Welcome to the Marketing Automation Discussion. I’m your host Alex Glenn, and today we are going to give you a full scope of the how, why and what for CRM strategy and implementation.

My guest today is an expert in CRM functionality because he has built his product based on the shortcomings of CRMs –

Krish is the Founder & CEO of Fireflies.ai

He’s the former Product Manager working on data science and analytics initiatives at Microsoft, and a Graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.

I’ll provide a link to a video showcasing the product FireFlies.ai – which Krish will give you some more insights on later in the episode:


Again, the topic of today’s podcast is CRM Automation – what it is, why you should know.

Our first question to unravel is:

Why should teams invest in CRM automation?

Great question! You’re in luck because I had Krish on the show today so we can give you the best possible answer your question:

First… why else would you have a CRM if not to improve sales and marketing processes?

Now, if we reinterpret the question to ask “Why should teams add-on tools to their current CRM to increase automation?” Or, “What is possible with CRM automation and what do I HAVE to invest in to get to that point?”

… we have a more interesting version of the question…

Krish says:

Before even diving into this notion of CRM automation we can take a step back and look at why orgs end up needing CRMs in the first place. All of us start out with spreadsheets of some sort. Then the number of accounts you handle grows. The number of teammates managing accounts increases. Tracking deals becomes more complex. At that point in time maybe you will consider a lightweight CRM like Streak or even something like Trello to manage your pipeline.

Teams need CRMs because the cost of missing a deal or not following up due to misplaced information is quite high. We hear about how a deal requires 10 follow-ups before anything happens, where is a person supposed to remember to keep track of all this. The goal of a CRM is to give you a 360-degree view of your customers and tell you who to be tracking, following up with, and eventually, all paths lead to some sort of integrated CRM.

By integrated I mean a CRM that helps us route data from siloed data siloed applications we use to interact with our customers.

As a team grows a CRM gives management accountability into assessing pipelines and building a predictable engine. But, to do this at scale they will need to start automating these processes.

Alex says:

I like what you mentioned there about the 360 degree view. I’d further that scope to state:

“CRMs for today’s startups need to have almost 360 functionality.”

Not only provide sales process and customer tracking, but also Marketing Automation, call making/tracking, and document generation.


What sort of sales automation functionality can a CRM system offer?

Can is a  strong word because, given some custom dev and webhooks, you CAN have your CRM trigger and track all of the marketing and sales automations or workflows your company does. My suggestion to the person answering this, and to the listeners is the same suggestion Steve Benson mentioned in the last episode – first document your current sales process, really look into where people are involved now – what buttons are being pushed and entries are being made. When you have that workflow, you can demo CRMs with it in mind. What I think you will find is that most lightweight CRMs like activecampaign, agilecrm, close.io, sales seek… can be what you need them to be.

Krish says:  

In today’s day and age, CRMs are expected to help simplify or atleast automate certain workflows.

The other reality is that we aren’t just using 1 sales tool in our sales stack.

There are several hundred sales tools that are used from even well before we interact with out customers.  

  • Prospecting (Zenprospect)
  • Email Outreach (Canned Email Campaings Outreac.io, Nova.ai)
  • Auto Follow Ups (sequences, reminders)
  • Demo Scheduling (Tools like Calendly, Hubspot Sales Extension)
  • Conferencing and screen sharing tech (Zoom, Webex)
  • Sending proposals and invoices (Esignature platform)
  • To actually closing the deal  (Ensuring money is in the bank)
  • And what we are talking about here is a typical inside sales process
  • Folks that are doing outbound sales using dialers, doing even more intesive prospecting
  • Or folks that have to be on field it’s even more complex
  • So we’ve grown to expect crms to help assist us with the data capture part
  • Automation features people really care about

Contacts automatically created:

  • Based on emails I send
  • Leads coming in through website/collateral;

Enriching the contacts with data (tools like clearbit):

  • This helps get linkedin details, role, company info, and other data that would require manual research all from just an email id

Auto-Syncing Emails…

Auto-logging Calls…

Why this area is particularly interesting to us is that we noticed the majority of the work is actually done on calls.s

At Fireflies we go a step beyond that because majority of info that is actually pertinent to a sales cycle is buried inside the calls reps have.

This is where reps have the hardest time consistently updating activities or capturing notes

  • So fireflies captures the call, transcribes it, extracts notes and fills out your crm on your behalf.
  • Before folks implemented Fireflies you asked them what an important prospect said on a call 3 months ago most people wouldn’t have the answer.
  • When fireflies is implemented a rep told me that they remembered that their prospect had asked them to follow up about a specific topic when they raised their next round of funding. With fireflies they remembered and were able to close that sale.

People expect crms to also have rich integrations with outside tools

  • That’s why we see the rise of app exchanges.
  • A CRM on it’s own will have siloed data that needs to be routed into a place.

We are heavy users of tools like Zapier to help us plug these siloes by routing customer data from different apps into our CRM.

What are the best strategies to unlock value from the integration of marketing automation with CRM automation?

My favorite type of question…

The intersection where marketing automation and CRM collide – which is becoming more and more integrated with each new CRM coming on the market.

I will back on this question as well because, with today’s products, the piping is all laid out for you, so all you have to do is make sure you have a very good understanding of your prospects experience through your funnel, and trigger the appropriate actions/emails/updates in your CRM throughout that process.

My recommended steps would be:

  • Define your Prospect > to > customer status for your CRM (lead, nurturing, customer…)
  • Second, design your user journey map:
  • – showing all the steps in your funnel and what messages the prospect/user should receive. http://www.handboek.social/socialmediamarketing/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/02-1.jpg
  • Finally, take good look at your current and future marketing stack
    • What are you built on now that has to remain (chat software, event analytics…)
    • What will you spin up soon (document signing, accounting…)

Krish explains what his recommendation is to unlock value from your marketing automations on top of your CRM:

  • So what is the point of all this data we are capturing
  • 1. Most people think it just let’s the boss feel in charge
  • But in reality it’s to help reps better understand their prospects
  • Actually do consultative selling by understanding needs/pain points
  • More effectively follow up at the right time about the right topic
  • Better handoff to account management,  
  • Everything I mentioned above is directly to benefit the rep
  • Managers can use this information to
  • See what is working on deals and what is not working on deals
  • Which deals require more help form management
  • Actually understand is falling behind on their forecasting quota
  • From a customer point of view all this data will help create a better customer experience

Why do most CRM implementations fail?

“Fail” could me unused to potential, not completed before revenue so the system had to be scrapped, not integrated and set up correctly so the system failed to operate.

In my experience, CRM implementations fail because for a few main reasons:

  1. The full scope of the needs was not established before choosing a CRM
    1. – going back to what we mentioned earlier about creating the user journey map and doing a full marketing staack analysis.
  2. The CRM chosen was too bloated and costly so they had to undo and switch.
    1. – in the case where your startup chooses a CRM built for enterprise, when you will never need it for more than an SMB’s use case.
  3. The CRM did not meet the full needs, or did not fully-integrate with the systems in place, so a change was needed.
    1. Again, this is why the planning and marketing stack analysis is crucial prior to choosing a CRM.

Here is Krish’s response:

  • Ultimately, you only get as much value out of a CRM based on as much data you put in.
  • When gone wrong we end up becoming a slave to the system
  • Reps spend more time managing the system or we end up hiring people to manage the systems
  • It becomes a meta-level task rather than what you are supposed to do which is talking to as many customers as possible
  • CRMs can get complicated for reps to onboard into
  • Baking in behaviour to update after every call or every interaction is hard
  • You will lose reps interest as soon as the onboarding phase
  • I have some managers tell me if reps don’t enter their data they are going to be fired
  • But in reality everyone will slip up because of the nature of the actual work that they have to do:
  • Most people will be backtracking to fill in missing data so this ends up being inaccurate or completely misrepresentative of what is happening on the deal

Is personalized marketing the way to go?

This is an easy one… yes.

Krish and I actually answered it on the podcast today:

Today, marketers and brands cannot thrive with generic one-size-fits-all communication.

We hard on this topic in the podcast so please see past episodes on outreach campaigns.

Krish will go ahead and give you the overview and his points now:

  • In today’s date and time there is a new saas product or company sprouting up everyday in your field
  • Competition is inevitable
  • It’s easier to build a tech product today
  • Ultimately a user may not explicitly remember why they brought your tool but they will remember how you made them feel
  • Customer experience is a primary differentiator
  • To make your sales reps more effective at this  the answer is now
    • Send 1 million generic cold emails that end up buried in your prospects trash folder
  • When a CRM gives you 360 degree info on a prospect you can send the right message at the right time which will actually lead to a response
  • There are over 4k marketing automation technologies out there, but when we talk to folks they tell us how low their response rates are
  • And what they find easier is just increasing the top of the funnel.
  • I believe that by using data to optimize the conversion process and the specific interactions you will end up being more successful as an org in the long run and attract the right sort of customers
  • For any company leads are precious and in order to personalize at scale a CRM is needed to capture this information and then this information needs to be used by reps and whatever marketing/outreach systems to send tailored messages.