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CRM system: How it can help grow your business

Find out how you can integrate CRM tools throughout your business for increased efficiency, more sales and better customer service

4-minute read

Businesses of all sizes have been using customer relationship management (CRM) systems as sales and marketing boosters, but sophisticated entrepreneurs are integrating them across their organizations for even more benefits.

“The CRM tool has evolved over the years and often becomes a critical part of a business’s growth strategy, offering more functionality and more integrations into other areas of the business,” says Tyler Lockyer, Business Advisor, BDC Advisory Services.

“More businesses should know about the power of CRM tools.”

What is a CRM?

CRM software has historically helped companies manage their relationships with their customers—from prospects to quotes and beyond. Typically, it’s been used by entrepreneurs to help organize and make sales efforts more efficient.

A CRM can help you:

  • retain existing customers by improving customer service
  • sell more to existing customers by uncovering opportunities
  • automate marketing and sales processes
  • better track and manage business performance
  • close deals faster by storing information in a central location
  • streamline account management by tracking all interactions with each customer
  • enhance pipeline management by tracking performance against sales quotas
  • save time by improving team communication
  • empower your field sales force with information on their mobile devices

CRMs give you real-time customer, sales and other key business data so you see where you stand with conversions, revenue and other metrics.

A 24/7 digital hub for your business

Most CRM software is cloud-based, which means employees have 24/7 access from any device, in the office or on the road. From a sales perspective, the technology captures and organizes information from current and prospective customers in an integrated system. All employees gain a single view of prospects and customers, allowing them to better collaborate and coordinate activities.

However, in recent years, most CRM software has become more comprehensive and can now be integrated throughout all aspects of a business, including accounting, warehousing and ecommerce.

Many entrepreneurs think of their CRM as a part of a holistic system that they use throughout their business. It provides a digital hub that offers insight into many departments, making it easier for staff to make informed decisions.

For example, once a prospect has been converted into a buyer, a CRM tool can be used to:

  • quickly generate a quote
  • offer insight into available inventory (or capable-to-promise)
  • more easily create an order for warehouse staff, and understand lead-times
  • integrate with accounting to generate an invoice
  • manage warranty and service
  • send marketing emails and other communications at pre-selected intervals, tailored to customer segments

CRMs have evolved from lead generation tools to integrating with other core technology so information can be passed throughout departments.

Benefits of a CRM system

A CRM system brings together information across the organization and allows real-time insight into everything from sales leads to referrals to inventory to marketing intelligence.

Lockyer says one of the more obvious and impactful benefits is the ability to empower salespeople to more quickly provide quotes, which often contributes to improved close-rates.

”We know that businesses are missing out on sales opportunities because of their time-to-quote. One reason for this is a lack of digital tools to help generate quotes, which is functionality that could live within your CRM solution.”

Another reason is the lack of historical information (quote and actuals), which helps improve accuracy on the quote and efficiency by leveraging historical information. This information can also live within a CRM solution.

Many CRMs have a CPQ (configure, price, quote) feature that can create a quote using a calculator within the CRM. And if the CRM is integrated with inventory software, a salesperson is even able to commit to an order within a specific time frame because they can see what’s available.

Digitizing the quoting process is a powerful use case and it’s why many businesses want to use a CRM.

“The visibility into the capacity of the company to fulfil orders by giving salespeople a broader view of the organization provides even more efficiency and better service. It’s possible to turn an accepted quote into an order using various integration points of a CRM and other business management software,” he says.

Integrating with accounting, warehousing or ecommerce software also takes out the manual work involved with sharing and re-entering information into different systems.

What’s the difference between a CRM and an ERP?

While a CRM manages how customers interact with a business, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution takes a similar approach to internal, back-end systems.

For example, a CRM gathers, tracks and stores customer data for marketing, sales and customer service solutions; an ERP connects business processes like accounting, procurement, inventory and production.

“Many ERP solutions will have some level of basic CRM functionality in a single, unified solution that services many departments. For more advanced CRM functionality, such as complex commissions, warranty and automated lead routing, enterprise-level CRM solutions can integrate with an organization’s ERP, which will ensure data integrity and availability across the business,” says Lockyer.

If your business already has an ERP, it’s possible to integrate a more advanced CRM with it so that front-end CRM data can be linked to back-office ERP data. This allows you to take customer data to help improve budgeting and forecasting while also providing faster and better customer service.

How to choose a CRM

It’s important to consider the industry in which your business operates and the structure of the work you do to pinpoint an organizational, financial and functional fit.

“Identify your requirements first, including the integrations. What existing systems and software need to integrate with the CRM? What departments need access to it?” says Lockyer.

“Once you’ve assessed your needs, you can look at right-sized solutions that meet your requirements and integrations. Be thoughtful about all the features, functions and data that teams need; think beyond the standard sales process.”

How to implement a CRM

Bringing in a CRM is a commitment for your company and the benefits will only be experienced if you take a thoughtful approach to the integration. Here are some steps to consider.

1. Organize your business process

Businesses that implement CRM systems should think past sales and marketing functions. Lockyer says it’s critical to assess all of the systems that will interface with it.

“Look at the tools of each department and consider how a CRM can integrate with each of them. And examine your higher level, end-to-end business process and identify where the integration points are for CRM. What will be its purpose in your organization? How will each department and staff member use it? What is the available functionality within the CRM solution and how can you use it to its maximum potential?”

2. Appoint a project manager

You need a digitally-savvy point person to take responsibility for the implementation of the CRM. They will manage the vendor regarding the system’s configuration, staff training and rollout. It’s helpful to ensure they have ample time to launch the project in stages with milestones that include testing with sample data.

3. Configure the CRM to match your business

Lockyer says the potential benefits of a CRM come less from the solution and more from the integrated plan. “If you’re entering data about sales leads and customers, that’s just a rolodex. You have to be careful not to use a CRM in a silo. Take that data end to end and make sure there are two-way integration points to enable your salespeople and the rest of the organization to have more information at their fingertips.”

4. Clean up your data

Take the opportunity to refresh information and procedures across all departments. Make sure all contact lists are up to date and all data is accurate and relevant.

5. Train your team

All staff members across all required departments will need to be trained on how to use the CRM. It’s important that everyone is aware of all integration points, not just the ones in their area. The more people can see the big picture of how a CRM works, the more impactful it will be.

Employees may need a detailed explanation of the system’s advantages, hands-on training and ongoing support as they work out any initial challenges.

6. Launch and improve

Once your initial testing is done on sample data, it’s time to input your entire contact list and other information. Your CRM implementation manager should keep an eye on how the system is being used and get employee feedback to make any needed tweaks. Revisit the system regularly to consider adding more complex features and integrations.

Free and low-cost CRM tools

CRM solutions fall into different categories, from online solutions to complex multi-site implementations. Visit this page to discover free and low-cost CRM tools.

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