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CRM: What is it?

You might have typed CRM into Google to discover that it stands for Customer Relationship Management. But what that really means depends on how you use it and integrate it into your business. Some people think of CRM primarily as a sales tool while others associate it with call centre management.

In the digital age there are many channels where customers connect with your brand, a variety of places for them to form and share opinions, research and buy. That means whether you primarily want your CRM to boost sales, optimise customer service or gather feedback and insights, you need a system that can deal with all these individual aspects – and integrate them together, too.

As well as searching for an answer to the question "What is Customer Relationship Management?" to understand its full impact you'll also need to consider how CRM permeates through business. To put it in its proper context you need to understand how it ranges across disciplines, specialisms, social, inbound and outbound marketing and customer feedback – not always evident if you just Google the definition of CRM.

Customer relationship management is the lifeblood of modern business because:

It’s a sales management system

You can keep your pipeline filled with solid leads and close more deals when you can track all your customer interactions in one place.  You get real visibility of all the most recent activities on an account so sales teams can have meaningful conversations with prospects. Leads can be routed as they come in, and from there you can speed up deals because your employees will get instant information on potential customers, marketing campaigns, and account updates. A CRM that everyone is connected to can also make it easy to find experts to help push deals along to conversion and close. And because every interaction goes through one system, you get a clear picture of what happens within your sales funnel.

It's a digital marketing platform

You can use modern cloud-based CRM systems to organise your marketing campaigns and assets in one place. This allows you to run multiple campaigns side by side and segment your audience to they get the most relevant information. Having a central marketing hub also means you can easily measure and track which campaigns are successful in driving revenues for your business.

It's a contact management system

A centralised contact management system means that contact information is shared by everyone using the CRM. Updates only have to be done in one place. If your customer has personnel changes, they don’t end up buried in an individual's contact list, there is one, single view of the customer. You can also find details for a prospect right next to details about his or her company.

It’s a customer service platform

The ideal CRM solution will allow you to provide multi-channel customer service. Service agents will have access to complete histories for each contact – crucial to deal effectively with any complaints. They can also find a customer’s detailed account information and even the preferred method of communication. A CRM solution that ticks these boxes can help you build deeper relationships with your customers, pick up ideas for improvements and innovations in your products and services but most importantly keep your customers happy.

It’s a business reporting tool

Knowing how much business you've got going through your sales funnel is crucial to the viability of your company – and so is gaining business intelligence that will help you plan for the future. Analysis and sales forecasting is particularly important in the early days of a small company when cash flow is crucial – but remains vital to any size of business. Business data is essential to help you understand which products, areas, campaigns, sales staff are producing the best results, and where to invest your energy for future growth. It can help with your planning and processes – so you can match resources needed to fulfil orders and levels of stocking to help you maximise productivity and profitability.

It's a to do list

If you are using your CRM system to its full effectiveness it can act as a prompt to take the next steps in a variety of areas. For example, it can remind you that a deadline is coming up to call a client, or you could see that a team member has hit their targets, prompting their manager to praise their hard work. The best CRM systems can also run automated processes to assist in next steps, so for example service emails when a customer has downloaded a brochure. It can help keep your business on track and increase productivity by doing some of the heavy lifting that would otherwise fall on your staff.

It’s an enterprise social network

A CRM solution like Salesforce offers you additional benefits that you might not at first consider. With Salesforce Chatter people in your business get connected and stay connected. It allows your employees share knowledge and expertise no matter where in the company – or the world – they are based. Salesforce CRM gives you the online collaboration tools you need to make sharing information simple. It also adds a social layer to your CRM that allows staff to collaborate on customer-related issues. Not only that, you can create groups for customers and post polls and surveys to gauge the reaction to new products or services and get real time feedback. It's like having Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and a very efficient secretary all rolled into one and dedicated to your business.

So next time before you Google CRM, search for Salesforce instead!

Find out more about how Salesforce's CRM can help you. Download your copy of the Complete CRM Handbook now.