What is a CRM?
3 Minute Read
Whether or not they realize it, every business engages in customer relationship management (CRM). They develop and exercise processes and strategies to grow and maintain their customer base, with activities encompassing the entire customer lifecycle, from lead to loyalty.
Most businesses have some process to manage this lifecycle, often involving artifacts and activities like marketing lists, phone calls, emails, and opportunity pursuits. In smaller businesses, sometimes this process is captured in a collection of spreadsheets, or managed in employee email. Unfortunately, many businesses make the mistake of carrying this approach beyond what it can handle. Enter the CRM system, or what is simply referred to as “a CRM”.
Long ago, people realized that most businesses have the same general approach to the sales process. Most organizations speak the same language when it comes to leads, contacts, opportunities, accounts, etc. While the specifics of the process certainly may vary from business to business, the core concepts, and certainly the end goal, typically remain the same. This is why a CRM is valuable to any business that seeks to maximize sales potential and maintain customer loyalty. In other words, a CRM is valuable to ANY business of ANY size.
So what is a CRM and how does it help?
Typical, modern CRMs (e.g., Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics) are web-based applications that store, report, and act on sales and customer data. They make it easy for everyone from sales reps to CEOs to enter, manage, and analyze this data, and can be tailored to a company’s particular sales and customer engagement processes. Finally, users can gain insight into areas of their business that simply would not be discernible without a living, working CRM. For example:
- A manager can see a summarized view of all opportunities in flight at any given time.
- A sales rep can see a log of every time they (or someone else) contacted one of their accounts in the last six months.
- The CEO can monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) such as lead conversion rates or opportunity outcomes via dashboards and reports.
In addition, CRMs often have features to support and enhance the entire customer lifecycle. For example:
- Sales reps can easily enter and track all of their leads and opportunities.
- Contracts and invoices can be auto-generated and maintained for a company’s customers.
- The call center can log, queue, and track cases for customers based on entitlements and service level agreements.
- The marketing department can generate email campaigns based on sales trends reflected in the CRM and tailored to individual recipients based on their interests and actions.
One of the greatest benefits of a CRM is the exposure and insight it provides to critical aspects of the business which otherwise would be buried in email, one-off spreadsheets, and employee memory.
CRM As A Differentiator
While the lifeblood of customer relationship management will remain a company’s sales and management personnel, a must-have in this day and age is a CRM. Human interaction and the building of real relationships is of the utmost importance in a world where technology seems to have taken over.
A CRM allows you to build stronger, more meaningful relationships in a more dynamic way. It is not a replacement for any person or department within your business. Rather, it enhances the experience that each individual has when they access your data and allows them to make better-informed decisions when interacting with potential or existing clients.