Take a deep dive into customer relationship management solutions.
In some businesses, face-to-face interactions count for everything. Other businesses thrive on B2B transactions that come about solely through clicks on a website. Some are startups driven by a vision to grow and take over the world, while others are hundreds of years old, steeped in tradition. And still others are just there to bring in steady income while life happens. But no matter what your business is or how you see it, your company has one thing in common with every other business in the universe: customers. After all, customers are the lifeblood of any business.
Once a relationship with a customer is established, the next order of business (if you want to stay in business) is maintaining that relationship. This is a seemingly simple task, but it often becomes more complex as a business grows.
One option to help business owners keep up with customers is a customer relationship management system, or CRM for short.
What is a CRM system?
A CRM system allows businesses to better manage customer relationships by storing and managing customer and prospect information. CRM systems do this by compiling information from multiple communication channels, including a business’ website, email, telephone, social media, and more.
By having all of this information – customer and prospect contact information, accounts, leads, and more – in one central location, sales, marketing, and customer support can seamlessly collaborate and increase productivity. They can see how customers have been communicated with, what they’ve bought, the last time they bought something, what they paid, and so much more. This is especially beneficial to a small business, where teams are often shouldered with the responsibilities of a much larger workforce.
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So instead of tracking sales on a spreadsheet or keeping customer information on sticky notes, rolodexes, or even in a salesperson’s memory, a CRM system can be considered a kind of business management software system that makes data available to everyone in the business who might need it: sales, service, marketing, and even others, like accounting, business planning, and management.
Used properly, the advantages of a powerful CRM system are many: the sales team can sell much faster, the marketing team can run multiple segmented campaigns more easily, and the customer service team has a more in-depth view of each customer.
For example, a CRM solution in real estate might not only let an agent keep track of prospects and customers, but properties seen, notes on the properties, sellers, contracts, documents, and more. And, when the CRM solution is cloud-based, all that information can be tracked, collaborated on, and acted on by a whole sales team, not just the agent, from anywhere. All that’s needed is an internet connection, and anyone on the team with the right permission can log in and see what’s happening. These benefits can apply to almost any kind of business that needs to manage, track, and develop customer relationships in any industry.
What are the types of CRM?
Traditionally, there are two types of basic CRM systems to choose from: on-premises systems or on-demand/subscription systems (also known as “cloud-based”).
On-premises systems require a substantial investment in hardware and staff to get up and running. Maintenance costs must be accounted for, as well as lost revenue resulting from any downtime, which could last for hours if a technician must be brought on site. And as a business grows, so too do the equipment and employment costs associated with an on-premises system. So rather than spending time on your business and your customers, you’re spending time either trying to learn how to be an IT person and find the right servers, provision them, set them up, deploy software, and then fix bugs, or you’re trying to hire an IT department to do it for you. Plus, on-premises systems are also vulnerable to what you might call “on-premises problems.” For example, a company that keeps servers in the basement or even the closet could lose all the information on that equipment if, say, a pipe bursts and floods the area where the servers are running.
Cloud-based CRM solutions, on the other hand, free you up from many of these responsibilities and issues. Cloud-based CRM systems require none of the upfront cost of an on-premises system, as they run entirely from a secure data centre. You simply log in from a web browser to access your customer data. Entire companies can be set up with minimal expenditure and almost no IT needs. Maintenance often happens automatically, and support technicians tackle problems in minutes instead of days, drastically reducing any potential downtime. Scaling and making CRM customisations can be similarly simple, sometimes accomplished in just a few clicks from the customer’s side.
How does a CRM help companies grow?
According to a recent study, salespeople spend only 25–30% of their time selling. The right CRM can help increase this percentage by drastically reducing the time a sales organisation spends on administrative tasks. Letting a sales team spend more time doing what it does best results in more revenue. And more revenue, well, that results in growth.
Using a CRM to quickly help qualify and route leads makes closing deals dramatically simpler. With complete customer information at their fingertips, salespeople can provide more personalised interactions, boosting win rates.
A cloud-based CRM application’s flexibility is another of its benefits. A CRM solution such as Salesforce offers a robust range of tools, features, and functionality that can be added in minutes. Access to the latest technology helps keep a small business agile and constantly on the cutting edge.