Everyone talks about CRMs. They’ve become part of the alphabet soup and daily lives of tech-minded business professionals. But whether you’re new to the concept, or just a little uncertain about what to look for in a good CRM, it can be difficult (read: intimidating) to make an informed decision that you feel good about.
Let’s jump right in and answer eight of the most important questions you should ask when considering a CRM software for your business. From the basic questions you’re too afraid to ask, to insider tips you wouldn’t know to ask — we’ve got you covered.
What is a CRM?
A CRM is a Customer Relationship Management software. It’s a program that gathers up all of your customer information to help you manage those relationships by unifying your customer and account data across your organization.
If you are still running your business on a combination of note cards, white boards, Word docs, what’s in your team’s heads and ever-more-complicated Excel sheets, then think of a CRM as a tool that brings order and organization to your business’s information chaos.
What does a CRM do?
At its core, a good CRM platform should help you manage the customer relationship. Feels like that should be common sense, right? But that’s not always the case. Some CRMs do very little. Some do much more than you need. No matter what someone tries to sell you, do a little research to find out what kind of tools are out there.
What should a good CRM do for your business?
A good CRM will have the ability to store contact information, accounts, business info — all of the basic “data” that you want to keep track of. More than that, it should help your team document the customer account, with context, within your business. It should serve as the digital guide as you manage accounts from unknowns, to prospects, to leads, to quoted, to closed-won, to customer, to maintenance, to delight.
Having your business and customer data in a CRM allows anyone at your company to get a clear view of where that customer is at, what recent interactions they have had and what it is they need.
Ideally, having a solid CRM platform in place makes your life — and your team’s life — easier.
What are the features people don’t know to look for in a CRM?
CRM software is becoming the Swiss Army Knife of digital platforms to help provide holistic views of a business. Instead of just accounts and contacts (like an old-school Rolodex), CRM platforms are becoming much more versatile account management platforms, and incorporating key features like:
- Ticketing and service orders
- SLA tracking (Service Language Agreements)
- Documents, proposals and quotes
- The ability to automate repeating tasks and activities, such as sales follow-ups or emails and calls that need to be sent (for example: the prospect that is going on vacation but would like you to reach back out next quarter to chat about a specific need).
The robust CRM platforms even have additional features and integrations like a professional services automation (PSA) software that may include:
- Inventory capabilities
- Warehouse tracking
- Serialized product numbering
- Purchasing and receiving
- Linking contracts to accounts
- Tracking for a team’s billable hours
- And a whole host of sales tools to help move prospects through the funnel
The biggest trend for CRMs is to provide more integrations and features. The best CRMs are much more than just Customer Relationship Management Software packages now; they are tools to run your business around.
How does having a CRM software improve customer service and help you run a better business?
CRMs used to be used almost exclusively by sales teams and marketing teams. Now, the robust ones are being used across departments and at multiple levels in an organization. When everyone has access to the same data and information, your customer experience improves across the board.
For example, if a customer has been having a problem or difficulty with your product/service, and your team is tracking that through some type of ticketing system within your CRM, other people can see those notes and exchanges and have context to where a customer might be at. Your Account Management Team can see that info and know they may need to reach out. Your Sales Team knows that now may not be the best time to discuss a contract renewal; or they can follow up on their open ticket before they make a call so they can address their needs right up front.
And if you have all of this tied together across your CRM, you’re in a position to provide better service for your customer. Information is documented and follows the data flow that you want. Your customer’s experience improves because nothing falls through the cracks and every member of a team is on the same page.
A good CRM will capture all of the important business information that relates back to your prospects, accounts and customers. Much more than just factual contact information (Jerry is the IT guy). When all of the data and information is right there at your fingertips, a team is in a much better position to provide great customer experiences.
Your ability to close new deals and keep current customers happy improves at every stage.
Do you really need a CRM for your business?
Yes. Absolutely yes.
If you do not have a CRM platform in place for your business, you need to get one. Seriously. A solid CRM will help your business at every stage of your customer journey: from Attract, to Convert, to Close, to Delight and every sub-stage your business or industry may have in-between.
You may be good at managing personal and professional relationships, and your team may be amazing at building that strong rapport with your clients, but if that’s all in your head it can’t be replicated. What happens when you’re on vacation? Or when one of your star account managers leaves for another job? How do you move forward with customers (or potential deals in progress) when all of the information was just in someone’s head? If the information is undocumented, it’s “dumb” information: It’s impossible to act on in the future.
Many businesses struggle to get over the growth hump, that plateau of stagnation that is so, so difficult to get over. You’ve seen it before. A company has done the same thing for years, they get new clients and sales but they are barely pacing with the clients and contracts they are losing. So the net result is nearly zero growth.
Having a solid CRM in place is one of the essential keys to help your business grow. At a certain scale, it’s simply impossible to run a business well without having a digital platform in place to keep track of everything. You just can’t do it. Things will fall through the cracks, information will be dropped in handoffs, and it will negatively impact your productivity, your team and, ultimately, your revenue.
How do you pick a CRM that will work for your business long term?
Also, if you are looking to implement a CRM platform for the first time, or planning on switching to a new CRM, be sure to do your homework. Plan for future-proofing by identifying a CRM that can grow with you. There are many small start-up CRMs that will work well when you are a quiet 1-5 person shop; but as your business grows and your needs increase, they simply do not scale well, or they lack additional features and account management tools you’ll need. Then you are stuck needing to migrate to a new technology stack for your CRM, which can be time-consuming and costly.
Be realistic about what you will need for your CRM, both for today and in a best-case scenario for your company. If you hit all of your sales and business goals for the next two-to-three years (the realistic ones, not the had-a-random-pitch-in-an-elevator-and-landed-a-six-figure-contract dreams), what would your business look like? How about five years? Find a CRM solution that will be able to grow with you and accommodate your near-future needs.
And be realistic. Many small businesses talk themselves into buying a full Salesforce buildout or a giant platform built on SAP or Oracle. You do not need those platforms for a small business that is growing, and you probably don’t have the deep specialists on your team to implement them correctly and optimize them. It’s a waste of your time and resources. (And they become incredibly expensive.)
How do you ensure success with something as big as a CRM?
Do the onboarding. Any good CRM package that will scale with your business has a dedicated plan to onboard you, and training tools to get your team firing on all cylinders.
These plans are not arbitrarily thrown together.
If the company has a dedicated training and implementation team (and customer success team after the sale), then they have experts who have managed hundreds if not thousands of installations. They know what works and what doesn’t. They know when taking a shortcut leads to dangerous pitfalls. And they know what it takes for you and your business to be successful.
It is extremely important that you do the onboarding so you can maximize the ROI on your CRM. A little extra time up front sets your team up for long-term success.
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Finding a CRM is just one step toward growing your business. Want more tips? Download our 8 Essential Tips to Grow your Technology Services SMB eBook.