Why and How Using a CRM is Important

As a business owner and sales manager, I have found using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management System) to be priceless.  Its designed to keep me from becoming overwhelmed by the exponential growth of my sales team and their prospects, deals and customer service cases.  While I have used several CRMs, including SalesforceSugar CRM and Zoho CRM, at CAN we use 37Signal’s Highrise.  We use this one because its values align with CAN’s values.

If you are building your sales team and sales systems, I recommend that you quickly adopt a CRM, or Customer Relationship Management System, because it will allow you to manage your company’s most important asset, your customers.  As a sales manager, how you acquire and maintain relationships should be a top priority in developing your sales system. The difficult part is that no customer wants to be treated the same; every customer is different, Download our Case Study.  You need to quickly adopt a CRM if you can answer yes to any of the following:

  • Do you plan on writing personalized emails to your customers?
  • Is it important to you to remember personal details about your customers?
  • Do you plan on having more deals, customer service cases, contacts and customers than you can remember?
  • Do you plan on having multiple people working sales, marketing and customers service?
  • Do you plan on coordinating multiple departments, including sales, marketing, customer service and operations, in order to meet the needs of your clients?

If you have determined that you need to have a CRM, it is important that you adopt one quickly.  If not, you may experience resistance from existing employees and existing systems. (Click here for a related blog post on systems adoption)

  • Existing Employees: People are most open to learning new ways of doing things when they first start at a company, so it is important to setup as many systems and business processes before hiring new employees.
  • Existing Systems: If you adopt a CRM when you are building your business, then you won’t have to rework your systems later.

The How:
If fully utilized a CRM can provide valuable intelligence to sales agents, sales management, marketing, operations and executives.  However, if a CRM is going to provide benefits beyond the agent level, 100% adoption is essential.  The easiest way I have found to achieve 100% adoption is to adopt the attitude that if something wasn’t recorded in the CRM, it did not happen. Also, that you only reward sales people for things that happened according to the CRM.
CRMs provide different values to different positions within the company based on proximity to clients, as well as responsibilities.
For Salespeople: If used properly a CRM should allow agents to provide an excellent and often customized experience to every customer while being able to scale the sales process and reduce stress. On the agent level, the key to using a CRM is to record every prospect, deal, task and customer service statistics, so that the agent can focus on the sales process and not on trying to remember every fact and figure.  The key is to record everything, and leave nothing to memory.  While salespeople might view maintaining a CRM as an administrative distraction, if they invest time into it, they will be able to handle more prospects, deals, tasks and customer services cases.  The CRM will allow salespeople reduce their stress levels, by being able to disconnect from their jobs without the risk of forgetting important details.  Also it is really motivating to see an organized list of what deals you have closed and what opportunities you have.
For Sales Management: If used properly a CRM should allow Sales Management to focus on developing forecasts, training materials and coaching salespeople, instead of directly monitoring everything their sales teams are doing.  However, this requires that all reporting should be done through the CRM, instead of querying each individual salesperson, which is time consuming and distracting for both managers and salespeople.  If I am focused on writing a proposal, I don’t want to be interrupted by my manager.
Lead prioritization and brand management are secondary benefits of using a CRM.  Without a CRM, it is difficult to collect the structured data necessary to prioritize leads based on profitability, loyalty and purchasing activity (Case Study — Sales and Predictive Analytics).  It is also makes it difficult to manage communication in the most effective way.

For Marketing: By watching the conversations that your clients are having with your salespeople and customer service representatives, you can collect testimonials, determine pricing, schedule promotions, identify key words, determine ROI of marketing campaigns and improve lead generation activities.  The key to using a CRM for marketing is to listen to your customers by either reading or using predictive analytics, which are both part of CAN’s solutions.
For Customer Service: Customer Service should use the data contained in your CRM to provide customers with well researched guidance and a seamless experience between sales and customer service.  By taking a moment to pull up a client file when they email or call, your Customer Service staff can provide a customized experience that relies on the information collected during the sales process and previous customer service calls.  Customer Service should customize their interactions based on the client’s personal details, past purchases and the strength of their relationship with your company.  This can be reported multiple ways, however, the key is to use the data available to quickly solve your customers problems and make it a good experience.  Also, your salespeople should utilize the data collected during customer service calls when they engage a client for an up sell or renewal.
For Operations: If used properly a CRM should allow Operations to improve the quality of their output by allowing employees to know exactly what is expected of them.  Sales Forecasts should be incorporated into production schedules so that Operations knows what resources they need to meet the forecasted demand, and Operations should review samples of prospect and client communication so they know why people are purchasing, what customers like about their products and what Operations can improve.  While Operations can not directly impact sales, it is important that they are involved in the sales process.

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