Customer relationship management (CRM) systems have come a long way since Act! emerged in 1986 as a kind of digital Rolodex that allowed businesspeople to store and organize customer contact information. Now cloud-based and exceedingly more sophisticated, the systems do everything from capturing and distributing leads and automating follow-ups to instantly alerting salespeople when prospects open their emails or return to the company’s website. Firms like Lasso and Sales Simplicity have built systems geared specifically to meet home builders’ needs.
Plano, Texas-based Sales Solve Everything CEO Ralph Williams says the technology continues to get better, making it easier for salespeople to follow up, but some balk at the process.
“I know it sounds crazy, but just the inputting of that information can be challenging for some. I don’t want to say it’s an age thing, though that could be part of it,” Williams says. “Maybe they don’t want to do it because they think it’s a waste of time or if they put it in the system they’ll be held accountable. If they’re getting 10 leads a week and no sales, that’s a problem.”
Do You Convert president Mike Lyon also has seen the pushback from on-site associates, who often refuse to input prospects because they’re worried about sullying their conversion rates. “If you don’t put people into the system, they don’t exist. You can’t market to them if you have no data. That’s unacceptable,” Lyon says.
To be fair, says sales trainer Jason Forrest, CRMs are hardly user-friendly. Many salespeople see them as more of a policing and reporting mechanism for the C-suite than a beneficial tool, and they’re not intuitive to use. Forrest goes so far as to suggest that most salespeople would give up 10% of their salary to get out of using a CRM.
In the end, it’s not about the technology but about the people who use it. Oakwood Homes chief operating officer Scott Thorson says his company uses a CRM as a way for sales staff to get to know customers by asking questions about their lifestyles and desires. Being able to automate that information is helpful, Thorson adds, but “a CRM system is only as good as the people operating it.”
“It can’t feel like a homework assignment putting people into the system,” says Kerry Mulcrone, founder of new-home sales and training company Kerry & Co. Instead of focusing on the drudgery of time frames and financials, Mulcrone suggests that salespeople feed the system stories about clients, like how long they’ve been married and what type of restaurants they enjoy.
“Technology is fabulous and necessary in the world we live in, but it’s what you put in and what people pull out from it that makes it wonderful,” she says.