Introducing CRM software

What is CRM all about? What does it give you that other sales tools don’t? If you’re a business looking to implement a CRM, these are some of the questions you’re probably asking. In this page, you’ll find answers to these questions and more:

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Definition of CRM

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 CRM software 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.

The evolution of CRM software

1986

Introduction of contact management software, a digital version of the traditional rolodex

1992

Introduction of sales force automation, viz. the automation of routine sales tasks

1995

The term “CRM” is coined, giving customer relationship software an identity

1999

Groundbreaking advancements: cloud-based CRM is launched, first app for mobile CRM developed

2008

The birth of “social CRM”: usage of CRM by businesses to interact with customers on social media

2017–

Artificial intelligence and machine learning set to change the face of CRM

CRM vs. spreadsheets vs. email: A comparison

If you’re using spreadsheets and email for sales, you’re not alone. These tools are easy to access, easier to understand, and—when you’re a small business—seem self-sufficient. But when you’re keen to grow your business, these tools fall short.

Spreadsheets and email are designed for specific functions, and they perform those functions really well. Customer relationship management is not one of them. Managing relationships with customers means being able to look beyond data and understand the context that drives interactions. This context is obtained through different channels—phone, email, face-to-face meetings. Being able to access all this context instantly and with minimal effort—that’s where a single tool (read CRM software) can be the pivotal difference.

In the table below, you’ll find a list of common sales needs. A few can be solved by spreadsheets and/or email, but not all. Take a look:

SALES NEEDCRM
SPREADSHEETS
EMAIL
Storing contacts’ details
Managing high volumes of data
Managing a large, growing sales team
Establishing sales processes
Prioritizing leads
Making calls
Sending emails
Tracking contacts’ activity on website, in product
Visualizing your sales pipeline
Creating reports
Customizing the tool according to your sales process/activities
Automating repetitive activities
Retaining all functionalities across device types
Cross-selling and up-selling using contextual customer information
Engaging in after-sales activities
Performing smart actions based on customer behavior
Managing sales activities
Controlling data access through scopes and permissions (within team/organization)

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How CRM software helps you manage customer relations

Anyone who’s been in sales knows getting a qualified lead is hard work. Nurturing them is harder. Making them your customer is the ultimate challenge.

Customer relationship management is not just about managing people after they become your customers. It’s about how you manage people before and after they become your customers.

When you send a welcome email to a person who’s just signed up for your product, you take the first step towards building a relationship with them. When you avoid spamming your leads and stay around discreetly enough to respond to their queries, that’s another sign of good customer relationship management. And when they finally sign on the dotted line, leaving them with no second thoughts on post-sales support is part of the CRM package.

If you want to do all this without missing out on a single move, you need help. An email client can help you send emails, telephony software can let you jump on a quick call, but when these diverse tools are spread around your desk, it can become very difficult.

With CRM software, it doesn’t have to be difficult.

CRM software brings multiple functionalities—phone, email, report creation, activity tracking, automations—into one system. So instead of switching tools every few minutes, you’ll stay on one tool, get all the functionalities you need, and have a 360° view of every customer—always. This gives you more time to focus on the human aspect of sales: reaching out and solving people’s needs.

Here are a few stats that speak for CRM’s impact:

  • For every dollar you invest in CRM, you can earn $8.71—an ROI of 771%. (Source: Nucleus Research)
  • 47% of users stated that CRM significantly impacted customer retention. (Source: Capterra)
  • 53% of top-performing companies are investing in CRM to drive sales productivity. (Source: Forbes Insights and Brainshark)
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Benefits from CRM software

Winning customer love

When you have a 360° view of your prospects you understand them better, and you make the kind of decisions that create lasting relationships with them.

More business opportunities

You can tap into the rich context in CRM to cross-sell and up-sell smarter. Your deals are always alive; they’re just waiting to become bigger.

Pipelines without bottlenecks

Spot and eliminate stale deals faster, zero in on the hottest deals, and transform your pipeline into a dynamic, updated sales engine.

Data entry days are over

Spreadsheets and emails expect you to enter data by default. CRMs are built to free up your time for real sales activities.

Clarity in communication

Customers don’t have to repeat information, and reps can use historical context to quickly take conversations forward.

Utility beyond sales

Marketing and customer support teams can also use CRM software to optimize email campaigns and improve ticket conversations.

What you can do with CRM software

CRM software typically involves elements like contact database, phone, email, reporting, event tracking and integrations with other software. Different vendors offer variations of this feature set—some CRMs may not come with built-in phone, while others pitch themselves purely as a contact management system. Irrespective of these variations, CRM software is essentially a tool for sales productivity. CRMs exist to make salespeople’s lives easier and more organized; eliminating data entry is a vital aspect of that goal.

Here are some of the possibilities with CRM software:

Contact management

  • View your contacts
  • Edit your contacts
  • Prioritize contacts (lead scoring)
  • Automatically assign contacts to reps
More about contact management
How a lead's profile looks in a CRM like Freshsales

How a lead's profile looks in a CRM like Freshsales

Harnessing context

  • Automatically enrich leads’ profiles with social media info
  • Track emails for stats on opens and clicks
  • Find out what prospects are doing on your website
  • Get real-time insights into prospects’ activities in your product
More about user behavior tracking
An activity timeline of the lead, with their lead score

A contact’s activity timeline captured in the CRM

Email management

  • Connect your mailbox to the CRM
  • Send personalized emails
  • Send bulk emails
  • Schedule emails
  • Filter emails
More about email management
Creating email templates

Creating email templates

Using built-in phone

  • Make calls
  • Log calls (automatic and manual)
  • Assign numbers to reps/territories
  • Record voicemail
  • Forward calls
  • Transfer calls
  • Record calls
More about built-in phone
Making calls from the built-in phone

Making calls from the built-in phone

Organizing the sales pipeline

  • Visualize your sales pipeline
  • Move deals across the pipeline
  • Edit deals
  • Make calls/send emails from pipeline
  • Create multiple sales pipelines
More about pipeline management
 Dragging and dropping deals across the pipeline

Dragging and dropping deals across the pipeline

Managing sales reports

  • Create reports
  • Edit reports
  • Schedule reports
  • Share reports
  • Preview reports
  • Create report dashboards
More about sales reports
Example of a report generated in the CRM

Example of a report generated in the CRM

Anything else you can do? Of course.

Add notes

Make quick notes about your leads, contacts, deals and accounts, in their respective profiles.

Create tasks

Schedule tasks like follow-up actions and call reminders for every prospect and/or account.

Set up appointments

Manage your calendar from the CRM, by setting up meetings across time zones.

Attach files

Upload files or add URLs from sources like Google Drive, before sharing these resources with your team.

Integrate with other software

CRM software can sync with many tools, including marketing automation and live chat software.

Automate repetitive activities

Automatically create leads from emails and form submissions; let the CRM change deal stages for you.

How to successfully implement your CRM

CRM software is only as good as the humans using it. And the humans 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 average every day? Does your business depend on field sales or inside sales or both? 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 product-market fit, look for use case-CRM fit

If your business thrives on email outreach, your CRM 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 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. 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 reps; they need to use it to feel happy about it. If the CRM has a free trial, get your reps 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 your team is more invested in the software if/when you make a purchasing decision.

If you’re looking for CRM software…

Try Freshsales CRM. It comes with a free 30-day trial, and includes built-in phone, email integration, reports and automations, among other features. Plus you get free, 24x5 support over phone and email—irrespective of whether you’re a free user or a paying customer.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is CRM software free or paid?

Both. Some CRMs like Freshsales have a free version plus a variety of paid plans. Other CRMs are either free-only or paid-only. Free versions usually have a cap on the number of reps who can login. In some cases, an unlimited number of reps can use the free CRM. Some CRMs also encourage prospects to sign up for a free trial, typically ranging between 15 and 30 days.

Who can use CRM software?

Practically everyone in the organization. Sales reps, sales managers, the VP of Sales—there’s something in the CRM for everyone. Other teams in your business can also use it. Marketing can run email campaigns to targeted prospects; customer support can use sales context to resolve tickets better. Even your accounting department can use CRM software to manage their invoices.

Are CRMs for desktops/laptops only?

No. CRMs are optimized for multiple devices. In fact one of the things you should consider in a CRM is whether it has apps for Android and iOS. Some features are even built exclusively for the mobile version, like the ability to book an Uber right from the CRM when reps want to ride to their meetings.

What are the different types of CRM?

Some websites classify CRMs as operational, analytical and collaborative. These divisions are for convenience more than anything else; they’re not part of any standard theory. However, CRM software is often identified depending on the industry it serves. So you’ll find real estate CRMs, e-commerce CRMs, CRMs for hospitality, SaaS CRMs and even healthcare CRMs.

Is CRM on-premise software?

CRMs used to be on physical servers, but they’ve moved to the cloud. Some CRM vendors still offer on-premise solutions; some even offer both options. But with an increasing need to access data on the go, cloud-based CRMs are gaining precedence. Plus cloud-based CRM enables fast data transmission and ensures data is accessible across devices.

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