OPINION

When the Phone Stops Ringing, It’s Time for CRM

When the phone stops ringing, we all know what we need to do: Open up our overpriced CRM (customer relationship management) databases and start making calls.

My CRM makes it very easy for me. It prioritizes calls based upon their probability of success.

Now, it isn’t rocket science, and I could really do the same thing with an Excel spreadsheet — but the CRM software ties into our headquarters’ office so my boss can monitor just about everything I do. (Life continues to mirror junior high; I feel like I still need my mom to sign off that she has seen me actually do my homework).

Girding for Battle

The software breaks the prospects into categories with combat-sounding names like howitzers, cannons and sharp shooters. However, I am allowed to change the category titles.

This is what they call “personalizing” the software to fit each salesperson’s personality. Here is how I have sorted my prospects:

  • The “We Love You” Customers.

    The first calls are easy. I’m calling current customers trying to sell them something else. With these people, I can even be honest and say my numbers are down and ask them to give me some extra business. The morning is fun, but no new business results.

  • The “We Used to Love You” Group.

    After lunch, I attack my second group — previous customers. They haven’t bought anything in the past year, but before that they were pretty regular customers.

    Now the CRM brings up the excuse each gave for not buying this past year: no budget, poor quality, cheaper alternatives — and then the one I hate, dislikes the salesman. Fortunately I don’t have too many of these.

    I’m lucky — I actually get one guy back on the roll, but it really doesn’t make a dent in my numbers. Now its 3 p.m., and I have to start working hard.

  • The “We Really Like You … But” Prospects.

    This category is made up of companies that were serious prospects, but just never bought anything. Either our proposal was rejected, or they just kept asking for more information, or they had to check one more time with their boss. In the end, it was a lot of work courting these people, and no sale was made.

    I start calling. I have to bite my lip, because I start hearing the same responses again. “Hesh, thanks for calling; yes we are interested. Can you send me a new proposal? And please add in prices for our Polish subsidiaries — both in euros and zlotys.”

    I enter the request in the CRM; promise I will get back to him in a week and move on.

  • The Mutual Contempt Group.

    I can’t ignore them anymore — the get humble and grovel subset. These are the prospects that drove me crazy, and I ended up telling them to drop dead. I promised myself I would never call them again.

    This situation is never covered in all the high-powered selling-tactic CDs that I have strewn across the back seat of my car. Now, I know they will never return my call — and I know that their secretaries have put me on their “tell him to drop dead” list, too.

    I need to buy a new cell phone so that my name doesn’t come up on caller ID. I’ll have to stop off at Radio Shack and buy one of those prepaid cell phones that drug dealers use on “Law and Order.” Until then I have …

  • The Yellow Pages Leads.

    These are the leads that our marketing department has identified by data-mining industry lists. I can’t assume the names are right or that they have ever heard of my company.

    Our market-research department confirms that the probability of obtaining a real prospect is less than 2 percent. I’ve tried this list before when I have been desperate. I hate it. But it is still better then the last category …

  • The Godfather Group. “Dad, Hi, I’ve changed my mind, and I would just love to come back home and sell those tires of yours. Yeah — the jumbo retreads for the construction industry.”


Hesh Reinfeld writes a syndicated business humor column. Read more at his Web site,www.heshreinfeld.com, or contact him at [email protected].


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