Managing your Relationship with CRM

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I think everyone knows what CRM is. (Raise your hand if you don’t.)

You’ve all heard about it. Many companies have purchased or subscribed to one of numerous excellent CRM platforms.

The truth is, there are very few bad CRM systems on the market. The difference, like all tools, is how you use it.

  • If you want a place to create a shared list of customers and contacts, most CRM system do that really well.

  • If you want to keep a log of all the times you visit a customer, almost every CRM system will let you do that (so will Outlook).

  • Do you want to run a mail campaign, track a lead, share opportunities with colleagues, integrate email or get an app? There are lots of great systems out there to help you do just that.

The challenge, is rarely finding a CRM with the standard functions you want. The real challenge is identifying what your business goals are, and then which CRM will help. Another way to look at it, what issues do you have? Will a CRM platform help you solve them?

CRM is a technology. Most salesmen already do the basic things CRM offers. Track customers, make a list of contacts, plan and record a calendar of visits and meetings. A CRM system will only centralize that information. Unless you take a different view of CRM.

What if you saw CRM as a system for connecting valuable knowledge in your organization to the correct customer? What if you saw CRM as an intelligent source of insight into your customer and their fleet? What if your CRM told you about opportunities you didn’t know existed?

When working with customers I often find most people are tracking, using CRM to track activity or lead status. Some are planning, as a team, processing leads or setting future activities.

Where CRM should be, for each of them, is a source of insight, a filter with which to focus knowledge and market information. The Relationship in CRM suggests that the tool can help you Relate to your customer.

For your CRM To bring you full value, it should integrate all sources of relevant data, handle your daily sales processes, analyze your customer data and provide indication of what the opportunities are for each customer.

When you consider these aspects, choosing the right CRM does get harder, but with the right implementation and focus you will get more value and enjoy a better Relationship with your Customer and with your CRM system.

In the coming months, in follow up articles, I will dive into deeper detail on how to do this. I’ll look at some of the insights that can be gleaned from even basic CRM data, and questions I ask, for example; “Do you associate time invested in each deal to understand where your valuable time is best spent?”


What is the most important aspect of CRM for your organization?

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Believing the Possible


In an old interview with Tony Hawk, the topic of new tricks came up. In particular, Tony and the interviewer discussed the 900. In the 900, while airborne, the skateboarder makes two-and-a-half turns about their longitudinal axis, thereby facing down the ramp when landing. This trick is still considered one of the hardest tricks in skateboarding.

In the discussion, Tony spoke about the progression of new tricks. In the case of the 900, it took 10 years of working on the trick to get to the point of actually landing it. Until that point, Tony continued to pioneer the trick while many others were not sure it was possible. Then, once he landed the first 900 in the X games of 1999, many more skaters were able to perform the trick.

Tony identified that the key for those who will follow was believing it was possible. Once proven, many other skaters were able to complete the trick because they also believed it was possible. Tony had removed the barrier. He explained that executing something new was half in your head. In your mind there are barriers created by doubt. As a pioneer, Tony worked through the barrier in his own mind while attempting the trick. Each minor progression, in this case a few extra degrees of rotation, convinced him to continue as the goal came closer. Yet, not until completing it, did he also believe it was possible. For those who followed Tony, the barrier was removed by him; they now believed it was possible and wouldn’t have to work through the same mental progression.

The interesting thing is, the same happens in our work lives. While we aren’t literally trying to land a 900, in some sense, we are. Anytime we work with a team and try to achieve a new goal, we have to ask ourselves “does the team believe it’s possible?” If members of the team don’t believe the goal is possible, they will likely not achieve it. In fact, in some cases, they may subconsciously prevent themselves from achieving it.

For organization leaders or team leaders, it becomes important to be able to show, just like Tony did, that both the goal is achievable and also, how to get there. Without this, you may struggle for years to achieve the level of performance you expect.

This situation often happens when new managers come from one organization which has achieved the goal. While the new manager is a believer, the new team has not seen it or experienced it.

To overcome this challenge, some creative solutions need to be applied, depending on the goal and team involved. In the past, I’ve gone as far as planning a field trip with the team to other organizations who had achieved a similar goal. It might be that the vendors in your area are partners and destinations for such a field trip.


Have you experienced challenges with belief in a team? What did you do to solve it?

Here is the link to Tony Hawk’s first successful landing of a 900

Other notable moments:

Travis Pastrana attempts the first Motocross backflip (X games 2000), but doesn’t land it. Yet the announcers and crowd are stunned that he got that far. No one believed it was possible

Finally Travis completes a double back flip a few years later

Choosing People


This Canada day I had the privilege of joining a friend’s extended family over the long weekend.

We went up on Friday of the long weekend, we got the invite from a cast mate of my wife’s from her last show “Jukebox Hero”. He came from a small town in northern Ontario, a small rural town surrounded in farmland. We arrived in the afternoon to what was at one time a farm but now a partially cleared campground. This campground was not covered in tents but a neatly organized town of very nice RVs. Of course as many of you know, each RV comes with a 3/4 or 1 ton truck to pull it and we arrived in a Mini Cooper Convertible, we clearly did not get the memo.

We rolled through this extended family noticing family members sitting in small groups around one RV or another already enjoying their weekend. Sam’s cast mate met us near the back end of the property and showed us around the pond to the back where there was a nice grassy area. There we proceeded to set up my very sturdy, odd and somewhat geeky Dutch camping tent. While we built it we got lots of looks but more than anything we got welcoming comments, offers of help, tools and several drinks delivered. We were starting to feel more than welcome.

After we finished the tent, the party started. We were invited to 2 dinner BBQs, offered numerous refreshing drinks and given a tour of the property. This included warm hugs and introduction to not just the cast mate’s family but friends and neighbours from their home town; which was only 3 kms away.

As the night progressed I played bartender for a while and started to get to know people in the camp. I found myself sitting around the largest camp fire I can remember, a used heating oil tank cut in half and each side filled with chopped wood and burning. There was no chance of getting cold.

I fell into conversation with one of the women sitting beside me. She started to tell me about the group and the town, and telling me the names of about 10 other women sitting alongside the fire. These 10 were part of a slightly larger group of, all friends. They all grew up together in the nearby town, went to school together +/- a couple grades. Some worked together, they attended each other’s weddings and helped raise each other’s kids. Some had been through hard times, sickness, divorce and other losses, but they had helped each other through it. So now after life as friends for 40-ish years they were still getting together each long weekend to spend time together. It was obvious from the stories I was told that they did not always see eye to eye or agree with each other’s actions, but they were ALL still here.

It was at this point that it hit me, these women CHOSE to be friends. Regardless of experience, events or personalities they CHOSE to be friends. They did this by CHOOSING to see the positives in each other, and CHOOSING the benefits of long term friendships over the aspects of each other’s personalities they didn’t like. I realized that with almost all the relationships in our lives, whether family, friends or work we choose to see the characteristics and abilities in people we want to see. We can focus on the positive items or the negative, yet it seems all too often we get stuck on the negatives and isolate ourselves.

The same is true at work, especially in team building. In 2004 I had the opportunity to build a new department, inside the dealership, from scratch. I decided that credentials and skills were not going to be the only thing I looked at. I looked for people that liked to work with other people. People that saw the positives in each other. The result was a department that achieved it’s goals, but also became the department and team others wanted to join.

This brings me back to why I do what I’m doing at Strategic Evolutions.

I like working with people, I like to help find their strengths and the positive aspects of each one. I focus on those when organizing a team to achieve a goal. I also try and focus every member of the team on the same thing. What strengths do they believe they bring to the team, and what strengths do they see in each other?

To be a successful team each member needs to CHOSE to to succeed, CHOSE to work together and CHOSE to find the strengths of their team mates. Without this decision it’s much too easy to find fault, point fingers and fail.

Finally, I have found, generally retrospectively, that this CHOICE is often part of a culture in a company. While each person may have different inclination coming into the company, the culture they find there determines how they will act. Maybe it’s as simple as feeling there is a common goal, finding support or finding someone that immediately sees the best in them.

I’m not sure what it was that made this group of women at the campfire CHOSE to be friends regardless of differences, but I’m thankful meeting them helped me to understand.

I wonder, do you understand why you CHOOSE to like certain people, and at work do you make the same CHOICES? If you’re considering your company culture, is CHOOSING each other’s strengths over weaknesses part of it?


If you’re considering your company culture, is CHOOSING each other’s strengths over weaknesses part of it?

Customer Asset Identification - Step 1 - Data Gathering

Last year at this time I spoke at the AED conference in Las Vegas. I spoke on using data to develop strategic sales plans, I called it “A Granular Data Driven Approach to Strategic Sales”. One of the key elements of the topic was the need to and value in understanding all the equipment in your customers’ fleet.

Through the event I was able to start conversations with several people on the topic. One such conversation started with Greg Helfrich at ELRUS in Calgary. In his response to a short follow up survey he mentioned the Asset Identification project they conducted was one of the best uses of time they had done in recent years.

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I gave Greg a call to learn more about the project they ran and what they learned from it. The conversation was fantastic, Greg and his team gained significant insights into their market but also into their sales organization.

I was surprised to learn that the project took less time than you might expect. Much of the information collection took them about 80 hours. Largely the information was collected by meeting with each sales rep. One of the reps was even able to list off about 600 pieces of equipment from memory! Don’t we all wish we had a memory like that!

Some reps had been keeping lists already of their customer’s equipment of all brands, they commented that it helped them when taking calls for parts, and other daily communication with their customers.

In all the company identified around 3000 pieces of equipment of all brands and entered them in their business system. In addition to, make and model, theoretical production volume and actual production volume was collected as was the type of material.

Then the analysis began.

The first thing they were surprised to learn was their market share was not what they anticipated, it was higher and lower than estimates in almost every case. Next, they also realized the competitors they had focused on were not always the real competition, quiet under-the-radar competitors had a significant market share.

Second, just from running the data collection process, a clear distinction between the sales approach each rep was taking could be made.  Combining sales history and the rep’s knowledge allowed Greg to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each approach and coach them for greater success.  Certainly, they learned increased asset knowledge improved sales performance.

Finally gathering this information and starting to understand, in more detail, their market position allowed Greg and his team to strengthen their relationship with their OEMs. The manufacturers recognized that the organization was professional, knowledgeable and driving continuous improvement in sales but also parts and service. Even more reason for them to invest time, energy and money into the ELRUS business.

The next step in this process for ELRUS is to identify the model year, serial number and condition of the equipment to assist in parts inventory planning and sales training.

In my next post I’ll cover some of the opportunities that came from analyzing the customer fleet data.


If you’re a sales rep or sales manager, do you know what’s in your market?

Is there value in running a similar exercise?