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Leveraging Your CRM to Create Killer Account-Based Marketing

Leveraging Your CRM to Create Killer Account-Based Marketing

With relationship building finally climbing to the top of the “priority” pile in B2B marketing, we have a lot to celebrate. It’s taken years for the twin sheens of spam-blast email campaigns and the “inbound with significant ROI” pipedreams to wear off, but it finally has. And here we are, starting over again as more than just account-based marketers.

We’re people looking to build relationships with others because we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that what generates revenue is engaging and selling directly to people.

But before we do any of that, we have to build the right relationships.

Fortunately for us, we have CRMs, and they’re filled with the data we need to get things done.

Not only can they give us insight into org structures and the ability to connect with decision makers within a company. They also allow us to simultaneously target and engage all 5.4 decision-makers involved in the buying process, increasing our chances of a quick, effective sale based on strong, strategic relationships.

Here’s a taste of what your CRM can do:

Help you map social proximity territories.

It may not be something you think about often, but each of your employees has a social sphere—contacts, contacts of contacts, and so on. Make a weekly habit of exporting new leads from your CRM, matching them against your team’s spheres of connection (pretty easy on LinkedIn), and divvying up the prospects accordingly.

Build on your successes.

The true magic of a great CRM—aside from it being a repository of your most valuable information—is the fact that you can export lists and sort them. It isn’t a glamorous way to work, but it gets the job done. Simply export your lead list and sort by industry—then, scan through and match them to your previous successes. In this way, you’ll gain a clear understanding of what works (and what doesn’t) for each target industry. Then, tweak your messaging and repeat your successes.

Produce lists of role-based leads.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it bears repeating—you should be sorting your leads by role. Rather than having your sales execs bounce from person to person, talking to a marketing exec one hour and a head of IT the next, allow them to focus on common role types. That way, they can build relationships faster, understand the needs going into the conversations, and streamline the production of personalized collateral.

Inspire insightful content.

As you take the long view over which industries are benefiting the most from your offering, you can work your way into answering complex, industry-specific needs. Discover which businesses benefit the most from your offerings, how they use your product, and put two and two together. This should give you a very clear framework for the real story of your product in an industry, offering the opportunity to create deep, meaningful content that speaks directly to your target accounts.

Strategically target multiple decision-makers in the same account.

Remember when you build role-based lead lists? Have sales execs team up and strategize, hitting specific accounts at multiple levels simultaneously. That way, while one rep is working a relationship with the director of marketing, another can grease the wheels with the CFO so that, when they connect, they’re both understand the value. In addition to increasing your conversions, this will dramatically reduce the length of your sales cycle.

CRM Software, Automation and the Human Factor

CRM Software, Automation and the Human Factor

The world of the future will be an even more demanding struggle against the limitations of our intelligence, not a comfortable hammock in which we can lie down to be waited upon by our robot slaves.
― Norbert Wiener, The Human Use Of Human Beings: Cybernetics And Society

In researching my new ebook Achieving the Impossible, Lessons from the Apollo Space Program I of course ran across much information about the automation of many sectors of society. At the time of the Apollo space program—the 1960s and the 1970s—research was occurring at MIT and elsewhere into the blooming science of cybernetics.

Cybernetics originated with American mathematician and philosopher Norbert Wiener. In 1948 he defined cybernetics as “the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine.” Cybernetic pioneer W. Ross Ashby also referred to cybernetics as the “science of simplification.” Today cybernetics have had a profound impact on software, including our own CRM software.

Human Action at the Core

One impact of cybernetics, in modern software application, comes down to algorithms that pull information from a broad system, or from a general data source such as the internet. But it all comes back to humans interacting with a computer. The human acts, the computer gives information back, the human takes further action.

We saw in the moon landing the perfect example of human-computer interaction. During the descent to the moon, a computer error message occurred which, left alone, could have actually resulted in a mission abort. Between the flight and ground crews, they were able to override the error message and land safely on the moon.

If in the future we eliminate the human factor—as has been suggested by some scientific authorities—then everything would come back to only algorithms. But algorithms were created for specific scenarios, and aren’t actually alive, so cannot possibly be a perfect match for the real world in every instance.

On top of that, humans themselves have become more and more complex, and cannot possibly be addressed by algorithms only. As an example, today we have many more intercultural relationships than ever before—which merge varying aspects of 2 different cultures. The child of one of these relationships absorbs characteristics of both cultures into his or her life.

Complexity has certainly found its way into sales, too. Today’s sales landscape is far more complex than that of even 20 years ago. For that reason, we are directly applying cybernetics to Pipeliner CRM to simplify this complex sales landscape for salespeople and sales managers.

Cybernetics smoothly assists the human-computer interaction and also assists users to simplify data and use it.

Data Interpretation and Use

A common complaint about traditional CRM software, in the past, has been that data input was complex or difficult. Today, however, this issue has been solved, especially by CRM solutions such as Pipeliner.

A much more pertinent issue is what kind of insight the user is gaining from CRM data. This obviously has to do with how the user is interpreting the data—but it also has to do with how intuitive CRM is, and how the data is presented for use.

In the human-computer relationship, it is always the human in charge. Likewise, when it comes to a salesperson or sales manager and sales automation (such as CRM), it is always the salesperson or sales manager that is in charge. Automation assists in the analysis of data, but it must always be a human that draws the conclusions from that analysis. For that reason, at Pipeliner, we always place the human in charge.

In a similar manner, the sales manager requires data from salespeople, from the team, from the territory—but again the conclusion comes from the sales manager, and not from CRM. CRM can give the sales manager some insight—that’s why we call it insight—but the final decision will always be up to the manager.

The data in Pipeliner CRM is totally transparent—the sales manager sees the exact same data as the sales rep. The only difference is that the sales manager is able to view all the sales reps’ data, while a sales rep can only view data for that rep, not any of the others.

If a salesperson is well trained, the salesperson will interpret the data just as well as the sales manager. While the salesperson is being trained, the sales manager uses CRM data to mentor the sales rep, and instruct him or her on interpreting the data correctly.

We’re Addressing People

We can see that people are essential to both sides of the sales equation. In the end, the winning human-automation combination is aimed at marketing, selling to and—most importantly—helping people.

And there are a lot of them out there! According to the Population Reference Bureau, every single day Earth’s population expands by a net growth of 250,000 people. That’s basically the population of a small city coming into the world every day.

Where is this growth happening? In some parts of the world, it is happening dramatically, and in other parts, the population is actually declining. For example, Northern Africa currently stands at 229 million. In the next 13 years, that figure is expected to balloon out to 293 million. 30 years beyond that, the population is expected to reach 400 million. Parts of Europe, on the other hand, are declining.

What does this mean for our current world view? Every day, approximately 5,000 – 8,000 people are trying to travel by boat from Africa to Europe. This number, too, will increase. Is Europe ready for this kind of immigration? These people are from a drastically different culture than Europe and are and have often had much less access to education, if at all. This is the real challenge for Europe.

But every single one of these 250,000 people coming into the world every day, at some point, will buy something. They will be somebody’s customer. Today people expect to be treated as individuals, to have their particular needs and wants addressed. For that reason automation, today, has been tailored to keep careful track of buyer profiles.

So from both sides, it’s the humans that matter. As Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer, Accenture, has said: “Humans are at the heart of the digital revolution.”

Pipeliner CRM software is the perfect automated assistant for sales.  Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

Sales CRM is the Co-Pilot, Not the Pilot

Sales CRM is the Co-Pilot, Not the Pilot

In researching my recent ebook Achieving the Impossible, Lessons from the Apollo Space Program  I made a very interesting discovery that very much applies to sales CRM. Along with other history-making factors, the Apollo program, thanks to a person almost never mentioned in the news and history of the time, set the stage for the symbiosis between human and machine.

Margaret Hamilton

If you’ve never heard of Margaret Hamilton, it is because her name was conveniently left out of any historical mention of important people associated with the Apollo programs and lunar landings. It was only in 2003 that Hamilton received an award from NASA for her groundbreaking work, without which the moon landings would not have been possible. Additionally her work had much to do with the actual launching of the software industry.

In the early days of the software industry, software coding was, in fact, mainly a woman’s job simply because coding involved a lot of typing—something that many men eschewed, rather foolishly as we see in hindsight. But today this “background” task (that in fact helped save the moon landings) is very much at the forefront and exploding.

Hamilton was the director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which developed onboard flight software for the Apollo program. In just one notable example of her work, her design of systems software for the Apollo Guidance Computer included error detection that helped avert an abort of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Symbiosis: Human and Machine

Hamilton’s work made it possible for what has become the symbiosis between human and machine—the computer is the co-pilot, not the pilot. This fit right into the Apollo astronauts’ ethic: they insisted on having control of their craft instead of turning it over to automatic control (autopilot). The necessity of having human involvement became very apparent when Neil Armstrong, instead of following what the computer was telling him to do, changed the landing site for the Apollo 11 LM (Lunar Module) because the original site chosen—and the one the computer program was guiding him to—was too rock-strewn for a safe landing.

Automatic pilot has been part of jetliner flight for many years, and many pilots won’t trust it for takeoff and landing. A number of years ago I was allowed to sit behind the pilot, in the cockpit of a jetliner landing in Los Angeles. He informed me he was taking it off of autopilot to land.

This kind of “autopilot” has even made its way into our daily lives. The latest software upgrade to my car allows for fully automatic parking, if I so desire.

But despite arguments and “innovations” to the contrary, automation should always remain the assistant to the person’s operation, as opposed to being given total control.

Relationship to Sales Automation

There has been an effort over the last 20 years to totally automate sales. In fact it was recently predicted that thousands of jobs would be lost as sales became totally automated.

There’s an opposing school of thought formed by myself and many others, that the salesperson will never be “outmoded” or disappear. A machine cannot interact with buyers, and address their specific issues, especially when it comes to complex B2B sales. But even in the B2C world, take a look at Apple: their stores are well-staffed with live salespeople, and those salespeople are an expected part of the buying experience.

Salespeople certainly use automation. But as with the Apollo program and with piloting jet planes, automation is their assistant—it will never replace them.

Pipeliner CRM-Sales Symbiosis

This school of thought has completely influenced how we designed Pipeliner CRM. We designed it to be the “co-pilot” for the salesperson. Pipeliner focuses salespeople, and provides the necessary intuitive and visual tools for them to control and stay on top of their opportunities. But salespeople are clearly the ones in change, and Pipeliner is there to back them up.

Not only have we made this symbiosis part of the creation of our sales CRM, but also of the way data is stored and synchronized. Pipeliner is the only CRM system with both online and offline capabilities. We didn’t want a salesperson to have to rely solely on cloud data centers; what would happen if the salesperson, for whatever reason, didn’t have internet access? With Pipeliner the complete CRM, with all data, is still there. This approach cost us 4 years of programming effort—but for us there was and is no other way.

Automation is the assistant, the co-pilot, and today is a totally necessary one.

Pipeliner CRM is the best assistant a salesperson or sales manager could have.  Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

Pipeliner CRM Continuity: Streamline and Supercharge Sales Activities

Pipeliner CRM Continuity: Streamline and Supercharge Sales Activities

Introducing Pipeliner CRM 11.0, which we have named Continuity. With this version, we are demonstrating absolute continuity in streamlining and supercharging sales activities throughout the world.

A salesperson, every minute of every hour of every day is performing activities. Everything is an activity: the sending of collateral, a call, a task, a meeting, an appointment, or anything else of this nature. Tasks and activities, successfully completed, make it possible to move opportunities from stage to stage of the sales process—creating continuity throughout the sales pipeline. Hence, it is the enhancement of Pipeliner CRM’s powerful Sales Activities functionality that is at the heart of this release.

The name of this release—in a similar way to our last several major releases of Pipeliner CRM—was taken from an ancient work, the Law of Continuity. The Law of Continuity is a principle introduced by German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz in 1701, that states, “Whatever succeeds for the finite, also succeeds for the infinite.

Sales Activity Management

Pipeliner CRM Continuity presents a number of key enhancements to Pipeliner’s sales activity management features—several of which can be found in no other CRM application.

  • Attach the same activity to one or more accounts, contacts, leads or opportunities–anywhere it applies–with Activity 1:N
  • Create and set recurring tasks, so there is never a need to create the same task every time you need it
  • Set a default appointment duration—if, for example, you normally give a standard presentation lasting 30 minutes, you can set a default duration for such meetings, and eliminate having to enter a duration again for this type of appointment
  • Set a default length of time for a reminder before a task, such as an hour before a call or appointment
  • The Appointment Planner instantly informs you of the time zone your prospect or customer is in, when setting an appointment

Other Enhancements

As always, we have brought other major enhancements to Pipeliner CRM with this release, including major additions to our Product Catalogue feature, new Reporting features, and several robust additions to Pipeliner Mobile CRM.

Learn more about Pipeliner CRM Continuity.

Pipeliner CRM is instant intelligence, visualized. Try a free trial today.

The Importance of Investing in Sales Productivity

The Importance of Investing in Sales Productivity

A very interesting report, called State of Sales Productivity Report, has just been released by Docurated. Compiled from anonymized data from the Docurated sales productivity solution and a survey of 127 sales and marketing executives, the report examines the state of sales productivity from both the sales rep and sales management perspectives. In our first blog in this series, we took a look at the 5 Keys to Improving Sales Productivity, based on the report’s first finding.

The second finding in the report is quite interesting: that a majority of organizations will be spending more on sales productivity initiatives this year than last year. According to the report, with the typical organization spending $24K per salesperson in improving productivity, this amounts to a bottom-line addition of at least $4.8K per rep.

According to the report, these initiatives include tools and training. These companies want to make sure these salespeople succeed. No surprise—their success or failure has a direct impact on company revenue.

Sales Training

Training is vitally important, and in fact can mean the difference between a return on investment in a sales rep, or a loss of that investment. Given the time for onboarding a new salesperson—for many companies that can be months—inaccurate or sloppily done training can create major holes in your sales team, simply because when a rep doesn’t make it, it then takes months to get a new rep up to speed. So having a great sales training program is a must for companies to compete.

In addition to basic training in a company’s product line, best selling practices and buyer patterns and personas, training should also continue after the rep has “graduated” the training program. Training should then take the form of ongoing coaching and mentoring by the sales manager.

The entire point of training followed by coaching and mentoring is to regularly increase the efficiency and closing ratios of your sales team without having to constantly hire new salespeople. Of course hiring is always needed, but hiring to improve sales team efficiency is an awfully expensive way to go.


It’s not clear if investing in sales compensation is part of what is meant as investing in sales productivity in the report. But I always stress, when talking about investing in sales productivity, that the importance of a great compensation plan cannot be overstated. In fact, when it is found that a lot of effort is needed to “motivate” salespeople to sell, it is often because the compensation plan is lacking—it’s not something that salespeople are really willing to work for.

I liken it to a pro football team. That team is motivated both by the money and the game itself. You’ll never have to “motivate” a pro football player to play the game. While being a salesperson is obviously not on as grand a scale, if that salesperson loves the game (bearing in mind that the game is constructed with the compensation plan), you’re not going to need to go overboard in “motivating” them to sell.

CRM Software

When it comes to investing in sales productivity, the other major area to pay attention to is tools. A salesperson’s primary tool is CRM. And many companies can overlook the importance of implementing a first-rate CRM solution that actually empowers salespeople, as opposed to a CRM application that is used (as it traditionally has been) simply to monitor and control salespeople.

It’s interesting that it has only been fairly recently—in the last 10 years—that somebody (namely us) has come up with a CRM solution that salespeople really love to use, and that actually helps them sell. Just examine the situation: if a salesperson doesn’t like CRM, they’re going to use it as little as possible, and resort to their own spreadsheets and solutions to track and control their own sales. Implement a CRM solution that they can really use, and they no longer need these “extra” tools, are not avoiding CRM but taking advantage of it, and can spend the majority of their time actually selling. Pipeliner CRM is completely intuitive and visual—it is instant intelligence, visualized.

As we see in the report, companies are wisely investing in sales productivity. They should do everything they can to ensure that these investments truly pay off.

Pipeliner CRM is the CRM solution that actually empowers salespeople to sell. Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

Top 7 Developments Changing the Face of Sales Today

Top 7 Developments Changing the Face of Sales Today

You know the mantra. Your sales practice is only as good as your quiver of arrows, and your aim. It’s only as good as your attitude, your product, your leads, your proposal, and your closing skills. Is the mantra always true? How could it be? There are factors—variables—coming into play. These variables affect each stage of the game.

As of my writing this, consumer spending is at an all-time high. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (reported here by Trading Economics), the second quarter of 2016 saw people make more purchases than ever before. What accounts for this? Are products better? More qualified leads? Superior salespeople?

The truth is there are a great many factors affecting spending, just as there are many factors that affect sales. Are spending influencers and sales influencers all the same? No. As I talked about in my last post, this is the age of the informed consumer. Consumers are making decisions outside of marketing and sales funnels, they’re making purchases based on word-of-mouth—digital and otherwise.

But we’re concerned with developments affecting sales, because that’s the business we’re in. Awareness can help keep conversion rates high. The following developments have changed the game for good.

#1: Personalization

According to international marketing and branding agency Base Creative, personalization is one of the biggest trends to watch in 2016. And it’s not going to stop now. Because of the availability of consumer data from online activities, marketing and sales can now personalize campaigns, targeting individuals based on reliable information.

Base Creative’s research shows that personalization delivers 5 to 8 times higher ROI for marketing, and boosts sales by 10 percent, or more. Make no mistake, personalization plays a role in all of the developments I’m presenting to you here.

#2: Mobile payment

Now, because of technology such as mobile card readers, you can make a sale from almost anywhere. This increases the potential for sales in the field. You’ll never be unprepared to close. And, in an article on how to accept credit card payments, Square reports that customers spend 12 to 18% more when they pay with a credit card instead of cash.

There’s the potential for traveling salespeople and mobile businesses to conveniently accept payments. There are improvements in personalization from marketing and sales. Combine these developments and you can see why consumer spending has continued to rise.

#3: Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

This just makes sense. Repeat customers spend more, and they do word-of-mouth marketing for you. CRM uses science to simplify the process of selling, to help manage ongoing relationships and create new ones. It does this by sifting through data, allowing you to zone in and personalize the sales process.

Essentially, through CRM, salespeople can now keep track of more contacts, because the software does the work for them. They can hone in on leads, have productive conversations, and move towards conversions with precision. This efficiency wasn’t possible with old-school sales.

#4: Sales acceleration

Back in 2005, Barry Trailer, a founder of CSO insights, released a study showing companies who use CRM generate 17% more revenue than those who don’t. Then Sales Acceleration software came along to automate the process of selling.

Whereas CRM is about really working personally on those relationships, Sales Acceleration can operate in tandem to generate leads and make appointments. It takes out the legwork of scheduling and calling. Inside sales teams who use sales acceleration close deals in an average of 69 days, compared with 144 days for outside sales.

#5: E-commerce

As more and more information has become available to consumers, the e-commerce store has stepped up. For the salesperson and entrepreneur, doing an e-commerce store is like putting your bait in the water and sitting back until the fish bite. This is where sales is becoming more like marketing.

But many are interested in improving their chances, which is where Robin Burton’s advice on how to make more money in e-commerce comes in. Interestingly, certain points in Robin’s how-to post can easily apply to sales:

  • Make buying easy”—of course! Every salesperson knows convenient access to what you’re selling is important
  • Accept all payment methods”—this is a matter of removing obstacles to purchase
  • Watch cart abandonment”—if you’re pretty positive a prospect is hooked, but they drop the line, it’s important to take note and think of ways to incentivize the purchase
  • Bundle products”—this is a classic sales incentive tactic: give them more value and they’re more likely to buy

In other words, sales best practices have migrated to the digital world. Does e-commerce spell an end to traditional, person-to-person sales? That’s something we’ll have to watch. Thankfully, any good salesperson has valuable knowledge to improve e-commerce.

#6: Globalization

According to research from Rutgers on globalization, 54% of U.S. companies are involved in foreign markets, and 72% want to increase their international business share. With the reality of globalization comes new challenges for sales, including adapting practices to different cultures and being flexible to a ton of travel.

In the global marketplace, companies must be tech-savvy, implementing data-driven solutions such as CRM, and automated processes such as Sales Acceleration. With that, salespeople must be prepared to use technology effectively.

#7: Social Media

In a study on entrepreneurs and social media, the UAB Collat School of Business made several noteworthy findings:

  • Entrepreneurs are “hesitant” to use social media for their business pursuits
  • When entrepreneurs do use social media, two of the top ten things they use it for are prospecting and sales

Social media throws yet another variable in the mix for entrepreneurs and sales. It can be tough to figure out exactly how to use it, but you can’t ignore the fact that billions of people are on various social media channels every day. This creates a whole new prospecting field. It also creates a challenging arena for outreaching and closing deals.

Here again, technology such as CRM and an e-commerce funnel can help a great deal if you want to take advantage of social media. But, in my opinion, if you have an excellent lead and you’re in touch on social, do your best to schedule an in-person appointment. Nothing beats the personal touch.

7 Methods for 20/20 Vision with Your Sales Forecasting

7 Methods for 20/20 Vision with Your Sales Forecasting

Wouldn’t it be great to have a crystal ball that would tell you what your sales totals will be each month, quarter and year? Managing the business would be so much easier anticipating cash flow and profits. The problem is sales forecasts are usually less reliable than predicting the weather. Mark Denning, CPA and Author of “Drive Your Business to Financial Success” states in his book, “The key variables with the highest risk and level of difficulty to forecast our revenue and gross margin.” Why is that? The sales team knows about every sale and your CRM system has built-in forecasting reports and dashboards. Seems like everything should be clear as a bell, but we all know its’ not. Forecasting in the CRM relies on the data being entered. As we say in sales, guessing in equals guessing out. Which is also why I say, NO GUESSING.

Rather than use a crystal ball, here are seven ways to have 20/20 vision with your sales forecasting.

It all starts with being real

Find a healthy balance between stretching yourself to grow and being honest about the market, capabilities and follow-through record. I’ve worked with owners who simply like to set goals that shoot for the moon hoping their team will hit the top of the mountain. The problem is the goal is not real and everyone knows it, but they all play along throughout the year fudging their closing dates and sales stages to please the boss at the beginning of each month or quarter. If you keep the goals real and believable your team will be more honest in their assessment of closing dates and stages and will fight to reach the moon.

Make sure you have the resources to meet the forecast

I was privileged to watch a team of 30 great people moves their forecast attainment from 8% to 92% in one year. The new ownership of the business invested in infrastructure improvements that helped the team perform. Instead of working hard to make up for poor systems and products, the energy went into growing the business. The owners wanted growth and realized part of being real was helping people with what they needed. Do your salespeople have the tools like a CRM, smartphone, laptop or tablets? Do you allow them to purchase reasonably priced apps that improve production? Is the communication and systems between support departments flowing smoothly? Are your products and delivery resulting in referrals or customer service tickets?

Don’t leave it all up to the sales team, get other departments involved in sales forecasting

The last point made was about having the resources to attain your forecast. By getting more departments involved in the sales forecasting process you might discover what resources need to be added or changed to be on target. You’ll also gain more buy-in from support departments to help sales meet the goal.

Are salespeople afraid to be honest if things are slow?

This is a killer to forecasts. Honesty helps you make the right adjustments in your tactics so you can achieve the forecast. If people believe they’ll get belittled, you may hear more about a big deal they are working on that’s due to close any day now, or someday, or reality, never. This is where coaching with backbone and heart proves very useful. Don’t let people get away with giving up on their goal, but listen and coach them into how they can improve. Sometimes they might need support through marketing or service, as well as a better effort on their part. The main point is to believe in your salespeople and allow them to tell you “bad” news without repercussions.

Is your sales process one that is being practiced by all salespeople?

When you can add more predictability to how salespeople are working, the easier it is to manage performance. You don’t need to create sales robots without decision-making ability. I would suggest you have general milestones (sales steps and stages) and confirmations of buyer commitment that serve as indicators of a more qualified buyer. If you’re still basing your forecasting on how your salespeople “feel” about the deal…well, you know where that leads. Take time defining your sales process with checkpoints you as a manager can evaluate.

Make sure your CRM is designed well for your sales process and business so salespeople will find value in keeping the data current

This is where your forecasting reports come from and as I’ve been saying we don’t want to guess or covering of tale. The CRM can be a tool that adds accountability and a real-time status of where you stand against your forecast today and in the future. In addition, it’s a management and marketing tool to help salespeople close more business. If it’s more of a burden, you might consider looking at how you are using it and also examine if you have the right system. Things are very affordable today, especially if you’re growing sales. One way to keep it valuable is making sure they system integrates with your email platform so information can be synced or added easily into the CRM.

Make your goals and forecasts important to the sales team

Keep the forecast and results in front of everyone on a weekly or at least a monthly basis. When you recognize someone for sales attainment, tie it back to how they are doing regarding their forecast. In other words, acknowledge them for their sales results and what percentage they attained against their CRM Pipeline forecast.

When your sales team becomes one that is counted on to meet the sales forecast, budgeting and planning become so much easier. Why not try these ideas out and see if you can improve your sales forecasting vision to 20/20.

Navigating Today’s Sales Complexity

Navigating Today’s Sales Complexity

If one flat statement could be made about today’s sales environment, “It is really complex” would certainly serve. Going back in time, there were 2 basic sales jobs—a salesperson and a sales manager. Today we have field sales, inside sales, SDR sales, vertical sales, horizontal sales, and more. Sales has become a complex team sport which requires precise coordination.

On top of that, we’ve also moved into the digital age. We have multiple systems gathering data. We’re constantly seeking to integrate further data sources, more inputs, and greater and additional technology. The digital age has also meant an enormous diversification and proliferation of sales channels that must be monitored, acted upon and supervised.

Complexity is also reflected with customers, especially in B2B sales. It’s not simply a matter of a buyer approving a purchase—now there are committees and multiple decision-makers, all of which a salesperson must keep track of and deal with if a sale is to be made.

For sales, all the above can unfortunately boil down to one thing: losing track of the person on the other side of that screen: the prospect, the buyer, the customer. In other words, the one individual or group of individuals that in the end will mean a win or a loss.

Technology Must Help, Not Complicate

Here at Pipeliner, we’ve been watching this complexity evolve since the beginning of our company. Because of it, we started out on a completely different footing than traditional CRM applications. We designed a CRM solution to empower sales teams, not weigh them down with data entry and administration.

Technology is only as good as the results that come out of it. If technology is not helping to deal with and solve that complexity, then all it’s doing is making complexity more complicated. Which, unfortunately, has been the end result of many of the leading CRM applications over the years.

Enter Cybernetics

Now there is a word you probably didn’t figure you’d hear in a blog post about sales and CRM—cybernetics!

What is cybernetics, and how does it apply? Well, cybernetics is the study of closed cognitive learning systems—specifically the study of how machines can be created to think and act as humans. But moreover, the science of cybernetics is used to approach, understand and deal with complex systems.

Pipeliner’s next version, due very shortly, will incorporate cybernetics. It is the next quantum leap in CRM technology—and will assist sales teams, organizations and companies to squarely face today’s complexity head-on, instantly sort it out and navigate it.

Stay tuned for further news!

CRM Has Failed in the Past. But How is it Helping Today?

CRM Has Failed in the Past. But How is it Helping Today?

In this series, we’ve covered why CRM has failed in the past, what is really needed for a CRM today and what we at Pipeliner are doing about it.

Now let’s take a look at how and why Pipeliner factually and practically empowers salespeople. If you utilize CRM anywhere at any time, this could be very valuable information for you.

Lowered Value Across the Boards

As we’ve gone over, traditional CRM applications were crippled by the technology available at the time of development, plus the incorrect approach of turning the user into a data-entry clerk without providing any kind of return on all back to that user. In other words, for all that data entered, they were provided no help in making their sales. CRM was basically put there so management could monitor sales, but not so salespeople could be better or more efficient at selling.

Because salespeople abhorred CRM, they were entering the least amount of data possible. They didn’t care all that much—they weren’t going to get anything out of it anyway. The result? A CRM application that cost the company a great deal of money, time and resources that was anything but a return on investment.

The real irony is that the CRM application was supposedly there for management. Yet if you go into just about any organization running traditional CRM, you’ll find sales managers chasing all over the place to obtain up-to-date information about sales: calling and emailing the reps, and holding lengthy sales meetings to get the latest—instead of getting this data from CRM, simply because full information isn’t in CRM. So CRM hasn’t even fulfilled the purpose it was put there for.

Reverse Approach

When we set out to develop Pipeliner, we knew that CRM was not assisting salespeople, simply by the phrase we heard from them again and again: “CRM sucks!” We decided then to reverse the approach of CRM, and make it more of a bottom-up than a top-down model. In other words, we were out to develop an application that would truly empower salespeople, and make it totally worthwhile for them to use CRM.

We knew that if we did so, the quality of the data being input into CRM would be greatly enhanced. That meant that not only sales reps would benefit, but sales management would have a single, central real-time repository for sales data, to which they could look at any time and gain an instant understanding of the current sales scene. Or, as we like to say, instant intelligence, visualized.

The Daily Assist

From the beginning, our approach to Pipeliner development has been highly practical. We continually ask the question What helps the individual on a daily basis? The answers to this question have evolved into every feature and benefit we see in Pipeliner today, from its visual pipeline, timeline, dynamic target, account, contact, and KPI views, right down to its powerful reports.

At any time, a user can take a very rapid look into Pipeliner and totally grasp where they stand in relation to the target.

As an example of Pipeliner’s flexibility, a user can look over the opportunities in a pipeline and quickly exclude opportunities that may not come in, or are too much of the target to be counted on with confidence (the target will fall completely flat without them). Or, other opportunities could be included to see how closing them could boost the target. Of course, sales management could do this also.

Another very practical feature is “Recently opened”—which I like to call “Monday morning.” In this feature, they can see which accounts, contacts, opportunities or leads they’ve recently opened. That’s why I call it “Monday morning”—a user can come in on Monday and see what they did on Friday. Immediately they know what to do.

We also have a “star” feature to mark your favorites, just as you would in a browser.

In addition to all of its major, very practical functionality (of which there is much more to come), we’ve also paid attention to details that might seem unimportant. For example from just about anywhere in Pipeliner a user can write a reminding note, something like “Bring a bottle of wine to the meeting,” that wouldn’t necessarily need to be in CRM proper, but something rep would not want to forget.

Assumption of Love

Overall, the assumption is made with Pipeliner that the user will love it, its functionality and usefulness. The core understanding is that as much as the salesperson is liking, using, and actively involved in the product, the data becomes highly useful for the rep, the manager and anyone else that needs information from CRM.

And from what we hear from customer after customer—we’re totally succeeding in this mission.

What is that makes Pipeliner CRM so incredibly practical and useful? Find out!  Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

CRM Has Failed in the Past. Here’s What We’re Doing About It

CRM Has Failed in the Past. Here’s What We’re Doing About It

As we’ve covered in the first 2 blogs in this series—Will It Now Succeed? and What Should a CRM Really Be Today?—no traditional CRM application has truly empowered salespeople.

Interestingly, we brought Pipeliner into the marketplace at a time when the market was actually overrun with CRM applications. One could certainly ask, with some justification, why we did this. For the answer, I turn to Peter Thiel from his great book Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future:

It’s much better to be the last mover—that is, to make the last great development in a specific market and enjoy years or even decades of monopoly profits. The way to do that is to dominate a small niche and scale up from there, toward your ambitious long-term vision.

I picked the CRM arena because, at the time when I was looking for my next major software development, I kept hearing one phrase repeated over and over by salespeople: “CRM sucks.”

If you were in a small town and local citizens kept saying that the “restaurant food sucked,” and if you were an entrepreneur, you’d most likely open a restaurant that people would like. In a similar fashion, I thought that if a majority of the CRM products out there were not delivering what people truly needed and wanted, there was certainly room for one that did. I set out to develop that product.

Finding the Right Approach

In terms of making CRM easier to use, many developers were (and some still are) following the trend of making data entry easier, since salespeople have been complaining about data entry. As important this approach is and should be, I think data entry is only the symptom of a deeper complication, and only a partial solution. The real issue is that CRM does nothing to assist the salesperson (and little to assist the sales manager) in sales, once all that data has been entered.

What was needed from a CRM product manager was to really figure out what CRM users were actually doing, and how they could best be assisted in getting it done. Or put another way, how we could assist CRM users to work more effectively and efficiently in an ever-changing environment. Just from viewing this crucial need, we can see that most CRM systems were created from a developer and not a user point of view. Working from the user viewpoint is but one of Pipeliner’s radical departures from tradition.

We’re currently living in a world that is constantly moving and shifting, with areas that will never be the same. Overlapping this is the digital world, which is regularly bringing new technologies. In all of this we need a highly effective CRM (although as I pointed out in the last blog that term has already been exceeded as we’re accomplishing much more than “customer relationship management.”).

Such a system must be incredibly flexible, and rapidly and easily adoptable. If not, then you regularly miss the opportunities that pass by you like waves—from customers, from competitors, from the market, from new industries and even from your own product development.

Cutting Out the Middlemen

As we’ve seen with traditional CRM applications, when you have a very static and complex system, you need a lot of middlemen. This has been no more apparent than with the mega-publishers such as Microsoft and Oracle—whole companies have made millions from being CRM consultants in between these companies and their clients.

A system such as ours cuts out such middlemen through greatly improved technology, but also through the core concept of our architecture. We have deliberately developed Pipeliner CRM to be understandable, adaptable and customizable by anyone. On the one hand cutting out middlemen costs people jobs—but on the other hand it creates new ones, and saves companies millions in the bargain.

The Pipeliner Concept

So given everything that had come before, and the fact that most users thought “CRM sucked,” we knew we had to start fresh.

The very basic idea came from an old IBM war room concept. This concept dictated that you had a board up in front of the room, and on the right-hand side of the board was the target. Pipeliner CRM reflects this concept utilizing brand new forms of technology and visualization.

Then I realized that if we were going to develop a CRM solution that users actually used, we would have to, in some way, make it enjoyable and perhaps even fun. Digital gaming had exploded and had become the biggest market on the planet—everyone was into it. I wondered why some elements of games could not also be brought into a business application, which was traditionally flat and boring. For that reason we made Pipeliner highly visual and even brought “gamification” elements into it.

Horizontal Processes

Because society has become so digital, only companies that have made that same transition will survive into the future. Beyond that, it is crucial that in the digital world every business must have a process in order to survive.

We knew from the beginning that every company had their own process and that no two were alike. For that reason we developed Pipeliner to be instantly customizable to a company’s exact sales process.

But we also have observed that, within a company, different areas of the company or different departments have their own processes—such as product sales, service sales, after-sales, pre-sales, and lead management. Hence we have made it possible for a company to implement as many processes as they need, within our CRM solution. And we’re actually the only CRM to do this two different ways—through our main pipeline view, and also through our unique bubble-chart 3D timeline. The lack of multiple processes is one of the reasons that traditional CRM applications have not been successful in the past.

These processes are the horizontal layer—each process proceeding to its own dynamic target on the right.

Because not everyone will need the same view of a pipeline—and some, like sales managers, will need a multitude of views—users can rapidly develop profiles through which processes can be viewed in totally unique ways. These profiles can be saved for repeated use. This approach is yet another Pipeliner-only benefit, an application of the concept of working with and leading teams.

Vertical Process Steps

But when this development was done, we thought that it wasn’t quite enough: What were users doing vertically in each step of a process? In other words, what actions were being taken to accomplish that single process step?

We made all of the tasks and activities required to complete a process step totally visual, and of course completely customizable. They can even be made mandatory so that no opportunity can be moved into the next process step unless certain tasks or activities are completed. And as part of our overall approach, we implemented a form of gamification into tasks and activities, knowing that salespeople like to play, and can use a playful push for reaching their targets.

Online…and Offline

Another observation we made, especially when Cloud applications began proliferating, was that not everyone had Internet access all the time, everywhere. This is still true…yet salespeople and others using Pipeliner must continue to do their jobs, online or off. For that reason of Pipeliner has the unique functionality of having the entire application available whether or not the user is online. The online and offline versions are immediately synchronized when Internet access is once again available.

Heart and Soul

All of the above is the core, the heart, the soul of what Pipeliner CRM is and does. Everything else has been added on to these core concepts:

• visualization of the horizontal process in multiple pipelines
• steered by profiles to the target
• always having the “war-room” view so that you’re always alert to where you’re standing
• in the vertical actions of a single stage, you always know what you have to go through the seller’s activities and the buyer’s actions.

Next: How Pipeliner CRM helps assist and create a whole new model of salesperson.

Find out for yourself why Pipeliner CRM is continuously praised as the most visual, the most flexible and the most user-friendly. Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

CRM Has Failed in the Past. What Should a CRM Really Be Today?

CRM Has Failed in the Past. What Should a CRM Really Be Today?

In the last blog in this series, I discussed the serious shortcomings of CRM applications in the past. There were two major reasons for this—one being the technology not being up to par, and the other being that the user was completely left out of the development equation. For that reason a common phrase about CRM became popular with users: “CRM sucks.”

A prime reason for user complaints was the amount of data entry that was required from users, especially salespeople—without any actual assistance and help back to them from the CRM solution. A cry began to be raised by users for CRM to be simplified and made easier when it came to data entry.

Following Thought Processes

But being easy and simple for data entry is a very short-sided view of CRM. Data entry isn’t the primary issue on which we need to focus, if we’re to really understand what CRM should be, and develop sound CRM applications in the future.

Which leads to the crucial question and the topic for this article: What should CRM be doing for a company?

Despite the “big bang” explosion of the Internet (described in the first blog in this series) that brought about a revolution in data, many CRM solutions (including some of the big ones) are still presenting data in spreadsheet-type—albeit glorified spreadsheet-type—formats. These formats do not at all match up with the ways the Internet and new technology have changed how people are thinking and using technology.

You could say that today technology has become an extension of the mind. People conduct searches for items and data, but the internet has become just as vital when people have questions. For example, one could ask, “When was the American Declaration of Independence written?” and have the answer in seconds. It is no longer necessary to memorize reams of facts.

People are moving out of line-by-line, step-by-step organization of data into a more contextualized approach of, “Where do I find an answer to my question?” CRM solutions have not taken this shift in thinking into account. Hence, CRM applications in the future are going to have to become more intelligent in terms of what they are providing for the user, and how they are providing it.

CRM Provision of Data—and Why

Today a CRM user is totally bombarded by too much information. For that reason, one function of the new breed of CRMs must be as a guide through all the noise. CRM should provide focus to the user into tasks, activities and opportunities on which the user should have attention.

For anyone coming newly into the company, CRM should be something that immediately helps the person dive right in and start their job—with no pain. It should be similar to buying a new car; it’s something that is actually a fairly complex operation, but you can just get in and drive.

For any user type within an organization—whether it be a salesperson, finance personnel, sales development rep, tech support or any others—the information should be right there, immediately available in real time for one purpose and one purpose only: to help the person make sound management decisions.

Well Beyond “CRM”

Today many people actually have an incorrect perspective on management—they think that the first point of management is managing subordinates. Some have forgotten that the first part of management is managing yourself.

If you’re going to do that effectively, you need technology. Today anyone in business cannot deal with the rapidity and complexity of data, and information overload without digital solutions.

The actual solution people need for this management is CRM. But for practical purposes we need a broader term than “CRM”, simply because “management” as addressed by a solution such as Pipeliner, goes well beyond just “customer relationships.”

For managing oneself, a solution begins with helping address priorities, tasks, needs and issues for the person. Then, the system must provide indications, triggers, notifications and suggestions that are important to the user today, right now. A person has a quota, a job, a set of tasks—what does the person have to do to reach or attain that?

Then, following in sequence of the correct order of management, a person would next have to excel in managing the relationship with their boss. The boss will always have questions about where things are at, what’s coming up, how targets are being met, and so on. Part of a person’s management would have to include how they efficiently handle this relationship.

Next in line come the customers—and beyond customers (still in the realm of sales) you’re also dealing with leads, prospects and repeat customers.

But it doesn’t end there. In a growing company, you have peers, and management of peer relationships is also a management job.

Finally, at the end of the line, comes the part of the job that everyone thinks is the first part: that of managing subordinates.

Helping take care of the entirety of management as pictured above is the future view of CRM (or whatever its expanded version comes to be called). The battle for CRM will be for the solution that effectively accomplishes all of these things.

Next up: The true-life story of the CRM that is meeting the above qualifications head-on.

Instant Intelligence, Visualized.  Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

Part of the Sales Process is Knowing When to Fold

Part of the Sales Process is Knowing When to Fold

Pipeliner mobile CRM app for Android and iPhomeAre you happy in your current sales position? Are you productive? Does making your personal and company sales quotas come easy? Accepting that there always will be down times, but feeling that the positive outweighs the negative in your job? Are you not sick of sales software built on a sales process that makes you look like a square?

If your answer is Yes to any of these questions, then DON’T read on.

Knowing when to fold your cards and move on is as much a key aspect of any well oiled sales process as it is important in your professional career in sales. I know the sales profession has a reputation for being somewhat transitory. Some salespeople change jobs frequently. My history is a bit different: I’ve tended to stay in the same place for a number of years, acknowledging the ebb and flow of this high-stress, fast-paced career. (more…)

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