader, and IT is involved. And so that would be the pitfall, as you’re doing this in a small vacuum, and you have leadership helping design it, because maybe they’re the ones who have the authority to approve budgets. So, you need to get everybody to the table.

And that goes to the second pitfall, that you design a solution that has no value to the sales person. It has lots of value and insight, and is designed for sales leadership. We talked about this on a previous marketing video, where CRM is not customer revenue management. Right? It should be about more than just building a forecast and taking a look at your pipeline, and what’s your win rate, and all of that. And that is important; I get that. But it needs to be more than that. And the relationship piece is in the title of the solution for a reason. It should help your sales person improve, maintain and grow that relationship with the customer. And so you have to get that sales person’s input to know what’s important. That’s going to help them leverage that.

(Jeremy Cross) So then another pitfall is that sales finds that there’s no value in this for them. What would be your recommendation to getting around that pitfall?

(Ryan Kubec) So I guess the easiest and shameless plug is, give me a call! Because this is literally what we do with our customers; we help them identify what pieces of value do they need. And, really, that gets back to what problem are you trying to solve?

There’s a lot of folks that will say, well, we need to do X, Y and Z because they just think they need to do it. You’ve got to break that down a little bit and say, all right, you’re putting a CRM solution in. What problem are you trying to solve? Is it that you don’t have enough information on your customers and people are working off spreadsheets and Outlook? And when Joe Sales leaves or retires and we put a new person in that spot, it takes them a year and a half to get caught up just on who these customers are, what’s important to them and what they like to buy, what do they not like to buy?

So that would be one problem you might be looking to solve. You know, the opposite side of that is you may be looking at, we’re really good on the sales side, but our leadership has no insight into what’s going on. Our people are very efficient using their spreadsheets and Outlook. And so that’s where you really need to get everyone to the table. Answer what is working for them in these spreadsheets and Outlook and find a way to integrate that. And there are solutions that will allow you to pull data out of spreadsheets, where you have live spreadsheets that you can populate and it’ll feed in or you can design a solution where your sales people are comfortable working within it.

So another thing that just popped into my head as you were talking about AI a little bit is, how this adds value. We may have to do a whole episode just on AI sometime in the future, because there’s so much cool stuff that’s happening with that. And it’s something that, regardless of who we talk to, everyone is kind of interested in AI and how it works. It’s like, it’s easy to nerd out on.

But something that that we even have in our system, right, is you’re working all these opportunities and from a sales tactical, on-the-ground sales rep standpoint, and also sales leadership standpoint, you want to make sure that you’re investing your time right. You know, when I moved into the sales world, one of the first pieces of advice I got was, if you’re going to lose, you want to lose fast. You know, it doesn’t help, and it doesn’t pay off, and it’s frustrating, and it’s heartbreaking to go spend six months in a sales pursuit and then find out at the very end that you came in second. And so we’re using AI internally.

We definitely have these conversations with our customers, as well, to take a look at the opportunities we have and start using AI to score them based on how good of an opportunity it is. So if a company really has no compelling reason to do a solution, they don’t have budget or you don’t have access to the right decision makers, that’s going to get a low score. We’re going to move on and invest our time somewhere else. Because that’s not likely to turn into revenue for us.

(Jeremy Cross) So it’s the fail fast concept. Fail fast, learn from it, and move on to the success.

(Ryan Kubec) Yeah. You don’t have to be the sales oracle that just has a gut feel on everything. You can actually start using data that your solution and the AI components of that can start scoring in the background and then continue to learn over time.

The other buzzword is machine learning. So that algorithm is scoring constantly evaluating what opportunities are we winning, what are some of those key outlier things that are really, really important that move the needle. And then it can provide those recommendations to a sales team to say it’s really important that if you want to win this deal, you need to get in front of that customer, take them to lunch, go to dinner, get an in-person meeting five times during this cycle. So that’s valuable to me as a sales person as a tangible activity that I need to be doing. You know, you’re not sitting there trying to go off gut feel and, you know, reading the tea leaves and things like that.

(Jeremy Cross) Well, I think that in this episode, we’ve outlined some pitfalls, we’ve outlined some recommendations. We started to really dive in to CRM from, if you’re on the ground, you’re using CRM, what are going to be those value points for you; specifically the ability to impact customer experience?

And then really looking at it from the end user as the customer. I mean, that’s where we’re looking at this is to say I am on the ground, I’m using CRM; what is my experience with this? And then how can that really impact the business overall? And getting into — and I think you’re right — I think we’re going to have to dive in to an episode here of talking AI, because I think AI really is intriguing. It’s not going away. In fact, it’s just growing at a very rapid pace and is going to impact a number of different parts of our lives, even more so than we think.

So any final thoughts that you have here before we close out this episode?

(Ryan Kubec) No. But just to wrap it up, kind of like we said, we talked about a lot of different things, some different ideas that would be helpful to add in. That comes back to really the basic principle that we talked about in the beginning. One, you need to find out what problem are you trying to solve; who is it a problem for? And get everyone to the table. You just mentioned that the customers of a CRM solution are the sales people who are using it. And so you need to make sure that the tool meets their needs. And if you can do that, your chance at user adoption goes up significantly. You have better data in the system that helps folks like yourself in marketing, helps sales leadership get insights, and it ultimately helps your sales people grow that relationship with the customer. So you’ve got to get everybody involved.

(Jeremy Cross) All right, well, this has been another episode of the CX Àngle podcast. We appreciate you supporting and listening to it.

Remember, if you’re listening on Spotify or Apple podcast, please subscribe to the podcast. You’ll get those regular updates and know when we release new episodes. So thanks for listening, and we’ll catch you on the next episode.

Listen to more podcasts:

Episode 1: Why Talk about Customer Experience?

Episode 2: CX Winners: Domino’s

Episode 3:  Barriers that Impact Customer Experience

Episode 5: AI, Smart Speakers and Virtual Assistants

Episode 6: Solving Customer Experience for Black Friday

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