Traditionally sales folks have had a love-hate relationship with CRM applications, meaning they love to hate them. Mainly because they feel they don’t get enough out of them for the amount of time they spend putting information into it. But now, thanks to machine learning, artificial intelligence and automation, CRM is now starting to provide them with real benefits … and real reasons not to hate it as much.
Jody Glidden, CEO and co-founder of Introhive, a SaaS-based platform which brings relationship intelligence into CRM with data automation and sales acceleration, shares how machine learning and automation now makes CRM more appealing to sales professionals. Below is an edited transcript of the conversation. To hear the full conversation please click the embedded player below.
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Small Business Trends: So from a sales person’s perspective has there been any real benefit to using a CRM system. Because a lot of them felt a bit like it was more of a management system; being able to have the managers see what you’re doing as opposed to giving some real tangible benefits to them using the CRM system.
Jody Glidden: Yeah I think that’s exactly right. When we started to talk to a lot of people out there and try to find out why people were putting their data in the CRM I think part of the reason they were doing it is because they didn’t see any major benefit to them. It was more of a system a log for management. And so they ended up letting it not have all the interesting information which kind of snowball.
Small Business Trends: But when you think about modern CRM in things like helping get and collect a lot of information and making it available to the sales rep it seems like maybe now we’re at a point in time that the sales rep will finally be able to get something out of it that will help them build relationships.
Jody Glidden: What we found is that if you’re asking people to input their contacts and keep those contacts up to date, input their activities, input their post-meeting, put all their action items in there,and so on. It actually adds up to a lot of administrative time. And so nobody is actually doing that. If you apply machine learning to that we can actually automate almost all of it actually. And then the great thing about it is not only are you taking that work away so people could go do something more fun, but in reality you have a lot more selling time and actually do some productive stuff.
The other interesting thing is that you log into the CRM and get more valuable information. I now know somebody else may have touched my customer or that the customer just moved to a new position. And now maybe I should reach out to them again. When you automate your CRM all of the sudden it becomes valuable and it’s not just the system to report to your manager.
Small Business Trends: So we talk automating your CRM is automating the information it comes into the CRM and becomes actionable without the rep having to do so much to find possible insights that make it easier for them to interact?
Jody Glidden: If you think of the way people used to measure CRM adoption it was by how many times people log in. That to me is not really CRM adoption because you didn’t buy it so the people would have a place to log in. You bought your CRM so that data would be logged and that insights could be gained.
So you automate getting all the data in and automate getting the insights out at just the right time. You can do that then it really doesn’t matter how often they login. You’re actually getting the value that you purchased CRM for in the first place.
Small Business Trends: Talk a little bit about what Introhive does in order to help the sales folks find the benefit of using their CRM application.
Jody Glidden: Introhive bolts onto your existing CRM. And all of the sudden kind of takes all of the work away. It can automate getting all of your contacts in, getting your notes in and all the logs of who’s touching your customer, the meetings, the emails, the action items. Figuring out when people change jobs and all those sorts of things. It does all of that administrative stuff for you. The other thing it’s doing is watching patterns in your meetings, your email reach and all the things you do and it’s bringing all of the actionable insights to you so it can tell you, for example, if you have a meeting with somebody, all of the pertinent information; what’s been touching my customer, what’s latest news, all things you’d hope your people are getting to prepare for the customer but probably are not. This can actually do all of that for you; to get all the stuff that’s interesting.
Small Business Trends: So the bottom line is there’s it looks like there’s a lot of data that’s floating around that could be used to help sales reps better interact and find better interaction opportunities more meaningful themes that they could use that could help them connect with customers. The idea is to get that kind of information into the CRM system so that these folks can use it.
Jody Glidden: Yeah that’s right. All of the stuff that you’re doing via e-mail, via social via phone, face to face, all of the systems that they’re using to touch the customers interact with those customers. A very small fraction of that stuff is actually getting logged. And I one of our customers joked that there were two kinds of employees. They have the people that will actually log everything and that was kind of a bad thing because you’re spending so many hours of their week actually doing that, and then they had people that weren’t doing it and that was a bad thing as well. All of this information really does need to get logged, but doesn’t need to be logged by humans.
The other thing is there’s a bunch of other information aside from that you want your employees to be up to speed on. Things like the latest news, the opportunities that are going on, cross-sell opportunities, buying history; do they have unpaid invoices. Things that you would like to hear your people know before they step into the room. You can actually systematize the process and get people “smart” before you walk in.
Right now I think everybody has the top 5 percent of their sales reps and they wonder what makes those people special; They tend to be more prepared. They look all of these things up before they get to the customer, they don’t just walk in the room. And if you can pull all of that information to them, do the work for them (the research) then you can bring everybody up a little bit more to the same level.
Small Business Trends: So it’s basically being able to provide those insights at the right time – in the process of them building relationship or throughout the customer journey – is critically important. But you don’t want the sales rep to spend either too much time trying to gather that information and then trying to analyze it, and you don’t want them not doing trying to do it at all. So that’s where the automation part comes into the relationship intelligence automation.
Jody Glidden: Machines are much better at this kind of stuff than we are because they can look through huge amounts of data and find just the stuff that is really interesting. Rather than have me go through all of the e-mail exchanges and meetings and try to analyze who in my company for example has the best relationship with my client because maybe I want to bring a colleague to the meeting. This system can actually tell you that in an instant, and about cross-sell opportunities. You’re looking at sort of a quick snapshot of suggestions. It’s all the stuff after really hours of research that are compiled into a two-minute summary.
Small Business Trends: The benefit for the sales rep is now they have a good reason to want to use the CRM system because now it’s actually providing them the intelligence they can use in a way they can take advantage of quickly. But on the flip side there’s a huge benefit for the sales management and the organization because now they’re actually getting that data in from the sales rep. But in addition to that from other data sources that give them an even better picture of what’s going on with an account, what’s going on with opportunities. And then they can prepare and leverage their resources more effectively by having that kind of information.
Jody Glidden: Sales management can actually get all the reports they want. If they can have all of the communications that happened all the way along an opportunity for example which before people are relying on people tagging the right things to the right places. The sales person is actually getting the right information to make them more effective in the meeting or on a call. And then even marketing becomes more effective because right now what keeps happening is sales just keeps asking marketing for more leads but part of the reason they need so many more of leads is because they’re not necessarily taking advantage of leads that they’re given. You can drive up that win rate or the amount of leads that move forward then you’d need fewer of them.
Small Business Trends: So the bottom line is this is a win-win-win. A win on the sales reps side is now they they actually do have a damn reason to use their CRM him because not only are they feeding it but they’re actually getting fed. And then on the sales management side they’re getting more accurate real time information on what’s going on with deals and in the pipeline and accounts so they can plan more effectively. And then overall the you hopefully having better performing sales folks, there’s also a win for the customer or the prospect because now those interactions are going to be much more tailored and much more precise to the needs of the actual person. So it’s not a whole bunch of fishing expedition. It’s not a whole bunch of ridiculous talk. It’s actually targeted based on analysis of the information and providing better information going back out to the prospect or to the customer.
Jody Glidden: Yeah that’s exactly right. I think it’s similar to what happened in online advertising about 10 years ago when relevance because I think people don’t feel like they’re being inconvenienced so much during the process. I don’t mind having a conversation with somebody who is you know smart about my needs and actually can provide helpful information. What I find less helpful is when people haven’t spent the time to have a meaningful conversation.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.