CRM 101

“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.


Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Definition of CRM software 

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:

  • A collective term for ideas, practices, and strategies that help a company build strong relationships with its customers.
  • The software that helps businesses achieve this objective.

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.

What is CRM software used for?

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.

  • Call software contains call logs
  • Marketing tools track nurture journeys and campaign performances
  • Spreadsheets contain pipeline data
  • Interactions with prospects and customers reside in multiple inboxes
  • Sticky notes have crucial information scribbled on them

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.

The solution?

Enter CRM.

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.

Why is CRM important

The technological evolution of CRM

Software on the server/cloud

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.

For your desk and on the go

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.

A tool that supports integrations

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.

Benefits of CRM software

Enhanced customers experience

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.

Accelerate conversions

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.

Lesser data entry

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.

Measure marketing impact

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. 

More collaboration = a strong business

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.

Higher revenue

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.

Who can use CRM?

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.

Based on company size


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.

Small businesses

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.

Within your teams

Sales reps

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

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 and Marketing Managers 

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.

Across business types


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.

What is the right time to adopt a CRM? 

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: 

No single source of information

Constantly juggle between multiple tools to access business information

Time-wasting tasks

Spend too much time on unnecessary manual data entry

Lack of visibility

No insight into what your sales team is doing and how to prioritize deals

Misalignment of sales and marketing team

Sales and marketing teams are out of sync and are often at loggerheads

Inconsistent sales process

No proper steps to align with buyers leading to longer sales cycles

Unsatisfied customers

No aggregated customer data to personalize conversations

Choosing the right CRM software for your business 

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.

choosing crm software

Cloud vs. On-Premise

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. 

Cloud CRM

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.


On-Premise CRM

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.

cloud vs on premise

Essential features of a CRM

Unified View of Contacts 

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

  • Contact details
  • Recent conversations via email, chat, SMS, and phone recordings
  • A chronological view of prospects’ engagement with your business
  • Notes, upcoming appointments and tasks to be completed
  • Website activities such as pages visited and marketing material downloaded
  • Emails and newsletters sent to them by the marketing team.
what is crm - contact landing page

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

Pipeline Management

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.

what is crm

Automated Data Entry

A CRM helps your teams do away with the mundane task of data entry. A CRM system can help you automatically

  • Capture prospects’ information who reach you via email, live chat, and website forms
  • Enrich their contact and business profiles with social media information to get an instant idea about the prospect
  • Auto-assign incoming prospects to the right salespeople based on geography to reduce lead response time
  • Segment contact into lists based on their behaviour to send targeted and personalized campaigns.

Email Management

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

  • Create and save email templates in the CRM to send standard responses
  • Send bulk emails to your contacts
  • Schedule emails to reach your prospects at the right time
  • Track open rates and click-through rates to understand interest of your leads.

Sales Automation

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

  • Change the status of deals, for example, from “Negotiation” to “Won.”
  • Send welcome emails to new leads or renewal reminder emails to customers
  • Schedule follow-up emails for different scenarios
  • Qualify leads and update contacts’ status
  • Create tasks, appointments, and reminders

And more! See what else you can automate with a CRM

what is crm workflows

Marketing Automation

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 

  • Set-up chat campaigns to engage with visitors contextually
  • Capture page visits, resources downloaded, sign-ups, etc to know exactly what your leads are looking for
  • Understand their behaviour and optimize web pages to drive conversion
  • Segment leads based on their behaviour and interest
  • Engage and nurture leads by designing and delivering engaging emails and targeted campaigns
  • Pass on leads to salespeople from within the CRM

Learn more about marketing using CRM


what is crm workflows

Insightful Analytics and Reports

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

  • Sales/Marketing targets versus achieved
  • Sales activities
  • Team performance
  • Website traffic with visitor journey analysis
  • Performance of marketing campaigns and nurture journeys
  • Sources that contribute to maximum growth

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


what is crm reports

Omnichannel Engagement 

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

Whatsapp business integration allows you to read and respond to messages from within the CRM.

Apple Business Chat

With the chat widget in the CRM, receive and respond to iMessages without leaving the application. 

Mobile CRM

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

  • Know the prospects to focus on with the intuitive dashboard
  • Create, manage, and track the progress of deals using a visual sales pipeline
  • Send and read emails
  • Check-in at meetings to confirm your presence
  • Add voice notes, and create tasks and appointments
  • Navigate to your meeting location or book an Uber right from the Freshworks CRM mobile app.

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

what is crm mobile

How to implement a CRM platform

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:

Define your use cases

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.

Like the product-market fit, look for use case-CRM fit

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.

Have SMART expectations from your CRM software

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.

Help your sales team engage with the CRM

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.

Ready for your first CRM?

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.