She said, “Steve, I just don’t feel like this is working.”

I was shocked. This client had been with us for several years and had bragged on our team and the quality of our work.

We’d developed a robust marketing automation platform with beautiful, clear messaging. We had multiple campaigns running. We even gave them detailed quarterly reports.

And now we were losing them?

What the hell happened?

Any time a client leaves ROI Online (which is rare), we try to evaluate what we did to cause the situation. That way, we can learn to avoid the same mistakes in the future.

The thing was, once we dug deeper, all we could find were things we did right. Prospects were clicking on social media ads, they filled out form submissions, and they made phone calls to contact the client.

This account had a dedicated project manager, content director, creative director, and technology specialist all working together. In other words, this account was not suffering from lack of focus and attention.

So why couldn’t the client see it was working?

In short, we hadn’t set proper expectations on what happens when sales automation is successful. They got calls and form fills, but we didn’t help them understand the next steps after they got those contacts.

That’s the real bread and butter of sales automation. 

Most companies don’t have a clear system to manage, track, and communicate effectively during the last steps in the customer acquisition experience. We’re rounding them up, then they were letting them go. 

Without effective sales automation, you’ll not only lose current clients; you’ll also lose prospective clients you’ll never realize slipped through your fingers in the first place.

The solution to retaining clients and getting new clients is proper sales automation through a CRM.

If You Confuse Them, You Lose Them

It’s disappointing to see how many companies don’t have a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM), and if they do, they use it sparingly.

But without a way to collect prospects and move them through the buyer’s journey, those prospects are left with a lack of information and clarity.

In that confusion, they disappear.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that most small businesses approach sales and CRMs as an afterthought:

Owner: “Hey, we need a salesperson. Do you know anybody who’s good at sales?”

Friend: “I know this one guy––he’s never met a stranger and he can talk to a fence post.”

Owner: “Oh, he sounds great. Let’s give him a try.”

Later, after much frustration, you figure out that fence posts don’t make good prospects. Who knew?

What’s worse, when you sit down to go through all the sales activity and documentation to figure out where the last salesperson went wrong, you learn that their sales “process” consists of a series of inconsistent emails and sticky notes with phone numbers.

Most people avoid seeing sales as an automated process, yet being good at sales can be the difference between flourishing or going out of business.

Even if you are good at sales, odds are likely then that you don’t like structure and following systems—so it only makes sense that you would avoid researching, implementing, and utilizing a CRM.

In Peter Thiel’s book Zero to One he discusses the concept of complementarity. This is when humans take advantage of how technology can be better at sales:

Men and machines are good at fundamentally different things. People have intentionality—we reform plans and make decisions in complicated situations. We are less good at making sense of enormous amounts of data. Computers are exactly the opposite: they excel at efficient data processing, but they struggle to make basic judgments that would be simple for any human.

His argument is that taking advantage of the complementarity between computers and humans is a path to building a great business.

That’s what a CRM can provide you with in the form of a sales process:

You’ll become a cyborg entrepreneur––half-man, half-machine––scouring the business landscape for new customers with your advanced navigation system. Or, you know, you’ll have a well-defined sales process. Same thing, basically.

Imagine the System

Imagine with me for a moment…

You have several salespeople. Those salespeople are a significant investment. Think about the cost of their salary, equipment, vehicles, and expenses. You have to make sure you get a return on your investment in them.

Let’s also assume you’ve been strategic enough to create a structured marketing process and have the correct expectations that your marketing investment should be supporting the sales team.

That means by the time prospective customers want to talk to someone in your organization, they’ve done their research. They know as much about your product or service as your salespeople (if not more). They’ve read reviews and are fairly set on their decision.

How nice would it be if they were able to click a button and automatically schedule a convenient time to speak to someone in your organization? Not to ask for more information––they already have that from your marketing materials––but to intentionally become a customer?

How nice would it be if your salespeople could walk in every morning to see email notifications listing their pre-scheduled appointments, then click on each one to read the background of these upcoming conversations?

Before each meeting, they can study the prospect’s history of time spent on the website and understand what information was important to them.

In the meantime, the prospects receive confirmation and acknowledgment of the upcoming meeting, with a link to other material they might want to see beforehand.

Sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it?

At this point, we have two people looking forward to a more fruitful conversation. Because they each have helpful information at their fingertips, they are both set up to be more successful. And this is just in the pre-conversation phase.

How nice would it be to have a similar experience on the follow up conversation?

Here’s what we covered, what we decided, and what to expect, and here’s an introduction to the appropriate people handling the next stage of the experience.

How would that feel for both sides of the interaction?

This is a totally realistic expectation of an excellent user experience that can be delivered by taking advantage of sales automation through the use of a CRM. (HubSpot offers a very high-quality free CRM.)

Companies that fail to automate in this way will lose to the companies that nurture their leads and set proper expectations––not only throughout the sales process, but also throughout the client’s entire experience with your company.

Create the Right Experience with Sales Automation

Finally it struck me. I realized why we lost that client.

It’s because we set them up with good marketing and messaging, but we didn’t give them the right sales process to capitalize on it. We got them to the point where they had contact records from potential clients, but we didn’t teach them what to do with those contact records.

They felt like they weren’t getting the results they wanted, even though they were (by their own definitions). 

The point is, it’s not enough to check the boxes of your processes and send automatic emails here and there. Whether you’re working with an existing customer or trying to sell a new prospect, you’re creating an experience. And if that experience feels off––even if it isn’t––people will run away.

If you’d like to learn more about creating an excellent automated sales experience, check out my new book, The Golden Toilet, available now.