We are not prospects, we are people – I am a person, not a prospect


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As customers or consumers, we are identified in many CRM systems as prospects, contacts, accounts and companies. What’s wrong with this? That many CRM systems do no have a data model to manage us a people (a person) or individuals with many roles and relationships.

This is constant problem I see with CRM solutions in Latin America. When we sell to individuals in Latin America, we sell based on a relationship, there is no forecasting or prospect to manage, it is all about the relationship. Don’t get me wrong, there is forecasting to manage and accounts to visit, but the focus is not in sales numbers but in building relationships.

In Latin America the functionality to convert a prospect into an opportunity is not a best practice. What it is a best practice is to manage the relationship and the personal agenda of the sales rep. I saw this today in CRM demo given to me by Jon Ferrara, CEO of Nimble CRM and Founder of Goldmine. Jon spent a good hour demoing his product without mentioning the word prospect. His demo was about maintaining the relationship with customers or individuals.

Think about it. On Facebook… we are friends, on LinkedIn… we are professionals, on Twitter… we are followers, and in your CRM system we are accounts and prospects.

We need CRM systems that will help you manage the relationship, not the prospect.

What do you think?

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Hi Jesus,

    The Sales methodology in Latin lies in building a trust relationship with the intention to do business together (so you’re scoping each other out). Even though you may not wish to call the person you’re exchanging with a prospect, the fact remains that your objective still is to sell your wares or services.

    The main difference lies in how you go about it. Through this relationship you probably have a better understanding of what the desired outcome is for your client and how you can bring about this outcome. Your CRM in this case may be more focused on how to mobilize your internal & partner/supplier resources to help achieve your client’s objectives, and become a connector and enabler. The CRM system in this case allows you to keep track of what has been done, by whom, what the next actions are etc. etc.

    I did a post a while back on changing the role of Sales. Latin cultures may actually have a natural tendency to work in this manner http://marktamis.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/rethinking-sales-in-a-scrm-strategy/ 🙂

  2. Jesus: thanks for bringing this up. After reading Alan Cooper’s The Inmates are Running the Asylum, I became sensitized to the dangers of the word “user,” when referring to a person who uses software. Cooper underscores how the term makes anonymous people who software needs to serve, and he describes the poor outcomes that occur when the needs of individuals are conveniently pigeonholed using catch-all words. “Prospect” causes the same problem in selling.

    Cooper advocates using personas to provide a personal face to those with whom we must build a relationship. Personas are a powerful concept, but sometimes unwieldy in the world of selling. For expediency, we fall back on the convenience of blanket terms such as “prospect,” “lead,” and “opportunity.” I agree that businesses pay a heavy price for sanitizing our dialogs from the often-perceived messiness of real individual identities.

    Jon Ferrara proves that it’s possible to hold a sales discussion without compromising the idea that salespeople sell to individuals. While that idea seems unremarkable, the ability to make it ingrained seems extraordinary.

  3. All, thank you for your comments. It looks like that we are some how in agreement specially with the Social CRM trends that we are facing these days.

    I do remember my Peoplesoft CRM days where I had to do many CRM integrations with Billing and Student Admin applications. We always had the dilemma of matching the customer record (prospect, contact, account) to a billing account or a student record. I found to be relatively easy to do integrations with PS CRM since it had a person table with roles. In some implementations it was decided not to use the lead/prospect object and use the person/role object in combination with the opportunity record. This helped minimizing data issues and helped in managing the customer relationship.

    I like the concept of managing a person (customer) profile in your CRM system and then drive all the data requirements from it. This will help to synchronize all departments to manage the relationship versus just having customer service managing cases, marketing managing campaigns and sales managing opportunities.

  4. Agree with the argument of the post.

    “We need CRM systems that will help you manage the relationship, not the prospect.”

    And I think that relationship has to change so that the “opportunity” is a joint project between buyer and seller and the “deal” is a shared milestone.

    That is primarily a cultural shift, but needs to be reflected on the CRM tools. Not only in terminology (“management”, “suspect”, “account owner”, “win/loss”), but in functionality as well.

  5. Guess this is something like how I feel about somebody & how I behave with them thing? I might feel that someone is a jerk but have to behave properly with them.

    So, within the org, you could feel someone is a prospect (all said and done abt criteria to qualify as a prospect, etc., isn’t this qualification usually a feeling? 😉 ) but you need to treat them as a person.

    Hope am making some sense here. 🙂



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