The Dollars Are in the Details – and the Details Should Be in CRM

The devil is in the details, the saying goes. When it comes to B2B selling, the dollars are also in the details.

That’s something I learned many years ago while writing about the reseller channel. Back in 2000, the Internet caused significant disruptions of traditional reseller relationships, because many large technology vendors expected online sales to eliminate the need for resellers. They tried to sell direct, but failed to grasp the value that resellers provided to their end-user customers. So in 2000 and 2001, they tried to win back their jilted resellers.

The result was a bit of a free-for-all as large vendors tried hard to woo major resellers. The lengths they went to were astounding, costly, and — all too often — fruitless.

A Chip Shot Wins the Sale

One reseller of note allowed me to quiz him about what he’d been subjected to in this process. He’d finally gone with HP as his primary hardware vendor. Why? Was it because he’d been flown out to the HP World show in San Francisco and immersed in the company’s ecosystem? Was it the conference in Orlando that exposed him to HP’s long-term vision? Was it the in-depth examinations of the product that HP managers had given him?


What turned the tables was that HP’s channel manager had taken him golfing.

No other vendor had spotted the fact that this reseller was a huge golf nut. From the autographed photos of PGA pros in his office, to the golfing trophies on the shelf, to the bag of clubs propped in the corner — the signs were all right there. But no one picked up on the details.

Send Me a Signal, Throw Me a Line

How effective are you at spotting the signs?

This is really an old school sales talent; the cold read that can build instant rapport if done right. In the digital era — and this extends back 15 years — we have come to depend on technology to sort, order, and prioritize data about customers. Too often this data is centered on the seller’s business: How did a prospect react to our marketing piece? How often did the prospect visit our website? Which pieces of our content did the prospect download? All of this is useful, and it can take you a long way down the sales relationship toward a closed deal.

It leaves out the buyer, however, and the things about him or her that make them unique. Without spotting these details, you’re fighting the battle with one hand tied behind your back. If you can discover those details and act on them, you can demonstrate that you care about the buyer as a person, that you bother to notice things about him or her, and that you’re there as more than a salesperson.

Digging Up the Details

This is where social media and social CRM can be such tremendous resources. In the past, salespeople had to be skilled at the cold read once they reached their prospects’ offices. These days, a few minutes on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter often reveals key details about prospects, and in a more complete and contextual way than sales pros had access to in the past.

If you can incorporate these details into your customer records within CRM, they become an ongoing aspect of your relationship with that customer. Better yet, you can build in time-based aspects of a customer’s details. If he was planning to go on a vacation, or if she was looking forward to a child’s graduation, you can note that and mention it during your next call with the customer. These details can help you get that first sale — but they’re even better at making sure you get all the sales that come after that.

In this era, the most successful sales pros are not the ones who care most about closing sales. They’re the ones who care most about their customers, and solving their customers’ problems. Building relationships is critical to that, and the details are critical to building the relationships — but few among us can keep an encyclopedic knowledge of our customers’ personal details in our heads.

CRM can give your memory that boost — if you choose to use it that way.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz blogs about CRM at the CRM Outsiders. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written three books on World War II aviation.

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