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  • Christopher Ahearn

The Diluted Promise of CRM at Dreamforce

I compliment the sales people for their fearless determination to get me on the phone, qualify me and sell me something.  The problem is that virtually none of them are using their CRM system as it was designed.

Per usual, this year's Dreamforce conference was well attended by a wide variety of users, vendors, thought leaders, etc.  Everyone descended on San Francisco to learn about the latest and greatest bells, whistles and research about salesforce.com and customer relationship management.

Like every year, I attended to get more knowledge about a few specific topics. That being the case, I focused my time attending seminars, panel discussions and meeting vendors that were relevant to my mission.  And of course, not being able to avoid it, my name badge was scanned and my information was loaded into, you guessed it - salesforce.com.   And here's where it gets interesting.

Whether or not I took the time, or was allowed the time to explain who I am and what I do; it didn't seem to matter.  Because in the days following the show, a huge number of relentless and sometimes "crafty" sales people have been trying to "follow up"with me.  After all, I'm an unqualified prospect waiting to be sold, or at least that's what everyone thinks.

I compliment the sales people for their fearless determination to get me on the phone, qualify me and sell me something.  The problem is that virtually none of them are using their CRM system as it was designed.  Remember my comment earlier about trying to share what I do, etc.?  Well, none of that data got captured, or it was ignored.  So, I have to start all over again every time I take a call.  And it's time I'll never get back.

The sad part is that this reflects on the company's brand.  One day they're pitching how they (brand) can help improve sales and the next, executing with total incompetence.  It leaves me wondering if their product is really as good as they advertise.

But should I be surprised?  No.  I work with sales organizations all the time and I realize how poor most are at execution.  And we all know one of the biggest challenges organizations have is getting their sales people to use the system and enter meaningful data.  This is highlighted year after year in many studies including CSO Insights.  I find it ironic that there are legions of users and sellers all looking for the next best app to drive some huge improvement, all the while executing poorly on what they already have.


So what can be done to resolve this problem?  Below are three, basic solutions.

  1. Make sure you have a sales process/playbook with a prescribed methodology that can be taught, monitored and that your managers can use as a coaching tool.  It's critical for each stage of the sale to have go/no go filters.  And most importantly make sure the process is used.

  2. Make sure your incentives, including "gamification" are not counter productive. Make sure people are being rewarded for the right behavior and outcome. Frankly, I'd rather see half as  many calls if they're twice the quality.  Yes, I understand the math, but at some point effectiveness has to become part of the equation.

  3. Capture better information up stream.  Make as simple as checking boxes, e.g. a) I'm currently looking for a solution; have a seller contact me, b) I'm just doing research send me product and information updates, c) I'm not interested and just stopped by your booth. Getting basic information will help you prioritize your post show actions.  You can use what you want, but more time upstream will help downstream productivity.  Obviously these are oversimplified examples, but it's more information than I was asked to provide, or the company had.  So ask yourself, "What are the key pieces of data needed (size salesforce, # inside & outside, CRM system, current objectives, what interests you about our offering, etc.) to qualify as much in the moment.

The last few days, the cliche, "I don't care how much you know, until I know how much you care" has been playing over an over in my head.  One easy way to show you care is by doing homework.  I don't need to be sold, I need someone to help improve my business.   And that can't be done if the seller doesn't know who I am, what I do, and what my challenges and aspirations are.   A side benefit will be that sales will get better leads from marketing and thus reduce the battle over number of, and quality of  leads.

I've got to go. My calendar has just notified me of a call my executive assistant set up.

The title of the appointment is DREAMFORCE INTRO - CC Walk ME 818-XXX-XXXX.  And the notes of the appointment say:

Hi Chris, It was a pleasure speaking with your secretary earlier.  Per our conversation, I have set up a web meeting for Wednesday, November 19th at 10:30 am Central. I look forward to meeting with you. All the best, Name Sales Development Manager

Here's how the the call started.

Me: hello this is Chris.

Seller: How can I help you?  Can you tell me the company you work for?  I saw that you saw a demo of our product at Dreamforce and  . . . pitch, pitch, pitch. 

Me: Name, do you know what my firm does?

Name: Um, I did do some research last week . . . 


You can imagine where it went from there.  And unfortunately this is the rule, not the exception.


In closing, I have to wonder how buyers are feeling.  Are we entering the era of "Do Not Call Lists" for b2b?  I feel like I'm under siege and it's not even dinner time when someone is trying to sell me a time share I don't want or need.

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