What is CRM?

Few technologies have changed the landscape of sales and marketing like customer relationship management (CRM). CRM is the modern day Rolodex, but it is so much more than that. The sheer volume of data that you can track for each individual user in a CRM system is staggering.

This tracking, segmenting, and slicing has empowered sales teams and marketers to exponentially increase their efficiency. CRM has also unlocked the ability to get personal at scale. It gives you, the small business owner, the extraordinary power to delight each and every one of your leads, prospects and customers through personalized correspondence.

In short, CRM is the cornerstone of modern day sales and marketing.

What is CRM exactly?

CRM refers to software designed to store and manage data for all of your business contacts. This includes leads, prospects, customers, and even other business partners.

Furthermore, it stores activity information for phone calls, meetings, email correspondence, and much more. The best CRMs provide the ability to customize fields and see how hot or cold a lead is at a glance.

A significant number of small businesses struggle along with index cards or spreadsheets to try and keep up. At some point, however, these “systems” become cumbersome and highly inefficient. If you have more than a few hundred contacts, it’s time to implement a CRM.

Here is an example of an individual contact in a CRM. Keep in mind that all of these fields can be modified, edited and customized to fit your business needs.

What is CRM Image of an actual CRM page

What does CRM do?

The core function of CRM is contact management. It gives you the power to actively track and segment a much larger volume of contact variables. For instance, with an old Excel spreadsheet system, you may be able to meaningfully keep track of:

  • Name
  • Email
  • Phone Number
  • Website
  • Address
  • Type of Customer
  • Date Purchased

With a CRM, you can effortlessly keep track of all of the above as well as:

  • Lead scoring based on triggers
  • Company Size
  • Multiple contacts within a company
  • Contact Title
  • Notes History
  • Current sales pipeline stage
  • Detailed reporting
  • much, much more!

CRM for your Sales Process

A CRM is invaluable for a sales process. With a CRM, your sales team can work their individual pipelines with great precision. The software tracks which member of your team spoke to a prospect last and what the conversation was about. Furthermore, a good CRM will assign a score or a value to each prospect in your pipeline and give you weighted sales projections.

Email Marketing

Email marketing and “merge fields” play a massive role in the effectiveness of a CRM. A merge field takes any of the custom fields for an individual contact (i.e., first name, company name) and populates those fields into email blasts and campaigns. This gives you the power to personalize emails on a massive scale. Here is an example of an email that is set up with merge fields…

When delivered, the email will look like…

Hi John Smith,

We are so excited to have XYZ Enterprises as a new customer! Thank you for doing business with ABC Company,

Sarah Jones | Sara.jones@abccompany.com

The fields that are highlighted in green above are all automatically populated into the email.

Automation

It doesn’t stop there. The best CRMs also provide robust automation.

Automation gives you the ability to trigger emails, reminders, appointments, and much more based on pre-determined criteria. In fact, automation capabilities is so important to a modern CRM, that we would recommend not investing in a CRM that does not provide automation capabilities.

A CRM doesn’t just replace your current contact management system. It revolutionizes it - and gives you the tools to make your customer interactions personal, automated and targeted.  Tools necessary to compete in today’s noisy marketplace.

A great CRM puts countless hours back into your day through sophisticated automation -making it the cornerstone on which to build your modern marketing and sales machine.

Who uses CRM?

Many departments within a company use the CRM system to provide a complete view of the customer’s history with them. Since CRM functions as institutional memory, it’s important that every customer or potential customer interaction is recorded. The system is only as good as the data it receives.

Sales

A sales team uses CRM to record opportunities and sales calls, as well as their contacts. Most CRM systems also include activity reminders to prompt sales reps to follow up on leads or activities.

Sales managers use CRM systems to monitor where a contact is at in their buyer’s journey, and to watch progress on closing. Managers take advantage of the increased visibility into stalled deals to help find ways to move them along. The deal-tracking capabilities also help identify reps who need additional sales training.

Marketing

Marketing professionals use the contacts in CRM to better promote the company’s products and services. Information in CRM systems provides deep insight into markets and segments where the company enjoys success or needs improvement. This, in turn, helps target promotions and lead generation activities narrowly.

Marketing automation assumes the burden of lead scoring and email follow-ups, freeing up time away from these manual processes. The marketing team, even if it’s just one completely competent person, will have more time to focus on new creative ideas that find prospects.

Support and service

A good CRM system doesn’t just drop in your lap for you to figure out. What happens after you buy it can make or break whether it will succeed and provide value for your company. Post sales support information resolves any problems and explains things through that aren’t quite, yet, understood. That’s expected, as the system is brand new within your company.

The customer

CRM systems that include e-commerce capability allow the customer to create and place their own orders. The company should be mindful that any CRM add-on be easy to use so that customers can buy efficiently. It should also allow employees to work smarter. An integrated system like this will also give customer service an early “heads up” if a customer is having issues. A quick response reduces the chances the buyer goes elsewhere.

What can a CRM help with?

Having a central repository for contacts and customer history guarantees that the company “memory” is open to all. This allows a company to continue its excellent service despite any employee turnover.

If you’ve been noticing cracks in your customer service, then a CRM system can repair them for the long-term. So many interactions a customer has with a company are made easy. When a customer wants to place a repeat order, the information about order history is readily available and no one has to wait for a customer service representative to find it.

Another nice aspect, often overlooked, is that a CRM system can be integrated with VoIP telephone systems, so the customer record associated with a phone number appears on the CSR’s computer screen instantly. It saves time and frustration for all involved and the customer has a better experience. This usually and naturally translates into a positive impact on revenue.

How is CRM implemented?

Correctly implementing a first-time CRM system for your small business can be a daunting task. The first step is to hunt down and compile all of your existing contacts in a .CSV file. Most CRMs will give you guidance on how to set up your .CSV file.

After you have the file set up and ready to go, you will then begin the import process. Every good CRM has a relatively easy process for importing and mapping all of your contacts.

After you import your contacts, you can get down to the business of crafting your custom emails, follow ups, customer segments, sales pipeline stages and much more.

Some CRM companies have consulting teams with business expertise on staff, and it may be worth while to bring them in, get a head start and gain insight into best practices.

Setting up the software is just the beginning, however. If you have a team, the next thing you will need to do is to get them to use the system. The resistance to CRM integration is very common among sales and marketing teams. Here is an entire ebook dedicated to implementing a CRM.

How long does it take for CRM to work?

picture of gears equaling money for what is CRM article

CRM starts creating value for your business from the moment you enter your first lead. One of the most important things you can do is to ensure that all leads are processed through your CRM system. This guarantees the sales team will adopt the new solution quickly so you start earning a return on your investment right away.

Your sales process becomes much more visible when you use CRM to track it. You can see which reps are following the process and where the bottlenecks are. You can monitor deal progress, and brainstorm with the reps on ways to move stalled deals along.

Pipeline visibility helps show whether you have an adequate number of leads and deals in process to meet revenue goals and support cash flow needs.

What information does CRM save?

CRM systems work effectively with very little data, but they work more effectively with more data. The level of detail you keep is up to you, but be consistent about the data you store.

If you have as little as a customer name and contact data, you can use CRM as a simple contact management system. As soon as you add completed and planned activities, and what works/what doesn’t data, the CRM solution becomes a valuable task manager and a strategic tool.

Add information about individual contacts and the role they may play in decisions and you have more help to define a meaningful, data-driven sales strategy. Add industry information or company size to a company record and you’ll start to segment the customer base based on solid data. The more information you add, the more your CRM system provides value.

With more data, CRM provides considerable insight into your most profitable customers so you can delight them with perks that help them feel even more valued. As you accumulate more customer information, you can target and refine your marketing campaigns so they only receive information of interest to them. Targeting your marketing saves money and is more effective than sending the same promotions and messages to your entire customer base.

How does CRM affect a large business and a small business differently?

images representing small - large business for what is crm article

CRM functions as the organization’s memory regardless of the size of the business. Large businesses find it most helpful to coordinate and collaborate when a global team is assigned to a single customer or deal. Large enterprises also use CRM as a way to instill discipline in the sales force.

Smaller businesses find value in CRM as a communication tool that is also the data engine for marketing campaigns. The built-in efficiencies and tracking for sales processes are often considered by smaller firms to be the most valuable aspect of CRM.

Are there aspects of your business that CRM does not cover?

CRM has an effect on any aspect of business that is not directly customer-facing. It will not, however, deal with or manage production, warehousing, shipping, engineering or finance.

Although some CRM systems include order entry or invoice generation capabilities, systems specifically designed to manage these aspects of a business will serve you better. That way your company won’t try to force your CRM solution into performing tasks it is not intended to do.

Here is a fantastic list of CRM tools that integrate and augment existing CRMs.

How to avoid mismanagement of a CRM

CRM is designed to manage customer data. Using it for purposes outside that area will reduce its overall usefulness. Research identifies lack of focus as one of the top three reasons for CRM failure.

  • Don’t try to make CRM manage inventories or generate invoices. Use systems designed for these purposes for the best efficiency and productivity.
  • Don’t allow people to work leads or deals outside the CRM system. If you allow this practice, it will delay adoption of the system and reduce the effectiveness for everybody. A CRM relies on the information put into it. The more complete it is, the more complete the results.

It’s fine to attach emails or documents associated with an opportunity to the system records, but don’t use it for project management or R&D designs.

CRM systems are extremely helpful, comprehensive tools that increase customer loyalty and satisfaction, improve the effectiveness of sales and marketing and provide insight into your customer base.

Customers prefer to buy where they feel valued and appreciated, and a CRM system helps your team know everything about the customer each time they communicate with your company.

Final Thought

We will say it again—CRM is the cornerstone of your sales and marketing. Learn more about how a CRM like Infusionsoft can help you get organized, save time, and increase your sales today.