Marketers and salespeople often complain their CRM is limiting them. Salesforce, MS Dynamics and Sugar CRM all presuppose a particular progression from Prospect to Sale. No doubt that the systems are based on 120 years of sales research best practices. But what about your business? Does the Lead > Contact > Account > Opportunity flow always work for you?

Marketing automation systems like Marketo can help you bypass the restrictions in your CRM to build a sales funnel that makes sense for your business. Each business operates a bit differently. Each business has its own sales culture, its own corporate culture, and its own view of how sales happen. So when a company tells you to use their software, you have to change your process, and you become resistant…and so does the sales team. I know many firms where Salesforce is a dirty word because it has dirty data and a process that no one tried to make work for the business. And therefore Salesforce is “broken.”

The big challenge

For many smaller businesses who don’t have technology teams or even experience with the various CRM systems, this is a challenge. They just want it to work. They want to record meetings, have contact details, and see sales easily and without a lot of manuals. Salespeople never want to spend time working inside a system they don’t believe in.

It turns out there are quite a few CRM options for small businesses. Which is great, but if you read the article, no one system has worked for everyone. Few companies seemed thrilled. (The article also correlates having a CRM with having higher sales, which seems specious at best). When I was starting Marketing Rockstar Guides, I had to resist the urge to get my own CRM to record things. I knew it would be great to have one, but to spend money on it as a one-man band? No. So I tried a few free CRMs and nothing really worked so I decided it wasn’t needed.

But for larger firms with multiple sales people, even firms under 50 people, you do need something. You need a system to help record sales and keep the data safe and accessible across the team. But to make that system work for your unique business can be a challenge. Thousands of firms make billions from customizing cloud software to fit your unique requirements. constructed its system to allow just about anything you want using, but you need a VAR or Salesforce consultant to make that happen. So a very small firm has to make a choice between “making do” and finding a consultant to making things happen.

This is where marketing automation can help

Marketers can get help bypassing a great deal of that specialized programming by using marketing automation to construct lead workflows which properly manage the lead flow across the CRM. So a small business using a basic Salesforce setup can effectively adjust workflows they might otherwise have needed to build in Apex code.

Now, that’s not to suggest you can do everything with a marketing automation system. When I went through my first implementation, I had to spend a great deal of time with my Salesforce Admin building new triggers inside Salesforce. I’ve worked with firms who built all sorts of custom objects for their unique business situation. In fact, in the Marketing Rockstar’s Guide to Marketo, I recommend that you spend time better understanding your needs in your CRM first before you implement Marketo.

Once you understand what can be done in the CRM, and what you can have done in the CRM, then you can build out helpful workflows in Marketo to avoid some of that work in Salesforce. This approach should work well with any CRM or marketing automation tool. If you still need specialized programming to ensure your CRM conforms to your needs – and your clients’ needs – then hiring a Salesforce consultant is the next step.

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