CRM software (customer relationship management software), sometimes referred to as sales force automation (SFA) software, helps businesses track and manage sales interactions in a single system of record. A CRM will record interactions between your business, prospects, and existing customers.
CRM software are most commonly implemented in sales departments to act as the central hub for sales force automation, including contact, account, and opportunity management. CRM software is often implemented separately from other enterprise solutions, such as ERP systems, marketing automation, and customer service software, but may often offer integrations with other business applications to facilitate an enhanced and coordinated customer experience.
To qualify for inclusion in the CRM software category, a product must:
Provide a bounded set of sales-related functions
Track prospects and contacts throughout the sales pipeline
Integrate functions into a unifying database and platform
Learn More About CRM Software
Every sales team wants to build the best relationships with prospects and customers. In order to do that you need the top crm products.
But managing all of your interactions with your accounts can become a lot to handle. This gets even more complicated when you have multiple team members involved with an account, all using disparate tools.
Establishing strong relationships with prospects can turn them into customers. Nurturing those customer relationships can in turn create lifelong advocates who are loyal to your brand. Building and maintaining those relationships is a calculated process and every company needs to take steps to manage those relationships effectively.
What is CRM?
When we talk about “customer relationship management” (CRM) we really are referring to how a business manages its relationships with clients or prospects. This can relate to a strategy, process, or software tool.
Your company needs a defined strategy for how your sales and customer success teams manage relationships with both customers and prospects. This set of philosophies should put customer satisfaction at the forefront, establishing your company’s value proposition and communicating it clearly, with emphasis on retaining customers by exceeding their expectations of service. This should be the north star that your sales reps always look to as the foundation of your team’s culture and approach to working with customers.
The CRM process makes the strategy actionable, in conjunction with the implementation of a CRM solution. Your CRM process should include tactics for continuous training and direct feedback from leadership to ensure team members are up-to-date with your company’s standards, ensuring interactions with customers are as positive and constructive as possible.
The term “CRM” is most commonly used in reference to the actual software that acts as the backbone for your process and strategy. The customer is king and data is power– collecting and gathering all possible information about your customers and prospects in a central tool allows sales members to stay organized and make smarter decisions, prioritize communications and connect with customers at exactly the right time.
CRM software unites all of your customer and prospect data in a single tool, bringing added visibility into customer interactions. A CRM is the center of any successful sales organization, the database in which all data, interactions and notes are stored. Organizations use CRM systems to ensure that contact and interaction data can be easily located, sorted and amended as necessary throughout the customer lifecycle. Contacts can be stored hierarchically under a single company or organization, giving sales teams a holistic view of interactions with all relevant employees of a prospect or customer.
Most CRM solutions can track important customer contact information such as:
Social Media Accounts
A CRM also offers features to keep track of every interaction with a contact, whether a phone call, email or in-person meeting. Salespeople can track where customers and prospects are in the buying cycle to determine appropriate levels of contact and opportunities for up-sells or engagement. This full-picture view of your company’s interactions with a customer ensures that anyone throughout the company can know where a customer relationship stands at any given time.
Adopting CRM strategies and implementing a complimentary tool will help your business:
Organize and manage contacts more efficiently
Record a 360-degree view of customer interactions across all departments within your organization, increasing collaboration and ensuring a single, informed customer experience
Improve customer relationships and experience by making it easy to access all information about a customer to provide superior support
Increase revenue and referrals from existing customers thanks to increased customer satisfaction and proactive renewal and referral management
Close more deals by increasing sales productivity and arming your sales team with the best practice processes and tools to close business
Enable sales management to easily identify high or low performing team members or territories
Optimize your marketing programs via real-time analytics that track marketing spend and ROI all the way through the lead-to-order process and through the entire customer lifecycle
Evolve your products and services by systemically capturing customer feedback and by measuring satisfaction
Reduce systems support costs by moving to more modern cloud-based systems that reduce the need for IT support
Measure and optimize your team’s performance with real-time analytics and dashboards powered by your sales force automation system(s)
Who Uses CRM Software?
CRM tools are most commonly used by B2B companies, due to their need to track customers and prospects throughout a long sales cycle and renewal process. However, basically any company can use a CRM, as long as they have customers to manage relationships with. CRM systems solve problems for businesses that need to:
Track and organize customer data and communication history for a significant number of clients
Centralize customer interactions had by multiple team members across departments or roles
See a full picture of sales performance including sales rep quotas, performance and goals
Within those companies, there are a number of groups and departments that benefit from using a CRM, such as:
Sales and Business Development Teams
A CRM is traditionally a sales tool, providing sales reps and management with the information and insights they need throughout the sales process. A 360-degree view of the customer or prospect helps sales teams drive smarter selling decisions. These tools increase organization and streamline tracking client information, letting sales people focus on what they do best– sell.
Business development reps can start their interactions with prospects and record all notes and conversations in the CRM. From there, it’s easy to hand the prospect over to a new sales account owner when they are ready to engage or buy. Sales reps immediately gain access to the client’s history up to that point, catching them up to speed with minimal impact on employee time or resources.
Sales managers and leaders can also benefit from the reporting and record keeping functionality of a CRM, gaining visibility into which team members are hitting goals, at-risk accounts, and more.
Successful sales and marketing teams work in alignment, and being immersed in the company’s CRM will help marketing better support their sales counterparts. Viewing every lead and opportunity helps to inform marketing campaigns, giving marketers a strong understanding of the sales pipeline and opportunity.
Within a CRM, contacts can be organized by their progress in the pipeline. This view of customers lets marketers segment targets for different communications. Additionally, as marketing works to qualify leads, they can pass those leads and their scores directly to the CRM tool.
Customer Service Teams
Customer service and success teams can track their interactions with customers and prospects in the CRM, creating a full picture of how the customer is interacting with all departments within the company, not just sales. This gives any employee visibility into issues or questions their customers may have and enables communication between teams to determine who should potentially follow up with the contact. Some CRM tools even integrate with help desk software, automatically pulling customer interactions in to the CRM and avoiding the need for manual updates.
CRM for Different Business Sizes
Different businesses have different needs. Here are the main three business-size buckets (small business, mid-market, and enterprise) and their CRM needs.
Typically, smaller companies desire a CRM software tool that is easy to learn and offers a wide variety of high-level features. Small businesses may also want to consider implementing a CRM all-in-one solution, rather than a standalone CRM. These tools, outlined in more detail in the “Kinds of CRM Software” section, are often geared toward smaller organizations that want to have more lightweight CRM and marketing automation functionality incorporated into a single tool.
Mid-market businesses are often in transition when it comes to CRM– they have outgrown their starter solution, but aren’t ready to commit to an enterprise-level tool that may come with more features or higher cost than they deem necessary. Many mid-market growth businesses find themselves pushing a lightweight tool to its limits, and beyond, not wanting to commit to a heavier solution. But this potentially hinders their potential to grow their CRM strategy. Scalability is one of the most important features of a CRM for mid-market businesses.
There are plenty of CRM tools to suit enterprise businesses. Larger companies often have more customer-facing departments, leading them to seek out a tool that handles more complex use cases and can scale to thousands of users. A trade-off with some of these systems is that they can take longer to implement and require more training. These tools are often highly customizable, but those customizations take time and developer resources. Enterprise companies typically employ at least one CRM administrator to support questions and needs across teams. An example of a popular enterprise CRM tool is Salesforce CRM
Types of CRMs
All-in-one CRM solutions emerged in the market due in part to an increase in demand for CRM applications among smaller businesses. These all-in-one solutions offer a series of integrated customer-related features attractive to small and mid-market companies.
How are CRM and CRM All-in-One Different?
While both standalone and all-in-one CRM systems offer features to track and manage customer interactions, the two categories differ in their feature sets, their target users, and how they are delivered.
Features and Target Users
CRM software provides exclusively sales-related features, such as contact, account, and pipeline management. These features are typically robust enough for use by large sales teams, with advanced reporting capabilities and user dashboards. These products are commonly marketed to and used by mid-market and enterprise sales organizations.
All-in-one CRM products offer a collection of integrated functions that vary in complexity but are designed to help small businesses manage customer interactions across their websites. These include traditional CRM features, such as lead management or simple email marketing, in addition to other features such as website management and digital commerce tools.
CRM software products are delivered as either a standalone platform or as a series of sales-centric modules. These modules encompass sales force automation functions and integrate with each other to form a unified solution. Other functions, such as marketing automation and customer support, are often implemented separately from the standalone CRM system.
All-in-one CRM products are packaged and sold as an integrated system with built-in tools designed to address a wide range of business issues. These products typically are implemented in place of traditional CRM products, and can also supplant the need for disparate systems such as ERP, HCM, and accounting software.
Nonprofit CRM software: Nonprofit organizations use CRM software that has been specifically designed to manage the relationship between nonprofits and constituents, such as donors, volunteers and members. Nonprofit CRM software helps organizations attract and retain members who are willing to support the organization financially or through volunteer work. This type of software is mainly used by nonprofit employees responsible with outreach, marketing, PR, or fundraising. Managers use these tools to track the efficiency of their marketing efforts and to estimate the involvement of their members in various activities (events, fundraising, etc.).
This type of software integrates with accounting software or payment solutions to track donations. Integration with other software solutions for nonprofit companies like grant management software or fundraising software is also important. Also, integration with other sales and marketing solutions is needed when these features are not included in the CRM solution.
Real Estate CRM: Real estate CRM software enables real estate professionals to identify, track, and manage their customer interactions with existing and prospective clients across the customer lifecycle within a single system. Real estate customer relationship management systems provide many of the same features as generic CRM systems but with an added focus on the real estate industry. These real estate features include integration to MLS services, multiple listing services, and real estate transaction management software, as well as custom workflows, referral management, and communication templates ideal for the real estate industry. Realtors should be well-versed in using a real estate CRM from their license earned from their time at real estate school.
Free CRM Software: CRM solutions can be expensive, especially when tools are licensed by the user. Some companies opt to use a free tool, especially when they are just getting started and want to test whether a tool is right for them. A tool that rates high when shopping for a free CRM is Hubspot. Read Hubspot Reviews to learn more about what users are saying.
Open-Source CRM: Open-source CRMs are also often free and they are extremely customizable. However, those customizations require a high level of technical knowledge from a company with a dedicated developer to make changes to the software’s code. Open-source tools are typically favored by companies.