Whether you’re already using one or you’ve been putting it off for a while now, at some point most business owners are going to ask: does my business need a CRM system? They can seem like more trouble than they’re worth, but the key is to remember that they’re only as good as the information you enter. In this post, we’re going into more depth about what a CRM system does, an overview of the investment you can expect to get one in place and some advice about how to make the most of your CRM system.
Yes it does. Next question.
Really the next question is what you want a CRM system to do for you.
There are no end of options out there when it comes to CRM (customer relationship management) so we’ll simplify this into three possible levels
What does a CRM system do?
Basic CRM process
At its simplest a CRM system is just a data file of customer information. That’s why every business should have one.
Yet in this basic form it might not be a fully-functioning CRM system. It could be a simple excel file that holds the names, email addresses and contact dates for your customers or prospects.
**If you went really old school you could collect all your contacts’ business cards in an alphabetically-arranged box ?**
You can keep basic customer details this way but unless you’re an excel guru then your ability to manipulate data is limited. It’s little more than an electronic address book.
We ran our business this way for maybe five years. It was a viable solution, though with the benefit of hindsight perhaps a false economy.
Cost of this option: Zero if you’ve got Microsoft Office
Entry level CRM system
Every business owner will reach the point where they decide a proper CRM system is needed. For many the trigger point will be that more than one employee needs to input or access customer data. If you’re still on excel this is pretty much impossible.
A simple CRM system will be a repository for all the customer data that’s in your spreadsheet and you should be able to automatically upload that file.
It will be visible to all system users and all will be able to edit. So if your marketing manager chats to a customer they can see the history of previous interactions and add their own summary after the conversation.
You will probably be able to connect the CRM system to your email so that email threads with those customers are visible too.
It’s possible to tag every contact in the CRM system with info that’s relevant to you. For example, everyone you met at “EXPO 2022” or anyone who’s a “Previous Customer”.
With this approach you can build simple sales pipelines so at any point in time you can see how many Suspects, Prospects and Quotes you have in progress. This makes it an invaluable forecasting tool.
Cost of this option: around £100 per user per year for a system such as LACRM.
Professional CRM system
A pro CRM system will come with all sorts of clever tech that more simple systems avoid. Integrations with other software will be better, with storage options and security protocols beefed up.
From a user perspective the big step forward is in the time horizon it manages. An entry level system is mainly about reporting what’s gone, with a simple sales funnel forecast.
A pro system will help you view your potential customers in a much more forward-looking way. It might enable you to track who’s clicking on your social posts and when, enabling you to target messaging and sales follow-ups.
It could allow you to set up email campaigns based on customer profile types, allowing you to be more focused and efficient in lead generation.
In turn these features help you build tailored sales funnels, figuring out where bottlenecks are and identifying where you need to take corrective actions.
This comes at a price but it might be one you’re willing to invest in, especially as the number of sales people in your business grows.
Cost: £20-£100 per month per user for a leading system such as Hubspot or Salesforce
The importance of defining your sales process for CRM
Which of these three levels you opt for will reflect your business goals and aspirations, so make the decision to step up when it’s right for you. Not because you think you should.
And remember that old IT adage: Design your process before specifying the system. A CRM system will not give you a slick sales process, you and your team need to create that THEN find a system that tracks and reports it.
You might also want to build “correct” use of the CRM system into your team’s KPIs too. It’s easy for standards to slip and if you want to maintain quality data you might need to incentivise people to ensure it becomes habit.
Which leads us onto the question of clean data…
The importance of clean data in CRM
Clean data is the elephant in the room when it comes to a CRM system. We’ve written elsewhere about how a CRM system can come to look like a neglected freezer with dark corners and out of date storage… read more here.
A well-maintained CRM system is truly a team effort. It depends on everyone recording their customer interactions and deleting out of date information so that everyone benefits.
That’s a laborious task and there’s no hiding that it suits some personality types better than others!
But if standards are allowed to slip then this inanimate software quickly attracts the ire of the commercial team. Before you know it sales people are blaming the CRM for poor quality leads and missed sales targets. This can’t be allowed to happen.
So you’ve got lots of choices when looking at CRM systems. That brings us right back to the opening question: What do you want a CRM process to do for your business?
Once you’re clear on the purpose and how it will improve your sales activity and performance then you’re ready to go shopping!