Getting insight into sales opportunities requires a solid understanding of the activity that has been taken against that account. At the same time, asking highly paid sales professionals to manually log each email and meeting is a tremendous waste of time and resources.
Activity logging solutions exist to help with this challenge, and most revenue teams are in various stages of evaluating, trying, and implementing them. However there are substantially different approaches to the challenge that each have advantages and disadvantages. Your unique requirements will guide how you think about the challenge and ultimately what solution you select.
Manual or Automatic
One of the first decisions you need to make in activity logging is whether you want the logging of data to CRM to be automatic or manual. Manual has the appeal of fine-grained control of deciding whether to log each and every activity. However, this decision, and the “click” associated with it, needs to be made for every activity you want logged. This can quickly grow time intensive and tiresome when logging the day to day communications around sales opportunities and existing customers.
Automatic logging is based on intelligent rules which, once set up, will log exactly as you specified, without any effort or clicks. Not only will this approach capture every outbound email your team sends, it also will capture and log inbound emails and meetings. These are often forgotten by users of manual activity logging solutions.
User Adoption and Management
A related question is how you are planning to manage user adoption. Manual logging tools need to be deployed to each user in question, and set up individually, while automated activity logging approaches can be deployed and configured centrally across large teams with zero involvement by the team members.
Ongoing management is also a question. Installing a manual logging tool is one challenge, but having a team build a habit of using the tool to log every activity is another major challenge. Many organizations have found that sales teams can sometimes be aggressively managed into logging all activity, but teams outside of sales are often more difficult. Sales teams are used to rigorous process and disciplined task management, but other teams are much less structured.
Desktop or Mobile
Another consideration for the automatic vs manual decision for logging activity comes down to where you would anticipate your team doing most of its work. Manual logging tools are often sidebar extensions in your browser or to your email. These, for obvious reasons, work best in desktop environments, and struggle in the limited screen real-estate of a mobile device.
Automated systems are unaffected by the environment where a team does most of their work, as they will be accessing email and calendar events from a central email system such as Gmail, Office365, or Exchange.
Foundation: Contact Data in CRM
Whether you are using Salesforce.com as your CRM system, or any other standard CRM system, the contact is the core data object you want to log activities against. To log an email or meeting as an activity or a task, of course first requires the contact to exist. This foundational step of contact creation is the most overlooked in many evaluations, but in many ways it is the most crucial.
If the contacts are created manually, you will again be adding a layer of decision-making, adoption, and management to the process. It also becomes far more difficult to deal with contacts added in the middle of email threads, or invited to meetings.
Contact creation also needs to be done in a way that is useful to your organization. Most of the time the contacts you are interacting with should be associated with an existing account and created as contacts. Systems that are “blind” to what’s in the CRM already might get around this by creating all new contacts as “leads” and then having your team manually convert them to contacts later. This creates more work and a slow-down in your sales process, and is ideally something to avoid.
Data Engine and Cleanliness
For any systems that are automatic, the question of data cleanliness is an important one. Email boxes are filled with noise including spam, marketing emails, shipment notifications, and service requests. Any automated system needs to intelligently identify emails that are not real people and not create those contacts in CRM or log any associated activity.
Selecting an Activity Logging Solution for your CRM
Activity logging is a crucial foundation for having a CRM system that reflects the reality of the interactions your team is having with current customers and prospective deals. However, with the variety of approaches available, it’s important to consider many tradeoffs in selecting the platform you want to use.
To begin your process, have a clear understanding of:
- Who (which teams) will be logging their activity
- How they will install, configure, and adopt the tool if manual
- Whether inbound emails and meetings are as important to capture as outbound emails
- How contacts are to be created in your CRM system
- Whether contacts are to be created associated their account, or as unassigned leads
Having a good view of your requirements around these questions will help guide your decision-making on whether Nudge, or an alternate activity logging tool is right for you.