CRM (customer relationship management) systems are designed to make it easier for your business to keep track of your customers. They tend to work as centralised databases, storing all of your contact details and history. Through your CRM, anyone in your company should be able to find everything they need to know about one of your customers, including how to get in touch with them and how they’ve engaged with your business to date.
The main goal of a CRM system is to up your business’s productivity, allowing better communication between individuals and teams and for tasks to be completed more quickly. Various CRM vendors boast different stats for how much their software will boost your business by, but there are undoubtedly measurable benefits when the right CRM system is brought into a business.
Implementing a CRM system is a project that requires different skill sets. Depending on the size of your company, the process could involve the CEO, the IT manager, a project manager and input from the people who will be using the system the most. Whatever category you fall into, you will need to be aware of how your role is connected to all the rest.
How to choose a CRM system
There are plenty of great CRM solutions on the market. Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics are big players in the industry, but there are many other CRM vendors with varying products and areas of expertise. The choice is complicated further in some industries where you can get industry-specific CRM systems that are built for more specialised tasks, though many CRM systems can be modified to suit your business’s particular requirements.
How do you go about choosing one solution? The first step – before you contact any vendors – is to decide what you as a company want to achieve from the relationships you have with your customers. Obviously, ‘more sales’ is going to be a common answer, so think more specifically. Do you want to be able to follow up on leads faster? Do you want your sales and marketing teams to be more coordinated in their efforts? Do you want to attract more first-time customers?
When you are deciding what’s important to you, think long-term. When deciding on a CRM system, you want one that is going to last you for a good number of years, not one that is going to become outdated as your company evolves.
Once you have settled on some key objectives, you now have something to look for in CRM options. Look for the vendors who highlight functionality in line with your objectives and, as you talk to vendors, remember to ask the sales reps about how their product can help with your specific objectives. Being focused is the only way to narrow down the wide range of potential solutions.
Getting key people on board
Who do you need to get on board to make your CRM implementation as smooth as possible? Aside from the key decision makers who will ultimately choose the solution, there will be people in the business who will be instrumental in its success.
The IT manager needs to be informed, as they will often have a hands-on role with the running of the system. It is also worth considering appointing a project manager – someone with good organisational skills – to oversee the relationship with the vendor and the implementation of the system.
An often-overlooked role in implementation is the super-user. The super-user is a member of the team who is enthusiastic about the new system and is able to learn everything there is to know about it, often acting as the point of contact with the vendor after installation to keep up with any updates. As a regular member of the team, the super-user will be the person on the ground who can help colleagues get excited about the system and teach them how to use it, taking some of the weight off other people, like the IT manager and the project manager. Ultimately, the more people who know what’s going on with the new system, the easier it will be for the whole company to adopt.
Refine the system to suit your business
CRM systems have to suit your business perfectly or they won’t be able to achieve what you need them to. It’s common for businesses to want their CRM system to do more than its basic functionality. As a result, many vendors will be happy to work with you to refine the base system to suit your company’s needs. In fact, this is where most of the cost of a bespoke CRM system lies.
If you’re looking to refine the CRM system that you’ve chosen, the most important things to do are to maintain good communication with the vendor and to test every modification that they make. By doing these things, you will be able to catch any small problems before they become larger and more expensive, and you will be able to guarantee that your CRM system will work exactly as you want it to. Your project manager and super-user both need to be kept in the loop to make sure that the team will be able to use the CRM system effectively, and that the modifications you need are delivered on time.
Another way to customise your CRM is with APIs. APIs are designed to add functionality to existing programs, including CRM systems. As an example, Company Check’s API allows you to pull business data into your CRM system, which could help with activities such as sales prospecting and account-based marketing. By choosing APIs that meet needs your CRM system doesn’t, you allow the system to become more effective and useful for your whole team. Adding APIs also tends to be an easier solution than asking your vendor’s developers to create a completely new modification for the existing system.
Integrate with your website for more efficiency
One problem that a lot of people have with basic CRM systems is that it can be tough to remember to transfer any data gathered on your website over to your CRM database. Most companies use their website as their main source of data on new customers, so it is essential that this data is transferred as completely as possible.
An option to eliminate this problem is to integrate your CRM system with your website so that any data submitted in online forms automatically goes through to your CRM database. You’ll need to talk to your vendor about how to do this with for your particular system, but it will involve work in the backend of your website.
For this reason, you shouldn’t integrate your CRM system and your website until you know for sure that you like the CRM system and that you’re going to stick with it for the long-term. Integrating the site and the CRM system is a big job to do if you’re going to decide that the system isn’t really what you’re looking for.
Don’t lose sight of your targets
The process of looking for a CRM system started with working out what was important to your business, and these targets remain important once the system has been implemented. Because they can often be modified and refined, don’t stop looking for ways to make your CRM system more effective for your business.
To do this, it is important to turn your targets into tangible, measurable goals, such as increasing the number of customers that you are interacting with each month, reducing the number of customer service complaints, or upping the value of an individual customer to your business.
It may also be the case that, in order to reach the targets, it is not the CRM system that needs to be refined, but the way that your team works. While the CRM system should fit your business’s ethos, that doesn’t mean your practices should stay the same. As the team grows more familiar with the system you will be able to find new ways of working that maximise efficiency, helping to make the best use possible of the software. Iteration and optimisation are the key to many areas of business, and they are both crucial to the implementation and ongoing use of a CRM system.