CJ McClanahan stated in a recent podcast that sales people who use a CRM consistently outperform those who don't. I happen to agree.
So why is it so difficult to choose and implement the right CRM?
Join us for this episode of The Digital Exec as we talk with George Brontén, CEO of Membrain, to learn how to get the most from a sales CRM.
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Michael Reynolds: Hey everyone, Michael Reynolds here with SpinWeb and welcome to the Digital Exec, a marketing insight show for business leaders. We're happy you're here. I'm here today with George Brontén, who is president and CEO of Membrain. Membrain is a phenomenal sales CRM, and it's a CRM that I use and we use here at SpinWeb. So a full disclosure for a customer, we are a customer, and we're in love with Membrain and so happy to be with you today George. How are you?
George Brontén: Very good. Thanks for the nice introduction. I'm glad to.
Michael Reynolds: Fantastic! Thanks for joining us all the way from Sweden. So, what time is it in Sweden today?
George Brontén: It's 3:00 p.m. here.
Michael Reynolds: Okay great. It's morning here so I appreciate you joining us from far away. A little bit of just a background on Membrain. Membrain is a sales CRM focused on complex B2B sales. What I like about it is it's very focused on sales process, and we'll get to that more at the end because I definitely want to hear more about Membrain for our listeners and viewers.
Today's topic I'm really in love with, and today's topic is: How to get the most from your sales CRM. A lot of people are interested in choosing the right CRM; how to get the most from it, how to really supplement their sales process with the right CRM, so I’d love to dig into this. But before we can do that, George, what's your 30 second intro on you and your role in the company?
George Brontén: Yes. I was the founder, or, I am the founder, of Membrain so I got the idea and started and funded the company, and I'm the idea guy. I'm the one who wants to elevate the sales profession with Membrain. My passion is sales and my passion is software so I've combined the two.
Michael Reynolds: Nice.
George Brontén: That's great fun.
Michael Reynolds: Love it. Well, again, thanks so much for joining us. Let's dig in because I love ... I'm a CRM nerd, I admit it. I love tools and processes and I love digging into the sales process, so Membrain really, really kind of scratches that itch and really does a great job. Let's back up first and just get some ... Let's start with the basics. First of all, just give me the quick intro of what is a CRM? How do you see a CRM? What does it stand for? How is it used? What is just some basic background on CRM.
George Brontén: I think CRM is an interesting topic, because everyone you ask will give you a different answer of what it is and what it should do. What I've found when we were looking for a CRM for my other company that I built, called Upstream, I found that the CRMs were really just fancy Rolodexes, and that's not what I was searching for.
So the background is actually that I wanted a tool to help me drive the right behaviors within my own sales team, and there weren't any really good CRM's for that purpose. What I want a CRM to do is to drive sales. That's why I founded Membrain, and that's what I think a sales CRM should do. But when you ask people on the street I think they'll give you an answer that it's going to be a data repository. That's where we store all our contacts, our activities.
I think CRMs historically have been more of a data repository. It has been great for campaigns and marketing people, but we see a lot of changes now in marketing as well, as you know, in sales specifically. I think CRMs are changing and becoming more specific for what you want it to do. Sales CRM in my head should enable the sales team and drive the right behaviors.
Michael Reynolds: I agree and I wonder why so many organizations don't seem to focus in on that as much as they should. For example, what makes someone choose a CRM that is more of a contact database versus a sales CRM? Or, should everybody be working with a sales CRM and we're just kidding ourselves when we don't focus on that outcome.
George Brontén: Well yeah, I think that the initial promise of a CRM was to have a central repository where you store all the data and all the information about your customers; and what you've said to them and how you communicated to them. I think that has a lot of value, but what we've seen happening is the world is changing. I mean the Internet has changed everything, so buyers now can find all the information they want online and we can't really push information to them in the same sense as we used to.
I think CRMs as they used to be are not really helpful for driving the right sales behaviors, but they're still what people think about when you say CRM, so we still struggle with that quite a bit. Because for us, what we mean and what I think you mean with a sales CRM is not what the average person would answer if you asked them what a CRM is.
Michael Reynolds: Well I think you're right because I see a lot of sales teams and sales people that are in what I call, "Cowboy mode." I say cowboy mode because they're just kind of looking at sales as the Wild West. They're just saying, "Well, I've got talent. I'm a nice guy. I can relate to people. I can talk to people, so just put me out there and I'll make some sales big because I'm just going to hit the pavement and talk to people." They have no sales process, and that really bothers me because without a sales process it's tough to measure your sales performance. It's tough to optimize your performance. It's tough to really see what that target is and stay focused on that target. I know that there are a lot of good CRMs out there that really guide people through a sales process. Obviously, Membrain is one of them and my favorite, but there are a lot of CRMs out there that really are evolving to the point where they guide sales people through a sales process. So, tell me about what the disadvantages are ... First, just not having a sales process in general, how does that hurt organizations?
George Brontén: Yeah, I think what you say is interesting, because there are a lot of sales teams and sales people out there that are just winging it. The good sales people that are winging it, and succeeding, do have a sales process. It's just that they haven't put it down on paper, and it's not been replicated to the rest of the team. The downsides of not having a formal sales process is huge, especially when you're recruiting new talent, new people. How do you on-board a sales person if you don't have a sales process? How is he, or she, supposed to know what they should do to get a new business on-board?
I think there's huge problems, and we're seeing that everywhere. You hire people, like you say, you put them out in the field, and they're going to train on real customers because you're not on-boarding them well enough. So they come back and after six months of no sales, where you've been hoping that they were going to figure it out, or they're going to go out and do their cowboy thing like you say, but they're not really succeeding so we cut them loose and we try the next one.
That has huge costs, of course, for all companies that are doing it that way. Having a sales process, and not just having a sales process, I think that's an interesting ... Just talking about sales process, what is that? Because for most people I think it's a check or a drop down list in their CRM. “I'm in phase one. Now, I'm in phase two.” Then you align those phases with a percentage of the likelihood that you're going to close the deal, but it's just really a perception of the sales guy how likely he thinks he is to win the deal.
Michael Reynolds: Yeah, it's just a made up number.
George Brontén: Just a made up number and it's fixed in the system, so it's like 10, 25, 50, 75, 100, and based on the gut feel of the sales person that's how your forecast is going to be. I think, when we say sales process we mean something more. We need to have a face and staged process, where you know the milestones.
You need to find out where the customer is, and how you align your messaging to where he is in his buying process and how that customer buys. Because a lot of organizations and people don't buy the same way. One organization may be very focused on the personal relationship, so if they find a selling organization that is very social and has a good product, they'll be more likely to buy from them than, let's say, another organization which is very structured. They would proceed, or prefer, to work with a selling organization that is also very structured.
You need tools to understand where the customer is, and of course find out what their business result is. What are they trying to achieve? How do you align your offering in your communication with that? A sales process needs to be very well thought out and mapped to your buyer. I think that it's crucial in having that step by step, it becomes a map. If you have a map for your sales team then we're going to find more deals.
Michael Reynolds: Right. To us a sales process is more than just a phase, like you said, you do have phases obviously, but within that phase, and here's where I reveal, and see if I'm doing this correctly according to the Membrain philosophy, I see each phase as having multiple steps underneath that that has some specific dependencies.
For example, in our evaluation phase, step one is to gather some information, you know, fill out some data in the CRM, qualify someone to make sure that we're a good fit for them and they're a good fit for us potentially; and then have a phone conversation, run through some specific questions. There's some really deep qualifications that happens on both sides just during that one phase, before we even move to the next phase. With your philosophy, and the Membrain philosophy, is that how you see a sales process working?
George Brontén: Yeah. I think we should take one step back. It's also about what you're selling, so if you look at some products they're very transactional. I think that space is going, or it's already moving to become quite automated. So, if you're selling commodity products with no risk to the buyer, he's going to go out and find the best possible supplier on-line, check the review sites (laughs), and he's going to buy where he gets the cheapest price and feel confident with the supplier.
I think those commodity sales, that's going to be more automated moving forward. You don't really need a sales person anymore at all for that. Then you have the ... Where you need to have a touch, but it's not really complex, so one buyer ... One guy and the buyer can decide if you're going to buy this or not, and it doesn't really matter if it's not the perfect fit.
But once you start selling something more complex, and for me the complexity is in the perception of the buyer when it comes to risk. So, if I'm risking my job, or my face (laugh) because I'm picking you as my agency, I need to be able to feel confident in that, and that then becomes a complex decision. That will make it the sales process on how we sell so much more important.
Michael Reynolds: Right. Exactly. Now tell me ... Okay, now let me play devil's advocate for just a moment. So let's say I don't have a CRM. Let's say I have moderate success in sales. I have a couple of salespeople, they're just kind of winging it. Maybe we use a spreadsheet, but I don't really have a CRM. How is that hurting me?
George Brontén: Well, if you have any ambitions to scale that, or if you have people that are going to leave you and you're going to bring in new people you will need to have a process in place because otherwise you'll be spending too much time trying to figure out what best way to sell is.
I learned this by experience in my other company, Upstream. I was, like you said, winging it (laugh), and I was good at that. But trying to hire people to scale that business, I understood after a couple of hires and fires that they need a map. If you don't have a map, if you don't have a system to provide these best practices and have that information you're going to be losing time. You're going to be losing competitiveness and just leaving money on the table.
Michael Reynolds: I would assume that it's difficult to measure at that point, correct?
George Brontén: Yeah, of course. You're getting no measurability so that's crazy of course, as well so ... There are situations where you could probably be better off without a system. One man shops could probably run their business in Excel. They have a few customers and that's fine and they prospect on LinkedIn, but as soon as you start scaling your business you need systems and processes or you will just not be successful.
You will have nothing, like you say, nothing to measure, no best practices to follow. You don't have to iterate on it. You have to know- what are we doing now that's working, and what are we doing that's not working? How do we iterate the process, because a sales process is never complete. It always changes. You always improve upon it.
That's the next thing with traditional CRM's are quite difficult in that aspect because they're not designed around the sales process. Rather you have to tweak them and get the sales process into that system by customizing it, and then once you want to change it then it could be quite cumbersome.
Michael Reynolds: What about sales and marketing integration? This is something that I am very focused on. What are your recommendations for how to integrate your sales CRM with your marketing program?
George Brontén: Yeah, that's key focus for us as well and I think what is happening there is that we're seeing the whole inbound marketing and the whole content marketing space is growing like crazy, for reason. We have to be found when people and buyers start looking for us. I think I read a number somewhere that said 95% of all the purchases that are made start with a Google search (laugh).
People are searching for answers on-line and you have to be found, and content marketing is the big push in the market. What I see there are some different aspects that are difficult. There's sort of a shiny object thing around the whole inbound marketing space now that sales people believe that they're going to get these fantastic leads that are sales ready. That can happen of course, but you still need to be able to sell.
Like you pointed out, when you're in complex sales every deal takes time, so you need to be focused on the right deals. So, when it comes to a line in sales and marketing, what I always talked about is really defining what a qualified lead is, and how to hand that over, from marketing to sales, and have a very well understood definition when that baton, so to speak, is handed over and what is going to happen next.
For marketing, this is going to be lovely because now they have all these tools like: Hubspark, Marketo, and all these great tools to generate leads. If you marry that with something like Membrain where the process just continues, then you get this fantastic closed loop that we're all dreaming about. You get the measurability from the first time they visit your site until they buy from you when you can always see how that happened and iterate on the process.
Michael Reynolds: So before we wrap up here, one last question that I want to pick your brain on a little bit. I know you're going to be very good at this question because I know that one thing I really respect about you and your Team at Membrain is that you are very open about turning people away if they're not a good fit for your software. You want people to find the right system for them and Membrain is not a fit for everybody so I know you're going to be very good with this question.
The question is, how do you recommend a person choose a sales CRM. Let's say I've got an organization with a few sales people, who are running things in Excel. I'm like, "Okay, I get it! I need a CRM. I'm listening, I understand, I get it." So, how do I go about choosing the right CRM for my organization?
George Brontén: I think you first have to realize what type of sales you're in because sales is not sales (laugh). You have to realize, are you in a complex sale or are you in a transactional sale, or are you somewhere in the middle? Because it's very different. If everything you need to do is pick up the phone and call as many customers as you can and you can close that sale on the first call, Membrain is not for you most likely.
But, if you're selling something that takes time and you need to engage some stakeholders on the customer's side, you need to convince them, understand them, you need to build a relationship and build value ... Every deal then becomes so important that you have to have a plan. If you don't have a plan and you're running around lost, that's going to cost you a lot of money.
First, you have to understand what kind of sales you're in and then you need to decide how important this is for the growth of our company, and if you're serious about growth and sales excellence that's where Membrain would be a good fit because we're all about driving the right behaviors in the sales team.
Michael Reynolds: So a follow up to that, obviously, I would know that Membrain is your favorite sales CRM (laughs) but what are some of your other favorite CRM's that you see in the marketplace that you respect? That you would recommend that you would say, "Hey, if you're not going to choose Membrain choose one of these guys." Do you have any that are on your short list of CRM's that you recommend?
George Brontén: Yeah, absolutely. I think there are a bunch of good up-comers in this space. If you're looking for a CRM and you're more in the transaction space, I would probably go for something like Base, which is a nice software, modern and effective so you can work faster (laughs) in that product. While we're more focused on working smarter and having the process front and center, and we're a lot about also coaching. But if you're after a CRM, just the account tracking and everything I would say Base would probably be my favorite right now.
Michael Reynolds: Okay. Any other's that you recommend?
George Brontén: Wow, you're asking me to pitch the competition.
Michael Reynolds: (laughs) We try to be balanced here.
George Brontén: Yeah, that's a good thing. Base is my current optimal favorite, I would say for transactional b plug.
Michael Reynolds: Okay, great. I appreciate that. Anything else I haven't asked you that you think is very important for organizations to consider when either adopting a sales CRM or getting the most from it and using it effectively?
George Brontén: Yeah. I think you have to have a long term goal. You have to know where you want to be in a couple of years, in terms of sales. Because in my head, and because of every product now looking the same for buyers when they go on-line, how you sell is becoming so much more important than it may have been in the past.
The buying experience, hence the selling process, is really key for me. I would also go out and look for a consultant ... You mentioned Lushin in the beginning, and Brian, we just love those guys. I mean, they're experts in sales. They do great sales training and they can help you with the sales strategy.
Finding a good sales developing expert would be a tip from my side because a system is only a system. It's only as good as you make it to be by using it. You have to have someone to help you if you can't do it yourself to create your sales strategy, your sales process, and your best behavior that you want to strive for. So I would go out and find a good sales development expert.
Michael Reynolds: Thank you. I do want to unpack that a little bit more and make sure that our audience knows where to find my sales coach, Brian Kavicky at Lushin. That's at Lushin.com and we'll put a link in the show notes as well. But I do recommend working with Brian Kavicky at Lushin. He works nationally. He's got clients all over the country, and he would be my recommended expert with helping with sales process and choosing the right CRM as well, so I'm glad you mentioned Brian and that shout out to him. Thank you.
Let's go ahead and wrap it ... Here's where I get to make it up to you for asking you about the competition, George. So I'm going to ask you to give me just a couple minutes on Membrain, what it does, why it's so great, who is it for and why you might want to look into it. I'll start with my endorsement. I love Membrain, personally, because it is so detailed and so process-oriented that it makes it very difficult for us to fall off the rails in the sales process.
When I was on-boarding our newest sales person I was able to say, "Here's our new sales process. Here's your CRM. We can train you by fine-tuning steps in the process," as opposed to saying, "Hey, have fun, go wing it. Good luck." It was very structured. It was very measurable. The data we get from Membrain is outstanding. I just cannot say enough about it.
It integrates with HubSpot, so our marketing qualified leads automatically sync up to our CRM. It really saves us a ton of time and makes sales much more effective for us, so that's my endorsement of it. But George, I would love to hear kind of your pitch about Membrain and why you think a great CRM for certain organizations.
George Brontén: Yeah, thank you. I think what we're focused on is really, as we've said, is helping sales teams to reach excellence. What does that mean? We think you have to have a map, which is the sales process. That's front and center. Then we have to visualize that, which is something that we focus a lot on how to really see your pipeline and see the health of it and the granularity, as you mentioned, is really key.
To be able to analyze and coach, and coach is something that we haven't touched upon so much, but from my perspective sales coaching is key. It's really difficult to coach if you don't have the right information, if you don't have the map, and if you don't have the content in a context it's really difficult to coach.
So we focus a lot on helping the sales coach to do his job, to get the most out of the sales people. Because it's all about the people in the end, I mean you have to have sales people that grow as individuals and professionals. That's how they do a better job and we want to build a perfect system for everyone in the B2B space to really reach their potential by using this system.
Michael Reynolds: One thing I found to be very interesting about your website, I'm not sure if this will change or not, but you can't really get a demo of Membrain on your website, and that's on purpose, I believe, because it's not for everybody. It's not something that you could quickly see a demo and say, "Oh, well I know what I need to know," because you don't really know what you need to know until you talk to someone and really dig into how it benefits your organization. I'm guessing that's on purpose that you don't allow people to even do a demo, right?
George Brontén: Yeah. The whole SAS base is very much about self-service nowadays. So you go to a website, you sign up, and you trial it, and then you're supposed to decide if it's good or not for you.
Michael Reynolds: You don't buy it because some question didn't get answered and then you go away (laughs).
George Brontén: Yeah, I know how I am. I go to a bunch of websites and I trial them, and I try them for like 10 seconds and then I go to the next one and I try them. We really want to be the premium choice for the B2B sales teams and believe that we need to have a dialogue in order to convey, or understand the customer first; what are they trying to achieve, and then we can go into a demo mode.
I think there's too much focus on demos in this space at the moment. So yes, we're probably losing a lot of deals because of that, because we get a lot of angry people saying, "Why can't we demo your product! I mean you're stupid."
Michael Reynolds: Everybody wants a demo right?
George Brontén: Everybody wants a demo, and sure, maybe but that's how we decided to go right now and it's been quite successful so far.
Michael Reynolds: Well I agree with your approach because Membrain has a lot going on under the hood. It's very, very powerful. It took me about a week to get it initially configured and setup, but then over the next few months I kept finding new things about it that just really delighted our sales team because it can do so much. I really do agree with your approach and I love Membrain.
George, it's been fantastic talking with you. I really appreciate it. A lot of really great insights on sales CRM and a pleasure to speak with you. So we've been talking with George Brontén, president andCEO of Membrain, and you're at Membrain.com. That is spelled as brain B-R-A-I-N.com. So Membrain.com is where to find out more and I would encourage people to get in touch with you and your team to find out more if Membrain is right for you. George, thank you so much, appreciate your time.
George Brontén: (music) Thank you for inviting me.
Michael Reynolds: Pleasure speaking with you and thank you everybody for joining us. We'll see you next time.
Speaker 1: Thank you for joining us for this episode of the Digital Exec. If you would like to be a guest on our show learn more at SpinWeb.TV. See you next time. (music)