CRM is much more than a buzzy acronym that’s been tossed around the business and sales world for the past decade or so. CRM stands for customer relationship management. With a CRM application, there’s no secret formula. It simply manages most of your critical customer information so that you can see it all in one place. You can view contact info, follow up via email or social media, manage tasks and track your performance, among other benefits. You can close more deals, boost sales and improve forecast accuracy. Is it time to invest in a CRM?
Signs you really need a CRM
Businesses typically begin with a basic relationship of seller-to-customer — simple. In such an early stage, it might be fine to just maintain an Excel spreadsheet or jot down notes about customers and incoming orders. But as your business grows, this sort of recordkeeping simply can’t do what you need anymore.
Here are some warning signs it’s time to trade in those old ways and start managing your customer relationships more effectively:
There’s no single source for information. Storing your customer and order info in more than one location, such as a spreadsheet or notes stuck to your computer, puts your sales team at a disadvantage. They lack a single view of every customer’s contact info, orders and interactions.
There’s little or no visibility: Not only do you lack visibility into how your customers are connecting with employees, you also lack insight into what your salespeople are doing. This makes it difficult to help them be successful — and keep them accountable.
Resale/upsell opportunities are lost: You don’t target prospects based on their value to the business. Rather, you are sending the same types of offers and messages to customers and prospects in very different stages of the buying process, as well as in different industries or geographies.
How CRM improves productivity
You probably know the old saying, “There never seem to be enough hours in the day.” This is especially true in the sales world, where time truly is money. According to a study by Mavenlink, two out of five small business owners rank time as their most valuable asset, and a quarter of those would pay $500 for just one extra hour in the day. The more effectively and efficiently you use your time, the better results to your bottom line. Small businesses grow faster by getting better at providing a steady flow of new prospects, increasing time spent selling, and arming their sales reps with the info they need to close deals more quickly. That is where a CRM application comes in.
Pipeline: Finding time to bring in a steady flow of new customers can be quite the challenge for a small business sales team. A CRM app allows sales reps to store the data on prospects so the information’s ready at each interaction. In addition, it quickly provides metrics related to visibility and forecasting.
Selling time: Obviously, representatives need time to sell. Some of the time traps salespeople face are hard to overcome, but others can be fixed easily. Communication is a big challenge for a sales team on the go, but surprisingly few teams leverage smartphones and tablets as part of their regular workflow. The right CRM system syncs with mobile devices anywhere, any time via the cloud, so the entire team is on the same page and has the most current information at their fingertips.
Better, more valuable data: For successful prospecting and pitching, you must gather vital information on potential clients. But finding time to do that can be hard when you’re also trying to make your month. CRMs help solve this problem by collecting valuable customer data, including client history, current client preferences, client social media presence, past interactions with a client and past sales interactions.
How to craft a CRM strategy
Building a successful CRM system isn’t just about choosing the right technology, as significant as that is. You also need the right plan in place from a business perspective. Here are some basic steps to build a winning plan:
Define your business objectives: Business objectives are where vision and strategy get translated into the day to-day work. A common mistake when implementing a new CRM system is to replicate in it all the old business objectives and processes, complete with their inefficiencies. Instead, view your implementation as an opportunity to review and optimize how you work.
Get your team on board: Executive sponsorship is vital for your CRM vision, strategy, business objectives and a successful rollout. A lack of executive sponsorship is one of the top contributing factors to CRM failure.
Identify the metrics: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” is an adage attributed to many business thinkers. Metrics should be visible to everyone, and this means creating dashboards for all levels of the organization, from sales reps and managers to the executive team.
Prioritize your initiatives: You’re not going to get everything done at once, so decide what’s most important to deliver first. Training is often the priority, so everyone is ready to use the new CRM system as soon as it is available.
Maximizing your ROI
Choose a cloud-based CRM solution: All major CRM vendors offer cloud versions of their apps. Choosing this software as a service (SaaS) model means companiesno longer have to deal with things like servers, software issues and new version upgrades.
Integrate with applications that provide value: Take advantage of the new business and social applications that are out there and integrate them with your CRM system. These include marketing automation and accounting software, plus key social tools, which allow your company to follow people, information and groups on social networks, and capture real-time data.
Build dynamic relationships with customers: CRMs are an excellent tool to connect with your customers and build relationships that grow over time. Nevertheless, don’t just assume that everything is fine and well. Be aware that customers evolve and change, and your business may need to change with them.
Any successful enterprise should start with a foundation of great customer relationships, with you, the seller, connecting with people who need your product or service. As your company expands, these connections become more sophisticated. You also need to share information across the various teams within your own organization that are making contact with the same customers. In a world where the most successful companies are customer focused, CRM apps make the customer king. In short, CRM apps are how businesses truly become “customer companies.”
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Patrick Riley is the president of New Horizons of Wisconsin. New Horizons delivers high-quality live training to professionals in dozens of technology families. The firm has grown to be the largest in the state, annually providing more than 14,000 live training classes in more than 700 different course titles, delivered by 1,100 certified experts, providing their clients unparalleled depth and quality of learning. He also leads the company’s efforts in personal career development and is passionate about helping individuals enter and grow in the IT industry.