This week we got to sit down with Steve Smith, Director of Marketing for SANY America.

Talking about CRM is not a new activity here on IndustrialSage. However, we usually concentrate on how to get buy-in from executives who don’t want to invest in digital marketing.

What do you do if your own sales team isn’t sold on your choice of CRM?

As someone who started working with digital marketing back in the late 90s and doing “google before Google was Google,” as he puts it…Steve had some great tips.


Not all consumers in the world know the term “CRM,” or “Consumer Relations Management.” However, they do recognize when a company is using poor communication.

Businesses no longer control their customers, or the buyers’ journey in general. Customers are “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” people now.

“In the heavy equipment space, the sales cycles can be from one minute to years long. So however that sales cycle is defined, you have to make that initial first impression count. And then make every impression thereafter count.”

Companies must aim to give a good impression to buyers who are educating and qualifying themselves.

Most manufacturers are still using Excel spreadsheets for their CRMs. But back in the late 90s, Steve and his company noticed that this was a problem. Why?

“We had a sales staff of 28 people, all doing 28 things differently.”

If you have a team pursuing sales in dozens of different ways, your clientele may experience a wide range of customer service. But someone’s treatment shouldn’t change if they’re ever shifted between sales reps!

That’s why a CRM, which can provide consistent information and resources across the company, is vital to the sales process.

Additionally, you can’t fix what you don’t measure. If you don’t know why you’re failing or succeeding in different deals, you can’t increase your percentage of closed deals.


Steve’s company developed Goldmine in 2002, which could push their website’s leads directly to the sales teams’ flip phones. But the system didn’t really take off until the sales team bought into it.

“CRM at its core is designed to help you manage customer relationships. But it’s not designed to help management manage salesmen.”

At first, the sales staff viewed CRM was a tool that would hinder and ‘babysit’ them. So initially, the new system only brought in around 430 qualified leads.

But after five years, as the sales team got involved, they learned that Goldmine was a tool for their own enablement. Soon their success rate skyrocketed to over 4,800 qualified leads.

The quality of leads that come out of the CRM will depend quite a bit on the amount of effort the sales team puts into the process.

If the sales team provides information on how to quality leads, and if they actually use the system, they’ll get results! If not, Steve says often: “Garbage in, garbage out.”

“We’re able to track all these analytics through our CRM system; but it was garbage in, garbage out. As long as [the sales team] gave us good information, we would help the salesmen penetrate new accounts in their territory.

“And once they saw we were actually not acting as their Big Brother for them, then they were like, ‘Okay! Now I’m all in!’ And the whole thing just sort of took off.”

The next obstacle, Steve told us, was keeping the CRM from getting over-built.

Salesforce is commonly the first CRM companies try, but it’s got a lot of excessive features. For newcomers, it’s a bit like jumping in a Ferrari when learning how to drive.


Steve recalls visitors coming to study the company’s state-of-the-art digital dealership. Many of the visitors would ask how long such a system takes to implement. However, they were often shocked and upset by the answer.

A successful, digitally-integrated system can take several months or even years to implement with full buy-in.

An important way to prepare for such a journey is to set clear expectations. Lay out a road map for the sales and executive teams to see concrete goals.

“As far as sales staff in general is concerned, the easier you make it, the better. When we started out, it was too complex. We had too many fields. We wanted to know twenty different things about our customers. And the reality is, we really needed to know about five.”

If all you want is just to stay in contact with leads, great! Nail down that milestone and determine how your CRM will help accomplish that.

Thankfully, Steve had experience on the sales team before getting into the CRM’s construction. It ended up providing him with an invaluable perspective.

Getting that sales team’s buy-in really is key, even more so than executive buy-in.

“I think all the intentions of management and IT, whoever’s involved in the initiative, are always well-intentioned. But if they haven’t sold equipment in the field and don’t know what that’s like…the reality is, they haven’t lived that life.”

As is usually true of learning anything new, starting small works best. Then you can start to build on that traction. “Nail it, then scale it,” we often say.


If your company is just getting started and doesn’t have a CRM yet, here’s how to start.

  • Research the top 20 CRMs available.
  • Have a meeting between anyone who will use the system.
  • Identify your marketing and sales goals.
  • Determine which CRM best matches those goals.
  • Get commitment from the users.

You shouldn’t start this process by installing a “popular” CRM for your company. People won’t hop on the bandwagon just because it’s there.

You actually have to sell the CRM to the salespeople.

Sit down to a roundtable meeting with the stakeholders who will be expected to use the CRM. Explain why you need it. Cover the sort of information you’ll need them to contribute in order to build it.

That information will affect the CRM you choose. Ever CRM on the market has a different value proposition, so you should find the one that best fits your company’s needs and goals.

Don’t work backwards by trying to wrap your company around something that may not fit.

You’re probably looking at CRMs because you want to improve your sales and marketing. Right? So make sure you pick the right tool to make that happen.

If you don’t have the data, you won’t go anywhere. If you don’t have a road map, you’ll never reach a destination.


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