What is CRM Software?
CRM, or customer relationship management, is a software system that helps businesses centralize, manage, and improve all customer interactions, while also gathering and storing customer data. In addition, a CRM can be used to automate a number of processes throughout the customer journey, including measuring customer satisfaction, customer follow-up, sales forecasting, and logging and tracking other customer data such as contact information and purchase history. This ability to track and measure events and interactions throughout the whole customer experience lifecycle can dramatically boost your sales team’s productivity and speed up how quickly and effectively you can close a new sales lead.
CRM software is also useful for marketing teams. CRM-gathered customer data is valuable in planning social media and marketing campaigns as the customer demographic data can help you get to know your customer base and target audience even better.
CRM systems were introduced back in the 1990s and were initially used to manage existing customer data from a single hub. However, CRM software reached an essential performance milestone a couple of years ago, largely due to advanced functionalities like sales and marketing automation, streamlined customer management tools and services, project management utilities, email marketing integration, strong analytics, as well as serving as a cross-communication platform for businesses and their clientele.
Today, the CRM software market is the fastest growing marketing and sales software solution, used by large enterprises, as well as medium and small businesses. When used correctly, the best CRMs can boost sales and productivity by 30%, and improve sales forecast accuracy by 40%. Also, a Nucleusar Research study has shown that the average ROI for a customer relationship management system is $8.71 for every $1 spent — an undeniably incredible return.
TLDR: If you’re not using a CRM system, well, you are losing money.
How Does a CRM System Work?
While the explosion of the CRM system market has led to numerous vendors popping out CRM tools left and right, they all share a number of similarities. We call these similarities the core functionality set, which is the minimum requirement for any decent CRM system. Let’s jump into more detail.
Every CRM has a dashboard. It offers a quick overview of all the important things that are happening with your leads and customers, as well as deal statuses, deal values, client onboarding progress, etc. Nearly all dashboards can be customized to display any CRM data you’d like to see depending on your business, strategy, and goals. Furthermore, all the categories in the dashboard can be expanded for more details with a single click.
Contact Management Features
A good CRM system allows you to track all past and present customer interactions with both existing and potential customers through the CRM platform. Nowadays, customer interactions happen via numerous channels (social media, search engines, emails, live chat, phone calls, in-person meetings, video calls, etc.). Because so many channels and touches are involved, it’s easy to forget or lose key details that happen throughout the whole communication process.
However, with the ability to log all this information into the CRM, your marketing and sales teams can quickly recall and review everything that has been discussed prior, and build an efficient conversion strategy for potential customers and new customers. This information also helps make every customer interaction more personalized, making it easier to track customer needs, while improving customer satisfaction and customer retention, and boosting loyalty.
Lead Management, Deal Management, and Tracking
Generating sales leads is only the first step of the sales lifecycle. Once the leads get on board, you need to continue to nurture them through various marketing channels, and continuously interact with them based on their needs. Every CRM system is equipped with a deals dashboard that highlights the essential information regarding every deal, the current deal stage, hot leads, risky leads, and custom fields. This information allows sales reps to quickly identify any red flags and propose solutions and increases the chance of closing deals with sales-ready contacts. Just so you know, CRM tools can boost conversions by up to 300%, and increase sales by up to 41% per sales representative.
These three pillars of customer relationship management are present in every CRM system you’ll find out there, with numerous vendors offering various augments for various aspects and attributes of these features.
Reminders and Notifications
When dealing with a single customer, it’s easy to focus all of your attention on that person. However, as your number of customers and leads grows, the amount of work can start to escalate very quickly, up to a point where you may begin to simply forget things like– sending follow-up emails, contacting leads, being on time for appointments, etc.
Now, you might think, “Well, I’ll just send a follow-up email if I forget a call, or simply get in touch with the contact a few hours later. What’s the big deal?” The answer is everything. Every person wants to feel special when interacting with a business, and if you deliver anything short of perfection, your contacts will start to lean towards other solutions. Once that happens, it’s extremely hard to reverse course and regain your contact’s interest. This is why every CRM tool, from Freshsales to Salesforce, has integrated automation for reminders and notifications, to effortlessly keep your sales team on their toes.
Every modern CRM system has a mobile app. The work of sales reps often takes them outside the office, and having access to key customer information in the field is essential. Mobile apps are generally available on both iOS and Android, and, with very few exceptions, grant access to all the core features of the software. Depending on the CRM vendor, the app may support more functionality like the sales pipeline or a marketing dashboard view.
Advanced CRM Features
Advanced CRM features aren’t necessarily a must for every CRM tool, but that makes them no less effective. In fact, workflow automation, a visual sales pipeline, and analytics are some of the key benefits of today’s CRM systems.
Marketing and Sales Automation
Marketing and sales automation features allow you to create templates, email campaigns, newsletters, web forms, etc. The emails and newsletters can be configured to be sent automatically at preset times and days. Sales automation includes important reminders, appointment preparations, sending invoices, welcoming new leads, updating contact statuses, and more, all without having to do it all manually.
A workflow is a preset, repeatable pattern of activities that typically gets carried out by team members, every single day. Workflows often include tasks like following up with leads, sending emails, raising invoices, updating various data fields, etc. Leading CRM systems like Monday.com allow you to create, customize, and automate various workflows, which will take the load off your team while ensuring that routine activities are performed properly.
Advanced workflows can include what/if attributes, which are meant to automate even more tasks. For instance, you can configure a sales workflow to automatically move leads to a certain stage if they have signed up for a product demo.
A sales pipeline is the visual representation of your overall sales process. Pipeline management includes pipelines, their views, and visualized data that may vary from vendor to vendor, but generally, consists of overall deals and their value, deal stages per contact, the forecasted revenue, win probability, and expected close date. Many top CRM vendors, like Pipedrive, feature drag-and-drop functionality and can be customized to fit your business needs. A well-rounded sales pipeline CRM feature is easy to use and allows you to add multiple custom fields, filter by sales rep and deal stage, and identify rotten deals that demand immediate attention.
Reporting and Analytics
Arguably one of the most notable CRM features, analytics can really separate you from the competition. Utilizing analytics and various reports to maximum effectiveness depends on two things – the tool’s analytical capabilities and your own efforts. This is also probably the most complex feature to make good use of since it requires experience. Various vendors offer different levels of reporting and analytics, and you have to decide for yourself how deep you want to go into your CRM’s analytics. For instance, HubSpot’s CRM offers some of the most detailed reporting features on the market, but if you’re not going to use them to their full potential, you’ll end up overpaying for CRM features you don’t need.
The main reports that you want to have are deals and revenue-related reports. The deals reports showcase the sales cycle duration, and the number of won/lost deals, which can be filtered by salespeople. Also, these reports can show you why a deal was lost or won, which is essential for continuous improvement. The revenue-related reports include revenue forecasts over a certain period, which predict turnover and growth. Recurring revenue reports showcase customer payments and all the related information.
Free CRM Software Trial
A number of different brands offer a free CRM software trial to their customers. This gives you the ability to gain first-hand experience and get a feel for the product before committing to the brand as a long-term CRM solution.
CRM systems bring incredible value to businesses, simply because they are focused on the most important aspects of revenue generation: customers and communication. A well-designed CRM tool will benefit any organization immensely, especially when considering the added functionality that vendors offer today. Long story short, if you’re not using a CRM system, you’re missing out on sales—every day. Every. Single. Day.