Why Activity Tracking won’t give you Relationship Intelligence in CRM

By Steve Woods in Sales

Activity tracking in CRM for Relationship Intelligence?

You’ve set up a widget of some sort to track the emails that your sales team sends, your dialer system logs everything to CRM, and you sync your meetings as tasks or some form of custom object.  So you’re good, right?  All the data that you need to track relationships is there in your CRM system, and with a few custom reports,  you can get the full benefit of relationship intelligence in CRM.  Or…. can you?


Questions that Relationship Intelligence should Answer

Relationship Intelligence software should do what its name suggests; provide intelligence about the relationships that your team has at the accounts you’re selling to. This means being able to access new deals by discovering relationships you would not have known about.  It means understanding the risk of deals in your pipeline by seeing if you are “single-threaded” with just one strong relationship. It means being able to understand and guide the performance of your sales team by seeing a dashboard of relationships in every deal review.  

These are important questions to answer, but answering them relies on more insight than activity tracking can provide.  To answer the questions, we need to understand where true relationships exist, and we need to be able to instantly visualize this across your team and the accounts you are selling to. 


Finding Relationships in the Noise

Activity tracking is extremely noisy. Every outbound email, every meeting, every call. Most of these activities have very little to do with a relationship.  Sending 12 outbound messages to a prospect with no response is not a relationship, but will log 12 activities.  Having a meeting with 50 people does not mean that 50 relationships are built, but 50 individual activities will appear. A conversation 2 years ago does not mean that a current relationship exists, but if that’s the last activity on an account it will appear right at the top.

In short, if you want to find real relationships in the noise of activity tracking, you’d need to go through it line-by-line and look for the right patterns;  where were there relationships with back and forth not just outbound? Were those communications and meetings one-on-one (or one-on-few) or part of a large email thread?  Did the communications happen over time or all in one week?  Was it a long time ago such that the relationships would have decayed in strength?

Only when you can sort through those basic questions can you see insights on your team’s relationships, not just the noise of your team’s activity.


Imperfect Data, Career Moves, and Hidden Relationships

Relationships are with people. If Sarah knows Hugh well, that fact will not be changed by Hugh changing jobs.  If they have built a level of trust, it will not be affected by the fact that she might communicate with Hugh over one or more different email addresses. If Hugh would be willing to talk with Sarah about the services your company offers, it shouldn’t matter if Sarah’s role is on the sales team or in another part of the company.

Most CRM systems, however, are challenged by dirty data.  Accounts and people often have more than one record and cleanup efforts are long on promise but short on delivery.  When de-duplication efforts take place, they are unlikely to identify that the Hugh who used to work at an existing customer is the same Hugh who is a potential buyer at a new account.  Even more limiting is the fact that activity tracking systems generally only cover the sales team.  Services, training, support, and executive teams are not included, which means that the deep relationships that they hold are never seen by the sales team.


Relationship Intelligence and CRM

True relationship intelligence means first identifying the patterns that indicate a true relationship and not just noise. It needs the right focus on back-and-forth, one-on-one communication, and a strength metrics that decays over time just as real relationships do. It should account for the multiple email addresses and social identities that people have throughout a career, and build a relationship based on the person, not the email address.

The knowledge of those relationships needs to be instantly and correctly available within CRM. A quick look at any account should show you who has relationships there, regardless of whether that account, or the people at it, are duplicated or missing any data.  

This level of cleanliness at the level of people an accounts is the only way to approach the holy grail of relationship intelligence; the ability to quickly look at a deal pipeline and understand which deals are at risk based on being single-threaded, or not having the relationship coverage that is needed to close the deal or expand an existing account.


Steve Woods
CTO and Co-Founder