What is CRM?

CRM, short for Customer Relationship Management, is a collective term for ideas, practices and strategies that help businesses create meaningful relationships with their customers. It’s ultimate goal is to help improve sales and customer retention. 

A good customer relationship management system helps achieve this by facilitating quality conversations with prospects and customers.  

 

Functions of CRM software

CRM software exists to optimize the management of your customer relationships. Acting as a centralized source of information, communication, and engagement, quality CRM software gives businesses a full 360-degree view of their customer base, from potential prospects right through to committed brand advocates.

By combining a range of features and functionality, CRM software provides businesses with the opportunity to grow their sales, strengthen their brand and improve the loyalty and satisfaction of their existing audience.

CRM functions

How does CRM software help in the buyer’s journey?

 

Customer relationship management is a vital element of any buyer’s journey, and a sophisticated CRM system can have a huge impact with regard to their experience.

A good CRM ensures this by streamlining all the communication. All marketing, sales, and support interactions with potential customers are collated in one place. The data that these engagements generate can be leveraged to deliver great customer experiences across pre and post-sale. 

What’s more, with the many different functions of your business coming into alignment with each other, your customer benefits as a result of hearing a single, clear, and consistent voice from your business.

Making sure that your customer relationship management system is in alignment with the funnel model your sales team operates is crucial. With a sophisticated CRM, you get to know your customers well enough. This allows you to match the key stages of the buyer’s journey to the way in which they are supported through to conversion.

How does CRM software help maintain customer relationships?

 

CRM software provides a central platform from which customer relationships can be tracked, maintained, and improved upon. Not only does it enable marketing and sales teams to better understand the individual prospects that they’re attracting and nurturing, but it also helps give a broader insight into the motivations, reservations, and pain points of your customers.

Acting as a “single source of truth” for customer relationships, a customer relationship management system enables company-wide alignment when it comes to the way that leads are explored and developed. Processes can be streamlined and information made more freely accessible. The result? Happier, more connected, and fully satisfied customers, who feel understood, supported, and listened to.

 

crm strategy

CRM for Different Industries

CRM for Real-estate

Dealing with multiple properties, prospects and clients at different stages of closure, it’s essential for real-estate agents to have instant access to a unified and clear view of their requirements at all times. CRM for real-estate makes it possible.

CRM for Saas

With SaaS products selling internationally, your prospects are likely to have a very diverse range of motivations, problems and use cases. Because of this, a sophisticated CRM software solution is essential for SaaS businesses, ensuring maximum subscription and minimal churn.

CRM for Manufacturing

With multiple retailers and suppliers to juggle and intricate sales cycles to navigate, customer relationship management is essential within the manufacturing industry. Good CRM software will help to align both sales and marketing teams, aiding understanding of customer needs, helping with demand forecasting, and more.

CRM for Travel Agents

Travel agents are under high pressure to meet the exacting demands of multiple customers. They need to have total control of their customer relationships across many seasonal peaks and troughs of interest. From helping build out personalized packages to offering the right deal at the right time, CRM software can dramatically improve outcomes for travel agencies.

CRM for e-commerce

While the eCommerce business is growing tremendously, the industry landscape is hyper-competitive. And to stand out, you have to deliver a seamless experience and delight in every transaction. A CRM software for eCommerce stitches together your fragmented data and provides a unified view of your leads for sales and marketing teams. It also gives the much-needed insights to target the right leads that enable smart decision-making, improve customer retention, and increase your revenue from B2B and B2C customers.

What are the types of CRM systems?

There are different types of CRM available, and the best fit will depend on the need and purpose of the sales and marketing teams in question. With a well planned customer-centric CRM strategy, you can implement one or more of the following types of CRM 

 

1. Operational CRM

Designed to streamline the operations of different departments in a business. Helps achieve lead generation, conversation, and customer retention.

There are three parts of it:

Sales force Automation

Sales CRM is meant to streamline a company’s sales process, enabling its salespeople to spend more time prospecting and converting

Marketing CRM

Even though they can serve as standalone solutions, marketing automation tools are often incorporated in CRMs. They form another core part of operational CRMs.

Service CRM

Helps create an extraordinary experience for its customers and retain them. Service automation delegates service tasks to agents via ticketing systems. Features like live chat, assistance with knowledge bases, and FAQ pages are also commonly associated with service automation.

2. Analytical CRM

Analytical CRMs gather prospect and customer data for analysis to help the companies better understand and serve their customers.

These CRMs are generally used to analyze prospect information, customer preferences, contact data, and other information gathered from customers both on and offline.

With the data collected, the management can better understand the course of action needed to increase revenue and make a profit. While salespeople will know which sales activities work and which don’t.

Reports dashboard

3. Collaborative CRM

A collaborative CRM solution enables different teams within a company to work together no matter which part of the world they are in.

A business's sales, marketing, and service departments share customer information in one system to improve synchronicity and give each department a better understanding of their customers’ needs, wants, and interests.

Think how much faster you will gain your prospects' and customers' trust when your teams engage with them in contextual conversations, remember what is important to them, and respond quickly to their concerns. 

4. Social CRM

Social CRM (also known as social customer relationship management) involves the inclusion of social media channels within a business’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform.

As social media’s popularity continues to grow, enabling customers to communicate directly with your business in this fashion can greatly improve the customer service experience.
Businesses benefit from a comprehensive overview of communication, as well as improved marketing insights gathered from the data these CRMs can generate.

auto enrichment

 

5. Mobile CRM

Mobile CRM relates to the ability to engage with your full CRM platform on a mobile device.

From phones through to tablets, the amount of traffic generated by mobile sources continues to climb, and so it's increasingly important that a business can access its customer and CRM data on any device, anywhere, at any time.

Mobile CRM

What are the Myths about CRM?

crm myths
CRM is only for successful businesses

If anything, the reverse is true. CRM is the route to a successful business. All businesses can benefit from improved customer relationships. Customer relationship management benefits businesses of all sizes—startups and small business to enterprise.

CRM is expensive

A good CRM platform will more than earn its keep. You can expect a ROI of 771% from investing in CRM. How does a CRM system boost your sales and revenue? For every dollar you spend, CRM pays you back with $8.71.

CRM takes forever to implement and learn

Modern CRM platforms are intuitive and designed with the user in mind. Automated workflows and AI can be swiftly leveraged, freeing up your team.

CRM is complex

While CRM platforms have grown in terms of functionality and power, simplicity has also been a core consideration when it comes to their development. A CRM does not require constant tech support.

Constant data entry is required

Today’s sophisticated CRM solutions make tedious data entry a thing of the past. Custom bots on your website and a long string of advanced automations can collect data across sessions and channels, keeping your platform up to date at all times.

CRM only offers a contact database

CRM can play a huge role in business growth. From leveraging partner programmes through to extracting CRM data that helps hone marketing strategies, CRM offers much more than a rolodex.

What are the challenges with CRM systems?

Of course, as with any powerful, practical technology, CRM systems do need to be handled with regard to a few best practices.

Let’s explore a few of the challenges that managers will want to keep in mind when implementing a new CRM solution, or ensuring that they’re getting the best out of an existing solution.

crm challenges
Challenges with Implementation

It’s important to lay the groundwork for successful implementation of any new technology, and CRMs are no exception. As you’ve spent a lot of time and effort on choosing a CRM that is perfect for your business, you wouldn’t want it all to go to waste because of poor implementation. 
Your CRM implementation plan should be as meticulous as your sales and marketing strategies. Each feature you pay for must have use cases that contribute to your business growth. Here is a 6-step guide to ensure a successful implementation of your new CRM solution.

Challenges with Managing Integrations

Email, calendars, social media… Your CRM won’t operate within a vacuum, and as a result, it’s important to have a clear procedure in place for managing integrations. The main consideration to keep in mind is exactly how you’ll architect the integrations. Of course, working with a CRM provider such as freshsales means many of the most popular apps will be natively available.

Challenges with Data Hygiene

Your CRM is only as good as the data it houses. When there is a lot of unnecessary data, your CRM becomes a mere data dump for your teams. This can lead to inaccurate analytics and reports that muddle your forecasts and decision. Here are a few ways to maintain data hygiene in your CRM tool -

  • Make fields mandatory: Avoid duplicates 
  • Weed out dead deals regularly
  • Run regular checks for data
  • Avoid regular bulk import

Find out more on how you can improve your CRM data.

 

Challenges with Adoption

If your sales and marketing teams don’t adapt to the CRM, then the data in the system won’t give you the unified view of your contacts that it promises. 

It’s important to take proactive steps in order to encourage easy and widespread adoption. From advanced education through to ongoing training, the best way to ensure great adoption of your CRM is to clearly communicate the benefits it will bring to both individual workflows and company-wide improvements.
Here are six easy ways you can ensure they get on well with new CRM software.

Challenges with Security

As with any repository of data, you’ll want to make sure that you have a handle on security at all times. Data security forms a huge part of consumer trust, so be sure to work with a CRM that places security at the heart of its design.

Challenges with Choosing the RIGHT CRM

Selecting the right CRM for your business is not a decision anyone should be rushing into. Be sure to do your research and in advance of booking demos, decide on what the top priorities for your sales and marketing teams will be when it comes to customer relationship management. Make sure you have buy in at the right levels when it comes to making your selection and that stakeholders from all key teams are in alignment.

How to evaluate CRMs in the market?

With so many CRM solutions available, it’s important to consider several factors when it comes to holistically evaluating the options you could consider. The following checklist can help you keep your priorities clear.

Evaluate CRM
Pricing

Of course, your solution will need to work within a specific budget, but when evaluating the financial outlay of your CRM, also investigate the type of ROI that can reasonably be expected.

Customizability

There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to great CRM, so be sure to look into the ways in which you can personalize your solution. For example, the ability to create your own lifecycle stages based on your business process.

Scalability

Chances are you’re deploying a CRM with the intention of growing your business! It stands to reason that you’ll want a solution that can grow alongside you, in terms of capacity, support and functionality.

Support

It’s vital that you look into the support that will come as part of your relationship with new CRM software. This isn’t just about having help when navigating through problematic elements – make sure someone will be helping ensure you get the most out of the software and associated CRM data.

Security

You can (and should) put your own best practices into action but when it comes to security, you’re only as safe at the foundations that your CRM is built on. Take time and care to examine the way in which your platform is safeguarded.

Customer Reviews from top review sites

When it comes to trust, not much beats social proof. Explore independent customer reviews to get an unbiased view of how each solution measures up – but be sure to look for use cases that align with your own level of requirement, sector etc.

Ease of use 

The best CRM is the one that you use. If your team won’t comprehensively engage with and adopt the platform that you’re implementing, you’ll never get the most from your customer relationship management. This is why demos are so key – get a true feeling for the UX and interface of the solutions you’re seriously considering.

Ability to unify different functions 

A solid CRM platform will bring alignment and cooperation across sales and marketing teams, so be sure to look carefully at the way your solution of choice allows the various different use cases that your business will require to interplay.

How to implement a CRM tool for your business?

It’s important to proactively plan for a successful implementation of any new customer relationship management tool.

 

CRM implementation

 

Here are some helpful pointers:

  • Start by talking to your teams; understand the challenges they currently face and show how new processes enabled by the CRM will help.
  • Make sure you have a designated team overseeing implementation, and responsible for its success.
  • Come up with a solid change management plan, and take care to make sure your CRM platform is customized for your specific needs in good time for the launch date.
  • Finally, meticulously transfer over data from your existing tools, test, test again, and you’re ready to launch.

What are the integrations with CRM?

Helpdesk

Your CRM exists to improve customer satisfaction, and as a result, your business outcomes. Combining your sales and customer support data is crucial to get a complete view of your customers, in order to maintain trusting relationships with your customers. Because of this, a helpdesk integration is always going to be a high priority for most businesses. Freshdesk is a great example of a feature-rich customer service tool with the capacity for native integration.

Invoicing

Dealing with payments quickly and efficiently through CRM is a high priority for many businesses. The ability to easily send and receive invoices and associated payments can be a huge contributor to a more streamlined financial workflow. Freshsales offers a great way to “Configure, Price, Quote” natively from your CRM platform.

Customer Success tools

Any business wants to see their customers winning, satisfied and getting everything they hoped for. Ensure that your CRM integrates with some solid Customer Success tools, to help make sure this is the case. If you’re looking to prevent churn and increase expansion, FreshSuccess offers top level functionality.

Document Manager

The ability to track, send and e-sign documentation is a huge benefit when it comes to gold standard customer relationship management. The ability to handle this centrally can be a real time saver, keeping your team from having to deviate to email or external apps. Explore GetAccept for a great example.

Chat 

When it comes to communication, modern audiences demand immediacy. Ensure you have the ability to add a personal touch with direct messaging and access to your sales team. Freshchat is a great solution for businesses seeking to improve sales through modern messaging.

Essential Features of a CRM

While requirements for a CRM can vary based on your business, an ideal CRM software should have the basic CRM features listed below.

 

1. Unified View of Contacts

A unified view of your contacts allows you to engage in meaningful conversations with your prospects and customers. This empowers you to send the right message to the right prospect at the right time.

A CRM tool facilitates contact management by giving you a 360° view of all your contacts in one single screen. You should be able to view

  • All the interactions via email, phone, chat, SMS, etc to understand the context in an instant
  • Website activity and recent marketing materials downloaded to analyze visitor behavior and optimize your website accordingly.
  • A chronological view of prospects’ recent activities and interactions with your business
  • Recent notes, appointments, and tasks to get an inside view of your sales and marketing teams activities
  • Emails and newsletters sent to them by the marketing team
  • Status on ongoing deals to know which stage of the buying process they are currently in

                           

unified landing page

 

An AI-powered CRM not just showcases the entire customer lifecycle, but can also rank your prospects based on their engagement level, and suggest the next best action to take.

Find out how a CRM can organize and unify your contacts’ information

 

2. Pipeline and deal management

Identifying and focusing on the right deals in key to growing sales for your business. A CRM with AI-powered deal insights allows you to

  • Visually see how your deals are advancing dynamically.
  • Create multiple and unique sales pipelines based on territories and products.
  • Concentrate on the right deal by showing you deals based on their deal-value and deal-stage
  • Predict deals’ performance and tag deals with “At-risk”, “Likely to close”, “Trending”, and “Gone cold”. With these tags, you will know which deals need your immediate attention.

A CRM software with smart deal insights enables you to make smarter decisions that move your deals up the sales ladder.

deal tags

3. Sales Forecasting capabilities

One of the main functionalities of a CRM is to empower data backed decision-making. 

A CRM tool must allow you to set weighted pipelines to help determine your deals’ success rate. This will enable you to accurately project revenue from different sales teams by month/quarter/year using sales forecast reports.

CRM software, like Freshsales, can further increase the accuracy of your sales forecast by providing options that help salespeople be transparent about their pipeline.  Freshsales provides two deal categories—committed forecast and best-case forecast

  • Committed forecast: The deals that your salespeople are confident about winning for the month/quarter/year.
  • Best-case forecast: Deals that your salespeople think might close, but aren’t ready to commit to their results yet.
crm strategy

4. Sales force Automation

The perfect CRM not only empowers you to make data-backed decisions but also enables your salespeople to close more deals by boosting their productivity with intelligent workflows. 

CRM systems allow you to create seamless workflows that remove the everyday mundane work by

  • Automating welcome emails
  • Scheduling automated, yet personalized follow-up emails
  • Moving deals down the sales pipeline
  • Sending payment and renewal reminders
workflow

5. Marketing Automation

A CRM with marketing automation can bring your sales and marketing teams under one roof, establishing alignment between the two teams. A CRM with powerful automation capabilities will empower your marketing team to 

  • Capture page visits, resources downloaded, etc to know exactly what your leads are looking for
  • Understand their behaviour and optimize web pages to drive conversion
  • Segment new leads based on their behaviour and interest
  • Create visually appealing emails and newsletters that maximize your email marketing efforts
  • Pass on leads to salespeople from within the CRM
workflow

 

6. Analytics & Reporting

CRM tools that are integrated with your sales and marketing activities can give you accurate reports to keep an eye on those important metrics. It shows the performance of your teams and business using essential CRM metrics you need to track. You can pull out various sales and marketing reports that tell you the 

  • Performance of the product/service and territory
  • Effectiveness of the sales process
  • Blockages in the sales funnel
  • Website traffic with visitor journey analysis
  • Performance of marketing campaigns and nurture journeys
  • Sources that contribute to maximum growth
  • Sales team performance: Email response rate, phone calls to meetings acquired ratio, deals closed, etc
  • Marketing team performance: Number of MQLs, impact of marketing campaigns, website traffic, etc
Reports dashboard

 

And a lot more! 

A good CRM software also comes preloaded with different marketing and sales reports templates so you don’t have to spend hours creating from scratch.  

Generate insightful sales reports

Generate insightful marketing reports

7. Omnichannel Engagement

An all-encompassing CRM should not just integrate with, but natively possess the commonly used communication channels by your prospects and customers, easing their customer journey.

Phone

With a built-in dialer, you can automatically record the calls with your contacts and save them in the contact page for easy access. 

Chat

Engage with your website visitors with contextual and spontaneous conversations and reduce your website bounce rate

Email

A 2-way sync between your email client and the CRM ensures that all information is available in one platform and no emails goes amiss.

5. Marketing Automation

A CRM suite with marketing automation can bring your sales and marketing teams under one roof, establishing alignment between the two teams. A CRM with powerful automation capabilities will empower your marketing team to 

  • Capture page visits, resources downloaded, etc to know exactly what your leads are looking for
  • Understand their behaviour and optimize web pages to drive conversion
  • Segment new leads based on their behaviour and interest
  • Create visually appealing emails and newsletters that maximize your email marketing efforts
  • Pass on leads to salespeople from within the CRM
workflow

Ready for your first CRM?

Try Freshsales (formerly Freshworks CRM), a cloud-based CRM for your sales and marketing teams. Freshsales helps businesses scale faster and puts refreshing business software in the hands of small businesses, as well as 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.