There are so many great marketing options today to generate leads but if you are doing business in a B2B environment, the lead is only the start. The ability to convert that lead into a customer is where the rubber meets the road. But shouldn’t that be the easy part? Well… not so much. It is very common for B2B companies to struggle with the task of converting leads into customers. And there you have it, a new service offering for Drive Action Digital is born. Not because we planned to expand our services, but because like most B2B companies, our client’s needed help. I’m not exactly sure what to call this service but for the purpose of this article let’s call it Sales Force Automation (SFA) Implementation or CRM Implementation. Yeah, that sounds better. Let’s go with that. CRM Implementation!

Over the last year we have discovered the breakdown in the lead to customer conversion process and thus have been working with several clients to migrate / upgrade their SFA & CRM platforms. I use the term “upgrade” not because we moved to a more robust system but rather a system that is better suited for their needs. The two common scenarios we addressed were either the use of a very robust system like the industry leader or the use of a system like MailChimp which is a great email newsletter platform but hardly a sales force automation system.

Before I provide you with some helpful tips on CRM Implementation, please allow me to share some credentials. I began using sales force automation systems way back in the early days of my career. There were products like ACT and Goldmine which were essentially desktop programs and in some cases they would synchronize with the rest of the team via a manual sync task. Then along came (SFDC) which was cloud based and fairly intuitive.  Both of those aspects lead to the fast rise of SFDC as the market leader. In my career I have been the salesperson as well as the sales manager and thus have a well rounded perspective from both sides of the fence. More importantly, I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t from each side of that fence.

Today, the cloud based model is really the only way to go and while SFDC is still the market leader, your options are vast. There are very large players like Hubspot and Marketo which boast the power of marketing automation. And there are smaller players like Zoho which keep things simple and low cost. Regardless of which system you chose for your company, it only works if you follow a few simple tips.

Tip #1: Design for the salesperson

Please know that this first tip is #1 for a reason. I don’t care how many cool reports you get as a manager or even about all the great bells and whistles the system comes with. Simply put, if your salespeople don’t use system, it won’t work. I’ve seen it over and over again in my career. The CRM or SFA system is built out with the manager or organization’s needs in mind from a reporting and forecasting perspective and it fails because it is cumbersome and unusable. If you want adoption of the system by your team, you must design it to help make them better. Keep it simple. Streamline the tasks. And limit the data entry only to what is going to help them.

One small but very important aspect of this to make sure your system has email integration. Even when users take advantage of CRM features, prospect responses often come back via email. Make sure that conversations with prospects are automatically captured in the CRM system.

Tip #2: Clean your data and keep it clean

When the data in your SFA or CRM system becomes out of date, inconsistent or just flat out messy, salespeople will stop using it. Migrating to a new system is a great opportunity to cleanse your data. It is vital to standardize the data every place possible. That means merging duplicate account and contact names, fixing capitalization, reducing the number of open text entry fields, developing naming conventions for various aspects of the data, and establishing future data entry guidelines. Having clean data in the system will allow salespeople to use the features of the system without fear of bad data mistakes.

A common cause of messy data is the frequent importing of new accounts and contacts without following your clean data guidelines. Ever return from a trade show with an Excel worksheet full of contacts and import them right away so your salespeople can begin following up? And now it’s 3 months later and you have no idea what the trade show ROI was.  It doesn’t have to be that way. Starting with clean data makes it easier to keep it clean.

Tip #3: Establish Usage Guidelines

Before I provide this tip, please remember tip #1. Don’t ask your salespeople to follow a cumbersome process of data entry and task logging that isn’t totally necessary. These systems are natively designed for speed and efficiency. When users of the system follow a process that is clearly beneficial to them, they will make better use of the system.

One important aspect of the usage guidelines is to eliminate the feeling of double work. Every salesperson will tell you that they have their own methods and this CRM platform is just doubling the work. Trust me when I tell you that most actually do not have or follow their own methods. This is often a way to avoid accountability or worse, avoid micro-management. They have to believe that the CRM or SFA system you put in place with help them improve their performance. And it actually has too!

Tip #4: Establish a regular schedule for training

Today’s CRM and SFA systems are very intuitive but the users need regular training. Don’t just roll it out and expect people to know what to do. Dedicate 30 minutes each week for regular training and keep the session focused on 1-2 tasks.  Regularly scheduled team training sessions will lead to better adoption and a consistent approach through the team. This consistency leads to more disciplined sales tactics and cleaner data. I would even encourage managers to allow the users to conduct the training. Find someone doing things right and have them teach the rest of the group.

Tip #5: Enforce the Discipline

Let’s assume that you followed the advice in the first 4 tips. Management must require their salespeople to use the system with no exceptions. As a sales manager, I regularly said to the team, “If it is not in the system, it didn’t happen.” Don’t let your salespeople get away with using their own methodologies. If the system is truly designed to help them then they will adopt it unless you allow otherwise.

Today’s SFA and CRM systems have robust reporting features. These reports should be reviewed during sales meetings and one on one discussions. As members of the team use the system, the competitive nature of salespeople will be fueled by the peer pressure. As you review activity reports and praise the right behaviors, the rest of the team will conform.


I conclude this article with a quote from an old colleague, “Success is a process, not an event.” Focus on the daily tasks that lead to success and not the silver bullet or magic pill.

This article has given me inspiration for future writing on topics such as marketing automation, email marketing tactics and the line between sales & marketing. I’m looking forward to sharing those with you as well.