CRM

Last updated: October 2021

Compare different CRM tools, explore our in-depth reviews & informative articles, and choose the best solution for you.

What is CRM Software?

CRM, or customer relationship management, is a software system that helps businesses centralize, manage, and improve all customer interactions, and gather and store customer-related data. In addition, it can be used to automate a number of processes throughout the whole customer lifecycle, boosting your team’s productivity. 

CRM systems have been introduced back in the 1990s and were initially used to manage existing customer data from a single hub. However, CRM tools have reached an essential performance milestone a couple of years ago, largely due to advanced functionalities like marketing and sales automation, customer support tasks and services, project management utilities, strong analytics, as well as serving as a cross-communication platform for businesses and their clientele. 

Today, the CRM market is the fastest growing marketing and sales software solution, used by small, medium, and large enterprises alike. When used correctly, CRM systems can boost sales and productivity by 30%, and sales forecast accuracy by 40%.  Also, a Nuclear Research study has shown that the average ROI for a CRM system is $8.71 for every $1 spent, which is simply insane

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 market has led to numerous vendors popping out CRM tools left and right, they all share a number of similarities. We call them the core functionality set, which is the minimum requirement for any decent CRM system. Let’s jump into more details. 

CRM Dashboard

Every CRM software 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 information as required, 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

At the most basic level, a CRM system allows you to track all past and present customer interactions with both existing and potential customers through a single platform. Nowadays, customer interactions happen through numerous channels (social media, search engines, emails, live chat, phone calls, in-person meetings, video calls, etc.) and 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. This information also helps make every customer interaction more personalized, improves customer satisfaction, and boosts loyalty.

Deal Management and Tracking

Generating 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 the red flags and propose solutions, and also close more deals with sales-ready contacts. Just so you know, CRM tools can boost conversions by u 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 the number of your customers and leads grows, the amount of works starts to escalate very quickly, up to a point where you may start to simply forget things – sending follow-up emails, contacting leads, being in time for the appointments, etc.

Now, you might think, “Well, I’ll just send a follow-up or get in touch with the contact a few hours later, what’s the big deal?” The answer is everything. In the modern world, every person wants to feel special when interacting with a business, and if you deliver anything short of perfect, your contacts will instantly start to lean towards other solutions. Once that mechanism is activated, it’s extremely hard to reverse it. This is why every CRM tool is loaded with automated reminders and notifications, which keep your team on their toes.

Mobile Support

Every modern CRM system has a mobile app. The work of sales reps often takes them outside the office borders, and having access to all the key customer information in the field is essential. Mobile apps are generally available on both iOS and Android with very few exceptions and grant access to all of the core features of the software. Depending on the CRM vendor, the app may support more functionality like the sales pipeline or 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, visual sales pipeline, and analytics are some of the key factors regarding the global uprising of 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.

Workflow Automation

A workflow is a preset, repeatable pattern of activities that typically gets carried out by close to all 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 all the 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. 

Sales Pipeline

A sales pipeline is the visual representation of your overall sales process. Pipelines, their views, and visualized data may vary from vendor to vendor, but generally, they consist 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 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 (link to the article “how to choose the perfect CRM for your business”) how deep you want to go. For instance, HubSpot CRM probably 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 by a lot. 

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 sales reps. 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 solution. 

Conclusion

CRM systems bring incredible value to businesses, simply because they are focused on the most important aspect 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. Single. Day.

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