CRM 101: What is CRM?

 

This is a simple definition of CRM.

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a technology for managing all your company’s relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers. The goal is simple: Improve business relationships to grow your business. A CRM system helps companies stay connected to customers, streamline processes, and improve profitability.

When people talk about CRM, they are usually referring to a CRM system, a tool that helps with contact management, sales management, agent productivity, and more. CRM tools can now be used to manage customer relationships across the entire customer lifecycle, spanning marketing, sales, digital commerce, and customer service interactions.

A CRM solution helps you focus on your organization’s relationships with individual people — including customers, service users, colleagues, or suppliers — throughout your lifecycle with them, including finding new customers, winning their business, and providing support and additional services throughout the relationship.

Who is CRM for?

A CRM system gives everyone — from sales, customer service, business development, recruiting, marketing, or any other line of business — a better way to manage the external interactions and relationships that drive success. A CRM tool lets you store customer and prospect contact information, identify sales opportunities, record service issues, and manage marketing campaigns, all in one central location — and make information about every customer interaction available to anyone at your company who might need it.

With visibility and easy access to data, it's easier to collaborate and increase productivity. Everyone in your company can see how customers have been communicated with, what they’ve bought, when they last purchased, what they paid, and so much more. CRM can help companies of all sizes drive business growth, and it can be especially beneficial to a small business, where teams often need to find ways to do more with less.

Here’s why CRM matters to your business.

CRM is the largest and fastest-growing enterprise application software category, and worldwide spending on CRM is expected to reach USD $114.4 billion by the year 2027. If your business is going to last, you need a strategy for the future that’s centered around your customers, and enabled by the right technology. You have targets for sales, business objectives, and profitability. But getting up-to-date, reliable information on your progress can be tricky. How do you translate the many streams of data coming in from sales, customer service, marketing, and social media monitoring into useful business information?

A CRM system can give you a clear overview of your customers. You can see everything in one place — a simple, customizable dashboard that can tell you a customer’s previous history with you, the status of their orders, any outstanding customer service issues, and more. You can even choose to include information from their public social media activity — their likes and dislikes, what they are saying and sharing about you or your competitors. Marketers can use a CRM solution to manage and optimize campaigns and lead journeys with a data-driven approach, and better understand the pipeline of sales or prospects coming in, making forecasting simpler and more accurate. You’ll have clear visibility of every opportunity or lead, showing you a clear path from inquiries to sales. Some of the biggest gains in productivity and in making a whole-company shift to customer-centricity can come from moving beyond CRM as just a sales and marketing tool, and embedding it in your business — from finance to customer services and supply chain management. This helps to ensure that customer needs are at the forefront of business process and innovation cycles.

Though CRM systems have traditionally been used as sales and marketing tools, customer service and support is a rising segment of CRM and a critical piece in managing a holistic customer relationship. Today’s customer might raise an issue in one channel — say, Twitter — and then switch to email or telephone to resolve it in private. A CRM platform lets you manage the inquiry across channels without losing track, and gives sales, service, and marketing a single view of the customer to inform their activities. The ability to connect these three functions, and the teams that deliver them, on one platform and with one view to the customer, is invaluable for delivering relevant, connected experiences.

Running a business without CRM can cost you real money.

More administration means less time for everything else. An active sales team can generate a flood of data. Reps are out on the road talking to customers, meeting prospects, and finding out valuable information — but all too often this information gets stored in handwritten notes, laptops, or inside the heads of your salespeople.

Details can get lost, meetings are not followed up on promptly, and prioritizing customers can be a matter of guesswork rather than a rigorous exercise based on data. And it can all be compounded if a key salesperson moves on. But it's not just sales that suffers without CRM.

Your customers may be contacting you on a range of different platforms — including phone, email, or social media — asking questions, following up on orders, or contacting you about an issue. Without a common platform for customer interactions, communications can be missed or lost in the flood of information, leading to a slow or unsatisfactory response.

Even if you do successfully collect all this data, you’re faced with the challenge of making sense of it. It can be difficult to extract intelligence. Reports can be hard to create, and they can waste valuable selling time. Managers can lose sight of what their teams are up to, which means that they can’t offer the right support at the right time — while a lack of oversight can also result in a lack of accountability from the team.

 
Finding, winning, and keeping customers to grow your business starts with a good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application. Find out everything you need to know to get started with CRM by downloading Your Complete CRM Handbook.

What does a CRM system do?

A customer relationship management (CRM) solution helps you find new customers, win their business, and keep them happy by organizing customer and prospect information in a way that helps you build stronger relationships with them and grow your business faster. CRM systems start by collecting a customer's website, email, telephone, and social media data — and more — across multiple sources and channels. It may also automatically pull in other information, such as recent news about the company's activity, and it can store personal details, such as a client's personal preferences on communications. The CRM tool organizes this information to give you a complete record of individuals and companies overall, so you can better understand your relationship over time.

With a consolidated view of every prospect and customer, a CRM system is then used to manage day-to-day customer activities and interactions. From a marketing perspective, this means engaging your prospects with the right message, at the right time, through targeted digital marketing campaigns and journeys. For sales, reps can work faster and smarter with a clear view of their pipeline and accomplish more accurate forecasting. Commerce teams can quickly launch and scale ecommerce — from online orders to curbside pickup — for their consumer shoppers (B2C commerce) and business buyers (B2B commerce). And customer service agents can respond to customer needs on any channel — from home, in the field, or in the office.

A CRM platform can also connect to other business apps that help you to develop customer relationships. CRM solutions today are more open and can integrate with your favorite business tools, such as document signing, accounting and billing, and surveys, so that information flows both ways to give you a true 360-degree view of your customer.
And a new generation of CRM goes one step further: Built-in intelligence and AI automate administrative tasks, like data entry and lead or service case routing, so you can free up time for more valuable activities. Automatically generated insights help you understand your customers better, even predicting how they will feel and act so that you can prepare the right outreach. AI  also helps you to find opportunities that may be hidden in your business data.

Here’s how a CRM system can help your business today.

1. Connect Your Business Silos.

Fifty-six percent of business leaders admit that organizational silos negatively impact the quality of their customers’ and prospects’ experiences. Information silos are a huge problem, but a shared platform and process for managing customer relationships across functions can really help. In fact, 80% of business leaders from the same study say they are increasingly using their company’s CRM as a single source of truth about their customers across departments.

With a shared CRM, employees are empowered with the right tools and data to manage customer relationships more effectively across lines of business, and they have visibility into customer interactions from other departments. They can more effectively and efficiently work together to enable connected customer experiences.

Read the Study

2. Make Improvements To Your Bottom Line.

Introducing a CRM platform has been shown to produce real results — including direct improvements to the bottom line. Using Salesforce CRM, global customers across all business sizes have a proven track record of producing the following:
 

For IT and Technology Leaders:

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3. Identify And Categorize Leads.

A CRM system can help you identify and add new leads easily and quickly, and categorize them accurately. By focusing on the right leads, sales can prioritize the opportunities that will close deals, and marketing can identify leads that need more nurturing and prime them to become quality leads.

With complete, accurate, centrally held information about clients and prospects, sales and marketing can focus their attention and energy on the right clients.

 

Sell smarter and grow your revenue from anywhere.

See how to find leads, close deals, and streamline your entire sales process in these demos.

4. Increase Customer Lifetime Value.

By understanding your customers better, cross-selling and upselling opportunities become clear — giving you the chance to win new business from existing customers. This helps you to grow lasting, more profitable relationships with your customers.

With better visibility, you’ll also be able to keep your customers happy with better service. Happy customers are likely to become repeat customers, and repeat customers spend more — up to 33% more according to some studies.

5. Offer Better Customer Support.

Today's customers expect fast, personalized support, at any time of day or night. A CRM system can help you provide the high-quality service that customers are looking for. Your agents can quickly see what products customers have ordered, and they can get a record of every interaction so they can give customers the answers they need, fast.

6. Improve Products And Services.

A good CRM system will gather information from a large variety of sources across your business and beyond. In this way, it can serve as a customer-listening engine, giving you unprecedented insights into how your customers feel and what they are saying about your organization — so you can improve what you offer, spot problems early, and identify gaps.

7. Be Ready For Whatever’s Next.

In a work-from-anywhere world, it’s never been more important for your teams to be connected on a shared platform that allows them to collaborate and work from anywhere. And external forces aside, customer expectations will continue to push your business to evolve over time, and a flexible, scalable, cloud-based CRM can help you remain agile and grow your business no matter the circumstance. But more on that below. 

Here’s what cloud-based CRM offers your business.

CRM and the cloud computing revolution have changed everything. Perhaps the most significant recent development in CRM systems has been the move into the cloud from on-premises CRM software. Freed from the need to install software on tens, hundreds, or thousands of desktop computers and mobile devices, organizations worldwide are discovering the benefits of moving data, software, and services into a secure online environment.

Work from anywhere.

Cloud-based CRM systems such as Salesforce (Learn more: What is Salesforce?) mean every user has the same information, all the time. Your sales teams out on the road can check data, update it instantly after a meeting, or work from anywhere. The same information is available to anyone who needs it, from the sales team to the customer service representatives.

Reduce costs.

CRM can be quick and easy to implement. A cloud-based system doesn’t need special installation, and there’s no hardware to set up, keeping IT costs low and removing the headache of version control and update schedules.

Generally, cloud-based CRM systems are priced on the number of users who access the system and the kinds of features needed. This can be very cost-effective in terms of capital outlay, and is also extremely flexible — enabling you to scale up and add more people as your business grows. Salesforce is flexible in terms of functionality, too — you’re not paying for any features that are not useful to you.

A cloud-based CRM platform offers you:

  • Faster deployment
  • Automatic software updates
  • Cost-effectiveness and scalability
  • The ability to work from anywhere, on any device
  • Increased collaboration

Keep Learning.

The Transformation Playbook

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Make CRM the Foundation of Your Customer-Obsessed Strategy

Read this study, based on data from hundreds of business leaders, to understand why companies are taking steps to eliminate departmental silos, learn the two most critical factors for improving customer satisfaction with CRM, and gain insights on CRM use today and how businesses are investing in it to achieve customer-centricity tomorrow.

 

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Getting Started with CRM

What is CRM?

Guide

Your guide to getting started with customer relationship management (CRM).

Playbook

Learn how to change mindsets, connect silos, and center around your customer.