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CRM, short for Customer Relationship Management, is a software that helps businesses foster strong customer relationships and improve sales and retention by having quality conversations with prospects and customers.
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“The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.” - Peter Drucker
Customers are the lifeblood of any business. Without customers, a business will fail. However, the success of a business depends on the relationship you have cultivated with your customers. It depends on trust and loyalty. And it is crucial that you maintain this relationship. This is where Customer Relationship Management (CRM) comes in.
When you type "What is CRM" on Google, you get over 50 million results. Many of them are quite exhaustive too. In essence, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) refers to two things:
While point 1 is a matter of theory, point 2 is where things become tangible for businesses.
Think of Customer Relationship Management system as an evolved digital version of your diary, packing in 10x more features and enabling 10x more collaboration for your team.
We’re talking about software that lets a business hold every lead, every customer, every interaction and every deal under one roof, while also letting you generate reports, automate a bunch of activities and be available across devices.
Your salespeople and marketing folks work hard to keep leads flowing in your pipeline. And as your prospects pass through different stages of the buying process, they hear from different teams in your business.
This means all the information about them is strewn across multiple teams’ desks.
As your marketing teams have half the customer knowledge, your sales team know only the rest. This misalignment and fragmented data leads to a disconnected customer experience over time. And to know a quick update on a deal or a prospect, your teams will have to thread through multiple sources.
At the end of the day, your teams are in disagreement as neither have the complete picture, the customer experience is broken, and you don’t have all the required data to know the progress of your business and make right decisions.
A CRM software brings all this information into one cohesive unit. The customer’s complete history with your business exists alongside a list of deals, emails, website activity, appointments, and much more.
Add to this the fact that you can get real-time notifications when your customers perform a significant activity—like when they visit your pricing page or click on a link in your email. We’re talking about a goldmine of information available in one system, under one roof.
CRM is therefore the one-stop-shop for your sales and marketing teams. It can also be your gateway to increased productivity, personalized campaigns, healthier pipelines, and better coordination between the teams.
But at its core, the Customer Relationship Management system helps you build lasting relationships with your customers.
Download your copy of the 11 factors to look for when choosing a CRM [checklist].
CRM software was initially hosted on physical servers. But, by 2017, 87% of the business moved to cloud CRMs. With cloud CRM, you can buy the software on a subscription, customize it, and not worry about the costs of server management. According to a Gartner study, 75% of total spend on customer relationship management (CRM) software was on Cloud CRMs, continuing the rapid decline of on-premises deployments.
CRMs are mainly web-based applications. They’re still developed primarily for desktops and laptops, but now they’re also optimized for mobile. Most CRM software are available as mobile apps on Android and iOS. According to a Nucleus Research report, companies using a mobile CRM, 65% are achieving their sales quotas.
CRM works at its best when you integrate with other tools such as helpdesk software, invoicing/billing software, marketing automation tools, etc. Unlike spreadsheets and email, CRMs let you collaborate swiftly and in real-time.
From lead to customer, their entire journey is captured in the CRM. This puts you in a better position to recognize people and personalize their engagement with targeted campaigns and messaging.
The CRM software becomes a single source of truth for every member of your team. No information gaps, no back-and-forth—the customer hears a consistent voice from your business.
CRM lets you automate mundane tasks like creating contacts from signup forms and sending welcome emails to new prospects. Spreadsheets demand data entry; CRMs minimize it.
The CRM analyzes the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and provides high-level and detailed reports that let you take smart decisions. It also tracks and attributes revenue to the right source.
Being the central location for customer data, the CRM enables your sales and marketing teams to plan their strategy and provide seamless experiences that grow your business.
Since you have a well-rounded view of your customers at all times, you can cross-sell and up-sell at the right moments, with higher success rates. This also reduces the chances of attrition.
Whether you are a startup, a small business, or an enterprise, in the B2B or B2C space, a CRM brings order and clarity, helps improve interactions with customers, optimizes sales performance, and streamlines business processes. Here's how different business functions can benefit from using a CRM.
Zero tolerance for complexity, no time for a steep learning curve—startups have very clear expectations from business software. CRMs for startups understand this. They’re easy to use, intuitive, and designed with features to help the business scale quickly.
Today you’re a small business, but you won’t remain small forever. You cannot afford to spend like an enterprise on a CRM platform; at the same time, your size shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying CRM’s benefits. You can set yourself up for sustainable growth with a small business CRM which provides extensive features at affordable prices.
In business you’re always looking to close deals; when you’re an enterprise business you want to close big. This means more sales teams, a wider casting net, and more opportunities. A CRM software is indispensable for any enterprise that wants to bring order, clarity, and a sense of purpose to its sales process.
Figuring out if a lead is hot/warm/cold, reviewing previous conversations with a customer, creating automated follow-up emails, assessing this month’s sales pipeline, logging calls, sending emails, tracking them are some of the many uses that CRM platform has for sales reps.
Marketing teams can set up chatbots and web forms to connect with website visitors and convert them into leads, track a visitor's activity through the website, segment them into lists based on their behaviour, and create, schedule and send personalized nurture emails to be delivered at the right time.
They also get reports on email and campaign performances for a holistic understanding of the audience.
Sales reports and marketing reports play a huge role to understand the performance of the teams and the business. CRM software can help managers pull up template reports and create custom reports for exclusive use cases.
Whether it’s about tracking sales and marketing activities (like calls made, email performances) or evaluating the team, CRMs can dig deep into data.
If you’re a Saas business, you’re reaching out to resellers, partners, and businesses of all sizes every day. Whether you’re tracking sign-ups, managing subscriptions, or setting up demos for your contacts, a Saas CRM can help you handle all this data from one spot.
In a B2C landscape, customer satisfaction and loyalty is everything. And the CRM platform should be able to help businesses rise above their competition and sustain in the market. Tracking website visits, storing customer information, identifying the hot leads, sending emails, making phone calls—these are just some of the variables that make for vital knowledge in B2C businesses.
When you introduce a CRM, it becomes an integral part of your business. This is why you need to keep the following in mind when you hunt for CRM:
Constantly juggle between multiple tools to access business information
Spend too much time on unnecessary manual data entry
No insight into what your sales team is doing and how to prioritize deals
Sales and marketing teams are out of sync and are often at loggerheads
No proper steps to align with buyers leading to longer sales cycles
No aggregated customer data to personalize conversations
There are, of course, various factors to look for when you are wondering what is the right CRM for your business, and it varies depending on your industry and your company size. Here are the top three factors that remain constant though:
An intuitive user experience, a clean interface, and minimal time required to get started are important indicators of a simple CRM solution.
Watch out for hidden costs in terms of maintenance and implementation. Look at charges for basic features like phone and email. If there’s a free CRM version, give it a spin.
The ideal CRM for your business solves your use case(s). Before starting a CRM hunt, keep your use case(s) ready and clearly defined.
While considering a CRM software for your business, you’ll be confronted with numerous choices in the market today. But, before you decide, a critical factor in your decision depends on how you want to deploy and access the CRM software— cloud vs. on-premise. Though both have their advantages in meeting specific business needs, the preference for cloud CRM has risen owing to the need to access CRM data anywhere.
CRM and data are hosted and managed by the vendor, and you can access it over the internet using a web browser and/or mobile app. Cloud CRM has an easy pay-as-you-go model with upfront costs per user and involves no software or hardware installation cost. It offers you the flexibility to scale up and down. For example, adding or removing licenses and changing feature plans.
CRM software and data are hosted locally on your business server and computers, and accessed through the local network. Initial costs for server and software installations, recurring monthly cost for licenses, and overhead costs. Scalability is harder as well as expensive. In some CRM software, it is not even possible.
With a CRM software, you don’t have to sift through a lead list or a spreadsheet. A CRM tool is a dedicated interface containing the details of all your contacts. On a single screen, you get a 360 degree view, including
And more contextual information that would enable personalized conversations to drive closure. A good CRM software also ranks contacts based on their engagement with your business, allowing you to prioritize the most interested prospects.
Learn more about unifying your contact details
CRM tools can manage your deals and pipelines to give you instant clarity on the on-going deals and status of your pipeline. This is a visual overview of all your deals, grouped under different stages, and arranged like a pipeline. Powerful CRM systems also allow you to create multiple pipelines based on your business requirements.
One look at this screen and you know where you should start for the day. AI-powered CRMs also provide insights into every stage of the deal and suggest the next best action to take. This helps you forecast sales, identify bottlenecks, and make decisions on where to focus your efforts better.
Learn more about pipeline management
A CRM helps your teams do away with the mundane task of data entry. A CRM system can help you automatically
Switching between your email client and your CRM is a time sink. A CRM with which you can integrate your email—whether that’s Gmail, Office 365 or any other client—means you spend less time navigating between applications and have more time to think through email nurture campaigns. Email management in CRMs also allows you to
Learn more about email management
In sales, there are tasks you do on a loop. Like sending out invoice reminder emails. All these actions are based on triggers—when the billing date is closer, for instance, you send the customer a reminder email. This trigger-action formula is the basis behind creating workflows in a CRM software.
Workflows are automated tasks based on rules you define. Which means, your CRM software can perform an action on your behalf, at the right time. Using workflows, you can make your CRM to automatically
And more! See what else you can automate with a CRM
A CRM with marketing automation can bring your sales and marketing teams under one roof, establishing the much-needed alignment. It consolidates both the teams’ data and efforts and gives you reports and insights to make smarter decisions. A CRM that has powerful marketing capabilities will empower your team to
Learn more about marketing using CRM
CRMs understand that if you can’t measure your performance, you can’t improve it. And with all the data stored in a CRM software, using it to generate various sales and marketing reports is the next logical step. You can create different types of reports on
And much more. It’s important to choose a CRM software that offers flexibility; you should be able to whip up a standard report using a template, and you should be able to dive deep and create a report for your unique use cases.
Find out how you can generate insightful sales reports
Find out how you can generate insightful marketing reports
When we say CRM tools are a one-stop solution, we actually mean it. CRMs enable your teams to engage with leads, prospects, and customers across channels, but using the same tool. Powerful CRM tools offer different communication channels such as
With an inbuilt phone, you can place calls with a click, automatically log calls, map the recording to the respective contacts, and record voicemail.
Integrate with your website, deliver intuitive and personalized messages at the right time, increase website conversions, and automate support.
SMS is faster than an email and yet less intrusive than a phone call. The best CRMs allow you to SMS your prospects and clients from within the CRM.
Whatsapp business integration allows you to read and respond to messages from within the CRM.
With the chat widget in the CRM, receive and respond to iMessages without leaving the application.
The best CRMs in the market also provide a mobile app along with desktop software. Mobile CRMs empowers you and your teams to work from anywhere, and not stay tied to the desk.
Your teams can always be in the loop, whether they are in a business meeting or a trade show, in-flight or on-road. With mobile CRM, you can
CRMs allow you to stay updated with no gap in data as the mobile app seamlessly syncs with the desktop version.
Learn more about the mobile app
A CRM software is only as good as the people using it. And the sales and marketing teams using it need a strong strategy to connect the dots behind the data. Different businesses run on different models, of course, but if you’re wondering how to implement your CRM effectively, you can start with these four points:
Does your business involve extensive cold calling? Or do most of your leads come inbound? How many emails do you send on an average every day? Does your business depend on field sales or inside sales or both? How many marketing campaigns do you run every month? These are not the exact questions you should be asking yourself, but asking such questions is the first step towards consolidating your use cases.
If your business thrives on email outreach, your CRM software should let you track email opens and link clicks in real time, while also helping you send bulk emails. If your business depends on international calling, your CRM should have an in-built phone with the ability to buy numbers from across the globe.
Remember to have SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) expectations from the CRM software. It’s the difference between increasing your deals and increasing the number of closed deals by 100% in 30 days.
CRM software can’t be imposed on your teams; they need to use it to feel happy about it. If the CRM has a free trial, get your teams to sign up right away. It’s a great way to find out everything about the CRM, including the kind of support on offer. This also ensures they are more invested in the software if/when you make a purchasing decision.
Try Freshworks CRM (formerly Freshsales), a cloud-based CRM for your sales and marketing teams. Freshworks CRM helps businesses scale faster and puts refreshing business software in the hands of enterprises. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use, ready-to-use CRM (plus a 21-day free trial to start off with), we’re here.
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