Any time you look up information about customer relationship management, your Google pages are filled with information about tools and software.
And that information is almost always about which CRM SaaS service you need if you have one type of business or another type of sales model.
And while the tools are important, there’s a lot more to being successful with managing your customer relationships than just choosing a cloud software system, giving the sign in credentials to your sales reps, and saying “Here, use it.”
It seems a bit obvious to say it out loud, but unfortunately, we place so much value on the research of which tool to choose (there are literally too many to count) that we burn our brains out just doing that and feel like the rest should just take care of itself.
But that’s not exactly what happens.
We choose a tool (and because we care, it probably is the best tool for our business), we import our contacts into the system, and we start using it.
But once we start using it, we kind of run on auto-pilot and just let the CRM itself tell us what to do next rather than proactively thinking through those things ourselves.
It’s not a bad thing… I think most CRM tools are inherently good and we’ve got plenty to think about and do as business owners… but by doing so, we’re leaving a lot of potential loyalty (and income) on the table.
So in this post we’re not going to talk about choosing a tool—there’s plenty of advice on that out there already.
Instead, we’re going to talk about the human and management-based aspects of creating a truly optimized and successful customer relationship management strategy. One that will make sense for your business both now and in the future… and one that will ensure that you get the most ROI possible for the investment you’re making in your CRM tool.
First Things First: Understand The CRM Paradox
Also known as the dark side of CRM, this is something that’s hardly ever addressed in online marketing advice—let alone by sales managers trying to optimize everything for more sales and greater satisfaction.
Wikipedia defines it like this:
“May entail favoritism and differential treatment of some customers. This may cause perceptions of unfairness… opt out of relationships, spread negative information, or engage in misbehavior that may damage the firm and its reputation.”
“Such perceived inequality may cause dissatisfaction, mistrust, and result in unfair practices.”
So basically, to a certain extent, when you use only the data spit out by your CRM dashboard, you’re at risk of overtly favoring certain clientele, leaving others to feel abandoned, left out, and dissatisfied.
Which, if you’re not careful, could backfire and cause some of them to leave and take their business elsewhere.
It’s accidental favoritism… and even though it’s accidental, it feels terrible to those who are left out of it.
For example, Amazon tried out a dynamic pricing strategy based on competitor data and customer behavior to know if, when, and for whom they should change their prices.
Whatever their intentions were with the experiment—it may have very well been to keep individual customers satisfied and buying more—it actually ended pretty poorly for them, and was a huge PR smear.
Just because a company uses a CRM doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll fall victim to the CRM paradox, but the likelihood is definitely there.
And understanding that this mishap is possible is crucial to creating a CRM plan that extends beyond your tool of choice and permeates your sales and retention cycle to include your employees, you sales scripts, and your management practices.
Planning Your Automation
Automation in business, if you ask me, is one of the single best capabilities of the internet and software… especially CRM software.
Instead of manually doing the same thing over and over again like some sort of mindless drones, we can set up the process once, turn it on, and let it run itself in the background while we focus on growing our business in other and more important ways.
And in relation to your CRM strategy, there’s three key places where automation comes into play:
Especially from the marketing and sales perspectives, automation can be a huge time-saver and sales-catcher.
Think about it: for most of us, one of the first things we put into place when we’re setting up an online marketing and sales funnel is an email sequence to send out to our prospects after they sign up for some kind of information from us.
Even after we make a sale, a lot of us will use an email sequence for on-boarding and explaining everything a customer needs to know to get started and be successful with us.
And for the most part, this is totally fine.
But as humans on our side of the equation, we need to be aware and sensitive of the fact that not everyone fits into our “ideal customer” box. And that even some people who might be our ideal customers don’t identify with everything we’ve labeled them as in our buyer persona definition exercises.
So, by all means, use automation. For your sake and the sake of your customers who don’t want to wait for 30 minutes until your meeting wraps up so you can manually send them your ebook.
But make a plan for your automation—and therefore the messaging you present to your customers—to extend beyond and included more than just one persona.
For example, if right now you’re using the same automation sequence at every single step of the way for everyone, consider surveying your customers to see what they thought of the process.
And you can uncover that information with a survey.
Yes people, surveys.
Those things we love to hate, but that we know are so good for our businesses.
Ask your customers if they felt your email training was effective. Or if they thought the emails you sent them before they opted in related to their current state.
For most of your customers, the answer will probably be yes.
But for the ones who say no, keep your eyes open for some common themes. And make note of how those themes connect with traits you can isolate as people are in your signup process.
Is it based on their job position? Where they live? The size of their company’s annual revenue? Who their customers are? What level of service they’re getting from you?
Once you’ve got those traits and pain points isolated, it’s just a matter of taking your automation to the next level.
You can add another field to your signup form to figure out where people fall based on the data points you uncover, and send them the appropriate automated sequence based on that.
Using Your Analytics for More than Just Optimization
Most of the time, we’re told to look at our analytics to uncover what works and what doesn’t.
Or in the case of optimizing for ROI, we’re told to see what performs the best out of all our variables and simply ditch the rest.
But it’s that “ditching the rest” that can get us in trouble with the CRM paradox we talked about earlier. (And I think you’re starting to imagine why.)
While optimizing for ROI can certainly help us avoid wasting money on our advertising, marketing, and sales efforts—it usually doesn’t really do that much to make our customers feel like we’re making an effort to build a relationship with them.
Case in point: imagine you were optimizing a landing page for a lead magnet so you could get more signups and more downloads to grow your email list.
The goal of growing your email list is a noble one and necessary to make sure your business continues to grow.
But you’ve got to make sure you’re getting the right people on your list, don’t you?
On your side, you don’t want to waste money hosting email addresses on your email list that aren’t ever going to convert or buy anything.
On the subscriber side, they’re going to get really irritated if they thought they signed up for one thing and you start delivering another with your email sequence to deliver that lead magnet to them.
Which is why we’ve got to be human when we assess the analytics that show up on our CRM and A/B testing dashboards.
We’ve got to do a little more than simply accepting the data that’s presented to us at face value and think about the individual people behind that data.
One of the best ways to harness data in this way, as Mary Wallace talks about on Marketing Land, is via predictive analytics.
According to the post, it’s possible to use data in this way to predict who’s going to buy from you, what they’re going to buy, and when they’re going to buy it.
And because of that, you can hit different people with different marketing messages at timings that work for them and their decision-making process.
So not only do you greatly increase your conversion rates (one company Mary talks about increased them by 450x), your potential clients feel way more noticed, understood, and appreciated.
Customize for Each Customer
When I get an email that reads…
…even if I know the only reason the person sending the email “knows” my name is because I entered it into the signup form, I instantly feel like we have a personal connection with each other.
As this nurse on Quora explained, “When someone calls me by my name, especially when I’m in the middle of doing something for them or if they are asking me to do something, it is like something just clicks in my brain reminding me that I’m human, they’re human, I care, and they need me to. It is a very good feeling, makes me more empathetic and probably (unfairly for those who justifiably do not remember my name) makes me provide better care.”
And according to a study published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website, different parts of our brain are activated when we hear our own names spoken aloud vs. when we hear the names of others.
This shows that there is a special self-recognition our brain identifies and attaches with the name we’re given, immediately making anything that utilizes that name feel more personal.
So that’s one huge way you can break though the noise to get your prospects’ attention… ask them for their first name and address them with it every time you get in touch.
Here, even though Ramit Sethi has no idea of who I am personally, he’s used software to insert the first name I gave him to write a note that feels very personal.
What’s even better (for me, anyway) is when I get addressed as “Gorgeous Chelsea.” Ahh, wonderful, isn’t it?
And when someone doesn’t use my first name, it’s not the worst thing in the world. I still might be really interested in what they have to say if they’ve showed me in the past that they’re really interesting and worth listening to.
But it loses a bit of the magic, you know?
This email contains an amazing message—win a free house? Yes please! But do you see how it would feel more personal (and therefore prompt me to act more) if they addressed me with my name?
And here’s the real kicker: according to Retail Touch Points, customer satisfaction is 4.6 times higher in loyalty programs that send out personalized, relevant communication vs. generic communications.
So I’d say it’s definitely worth your ROI to invest your time into using your CRM to personalize your communications.
Shift Your Focus From Software Management to Human Management
Back in the day, when I still worked in the corporate world, I remember the CEO getting so angry with sales reps when they didn’t close any sales.
He said they had the best tools, that he constantly gave them ideas of where and how to pitch clients, and that because of that there should be absolutely zero excuse why they weren’t closing three contracts a day.
But come on.
These poor sales reps got the job and he threw them into the software and tools on the first day.
Then they were expected to run with it and magically close deals.
There was no training on what the service itself entailed. No discussion on who the ideal clients were and why. No warnings on red flags to avoid. Or, shockingly, even any hits on price ranges to throw around when asked for a quote.
So this is a particularly bad example of an extreme case scenario. I get it. I totally realize your business probably isn’t guilty of these things.
But, after getting out of that job and diving further into business as a whole, I can say with confidence that I think we’re all a little guilty of this once in awhile.
After all, the sales pages of the tools and software make these amazing promises. They show off these incredible case studies where everyone who comes in even the remotest contact of their tool is the happiest, richest person in the world.
Alright, maybe I’m being a bit facetious, but you get my point.
It doesn’t matter how amazing, expensive, or robust your tool is… it can’t do everything for you.
Your CRM tool doesn’t have a heart, it only has a calculator.
So if you don’t have a pointed, detailed sales training program in place, make one.
If you feel a little twinge in your chest like you might be phoning it in here and there—even a little bit—do something about it.
Train your sales reps and their managers well.
Not only on how to do their jobs and what they’re selling, but also on how to identify data patterns, how to identify when a shift in messaging needs to happen, and how to have the confidence to step up and contribute ideas to the betterment of your marketing, sales, and customer service processes as a whole.
Conclusion: The Balance Between Manual, Human Touch & Automation
Alright, I think by now you get the gist that successful customer relationship management is way more than CRM tool selection.
The tool is important, but it goes above and beyond that.
To be truly successful and reach your maximum ROI for sales, customer loyalty, and helpfulness, you’ve got to pay attention to things like how you use the data your tool presents you with, how your customer personas do and don’t serve you, a constant analysis of whether or not you’re still “being human” in the most effective way, despite all the software you rely on, and consistently finding ways to personalize within your automation.
It’s a balancing act, for sure.
Because while doing everything manually certainly is not sustainable in today’s world—especially with businesses trying to scale—there always needs to be a sense of that manual, human touch to keep your business moving forward and winning favor with the humans you want to buy from you.