At Industrial Quality Management, we help small and mid-sized B2B companies grow their revenue and profitability through management consulting and modern marketing processes and technologies. Since we work as our clients’ partners, we are usually deeply involved in helping them solve a wide variety of problems.
We often find that many of our client businesses are facing an enemy within – an enemy that small and mid-sized companies can’t afford to ignore: Each time a salesperson is let go or quits, they take some of their clients with them. This can result in a sales slump that varies depending on how many clients the sales rep takes with them and how large those accounts were.
It’s surprising to learn that, according to Symantec research, half of employees admit to taking corporate data when they leave a job, and 40% intend to use it in a new position. It is estimated that an even higher percentage of salespeople take company and client information when they leave a job. What makes these findings even more shocking is the fact that even when sensitive intellectual property theft occurs and the company finds out, more than half of the time the company takes no action against the former employee.
There are ways to mitigate this loss of prospects, clients and data; it just takes some creative problem solving. Here are three solid strategies to help:
1) Marketing Automation
What could a marketing automation system have to do with keeping your customer lists safe? This may not seem like a direct link at first, but hear me out. As you gain leads, they come into your marketing automation system where all their information is captured. As they interact with you (e.g. visiting a web page, opening an email) those activities are tracked and logged. The marketing team manages the leads, acting on them to gently move them further down the funnel, often using drip marketing programs for education and relationship building. Marketing retains the leads until they are ready for sales, reducing (if not outright eliminating) cold calls, and sending the salesperson information about warm leads only. This means that when a salesperson leaves your company, your marketing team still retains all prospect and client information and behavioral data. Since the salesperson can’t access the marketing database, it’s an extra layer of data protection.
2) Sales Team Structure
The main reason customer relationship management (CRM) systems often don’t work in a small-to-medium business is that salespeople generally hate paperwork and data entry. Not only that, usually they aren’t good at these activities. In some companies structuring a sales team as a Hub-and-Spoke is a practical way to make salespeople happier and yield higher sales. You do this by assigning a full time CRM sales support admin for every five to ten salespeople; the number of salespeople an administrator can support depends on how technical the nature of a sale is. All the salesperson does is close the deal; as soon as it’s closed they inform the client that someone will call them and take the order. Deploying a Hub-and-Spoke structure to your sales team has three main benefits:
- Firstly, if deployed properly all sales people will get more time on the road or on the phones engaging with clients since they should have much less paperwork.
- Secondly, the CRM sales support admin does most of the paperwork, but salespeople have to gather the information. With the admin holding salespeople to account for data completeness – there will be no more half-filled information on your CRM!
- Lastly, since the CRM now holds all the information and part of the relationship is held by the internal CRM admin, even if the salesperson leaves the customer is more likely to stay with the company.
3) Systems integration and security
Marketing automation systems are more effective when integrated with a CRM system, and even more so when the CRM is housed or connected to an ERP system. With this method you not only have cradle-to-grave tracking of all your revenue and marketing functions but you also have incredible levels of intimate knowledge of all your customers. In the event a salesperson leaves your company, all past information remains securely stored and a new salesperson can pick up right where the last one left off.
And in the end…
It all comes down to the execution of any program or system. There are many naysayers that would tell you that a close relationship with a customer trumps any technical information you have on them. The truth is, those two aspects of the relationship are increasingly commingled as more technology comes into play, especially technologies like marketing automation that foster personalization and deeper customer understanding. And while the sales role remains highly specialized and critically important, the customer lifecycle is increasingly managed through marketing and support, making the sales relationship a smaller part of it. If your customer’s total experience with your company has been positive (and especially if you’re doing retention marketing), it’s more likely that their loyalty is to the company, and less likely that it’s to the sales rep. Remember also that buyers know there’s a risk in changing vendors.
Through superior information gathering, data completeness, and delivering value, your company can meet and exceed your client’s needs throughout the entire lifecycle. If you do this and do it well, most if not all of your current clients will stay with your company – even if one of your salespeople tries to take them as they leave.
If there’s a moral to the story it’s this: Keep your friends close – and your customers closer.
Nick Bideshi is Co-Founder of Industrial Quality Management, a company that helps B2B clients with revenue growth and profitability. In addition, Nick is a passionate business consultant, entrepreneur, and business coach, and loves to build responsible leadership in SMBs.