Before I start, if you have a weak stomach or are prone to get nauseous in the face of cheesy sales lines, then look away until the next paragraph. If not, well, let me start by saying I used to be in sales and when I say “sales,” I mean I started in the worst variety: the “boiler-room” type. There, I was trained to blurt out all sorts of unthinkable lines, but there is one in particular that strikes me each time the word “opportunity” comes up: “Mr. Jones [I tap the phone on the desk], you hear that, that’s opportunity knocking!” Ugh… my stomach!
Ok, you don’t have to look away anymore. Now, opportunity these days, thankfully, means something completely different to me than that “Mr. Jones” example. It’s something, as a marketer, that I use to gauge the potential success of my campaigns when using CRM in conjunction with Marketing Automation. I’m always looking ahead, trying to project out by using a pipeline multiple to give me some sort of an idea of what revenue numbers I can expect to hit in the coming months and I use the weighted value of opportunities in CRM to do so. I use opportunities to properly segment contacts in Marketing Automation run campaigns, corresponding with clients depending on where they are in the sales funnel. All would typically be great, except that there’s one problem — I’m not the one entering the opportunities into CRM. That would be the job of Sales.
I don’t want to start bashing Sales here or anything, but this should be simple, right? Far from it — in fact it really doesn’t matter the size of the company because just about every company I’ve worked with, I’ve never really seen an organizational understanding of WHAT actually constitutes an opportunity in CRM. One such organization I worked with in the past had a complete dichotomy of definitions — you had one side of the Sales organization entering an opportunity into CRM from an “influencer” merely accepting a call-back, while on the other side of the building, the Sales folks weren’t entering anything into CRM without practically getting shareholder approval. Why is an organizational definition of an opportunity, something that is so simple and so important, often glossed over by everyone? How can I have a reliable view of my future business when 15 different sales people have 15 different definitions of what constitutes a CRM-worthy opportunity? And why do these same folks get on my case when I send emails to clients that are supposedly deep into the sales cycle when lo and behold, it’s nothing but a note-less contact name or lead in my CRM system!
The answer? Leadership! Just like basic CRM use, this battle cannot be fought in the trenches. It’s up to leadership to forge a definition and consistently reinforce it through pipeline management INSIDE OF CRM (please, not through spreadsheets managed outside CRM! I beg of you as a former sales guy-turned-marketing-pro, if you want more warm, toasty leads sent your way, and you don’t want me stepping all over your “engaged” clientele, you will demand near-perfect CRM use from your sales people.)
- First step: Come up with an organizational definition of what constitutes an opportunity worth tracking (even if you don’t use CRM!). You must consider this a basic foundational activity to using CRM.
- Second step: Define what milestones or actions must take place at every step of the opportunity process (some organizations have A-B-C pipelines, while others simply give numeric percent to close chances). You can even create this process in CRM (I’ve done it, and it works like a charm!) Spoiler alert: Managers, your sales people will often jump many of their opportunities from 20% to 100% wins virtually overnight. Why? It’s so you don’t pester them at every junction on up to the win — there are ways to combat this, but that’s another discussion completely.
- Third Step: Clearly communicate this to everyone, sales and marketing alike. The definition of an opportunity should be crystal clear to all. They don’t know it upon being asked — make ’em get down and do push-ups (ok, subject to HR compliance).
- Fourth Step: Enforce and constantly reinforce — and especially don’t let an “old” sales culture get in the way of enforcing this strategy. In fact, don’t discount older grizzled vets of the sales team — you’d be surprised how many of them will be your best CRM users (and favorites of the Marketing organization!).
The next time someone in your organization speaks to “Mr. Jones,” there should be little to no guesswork on how he’s handled in CRM. As I finish up this blog, I end it with a few taps of my mouse on the desk — that there, is opportunity knocking for you folks to get your opportunities right!