A beginner’s guide to CRM

If you’ve just heard about CRM, want to know more about it, or want the best tool for your sales team(s), you’re on the right page. And here’s what you can expect:

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

SO, WHAT IS CRM?

CRM is short for Customer Relationship Management. It’s a software solution that brings a host of capabilities together. You can store all your prospects and customers, make calls, send emails, create reports, schedule appointments, add notes, manage your pipeline, and find out who’s opened your latest email—without stepping out of the CRM system.

“The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.” - Peter Drucker

Customers are the lifeblood of any business. Without customers, business will fail. However, the success of a business depends on the relationship you have cultivated with your customers. It depends on how well you know each other. It depends on trust and loyalty. That’s why Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is important. CRM enables businesses to establish and maintain long-term relationships with their prospects and customers. By forging good relationships, businesses will not only see an increase in profitability but also see a significant improvement in customer retention.

While a CRM is traditionally used by sales and marketing, customer service professionals can benefit a great deal from it too. Here's how different business functions can benefit from customer relationship management:

Marketing

Marketing teams can use CRM to measure the Return on Investment (ROI) on their activities and campaigns. It also gives them insight about whether they are targeting their Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs), and the right geography and industry.

Sales

Sales teams can use CRM to get a deeper understanding of their prospects and customers, and manage their sales pipeline better. The CRM also helps automate day-to-day tasks, track and improve sales productivity, identify industry trends, and enhance sales strategy.

Customer Service

Customer support teams can use CRM to help improve customer relations and retention. It gives them insight into the customer’s issues and their past interactions, and provides the necessary tools to manage activities around customer engagement.

Then, what is a CRM Software?

A CRM Software/ CRM System is one of the most essential business software, irrespective of the business type and size. The software solution brings a host of capabilities together. You can store all your prospects’ and customers’ information, make calls, send emails, create reports, schedule appointments, add notes, track email opens and clicks, and manage your sales pipeline—without stepping out of the CRM software.

Salespeople work hard to obtain information about their customers. And then this information is strewn across their desk—their call software contains call logs, spreadsheets contain pipeline data, sticky notes have crucial information scribbled on them, and their calendar (digital or physical) keeps track of their calls and appointments. So when salespeople have to retrace their relationships with customers, or even if they need a quick update on a lead, they have to tread through multiple sources to piece together information. In a time-sensitive job like sales, this approach isn’t just infeasible, it’s unsustainable as well.

Enter CRM software.

A CRM software brings all this information into one cohesive unit. The customer’s complete history with your business exists alongside a list of your deals; your emails, notes, and appointments live in one interface. Add to this the fact that you can get real-time notifications when your customers perform an activity of significant value to the business—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 tool is, therefore, the one-stop solution for your sales teams. It can be the difference between winning a deal and losing it. It can also be your gateway to increased sales productivity, healthier pipelines, and better coordination between (and beyond) teams. But at its core, a CRM application helps you build lasting relationships with your customers.

Benefits of using CRM software

CRM software has many potential benefits for businesses of all sizes. Enhancing customer relationships, increasing sales and revenue, improving customer retention, and automating communication and tasks are just some the benefits it offers. Here’s a look at a few more reasons why your business needs a CRM software.

Enhanced relationships with customers

From prospect to lead to customer, their journey is captured in the CRM. These insights put you in a better position to recognize people, their needs, and how your business can work for them.

Lesser data entry

CRM lets you automate mundane tasks like creating leads from signup forms and sending welcome emails to new leads. Spreadsheets demand data entry; CRMs minimize it.

Better communication

The CRM system becomes a single source of truth for every member in your team. No information gaps, no back-and-forth—the customer hears a consistent voice from your business.

Healthier pipelines

Being able to visualize your pipeline makes it easier for you to prioritize deals and pick them off diligently. As a result, your pipeline stays clog-free and you remain committed to the bottom line.

Higher revenue

Because you have a well-rounded view of your customer 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.

More collaboration = a strong business

Information in the CRM is useful not just for your sales team, but for marketing and support too. They can plan campaigns and respond to tickets better using sales context.

Who can use CRM

WITHIN YOUR TEAM
Marketing

Gathering information about website visitors using webforms and a chat application like Freshchat, setting up drip campaigns, and identifying the ROI of marketing activities are just some of the many uses that CRM software has for marketing teams.

Sales

Figuring out if a lead is hot/warm/cold, reviewing previous conversations with a customer, assessing the month’s sales pipeline, logging calls, sending emails, tracking them—are some of the many uses that CRM software has for sales reps. For sales managers, CRM software helps pull up template reports and create sales reports to track their sales team’s activities (like calls made, emails sent) and evaluate sales performance (deals closed).

Customer service

Integrating your CRM software with a helpdesk software like Freshdesk gives information about the issues raised by customers before any upsell or cross-sell activity. It also gives details about the company and opportunities—like the number of open deals, the number of deals won or lost, and the total amount of deals—to customer support teams.

BASED ON COMPANY SIZE
Startups

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 are designed with features to help the business scale quickly.

Small businesses

Today you’re a small business, but you won’t remain so forever. You cannot afford to spend like an enterprise does on CRM software; 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.

Enterprises

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 system is indispensable for any enterprise that wants to bring order, clarity, and a sense of purpose to its sales process.

ACROSS BUSINESS TYPES
B2B

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.

B2C

In a B2C landscape, customer satisfaction and loyalty is everything. And the CRM software should be able to help business rise above their competition and sustain in the market. Tracking website visit, storing customer information, identifying the sales-ready leads, sending emails, making phone calls—these are just some of the variables that make for vital knowledge in B2C businesses.

Pick your industry to know how CRM software can help

 

 

Choosing the right CRM for your business

There are, of course, various factors to look for when choosing 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:

Simplicity

An intuitive user experience, a clean interface and minimal time required to get started: these are important indicators of simple CRM solution.

Price

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.

Relevance

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.

Essential features of a CRM

Important: not all CRM systems have the same feature set. Some offer built-in phone, others don’t. Some let you create a basic bunch of reports from templates; others let you dive in, customize and create granular reports. All things considered, these six features are indispensable:

Lead management

With a CRM, you don’t have to sift through a lead list on your email client or a spreadsheet. You get a dedicated interface with a list of your leads. Clicking on a lead opens up a screen like the adjoining image. Everything you need to know about the lead—their demographic details, “lead score”, latest conversations with your business, activity on your website, even their recent tickets—is available on one screen. You can also perform important actions, like emailing/calling the lead, jotting down a note and setting up an appointment, without leaving this screen. Every lead has a world of their own, and that’s what the CRM system captures.

Pipeline management

CRM systems have what is called a “visual sales pipeline” view. This is an overview of all your deals, grouped under different stages, and arranged like a pipeline. One look at this screen and you know where you should start for the day. You also get nifty little abilities, like being able to drag and drop deals between stages, and calling/emailing contacts associated with a deal; everything to save precious sales time.

 

Built-in phone

When a CRM has built-in phone functionality, it means a lot of things. For starters, you don’t have to use separate telephony software to make calls. You also don’t need to integrate the CRM with call management applications. You just need to place calls with a click—the CRM system automatically logs calls, maps the recording to the respective lead’s profile, and even helps you record voicemail greetings. Plus you can purchase numbers for your region and assign them to your reps, all from the CRM.

 

Email

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 the content of your emails. You should also look for email templates in the CRM to send standard responses (among other uses). And not to forget email metrics—tracking open rates and click-through rates.

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 system, using it to generate reports is the next logical step. You can create different types of reports—deals closed this month versus last month, leads converted this quarter versus last quarter, and so on. It’s important to choose a CRM 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.

Automation

In sales, there are tasks you do on a loop. Like sending out invoice reminder emails. Or changing the status of deals from “Negotiation” to “Won.” 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. Workflows are automated tasks based on rules you define. Which means the important reminder email is sent by the CRM, on your behalf, at the right time—and you don’t have to remember to do it.

 

The technical specs:

Software on the server/cloud

CRM systems were initially hosted on physical servers, but they’re increasingly moving to the cloud. This means you can buy CRM software on a subscription, customize it and not worry about the costs of server management.

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 systems are available as mobile apps on Android and iOS.

A tool that supports integrations

You can integrate CRMs with a variety of applicationslike marketing automation tools, live chat software and helpdesk software. Unlike spreadsheets and email, CRMs let you collaborate swiftly and in real time.

Ready for your first CRM software?

Try Freshsales, a cloud-based CRM for your sales teams. Freshsales helps small 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 system (plus a 21-day free trial to start off with), we’re here.

 
Evaluating Freshsales? Check out our pricing
BLOSSOM

Perfect for small teams

$ 12

user/month, billed annually


/user, billed monthly
try for free
  • Contact Management Leads, contacts, accounts, and deals management
  • Pipeline Management Drag-and-drop deals, contacts, and activities and get visibility into your sales pipeline
  • 250 Bulk emails/user/day Email sync with open tracking, Bulk email and templates, sales team inbox
  • Built-in Phone powered by                       Freshcaller
  • SMS Integration
  • 2 Sales Campaigns/user Create, send, and track automated email campaigns
  • Lead Scoring Score by lead property and email activity
  • 5 Intelligent Workflows A simple point-and-click interface that enables you to set up and automate your business process
  • Basic Reporting Visual reports of key sales metrics
  • Integrations Integrate with Zapier, Google Apps, Freshdesk, MailChimp, HubSpot, Freshchat
  • Marketplace
  • iPhone and Android Apps
  • Gmail Add-on
  • Territories and Lead assignment
  • Advanced CRM customization
  • Auto profile enrichment
  • Reports Dashboard
  • Smartforms and event tracking
  • Multi-currency
  • EUC Data Center
  • IP Whitelisting
  • Audit Logs

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GARDEN

Ideal for growing teams

$ 25

user/month, billed annually


/user, billed monthly
Try for free
  • Contact Management Leads, contacts, accounts, and deals management
  • Multiple Pipeline Management  Drag-and-drop deals, contacts, and activities and get visibility into all your sales pipelines
  • 500 Bulk emails/user/day Email sync with open tracking, Bulk email and templates, sales team inbox
  • Built-in Phone powered by Freshcaller
  • SMS Integration
  • 5 Sales Campaigns/user Create, send, and track automated email campaigns
  • Lead Scoring Score by lead property and email activity
  • 15 Intelligent Workflows A simple point-and-click interface that enables you to set up and automate your business process
  • Advanced Reporting Configurable reporting, sales activities and forecasting
  • Integrations Integrate with Zapier, Google Apps, Freshdesk, MailChimp, HubSpot, Freshchat
  • Marketplace
  • iPhone and Android Apps
  • Gmail Add-on
  • Territories and Lead assignment
  • Advanced CRM customization
  • Auto profile enrichment
  • Reports Dashboard
  • Smartforms and event tracking
  • Multi-currency
  • EUC Data Center
  • IP Whitelisting
  • Audit Logs

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FOREST

Made for enterprises

$ 79

user/month, billed annually


Annual commitment only
Try for free
  • Contact Management  Leads, contacts, accounts, and deals management
  • Multiple Pipeline Management Drag-and-drop deals, contacts, and activities and get visibility into all your sales pipelines
  • 2000 Bulk emails/user/day Email sync with open tracking, Bulk email and templates, sales team inbox
  • Built-in Phone powered by Freshcaller
  • SMS Integration
  • 25 Sales Campaigns/user Create, send, and track automated email campaigns
  • Advanced Lead Scoring Score by lead property, email activity, web and application activity
  • 75 Intelligent Workflows  A simple point-and-click interface that enables you to set up and automate your business process
  • Advanced Reporting  Comprehensive dashboard with access to configurable reporting, sales activities and forecasting
  • Integrations Integrate with Zapier, Google Apps, Freshdesk, MailChimp, HubSpot, Freshchat, Segment
  • Marketplace
  • iPhone and Android Apps
  • Gmail Add-on
  • Territories and Lead assignment
  • Advanced CRM customization
  • Auto profile enrichment
  • Reports Dashboard
  • Smartforms and event tracking  Web-to-lead capture, Website and in-app event activity tracking
  • Multi-currency
  • EUC Data Center
  • IP Whitelisting
  • Audit Logs

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