What is a CRM? (A beginner’s guide)

What does CRM stand for?

The term CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management.

Although the term is synonymous with CRM Software it’s actually much more than that and includes your internal protocols and procedures around customer engagement. Here, however, we’ll just focus on the CRM software aspect.

What is Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software?

As the acronym would suggest, CRM software is the place where you store, organise and manage the relationships with your customers. Importantly, it is the only place and therefore acts as a single source of truth for all information about your customer.

The most basic CRM can be thought of in terms of spreadsheets. However, dedicated CRM software like RealtimeCRM are much nicer and not only boast a pleasant user interface that makes it easier to use but also offer functionality to save time.

Getting a CRM system in place as early as possible in your business is very important. As your business grows, there is a limit to the amount of information that you can hold in your head. You’ll have too many customers, too many leads and activities taking place at once. Additionally, as your team grows the amount of information that they will need to access and to share will grow; they will need a central place to do that.

By allowing you and your team to view the current status of your leads, customers and what needs to be done as well as what has been done it allows your business to grow, reduces complexity.

Now that you know what a CRM is let’s have a look at the different types of CRM and walk through the various ways a CRM could support your business.

The types of CRM software

There are three main types of CRM system: operationalanalytical and collaborative. For most businesses, operational CRMs are most relevant but the type of CRM that is most relevant to you will dependent on what your focus is.

Operational CRM Software

Operational CRMs assist you by helping to automate and facilitate your your day to day operations – your sales, marketing and customer service interactions.

Sales automation:

This works with all of sales cycle stages. From initially entering contact information to moving them through all the stages of your sales pipeline and from qualifying leads to closing the deal.

It prevents duplicate efforts between a salesperson and the prospect and keeps track of all interaction and follow ups between both parties.

Marketing automation:

The Operational CRM adds value by making it easier to manage and view your marketing process. Repeative marketing tasks such as the sending out of marketing emails at certain times to a chosen segment of your customers can be automated. Marketing information can also be posted to social media at appropriate times.

The objective is to turn a sales lead into a customer.

Service automation:

Customer service can also be improved directly via CRM software. It can help customers get the support they need through the channel they most prefer – website chat, email or text messaging. The CRM ties these different channels together so that they get a consistent and unform experience.

It can also help you manage support requests through a ticketing system so your support team can efficiently deal with queries.

Analytical CRM Software

Analytical CRMs help you to look at data that you hold about customers, obtained from various sources, in order to improve customer acquisition and retention.

The more data your business collects on customer behaviour and their pain points, the more insights your business will gain that will help you improve the sales funnel and, ultimately, the bottom line.

Collaborative CRM Software

Collaborative CRMs allow the various departments of your company to share the information they collect from interactions with customers.

Your technical support team may gathers information from time they spend with customers helping them to sort out a problem. That information could inform your marketing team about products and services that might be of interest to the customer.

By encouraging greater internal communication and joined-up-working you can improve customer service and therefore customer satisfaction. Ultimately, customer retention should also increase.

What does CRM software do?

We’re going to cover 5 main areas that CRM software can make running your business easier.

1) Make data entry easier

Spending time doing manual data entry feels unproductive. It’s even worse if you have to duplicate your effort because you have many spreadsheets that need to be kept up to date.

Because CRM data leverages relational data structures, you only need to do data entry once. But it’s easier than that: Your CRM can actually do the data entry for you – for example, RealtimeCRM allows you to take photos of any business cards you receive and then it will automatically create a new Contact record.

But if you don’t have a business card it can still help cut down on data entry. Take a look, with your prospect’s email address RealtimeCRM will go and find more information about them instantly – imagine that compounded over a year, that’s a lot of time saved.

We even did a speed test between RealtimeCRM and a spreadsheet, and found that it took twice as long to do data entry in Excel.

2) Identify and categorise leads

In addition to easily adding new leads you can quickly categorise them. This allows your sales team to focus on the right leads by prioritising them, and marking any leads that would benefit from more nurturing before they – hopefully! – turn into customers.

By doing this you’ll make your sales team more efficient and organised. It’s so much more intuitive to do this with a CRM than a spreadsheet. As an example, look at Tags – in a few clicks you can group your leads by some attribute say marketing and your marketing team can then filter your leads and get to work on turning them into great prospects.

3) Sales pipeline management

Good CRM software for sales isn’t just nice to have, it’s critical. It can mean the difference between hitting or missing your sales targets.

By being able to view and better understand your pipeline, sales teams can make accurate sales forecasts as well as see which opportunities are languishing and intervene to move them forwards.

The sales pipeline will tell you how close you are to hitting your targets, and sales managers can assess the performance of individuals. This allows them to better manage and motivate people.

CRM software also makes the logging of calls and meeting notes easy, provides tools for the creating of follow up tasks and makes sending out of quotations much easier than trying to balance many spreadsheets and long email chains.

You want things to be clean and simple, you don’t want your sales team wasting time trying to figure out what’s just happened.

4) Makes Collaboration easier

As you grow your business you’re going to bring new people onboard. With a CRM your team will have easy visibility of and access to data – making collaboration easier and boosting productivity.

Because everyone can see customer interactions, you cut down on time wasted with duplicate tasks. Customer emails can be stored in the CRMs too. No more delays to a sales lead by someone going on leave – all the information you need is readily available in the CRM so the deal can move right along.

File sharing also becomes much easier. You don’t want your sales team wasting time looking for the right quote template and then filling in details manually. With a CRM you can upload your standard quote template and in one click it’ll fill in the relevant details for them because all the information is in one place. It makes this task much simpler and therefore more likely to be completed promptly.

CRMs can also make real-time communications easier: instant messaging and team scheduling are useful tools in this area.
Instant messaging is great for quick communication that doesn’t make sense in a long email chain. They’re great for getting answers to questions and updating everyone else on how a meeting went.
Team scheduling allows you to efficiently and easily allocate your team resources. It can even help boost revenue as each team member can update the status of a job in real time on their phone.
The billing department can see this in real time and ensure prompt billing – they no longer have to wait around for job sheets to come in streamlining the whole process.

5) How cloud based CRM makes doing business easier

Cloud based CRMs like RealtimeCRM offer huge benefits to businesses by reducing costs and complexity.

You don’t have to spend a small fortune installing software across your devices, as long as the device can connect to the internet it will have access to the CRM. This also frees your team from the office and allows for remote or home working without any hassle.

Many companies are now choosing remote work. By dropping what is usually their biggest fixed cost – renting office space – they can invest those savings into boosting productivity.

Research by Innoppl Technologies shows that 65% of sales reps who work at companies that have adopted a Mobile CRM have achieved their sales quotas whilst only 22% of reps from companies that have not yet adopted a mobile CRM platform have done so.

That represents a huge potential gain in revenue from moving to the cloud and by providing your team with access to the data they need. This applies to sales reps on the road to your customer service reps.

It also reduces maintenance costs as your CRM manager no longer needs to worry about implementing security updates – these are automatically installed from the cloud.

When should you move to a CRM?

All succesful businesses need to move to a CRM eventually. That’s because they grow in size past the point where customer knowledge and history can be held across the team. The timing on when this happens depends on a number of factors including how painful existing systems are to use, the compexity of the sales process, the number of customers and size of the team. Here are some other indicators that you might spot in your business:

Often businesses struggle for as long as possible with a spreadsheet. This flat structure makes managing data difficult. It’s hard, for example, to visualise relationships between contacts, companies and sales opportunities.

Additionally, if your data lives in multiple places and you and your team find yourself jumping between multiple places, it becomes slow and cumbersome to find what is needed.

In order to contact a prospect you need to find their phone number. This involves looking at a spreadsheet. Then, you need to find the quote document that they were sent, which involves finding their client folder. Next, you have to find out what happened on the last call and so need to track down your colleague who was on the last call with them. Phew! With a CRM that’s all in one place..

Lastly, what if someone leaves? For non-CRM businesses that can represent a significant loss of information. If a member of your sales team moves on and drops all of of their deals in your lap, how do you know where to pick up where he left off? A CRM makes it easy to see what the status of the deals are, where they were left and all the information you need to move them forwards.

Eventually the risks of not moving to a CRM become too great so it’s best to start thinking about moving long before it becomes urgent. In that way you can make a proper assessment of your CRM needs and act accordingly.

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