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October 09, 2009

Using What You Got

You manage through a tough crossing of the Atlantic. Your motor, a bunch of torn canvas draped from pine spars barely clinging to three creaky masts, is seriously battered from storms. You are out of supplies, including water, and you really need to sight land soon.

And, then from the crow’s nest comes a shout – “land ho!” You crawl up to a cluster of islands that are not on your charts. But, they are green and warm and, you hope, friendly. On shore you find a few plants that will suffice for salad, including some onions, but no animal makes a sound or leaves a track. And, much to your bewilderment, there is not a drop of water. You hope for rain.

This cluster of islands eventually becomes a pretty strategic location for others plying these waters, especially boats flying the skull and bones. But, best not to arrive here thirsty unless you are looking for rum.

Bermuda is no longer the stomping ground of pirates but it remains a place to have a glass of rum and enjoy the beautiful aquatic surroundings. Those surroundings are however pretty much the only natural resources there. And even today, there is no water. How did a place with so little become such a popular pirate and tourist destination? There is a lot to say for making do with what you got.

The volcanic cliffs and abundance of coral reefs made the island very defensible back in the days of clipper ships. And, because the location was so good, the folks that eventually became locals (Bermuda was uninhabited when discovered by the first Europeans) figured out how to make do with what the island cluster had to offer. It did not have water – there are no rivers, lakes, or springs – but it does have weather. The consistent rainfall could provide to those who were willing to make an effort at collection.

Water Collector

I think every CRM program manager should view themselves as in Bermuda (there are worse places to be). If you are willing to put some effort into collection, you will have all the resources you need to be successful, and in this I am referring to data. You perform certain activity that leads to success. There are also activities that don’t, and for both there correlations that can be found. However, if you don’t catch the activity when it happens, it becomes lost just like rainfall running off the rocky shoreline into the emerald water.

I recently had a client ask me to recommend what they need to do in order to keep their customers after they make initial purchases. He did not like my reply, which was to use their sales data to find out the answer. He wanted me to offer up a best practice based on what happens elsewhere. Why do you want to find out what is working for somebody else when you have data that will tell you what is working for you?

To be honest, his displeasure with my answer was based on their abhorrence to capture sales activity. In this case, marketing wanted to capture more information from sales calls, but sales leadership was reluctant to ask their sales professionals to put in the effort. After all, spending time capturing information on a laptop is time not spent selling. Unfortunately, this conclusion is a mistake. The information captured following a sales call is just as valuable as rain on an island without water – it is life giving. By comparing key sales actions against sales results we are able to determine what works best. When we uncover this we can then drive more focus into sales planning and maximize sales effectiveness. Yes, in fact, capturing sales activity is part of the selling process – not just “admin crap” as it is usually defiled.

This is a tough argument to win, until you deliver the water to the thirsty. In this case it is a matter of doing whatever it takes to gather some data and create a small correlation study. Use a popular sales program to get your data, even if only from one geography. When you show the stats and identify the behavior that leads to sales you will be in a position to ask for more capture. But, you have to keep providing the water because the thirst never ends.

The solution is not just steady and reliable activity capture, but also the development of the right intelligence is necessary. Just when you determine what behavior drives sales, the market will change – you have to keep the measurement in motion. If you think you have captured enough rain water and you lay off because your barrels are getting full – that is just the time to expect a drought.

Good luck with collecting the water, and don’t forget to enjoy the scenery (it might be edible).

Purple Parrot