Almost three decades since the inception of CRM, and no one seems to question the importance of lead nurturing as part of customer relationship development. When done right, it builds trust, raises deal close rates and brings more sales commissions (which definitely tickles sales reps’ ambitions). However, both marketers and sales reps still put lead nurturing software on trial, testing out its capabilities and giving it a fair share of professional skepticism. Now, with a little twist to this software functionality, we are going to show how to make automation the best friend of your marketing and sales department.
Automation beyond data management
Although it is reported that salespeople spend less than quarter of their working time on actual sales activities (for details, see How Sales Reps Spend Their Time by Mark Ellwood, President, Pace Productivity Inc.), there is more to marketing and sales automation than just sparing them daunting manual tasks such as CRM administration and record-keeping.
With hundreds of leads at varied stages of their movement through the pipeline, manually keeping up with personalized communication plans for each of them would take enormous self-discipline and courage, wouldn’t it? A tiny detail slipped from attention, a one-time communication error, and your lead is lost. As estimated by our CRM consulting specialists, this is how 25% to 30% of leads typically fall through.
The sheer amount of leads can blur the visibility of relationships. To clear it up, you would need a true cyber watchdog to trace alarming situations that couldn’t be easily spotted by sales managers. Is it a Big Brother in the CRM world? If yes, it’s here not to tell your sales reps off but to point at communication gaps and other lead nurturing troubles that hurdle customer acquisition.
There is no need to look for this watchdog anywhere but in your CRM – a one-stop shop for marketing and sales forces. According to Chuck Schaeffer, Vantive Media CEO & Blogger, “CRM software must transition from an internally focused, sales driven, customer data management application designed for monologue communication, process efficiency and cost reductions, to an externally focused, conversation driven, customer engagement application,” and tweaking the lead nurturing software functionality in your CRM can be part of this journey.
Bending CRM rules
As put by Antony Dutton (NEC Australia), lead nurturing automation should guide both marketers and sales reps through best practices in follow-up communication. In the CRM universe, there are two options to this.
First, you could introduce a workflow of standardized lead nurturing steps to your CRM system. Although this approach does help salespeople follow approbated processes, in some cases such a structure can be too rigid and lack in adaptability to varying external factors. If you find this approach limiting for your business, read on for the alternative.
Second, and this is our personal choice, you could manipulate CRM functionality to automatically reveal the loopholes in your lead nurturing activities. For this, it’s necessary to define problem identification rules based on your pre-defined lead nurturing strategy.
A company’s sales strategy implies that every lead should be converted into an opportunity within 2 weeks by means of daily communication. With automated identification of relationship problems in your lead nurturing software, no outgoing communication for more than 1 working day would add a special Relationship Problem record to the CRM, triggering email notifications to everyone with relevant rights.
In our CRM consulting practice, we suggest running such automated relationship problem detection daily to identify both new and solved/outdated problems. Early detection would compensate for unintentional communication gaps and help restore the effective flow of lead nurturing.
This could work for diverse cases with any number of custom rules (the expected one is, however, between 30 and 100) that cover the customer acquisition cycle. The flexibility and scalability of this approach would allow tracking how actively prospects are converted into leads, then opportunities and then customers regardless of their numbers.
The role of lead nurturing automation within a CRM system is still debatable. Yet, we discovered a different side to its benefits. Apart from saving time greatly, automation can search out communication errors, gaps and inconsistencies that could cut the number of generated leads, affect relationships with potential customers and impede sales growth.
Here, we have sketched the process to introduce an automated relationship problem identification built around communication policies that define lead nurturing timeframes and outgoing activities. Such process could guide salespeople through best practices in customer acquisition while leaving enough room for improvisation at the same time. The automated identification would also allow extra flexibility by taking into account each lead’s specifics beyond default criteria.
As none of the existing CRM platforms offers such out-of-the-box functionality, it can be achieved through customization only. Please contact our CRM consulting department to find out more about CRM customization and its value for your business.