August 30

Closing the loop: Why don’t sales people update the CRM and what can be done about it?

Lead Management


Companies that adopt a closed-loop process connecting marketing and sales report a higher return on marketing investment (ROMI) than those that don’t.

But ROMI just isn’t going to happen if your closed loop is a black hole. And that’s certainly the case at too many organizations judging from the feedback I received at my presentation this week at MarketingSherpa’s B2B Marketing Summit. (If you want more details, Andrew Spoeth with Marketo wrote a good summary of what I had to say over Modern B2B Marketing blog.)

When I asked my audience of mostly marketer, “How many of you have a problem with sales not updating your CRM?” Nearly everyone raised their hands and laughter erupted.

Which perfectly proves my point: depending on a software to close the loop is like a football team using infrequent text messages to communicate plays. You’re not going to communicate quickly enough what you really need to know to get to where you want to go.

That’s why I’m a huge proponent of huddling: face-to-face or voice-to-voice meetings where the marketing and sales teams gather to gauge progress, deal with challenges and opportunities, and celebrate successes.

With effective communication, huddling and CRM tools, the loop will close, you’ll optimize your sales funnel and achieve sales and marketing’s highest objective: increased revenue performance.

Without it, you’re going to be running in circles.

Related posts:

How to do lead management that improves conversion

How sales hustle and automation can hurt customer experience

The Most Important B2B Marketing Metrics for CEOs

Getting sales enablement right to increase results

Do you see value in huddling and do you think it’s feasible in your organizations?  Why do you suppose, despite our best efforts, many salespeople seemingly avoid or skip updating marketing generated leads, contacts, and notes in CRM databases?

About the author 

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing.

He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,301+ members.

  1. We have just completed the NETworks Integrated Web Platform that closes the loop in the sales cycle and provides all the tools needed for the Perfect Internet Marketing strategy, Data/Content Management and Lead Management. It supports and generates leads as well as helping with SEO and other Web content needs, forecast analysis vs actual and many more individual tools. All Tools tied to MROI Tracking analysis per referring source, keyword or other key fundamentals. There are over 25 individual tools to help Companies grow. We have also found a way to close the loop through secondary sales or distribution networks like Distributors and Reps all while maintaining and passing Manufacture data in real time. These are exciting times we live in, 15 years been working with Manufactures to solve this complex problem. Will keep you informed about conversion rate improvements, early signs are great:)

  2. Great post! This is a problem in a lot of organizations. Sales people tend to only focus on the end goal of making the sale, then leave out the important notes along the way. This problem is often solved by outsourcing your lead generationa and CRM to an outside vendor. This takes the stress off of your sales team and ensures that your data is accurate. If you do choose to seek out a vendor for lead generation, it’s important to understand what results to expect. Thanks again.

  3. Brian,

    “When I asked my audience, all of them marketers, “How many of you have a problem with sales not updating your CRM?” Nearly everyone raised their hands and laughter erupted.”

    There are no surprises here. I’ve been involved with implementing a few of these systems in the past and in general they have sales acceptance issues because they don’t solve sales problems.

    CRM systems get sold on better reporting and improved business information not on helping sales staff make more sales. It’s the old “what’s in it for me” issue. When you address that, usage and acceptance goes up dramatically.

  4. Great points raised both in the post and in the comments.

    Our team is virtual (we all work from our homes), and we definitely rely on a combination of “the tool” and “the huddle”. Can’t imagine doing it any other way.

    Still, we have the same issue as any other team – keeping the tool up to date.

    A couple things have really helped us in this regard:

    • Getting a tool that allows us to provide twitter-like status updates. This is great for popping in a quick note following a call and broadcasting it to the team.
    • A weekly “huddle” call, where we walk down the current pipeline, identify what needs to be done, which leads need to be pulled, etc. Everyone is on the hook to have their leads updated ahead of the call.
    • Using the notes on the won/lost deals to better understand the patterns and qualifiers. Looking at which deals we won (or lost) and why, gives us a new set of eyes in looking at the “dead” leads. It’s not uncommon that we take recent learnings from this exercise and revisit “dead” leads and find we’re able to revive them into viable prospects using these insights.

    At the end of the day, totally agree that you have to have buy-in, and the best way to get buy-in is to demonstrate how the work is going to close more deals.

    Thanks for a great post!

  5. Good post Brian…. There should be an incentive for sales, as they understand this language, to update CRM and get to close the loop on marketing generated leads. Also helping them understand the link betweekn ROI and marketing budgets would open many a eye. This with the “huddle” might pave the way for the much sought after closed loop.

  6. I love the comparison of using a program to update like a coach sending in plays once in a while via text. I’m a sucker for any sport analogy!

  7. I wonder do we get the marketing people and marketing co-operation we sometimes deserve? There are only a few organisations that I have ever worked in where marketing people were brought out on customer visits by salespeople, where genuine appreciation was shown for leads provided (even the ones that were poor) and so on.

  8. I agree with you, constant communication between the marketing executives and the sales reps is really they key in increasing revenue performance, they also need to update the datas stored in their files from time to time, and to add to that, their company can also choose data vendors to update some of their stored information for them that needs cleansing.

  9. Great post/topic Brian and especially love your comment above on focusing on what will change behavior. Since leaving sales in the late 90’s to focus on marketing, I have found that adopting Machiavellian tactics when dealing with sales to be the most effective way to get their attention, get buy-in and cooperation with programs that only work when sales collaborates.

    My favorite program tactic of late is the old “dead leads in” trick. Creating a quick win for sales (and marketing), ideally for the #1 sales rep. Its centered around running an issue-oriented campaign at the supposed dead leads that have been sitting in (the CRM) for months and/or years. Invariably, this campaign approach ends up finding several qualified opportunities (Marketing Qualified Leads MQLs) that catches sales’ attention. In one case, we found 2 opportunities within 45 days that closed 30 days later. The deals put $100K in the #1 sales rep’s pocket.

    Usually we find MQLs that close within 4-5 months. In this difficult sales market, almost all companies have plenty of leads in their database that are qualified, but not necessarily sales-ready, which means sales is not focused on them. Running a quick-strike campaign that shows the sales team the value of those “latent demand” leads helps to change their behavior with regard to assisting with the updating process of those contacts.

    When you show a result similar to the one I mentioned above, you will find sales VERY receptive to the huddling approach that Brian talks about. They will want to know how marketing can help them to find gold from those “dead leads”.

    I did a podcast case study about this earlier this year that can be found on my blog on my web site.

  10. I wrote about this in my book, 5 Management Blunders Causing Sales Impotence. Mistake #5: Turning Sales Reps into overpaid secretaries and clerks.

    Resource: (Free PDF download and it’s 100% pitch-free).

    For the life of me I don’t understand why anyone would want to [mis]use the precious, relationship-building skills of their sales professionals in this way. Reps need to be out with clients, not sitting behind a PC typing at 10 words/min.

  11. Great post and excellent point, Brian.

    My thoughts – simple question of WHY and HOW –
    – If sales understands the “WHY” pertaining to the importance of CRM updates and sees it as a mutual benefit, it’ll be fully adopted,
    – Same goes for those sales reps that take a more strategic approach. If sales is taught “HOW” to actually use and implement the knowledge yielded from the data/reports, it’s beneficial. The best Salesforce maintenance and reporting means nothing to the rep if he or she cannot draw good conclusions from it.

  12. Based on our client experiences, two reasons come to mind.

    1. The user interface for the CRM is a train wreck. Data fields are scattered across multiple screens, require scrolling, drop down boxes provide too many options and/or you just want them to collect too much information. Check it out: go into your CRM, pretend you are a sales rep and enter every action you take for a week. See what I mean – cumbersome right? Fixing the user interface can double adoption.

    2. Management has created weird algorithms relating activity and results that have nothing to do with reality and manages to those metrics. If, as a salesperson, I don’t agree with your algorithm I can choose not to play by not giving you the data. How to fix it: make sure your metrics are meaningful and provide ROI to both you AND your sales team.

    As I said, these are top of mind but we see them a lot. Hope this helps!

  13. Good points all. Here’s a few thoughts I have…

    1. Get buy-in (what do they want)
    2. Demonstrate value – answer “what’s in it for me?”
    3. Value our sales team’s time – make it easy.
    4. Provide administrative support

    I once heard a sales expert say, “if you want your sales team to change their behavior you need to show them how doing it your way will give them a 300% return (time, productivity, commissions, etc.) other wise they won’t change”

    To increase the odds that our respective sales teams update our CRM or databases, what else can we do?

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