What is a CRM and what does CRM stand for?

Your company may be yet to try out a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, or you could fall within the 82% of companies that are currently utilising CRMs for your daily sales operations. Regardless of which category you land in, this article will demonstrate some of the best practices sales teams around the world are currently using to harness the power of their CRM platforms to improve sales performance.

So firstly, what is CRM? For those who don’t know, the letters CRM stand for customer relationship management; the term typically refers to a digital system or platform which an organisation uses to organise its interactions with existing and potential customers. The theory behind the usage of such systems has its origins in the 1970’s, when a number of businesses began taking advantage of technological advances which allowed them to record customer sentiment and satisfaction levels alongside records of their purchase history and other interactions with the company. This in turn led to the now widely accepted idea that it would be a more lucrative approach to become customer emphatic as opposed to product emphatic.

The significance of CRM revolutionised the way companies interact with its customers. Today, technology has advanced even further to make CRM systems hugely sophisticated and intelligent, with many businesses benefitting from the extensive features that are now available, such as:

  • Contact management – with secure and searchable records of customers, prospects and leads.
  • Lead management – such as lead scoring and segmentation.
  • Task and activity management allowing easy scheduling and task tracking with calendar integrations for meeting and follow-ups.
  • Sales pipeline management and forecasting
  • Reporting and analytics for real-time sales data with the ability to customise reports for performance evaluation.
  • Integration with other customer-focused activities such as marketing automation and service management.

The above features  barely scratch the surface of what a CRM platform can do, which is why many organisations opt to spend thousands per year on leading CRM providers such as Salesforce, HubSpot, Pipedrive and more to manage their customer and prospect interactions.

At Firestarter, we often see that even though a lot of businesses are choosing to adopt a CRM-based approach to sales, many of them aren’t making the most of what their CRM platform can do. In the next section we will explore some different types of CRM platforms and provide some guidance on which is the best to choose for your business type and why.

Choosing the right CRM system for your business

Despite the role that a CRM platform plays in terms of improving your sales process, it is often quite difficult in choosing one that is suitable to your business. The difficulty stems form the many solutions and modern technologies that CRM platforms offer, but it is also essential to consider how you are going to implement and use the system within your business operations. The biggest factors for any business when investing in CRM are often cost, scalability, and features. However, perhaps the most important factor of them all, is your own business specific needs. The best approach to choosing the right CRM system is one that is aligned with your business goals, understanding the way in which your business operates now, and how it will evolve in the future. Weigh up your budget, evaluate what you use your CRM tool for most, and research whether your desired system matches up with your company goals and aspirations.

CRM systems for corporate organisations

The requirements of a CRM system from a corporate perspective will differ greatly to that of an SME. Corporate companies often deal with larger volumes of data, extensive customer bases and often more complex organisational structures across multiple geographies. For large corporates, a CRM system must comfortably offer seamless scalability to keep up with corporate demands, enabling efficient management of data whilst driving sustained efficiency and productivity across all teams.

Moreover, a CRM system fit for corporate use should offer in-depth insights into sales performance, market trends and forecasting to support strategic decision making. As well as offering detailed insights, many corporates use an existing suite of enterprise programs, so the ability to integrate these systems into their CRM platform is vital for a seamless flow of data and consistency across their organisation.

Through a corporate’s often complex organisational structure, we find that there is a need for collaboration features and workflow automation to limit the manual tasks that sales teams carry out on a day-to-day basis. Advanced collaboration features, along with workflow automation, help streamline operations and enhance cross-departmental communications.

While SMEs and corporate companies share many CRM needs, the scale and complexity of corporate operations often require more advanced and tailored features. Below are our tried and tested top picks for corporate CRM systems.

CRM systems for corporate organisations – Firestarter’s Top Picks

  • Salesforce
  • Hubspot Enterprise
  • Zoho CRM
  • Pipedrive

CRM systems for SME organisations

Before CRM systems became popular, your everyday SME could’ve perhaps survived quite happily without the need of a CRM solution. But in modern times, where customer relationships are a defining factor in sales performance, not having a CRM solution, even at an SME level could be holding you back massively.

So, what are the benefits of having a CRM system at an SME level? To begin with, it simply gives you a consistent and efficient method of keeping track of all your contacts and every interaction with them. Then, controlled communication and task management is key to maintaining good customer relationships. Dependent on your industry & location competition can be fierce for an SME, simply having good reviews is no longer enough. Tailored and regular communications to your audience, optimising the customer journey, and paying attention to your customers’ needs are the new standard in successful selling.

Having an optimised CRM system allows you to be competitive in the sales landscape. With extensive reporting facilities available, SMEs can study their customers’ needs and buying behaviour by analysing which products/services they’ve purchased, customer satisfaction levels and future buying habits with indicators for cross-selling and up-selling additional products and services. Not only do CRM systems improve communications and customer service they also include marketing campaign tracking functionalities allowing seamless flow of work between marketing and sales teams.

Implementing a CRM system at SME level brings about streamlined processes, improved customer relationships, and enhanced efficiency which may have previously been lacking. It serves as a valuable tool for SMEs focused on growth and sales improvement in todays competitive markets.

CRM system for SME – Firestarter’s Top Picks

  • Hubspot Free/Pro
  • OnePage
  • Zoho CRM
  • Insightly
  • Freshsales

How sales teams use CRM effectively

Where customer relationships stand at the forefront of success, teams must constantly navigate the dynamic and competitive terrain of sales. The very best teams do this by harnessing the power of CRM systems; rather than just providing a competitive edge, some organisations have used CRM to completely transform their business. For example, multinational retailer Tesco uses it’s Clubcard for targeted marketing actions that drive sales. Tesco have over four million different variations of its quarterly mailing communications that provide discounts and offers specific to each customer.

Here at Firestarter, we’ve found through our 10 plus years of helping businesses sell more of whatever they sell that successful sales teams who leverage CRM systems, use a combination of the following:

Sales processes & pipeline management

All successful sales teams require a clear and constructed sales process that helps to improve performance and drive growth. A CRM system’s job is to streamline workflows by ensuring each step in the sales process is optimised efficiently and in a productive manner. Throughout all stages of the sales funnel, a well defined process ensures that no opportunities are missed and that leads are managed accordingly to their stage in the sales pipeline.

Managing your pipeline through a CRM system will help you to categorise your leads and opportunities in order to understand the next actions that are needed to move things forward. This kind of management is key to turning leads into sales, and sales into loyal customers. An expert sales team will use their streamlined processes in conjunction with the precision of their CRM platform to drive sustained success by ensuring every opportunity and interaction is maximised in their pipeline.

Management

CRM can be a powerful tool to empower sales managers with valuable insights into their team’s performance, customer interactions and sales metrics in detail. Managers that impose a data driven approach enable effective decision-making. This approach can be used to spot strengths and weaknesses in the team, gaps in sales processes and ultimately steer their organisation toward improvement.

What sets apart a good sales manager from a top-notch sales manager is someone who takes a multifaceted approach, consisting of regular performance analysis, data-driven decision-making, accurate forecasting and a personalised approach to corporate sales training. In essence, a top sales manager uses their own expertise to transform the CRM system from just a data tool to that of an essential and dynamic tool used for making strategic decisions.

Forecasting

Forecasting plays a key role in any sales operation; without it you can’t allocate resources, plan budgets, make strategically backed decisions and more. The very best sales teams have streamlined sales processes in place that help to provide them with accurate sales forecasting. CRM systems can analyse historical data, customer trends and existing pipeline value, which not only helps to provide accurate forecasting but helps to set priorities straight within an organisation.

Automation

With time being such a precious commodity in sales, the best sales teams will look to use CRM automation whenever they can. Automation helps to streamline repetitive tasks such as assigning follow up calls, lead scoring, email campaigns and calendar scheduling. By automating routine processes, teams can ignite efficiency, reduce manual errors, and create a more seamless and responsive sales process.

Effective sales teams will automate areas in their sales process which essentially ensure accuracy, avoid missing opportunities, and ultimately save the team time. Sales teams harness CRM automation through the following methods:

  • Prioritise important leads
  • Re-engage lapsed customers
  • Automated marketing communications
  • Efficient sales sequences
  • Targeted and personalised nurture paths
  • Content snippets
  • Proposal generation
  • Automated website chatbots

Ongoing training

Like we always say here at Firestarter, your CRM is only as good as the team that uses it. Your CRM shouldn’t be viewed as the answer to all your sales team’s needs, but as the tool that helps to drive the processes to ultimately get your business selling more. But always remember, it’s not enough to just install a system and expect everything to fall into place. It requires careful planning, a clear sales process and discipline across the entire team to really get the value from your CRM. Recognising this, we emphasise the critical role of ongoing sales training, especially in a sales-focused environment, to unlock the true power of your CRM. Through the right sales training, your team will be ready with the understanding of the intricacies of a CRM system, and will therefore be able to programme and consistently use it in a manner that aligns with your business objectives.

Maximising CRM for sales success

Harnessing the power of CRM systems has become not just a competitive advantage but a transformative force for businesses worldwide. The commonality between expert sales teams and CRM systems isn’t about finding a magic solution; it’s about crafting a dynamic strategy that propels businesses toward sustained success. Those who utilise CRM optimally, coupled with ongoing training, will find themselves at the forefront of growth, efficiency, and lasting customer relationships. The journey doesn’t end with adopting a CRM, it begins with unlocking its power through strategic expertise and continuous learning.

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