Training Essential For CRMs To Work
More and more media companies are turning to customer relationship management systems to streamline their advertising sales processes and increase revenue and productivity. But using these systems effectively and efficiently is one of the challenges facing publishers, sales managers and other upper management.
“Many media companies are implementing some form of a CRM system,” says Mike Blinder, president of the Blinder Group, a media sales training and consulting firm. “They are realizing the need to keep track of customers and get results.”
But the challenge lies in how companies use the CRM, Blinder says. Success lies in using the system as a management tool, rather than just a database or report generator.
“The trick with CRM is it being used to manage customers,” Blinder says. “Is every point of contact in the database? I’d like to see it used more as a management tool, as a coach to get the troops to do their job effectively.”
He says managers should coach their sales teams using the CRM by examining the metrics weekly. Seeing the data in black and white can help managers guide account executives to the best course of action. This is something he says he rarely sees in his role as a trainer and consultant.
“A good CRM gives managers [the data] to offer guidance,” Blinder says. “Rule No. 1 in sales is it’s a numbers game. Rule No. 2 is when in doubt, go back to rule No. 1. No two salespeople are the same. [CRM] is a tool. If not used properly, it’s just numbers. If the coach isn’t coaching, it falls apart.”
Management buy in key
The importance of using CRMs as coaching tools and getting sales staff (who often resent the tracking aspects of CRM) to embrace it are topics covered in training by many vendors and consultants, who say it’s essential that these messages come from management.
“The best users have the strongest support from the top,” says B.J. Boyle, VP of product management at Matrix Solutions, which offers a CRM for the media industry along with sales intelligence and account management tools. He says account executives need to understand how the CRM will benefit them.
Matrix is designed for both the sales staff and management in mind, with unique workflows for each group, Boyle says. The company primarily works with broadcast companies, including Gannett, and has recently expanded its partnership with the digital arms of Gray Television and Scripps.
When new media companies come on board, Matrix obtains the company’s historical data and “normalizes it” so sales staff are ready to start as soon as the program is implemented. Training is provided via series of “steps to success,” Boyle explains, with videos and small assignments that can be done remotely and independently.
Part of the training includes talking to upper management about the importance of its role in encouraging effective use of the CRM. “It’s worth a little time to get buy-in at top level and let the sales team hit the ground running,” Boyle says.
Using CRM effectively means that sales managers do not need to examine every proposal and instead can monitor the numbers, says Robin Smith,
“The No. 1 focus of a CRM system is that it should help people actually sell,” says Smith, who was previously director of CRM at Gannett Co. “It shouldn’t be intended as a documentation tool.”
Incentives and reconfigured bonuses and commissions were some of the ways the Omaha Reader, an alterative newsweekly in Nebraska’s state capital, got its sales staff on board when it implemented a CRM called Zoho four years ago, after using its own file-maker system for 12 years, says publisher John Heaston.
Heaston says what’s been most beneficial is the ability for managers to track use, including when records were modified to ensure that sales reps have a plan. Weekly meetings tracking what’s happening have helped with management and with prospecting and renewing contracts.
“Once you take the time to get used to it, you get invested in it and get used to wanting to have it at your fingertips,” he says. “We wouldn’t want to manage sales without it. The level of knowledge it brings back because it captured good information is invaluable.”
Mike Cook, national sales manager at Mirabel Technologies, says CRMs are equally beneficial to sales reps and management. Mirabel’s core CRM products include Newspaper Manager, Magazine Manager and FlipandShare.