marketing automation software, CRM, Salesforce, InfusionSoft, social selling, lead nurturing, touchpoints, pipeline management
This resource is dedicated to news, information and reviews of CRM software such as Microsoft Dynamics, LeadTrigger, Salesforce and SugarCRM as well ask marketing automation software such as InfusionSoft, Marketo, Act-On and Pardot.
Sales coaches are of course linked to greater organisation and structure – it is a key part of their teaching to businesses and salespeople that want to improve sales. Because of this link to being better organised, coaches are frequently asked about software to help the selling process, which inevitably leads to conversations about CRM systems. And to the more daring of coaching clients, marketing automation software. In the world of the sales coach, two pieces of software seem to stand out, Salesforce for CRM and InfusionSoft for marketing automation.
Help choosing CRM and marketing automation software for sales coaching companies
Sales coaching is an extremely lucrative industry – attracting some of the brightest and most talented sales experts in the world.
Of course, everyone has a different reason for wanting to be a sales coach. But the reality is that a good portion of your job will be spent dealing with marketing – either marketing your own services, or guiding sales teams to better communicate with their own customers and staff members.
This is a two pronged approach and it can get complicated – fast. That’s why CRM platforms and marketing automation software can be absolutely invaluable for sales coaches.
When used properly, great CRM and marketing automation software can help sales coaches to:
- Manage their own leads and prospects
- Create trigger notifications to complete tasks
- Get the latest social media updates from prospects and leads
- Collect and maintain a database of prospect details
- Send automated emails directly to prospects, recommending content based on their interests
- Create marketing campaigns filled with content that customers want
So whether you already use this kind of software, or simply want to learn more, here is a short guide to CRM and marketing automation.
What is CRM?
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) isn’t a new phenomenon, but the technology is rapidly changing – especially as CRM platforms become smarter.
But before we get into the details, let’s start with the basics.
CRM is now usually a type of Software As A Service (SaaS), also known as ‘on-demand software’. This is because the technology doesn’t need to be installed on a computer – it is cloud-based. The platform can be accessed online and the business operating the CRM will usually pay a subscription fee. Until the wide adoption of cloud technologies, most CRM platforms needed to be installed on local servers on the network of the company using it. A few systems are still be used in this manner.
As the name suggests, CRM platforms are designed to help businesses manage their prospect, lead, and customer relationships.
In the distant past, sales teams and entrepreneurs would be reliant on their written records to keep track of their customer interactions. This was often very complicated and inefficient. The room for human error was substantial. You had to carry your records around with you. And you only had access to your own notes – so it could be also be somewhat inconvenient.
CRM software, however, sought to minimise these problems and streamlined the sales process.
But the main purpose behind CRM platforms is to improve profitability and increase return on investment (ROI).
There are a number of features that usually come standard with most CRM platforms. These include:
- Contact directory
- Sales forecast
- Pipeline forecast
- Calendar/task management
- Social media management
- File storage
Overall, these tools can be characterised as an attempt to help businesses and their sales teams run smoother. Nowadays, sales teams are inundated with huge amounts of data on a daily basis. CRM platforms seek to keep this data all under one, safe, roof – assisting those in sales to properly manage their leads and prospects in process.
CRM for Sales Teams
A fantastic CRM platform helps sales team to manage and generate their own leads.
In the past, many CRMs have commonly been used merely as digital directories – containing the contact details of prospects and leads. Of course, this type of information is crucial but it doesn’t really help to make the sales process more efficient.
There are several key functions that CRM systems provide. Here are the themes we will focus on in this section:
- Lead management
- Administrative assistance
- Email management
- Trigger management
Every prospect action and interaction is inputted and recorded onto the system for other authorised users to see. This could include anything from a phone call, to a client meeting, or even a brief interaction on social media.
Either way, CRM platforms seek to give salespeople a quick and convenient way to keep track of their customer interactions. Everything is designed to be open and transparent.
This is especially important given that modern day sales processes mean that leads can contact businesses on a variety of different platforms. Whether digital or in-person, customer relationships are evolving year on year. And it’s becoming increasingly important that companies find the resources to manage these interactions – without compromising on precious business time.
Another common reason that sales teams use CRM technology is to generate quality leads.
CRM platforms like Salesforce and LeadTrigger, for example, have a lead ranking system. Every prospect or lead is labelled according to how ‘hot’ or ‘ripe’ he/she is – depending on their number ‘touchpoints’ had with them by the company.
The advantage is that salespeople can see exactly which prospects are best suited for business proposals or other actions related to furthering a relationship.
Without a CRM, it would be very difficult to keep track of these customer actions. But ‘lead ripeness’ technology helps salespeople to quickly determine who is worth contacting and who isn’t.
More generally, CRM platforms are particularly useful for keeping track of administrative efforts across a broad range of staff members. In cases where the platform is mobile optimised, any user, anywhere, can access the CRM quickly and safely.
The benefit of doing so is pretty obvious. Salespeople are always on the go. They travel to meetings, sometimes cross country, and they always need access to important files and data. It’s not always practical, or safe, to carry hard copies around in person – or even in spreadsheet form on a laptop’s desktop folder – so using a CRM has a clear advantage.
From the perspective of those who manage sales teams, however, CRM platforms can help to make administrative procedures much more transparent. Meeting notes are available for everyone to see and they can be accessed by others whenever necessary.
It’s also possible to share documents amongst users, safe in the knowledge that all communications will be retained and centralised.
Sales managers and directors don’t need to rely on guesswork. For example, some CRM platforms let those in charge set up trigger notifications (if the platform contains this kind of feature). Sales staff can be sent direct messages regarding specific customer actions – telling them exactly who to contact and when. This type of feature can be extremely useful for ensuring that staff complete everyday administrative duties, without the need to manually check up on them, saving the crucial time of sales managers.
These features are also useful if a sales person chooses to move on. It’s not uncommon for salespeople to take their leads and contacts with them to a new job. With a CRM, however, any information relating to a prospect, lead, or customer remains the property of the business.
In addition to completing administrative duties, CRM platforms are also extremely useful for creating and monitoring sales forecasts.
The majority of CRM systems will include the following features:
- Pipeline forecast
- Sales projection
- Sales overview
Without a CRM, it’s likely that these important features would be anywhere near as accurate. If you have a very small team, you might be able to get by without using a CRM – but as time goes on, and you acquire more prospects and customers, it will become increasingly difficult to create these forecasts on a simple spreadsheet.
According to research by Dartmouth College (PDF), over 94% of spreadsheets contain errors. Furthermore, any company that isn’t using cloud technology could struggle to ensure every staff member is working from the same document. ‘Master’ copies get overwritten among other errors.
For this reason, a CRM can have obvious advantages for those who manage sales teams. They help to create simple, real-time sales forecasts and projections – without the assurance that everyone can see and access the same information.
Email management (of sales teams)
Another common challenge for sales directors is finding the resources to manage staff both in the office and remotely.
The majority of managers don’t want to spend their time chasing up staff members and ensuring tasks have been completed. They want to be doing creative stuff that drives more sales. However, in organisations without a CRM, the only way to find out this information is to directly talk to or rely on yet another shared spreadsheet. As you would expect, this can be unreliable and time consuming.
To help alleviate this problem, CRM platforms usually come with an task management system that messages sales teams when necessary.
You can, for example, send automated messages to staff regarding end of the month notices. Or a gentle reminder to follow-up that prospect meeting with a friendly call.
As a result of using staff management messaging, there is no reason for management to spend all their time in the office.
But the main benefit of doing so is that sales professionals and management have a ‘digital paper trail’. Every employee task, no matter how small, can be inputted into the CRM for future reference. So, if anyone isn’t meeting their quota or doing tasks set by their manager, sales managers can see with just one click of a button – without needing to ask the employee. This makes managing sales staff, especially remotely, far easier.
Furthermore, email management also has significant advantages from a human resources perspective – particularly in the unfortunate case of any disciplinary hearings. As suggested, one benefit of retaining a digital paper trail is that sales management have a clear understanding of individual employee performance.
Similar to email management, trigger notifications help staff mangers and directors to automated instructions from a remote basis.
Within any sales team, there are certain procedures that define the sales process. For instance, every organisation uses different touchpoints and every organisation will have their own customer follow-up procedures. Trigger management exists to inform salespeople exactly what to do following a specific task.
Here is an example. If a sales person has had a great cold call with a customer, then trigger management would automatically send that employee an email. The email would contain instructions to perhaps follow-up that call with a meeting, or perhaps to send a brand publishing report in the post. The particular triggers in our example are irrelevant – however, the purpose behind trigger management is simple: it lets sales managers work more efficiently by giving ‘micro-coaching/advice’ throughout the day at particularly important times of a sales cycle.
CRM for sales coaches
So far, it might seem like sales coaches only have one reason to learn about CRMs – to help their customers.
But the truth of the matter is that a fantastic CRM platform has particular relevance for sales coaches. Like any other business, you have your own list of leads, prospects and customers.
As you’re probably already aware, managing these contacts on a spreadsheet or calendar can be extremely daunting. Not to mention inefficient.
For this reason, sales coaches have perhaps the most to benefit from using a CRM.
And why is that good?
You’ll be an expert on CRM technology – meaning you’ll be in the best position to provide guidance to your customers.
One of the most important functions of a CRM, particularly for sales coaches, is calendar management.
The majority of CRM platforms can be synced with Gmail and Outlook – providing sales coach with an invaluable tool to keep all of their contacts and commitments in one convenient location. Every coaching session, meeting or training event can be directly uploaded into the CRM. Furthermore, if you receive diary requests from clients using Gmail, the CRM platform will be automatically updated – in the majority of software.
Social media integration
Many sales coaches have an almost unrivalled understanding on social media compared to most other industries. It’s their bread and butter – a great way how they promote training events and a great tool to communicate with potential clients.
However, the way in which brands communicate with customers using social media is changing. Customers will now actively search for brands on social media to find out more information, before making a purchase. They will also ask the opinions of others to gage a better understanding of a business.
Social selling is now fundamental – helping to encourage salespeople to think about Twitter and LinkedIn in entirely new ways. And CRM technology helps to make this necessity even easier.
The majority of CRM platforms are now integrated with social media. Prospects, leads and customers have individual ‘biographies’ that contain all their basic information. In the majority of circumstances, this includes contact details and a history of customer actions. But integration with social media also lets you do something altogether more powerful.
CRMs like Salesforce, for example, will let you see the latest social media updates from your clients. You can keep track of any important dialogues and share interesting content accordingly. You can also categorise your leads/customers according to their interests and ensure you never miss a crucial opportunity.
Are there any disadvantages to CRM?
There are numerous ways in which CRM technology can help businesses to achieve their goals and aspirations.
Nevertheless, it’s worth considering that there are potential downside – regardless of whether you’re a sales coach or sales manager.
CRM doesn’t remove the need to conduct research
There’s a common misunderstanding that CRM technology gives salespeople all the information they need regarding a customer. This is simply not true.
CRM platforms can help businesses to keep track of customer touchpoints and decide which prospects are worth contacting. However, even the best CRM platforms do not remove the need for sales and marketing to carry out customer research. Social media integration, for example, will tell you basic prospect information – but it won’t tell you their purchase habits. Or whether they’re in looking to invest in your services.
That’s where customer and prospect research remains invaluable.
The best way to understand the role of CRM is to help facilitate staff responsibilities and duties – without taking away the need for hard work.
CRM simply makes the process of acquiring and storing important customer and staff information more conducive to business success. It’s certainly no substitution for sales management.
CRM technology can sometimes require staff buy-in
Some CRM platforms have better reputations than others.
It’s not uncommon for salespeople to associate this type of technology with lengthly manuals, slow processing, and bad management. So sometimes salespeople need persuading that CRM technology will make their lives easier. Or that it won’t remove their individual freedom and autonomy.
In order to avoid this problem, it is extremely important that staff members are consulted before the implementation of CRM. This will give employees an opportunity to voice any concerns, whilst also learning about the new technology before it impacts their working day. Staff should also be given the chance to contribute and decide which CRM platform they think will suit their needs.
With regards to loss of autonomy, there is very little reason why CRM systems should hinder salespeople. They exist to make the sales process more productive, not restrictive. In general, this misunderstanding can be derived from a lack of appropriate education.
Great coaching should assist in mitigating this problem. This will depend entirely on the particular sales department, but the best sales coaches help to bring staff and CRM together – creating a workforce that works to real deliver results.
CRM is a learning curve
The implementation of any new technology requires time and perseverance. In cases where a CRM comes with an instruction manual, like Microsoft Dynamics, it’s important that sales teams are given the appropriate training. Otherwise, this could lead to resentment in the business.
The time involved and depth of your training programme will depend on the CRM chosen.
However, it is worthwhile to remember that some have been designed to be simple and easy to implement in the workforce. Capsule and LeadTrigger are good examples of simple customer relationship management software.
How do you choose – or recommend – the right CRM?
The majority of problems associated with CRM technology usually stem from misunderstanding or poor training.
The reality is that more businesses, particularly small-medium sized enterprises (SMEs), are choosing to adopt CRM. For this reason, it is important that sales coaches have a thorough understanding of the major options available on the market.
Salesforce is undoubtedly the most popular CRM platform available. With an unrivalled share of the market, Salesforce has become widely known for helping businesses to track their leads and improve business productivity.
A standard Salesforce CRM package comes with:
- Lead/contact management
- Customer portal
- Calendar management
- Quotes/proposal tools
- List management
- Email marketing
- Interaction tracking
However, Salesforce as standard does not offer the following services:
- Social media integration
- Marketing automation
- Web forms
- Lead scoring
For this reason, it is important that businesses determine how and why they want to use a CRM system.
Salesforce is excellent for sales teams that want to quickly access lead contact information, with comprehensive calendar and list management integration. But it might not be the right option if you depend on social media to achieve your business objectives or would like a CRM that also includes marketing automation for the sake of convenience.
Another popular CRM is Microsoft Dynamics. It has a good selection of customer relationship features. This includes:
- Contact management
- Lead management
This might not seem like a lot, but Microsoft Dynamics continues to be popular because of how easy it is to install. Anyone who already uses Microsoft products can easily adjust to Dynamics. As a result, this particular CRM has a certain advantage over others.
LeadTrigger is a relative newcomer in the CRM market – but it has succeeded in doing something that no CRM has ever done before:
Uses artificial intelligence to help generate quality leads for salespeople.
Here is a summary of LeadTrigger’s features:
- Artificial intelligence
- Lead scoring
- Lead management
- Calendar management
- Customer support module
- Email marketing
- Web forms
The reason for utilising artificial intelligence is simple. From the perspective of sales managers and directors, too much time is often wasted making sure salespeople are following up leads and filling in paperwork. Rather than developing sales strategy, or bringing in business, the sales elite often find themselves pacing the floor or barking orders. It can be time consuming and it wastes money.
However, it is also worth noting that LeadTrigger does not offer several CRM tools:
- Marketing automation
- Landing pages
From the perspective of sales coaches, there are a number of key CRM platforms that could prove useful for a personal and business use.
Knowing the difference could mean the difference between business growth and not seeing a return on your investment.
Moving on from CRM technology, marketing automation is one of the most important tools for any sales professional and sales coaches in particular.
It allows users to collect customer data, make touchpoints, and send relevant content directly to the recipient. But marketing automation isn’t just about selling. It exists to help bring businesses and customers closer together – to create a dialogue that is mutually beneficial.
So you aren’t just advertising your services as a sales coach. You are creating touchpoints and business relationships that will form the building blocks of potential business proposals in the future.
And what do sales coaches gain from this?
The right email/social marketing campaign can help to significantly increase brand awareness and improve customer acquisition rates.
There are several different features that come as standard in marketing automation:
- Email templates
- Campaign management
- Autoresponder emails
- Landing Page Management
- Email sectioning and delivery
Overall, there are a variety of different marketing automation software available on the market.
However, by far the most popular marketing automation software for sales coaches is Infusionsoft.
Infusionsoft have over 23,000 customers located throughout the world – meaning that it is the leading provider of marketing automation software in the world.
The software has been created to do the following:
- Bring visitors to your website
- Convert those leads into prospects
- Convert those prospects into longterm paying customers
- Create a automated marketing strategy that evolves and refines itself over time
The software has been purposefully developed for small business owners who have already established themselves in their sector or are looking to do so. According to Infusionsoft, their average customer employees between 1-25 staff members. For this reason, the price for Infusionsoft is good value – starting at just $199 a month as of the beginning of 2015.
But perhaps the most attractive feature of Infusionsoft is that the average ROI is 44% in the United States.
Here is a breakdown of the costs:
- ‘Essentials’ – $199 a month: best suited to small companies with basic marketing automation requirements
- ‘Deluxe Sales’ – $299 a month: best for companies with need advanced CRM tools
- ‘Deluxe E-Commerce’ – $299 a month: best for companies that sell products/services online
- ‘Complete’ – $379 a month – best for companies that have a sales team and an online store
The standout characteristic of Infusionsoft, however, is that it combines marketing automation with CRM.
The marketing automation software can be described as graphics heavy – helping users to create email campaigns that don’t only perform well, but look visually stunning. The software offers a plethora of email templates that can be customised and branded. It’a also possible to develop email templates that are specifically optimised for mobile use.
The advantage of using this software is that users can access a multitude of different tools in one convenient package.
Infusionsoft also offers (among other things):
- Landing page creator
- Email and multimedia campaign management
- Social sharing
- Lead scoring
- Sales reports
- Payment processing
Perhaps what makes Infusionsoft particularly useful is that there’s a CRM package.
Like some other CRMs in this guide, Infusionsoft has a lead scoring system that determines how receptive a prospect is to business. This is calculated through Infusionsoft’s unique ‘flame’ system – where the more flames, the hotter the lead.
Is also important to remember that Infusionsoft has around 80 applications. You can also track your Accounting, Lead Generation and even Social Media presence using the software.
Without a doubt, Infusionsoft is an all-round package that is useful to a wide range of sales coaches. It has a fantastic array of tools and services to help businesses improve their email marketing campaigns- and beyond.
In addition to Infusionsoft, HubSpot is also another prominent provider of marketing automation software.
HubSpot also seeks to create more website traffic for its customers. With comprehensive SEO services, users can use HubSpot to search for keywords and track website visitors over a given period of time. It’s possible to create and monitor meta descriptions, calls to action, and even onsite images – all tools to create the ideal online experience for customers, to use their own words.
To make things easier for beginners, HubSpot also offers an online blogging tutorial to help users better understand its SEO tools. Hubspot is used by many sales coaching companies, but has not caught on in the community, unlike other industries where it appears to be omnipresent.
Overall, there are a number of CRM and marketing automation software features that have relevance for both sales coaches and sales teams.
For this reason, it can be extremely useful for sales coaches to get a thorough understanding of (1) how CRM/marketing automation systems operate and (2) which systems are best suited to you and your customer.
You just need to test, test, test and find the platform that suits you. Get using those demos!