Your CRM playbook.
What is CRM and why do you need it?
What is CRM?
If you own or work in any kind of customer-centric organization, a customer relationship management (CRM) system can serve as the single source of truth for your customer data, giving you actionable insights into your ongoing sales and marketing initiatives and overall organizational health. Adding CRM to your toolbox is an important step in taking control of business and keeping your customer data organized and relationships strong. But what does a system like this actually offer? Let’s start with the basics.
Customer relationship management
CRM literally stands for “customer relationship management,” and it’s an appropriate description for the tool. CRM is a software application that helps your organization keep track of and manage all your interactions with current, potential and former customers to help strengthen and maintain customer relationships — and their loyalty to you.
Streamlining the sales process
With the ability to create sales pipelines to track where people are in their customer journey and document all communication from the first interaction to the final sale, CRM provides deep visibility and oversight of your marketing, sales and customer support process. With CRM, streamlining activities and closing deals becomes faster and easier.
Improving internal communication
CRM allows your entire team to keep notes, track tasks, and manage processes in one central place that’s accessible to all users — making it easy for everyone to stay on the same page about your base of prospects and customers … so that no lead or sale slips through the cracks. (Jump here for a quick primer on CRM key terms)
Overall, CRM is an online database that tracks information about customers and their interactions with your company. You can then analyze this data to better understand your relationships, sales cycle and revenue.
How to tell if you need CRM
Not sure if your organization needs a CRM system? Here are some things to consider:
Your contact list has become too large to manage manually
CRM is traditionally centered around managing customer relationships, and the right CRM can help all of your team members become more efficient in this initiative. Any team member is a potential relationship maker who interacts with prospects, partners, investors and other stakeholders — making tracking conversations, anticipating what your contacts need, and minimizing friction as you close a deal or complete a project ultra important for your entire team. CRM provides you with the data, organization and accountability required to nurture your critical relationships, at scale — so you can keep the conversation going and always know what to say next.
More than one person handles sales
If there’s more than one person handling sales for your organization, you need a centralized database to keep track of sales activities. Sure, it may seem like you can get away with using sticky notes or a spreadsheet, but for how long? As your customer base grows, disparate tools can quickly become unmanageable. The minute your team can’t locate an important customer name or phone number, you can bet you’ll find yourself wishing you’d invested in that CRM system. Not only does CRM consolidate all of your contacts’ information, it also gives you a full picture of the sales process by capturing your interaction history with each contact and providing insight into trends and patterns in your customer data — from the number of prospects coming in to how many deals each salesperson is closing.
You have a hard time segmenting your leads or prospects
The sheer volume of prospects can be a challenge, especially for smaller businesses — how do you funnel thousands of contacts into a system that then lets you search, tag, and review them en masse? CRM was built to help you organize all of your existing prospects in a way that makes sense for your unique organizational model. A CRM system helps you take in, store, and manage large amounts of data from multiple sources without a glitch, including website forms, email, landing pages and other sources. Have you ever tried to herd all those squirrels using a spreadsheet? Not so easy.
Your data is jumbled in a single spreadsheet — or scattered across multiple spreadsheets
If your projects, notes, data and meetings are all stored separately (in different apps or spreadsheets) — or you’ve cobbled together a behemoth of a single spreadsheet to try to jam all the data in one place — you may be spending more of your time searching for information than actually using that data to inform your decisions and benefit your business. One of CRM’s main attractions is its organization and searchability capabilities; not only can you store all of your information together, but it’s organized in an intuitive way that allows you to easily find the information you need in minutes or seconds — not hours.
You have month-long (or longer) sales cycles
For some organizations, closing a successful deal can take months and numerous interactions, or “touches,” with the customer. The keys to success are consistency and organization; a robust CRM system captures the details of each interaction so that you know what step to take next and are prepared for that interaction. It will also remind you of upcoming events and milestones and provide visibility into ongoing deals at your company.
Repeat business is vital to your success
Great relationships are built on the backs of small details. From remembering your customer’s favorite sports team to knowing their preferred method of communication, CRM makes it easy to take notes and document the little details that make these relationships stronger — even down to birthdays or other event reminders. CRM task management features help ensure customers don’t fall through the cracks and that your team doesn’t miss any critical follow-up tasks.
How different teams use CRM
CRM helps keep your entire organization on the same page and ensures consistency across departments. As the single source of truth, team members from every department have access to the same insights, making it nearly effortless to stay in sync and communicate effectively.
While customer-facing teams will find the most daily value, your entire organization can benefit from the immediate visibility and cross-team collaboration that CRM provides. Here’s a look at the ways different teams across your company can use CRM to streamline and simplify their workflows:
For sales reps and account executives, CRM offers:
- A centralized and portable database of all customers and prospects
- The ability to track sales deals, view past sales activities, manage future activities, and search customer data
Sales managers can use CRM to track sales rep activities and monitor sales deals and pipeline across representatives.
CRM can help standardize sales data entry and sales reporting, which is crucial if you want to establish and track key performance indicators (KPIs) for sales. If you’re a team leader, business owner or in the C-suite, the visibility makes it easier to report on how your team is doing and adjust strategy to help you hit your targets.
The data that CRM gathers serves as an excellent source of customer insight for marketing, allowing teams to:
- Measure the impact of marketing campaigns
- Review customer data to identify behavior patterns
- Understand the company’s sales funnel
- Segment customers by industry, company size and more for targeted customer marketing
CRM also helps enhance communication and collaboration between marketing, sales and customer success, making everyone’s job easier and helping break down silos. For example, when a marketing team member can jump into the CRM system to see notes on a client they’re about to interview for a case study, this takes a lot of legwork off the plate of the customer success rep.
Customer service teams can use CRM data to form a clearer understanding of the customer journey. This insight helps support teams understand how the purchasing process happened and puts them in a better position to respond to communications from customers more effectively.
CRM is also critical to customer retention and reducing churn. In technology companies, for example, customer support reps or account managers can easily filter customer accounts to see which ones will be coming up for renewal in the next 90 days — and then start their outreach efforts early to close that renewal or drive an upsell.
A CRM platform that automatically syncs email comes in especially handy to keep track of communications with customers who have reached out for assistance with specific issues. Every touchpoint is recorded, so there’s a clear trail of communication that anyone on the team can access to get up to speed quickly.
Administrative staff could also play an integral role in onboarding CRM and facilitating team adoption. Larger companies might designate an in-house CRM specialist to help ensure that employees use the platform optimally. The specialist may also help develop internal resources like a CRM handbook that outlines how the organization expects people to use the software.
Bigger organizations may even make an individual in IT available to help employees troubleshoot technical issues with the software as needed (though a well-developed CRM shouldn’t require specialized programming or advanced technical knowledge). Many smaller organizations don't have a dedicated role for CRM admin — and with the right CRM system, they don't need to. Managing the tool should be a light load that can be shared between team members.
Since Finance handles billing and accounts receivables (A/R), CRM provides useful insights on customers who are unhappy or are requesting special considerations like refunds or credits. A/R specialists can quickly view the communication history on an account to see what issues the customer has shared and how the support team responded. Support and Finance teams can also more easily communicate regarding these accounts since they both have access to the same customer data in the CRM system.
How to choose a CRM system for your organization
Once you’re ready to select a CRM system, start by looking for the following things:
Ease of use
We cannot overstate how important this is for an organization to succeed with CRM. A CRM system that’s easy for workers from any generation to learn how to use will ensure that your team can get onboarded and educated on the platform quickly and without too much of a learning curve. This looks like:
- Seamless integration with your email system. An effective CRM platform will smoothly integrate with Gmail or Outlook so you don’t have to manually record every single message.
- Drag-and-drop. Being able to edit and move opportunities easily between stages by dragging and dropping is a huge time-saver and helps provide high-level visibility. Just make sure there isn’t a steep learning curve to accomplish this.
- Web / mobile app. CRM that offers both a web and mobile app provides more flexibility for teams that are often on the go or are distributed or working remotely.
- Visibility. Having a birds-eye-view of your organization’s sales and revenue provides a ton of value. It’s important to be able to access quick insights on things like email responses, upcoming tasks and open deals.
Easy to set up, maintain, and scale
Ease of use is one thing, but CRM systems that are hard to set up or take a ton of implementation time may not be worth the investment — especially for smaller organizations with limited resources. Look for:
- Straightforward account setup. Consider cloud-based CRM. You shouldn’t need to download and install software, or rely on a team of engineers dedicating numerous weeks setting it up and customizing it for your team.
- No-code customization. One helpful customization feature is custom-tagging, which makes it easy to find and label data. Just make sure that it’s straightforward enough for any team lead to make these adjustments — not a developer.
- Flexibility. Look into how flexible the CRM is and whether it will be able to meet your organization’s unique needs. For example, can you quickly create custom pipelines and records that make sense for your organization?
- Able to grow with your organization. It’s incredibly painful to have to switch CRM systems as soon as your business grows a bit in size. Look for a tool that can be as simple or as dynamic as you need it to be, so it can scale with you as your business grows and evolves — whether that means adding more pipelines or increasing your user numbers.
Fits your business workflow(s)
The best CRM software for your organization will fit easily into your existing workflows — not the other way around. Implementing a CRM tool shouldn’t require major adjustments to your team members’ regular processes or the main workflows that keep your business running smoothly. Some factors include:
- Native integration with your daily tools. Integrating with the tools you use everyday just makes sense — like Slack, DocuSign and Quickbooks. Whatever CRM you choose should be easy to incorporate into your day-to-day processes.
- Multiple pipelines. The ability to create deals in multiple sales pathways (or “pipelines”) and easily differentiate between them offers your organization more options and flexibility as it grows and evolves. Even better if those pipelines can be assigned to different organization units and territories.
- Projects. A CRM tool that extends beyond the sale will offer value to more teams throughout your organization — like project and task management across customer success, project delivery and product deployment efforts.
Benefits of using CRM
CRM makes it simpler to win new clients and retain them by tracking contacts and opportunities to more effectively manage your relationships. Some of the top benefits of using CRM include:
Simplified contact organization
Organize your emails, calls, SMS, notes and files for every contact in one place — no more scattered contact information. With CRM, you can say goodbye to disorganized spreadsheets and start seeing the entire history of relationships from your CRM — or even your inbox.
Improved revenue and conversions
CRM can help companies drive more value from customers by better nurturing current customers and identifying upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Organizations that focus on retention efforts using CRM are also able to reduce customer churn and increase profitability with higher customer lifetime values. In general, CRM has been reported to increase conversion rates by up to 300%, improve sales by up to 29%, and provide an ROI of up to $30.48 for every dollar invested. One Copper customer in the retail space was able to increase their revenue by 10X after onboarding our CRM software.
Get rid of busy work and time-consuming manual tasks. CRM makes it simple to automate tasks, log calls, prepare for meetings, attach files, and more. Features like data importing, email templates and suggested contacts all help make your workday easier. Just think about all that time you'll save.
Streamlined deal tracking
CRM makes it easy to capture leads and track conversations — so you know what’s happening at all times and never drop the ball on a deal.
CRM gives you a quick, 360-degree view of your business, offering clarity on what’s working and what isn’t. Plus, reporting makes it possible to forecast income and prepare and adapt your marketing and sales efforts accordingly.
Certain CRM systems can also double as a project management tool. With pipeline creation and team collaboration features, CRM enables you to manage your entire organization in one place.
Strengthened cross-departmental communication
CRM makes cross-departmental communication a breeze and helps companies accomplish things like enabling 17 hybrid teams to communicate effectively — all from within a single platform..
CRM key terms
Different tasks and actions tracked in your CRM system that team members perform as a part of their interactions with customers and prospects, including emails, meetings, phone calls and SMS.
Also called Admins, they are users with access to all administrator features in your CRM system. Admins have permissions to adjust system settings and can add users to the CRM account and control who has access to specific records.
An organization, or team within an organization, that you are currently engaged with or hope to do business with. More than one Person record can be associated with a Company record.
A field is a piece of data within a record (like a name, email address, opportunity value, etc.). A field could be anything you think is important to keep on your records. Fields are more rigid than tags.
An integration connects your CRM to other business software — like Gmail, Quickbooks, Mailchimp, Slack, Google Drive, RingCentral and more. Integrations can be extensive (contributing additional functionality to your CRM), or simple (completing automated tasks after actions are taken in the CRM system).
An opportunity represents a potential business deal, a request for service, potential partnerships or open cases that your organization is tracking from start to finish.
A record for an individual person that is a contact. A Person may be a customer, prospect, vendor, business partner or other stakeholder with which your organization has a relationship.
A pipeline is a visual representation of your opportunity passing through key stages. Lead, Qualified, Demo, Proposal and Won are examples of stages that your opportunity might go through.
A prospect (or lead) is an individual who is not yet a customer, but might become a customer in the future. Prospects often enter your pipeline and become an opportunity.
Record represents any type of account in your CRM database. Commonly used record types include a “Person” (representing a single individual), a “Company” (representing one organization with several points of contact) or an “Opportunity.”
A tag is a quick unique identifier that helps group records together. Tags are more flexible than fields, and can be added and removed when necessary.
An individual that has access to a company’s CRM account. Depending on the permissions they’re granted by an admin, users can manage records they create and access shared company records.
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