Why are CRM systems important?
In some organisations there can be confusion as to the precise nature and purpose of a CRM (client relationship management) system. Perhaps understandably in such circumstances, some employees may be reluctant to familiarise themselves with the system introduced and more importantly, how to utilise it. In this blog, we will try to explain what CRM systems are, how they should perhaps be used and how they differ in purpose from that of the contact database although typically the two go hand in hand.
In simple terms, CRM systems provide a means of capturing the engagement process between an organisation and both its customers and potential customers. CRM systems do this by capturing details of any interaction in a way that should be easily and quickly accessible to all parties that need it i.e., those tasked with reviewing such relationships and or pursuing new sales opportunities.
Some CRM systems are extremely sophisticated by design and can hold a great deal of information using a vast array of fields. Such detailed intelligence can be highly useful provided that the user can easily run bespoke reports or find within the system relevant information to the exclusion of irrelevant matter quickly. At this point, it is worth explaining the difference between contact databases and the role they typically serve and CRM systems and their purpose.
Contact databases when populated effectively contain key data (names, addresses, job titles, email, phone numbers, etc.) that allow the user(s) to contact those people and organisations as appropriate at a time that suits. Such contact may be at an individual level or indeed at group level which again can be relatively small or conversely quite large. Understandably, the size of the group and content of the communication, will depend on several factors (more follows on this later). It should be pointed out that any such activity is subject to data protection rules and regulations with the European GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) having come into force in the UK back in May 2018; nevertheless, a well-structured, common sense approach to this means appropriate engagement should not be hindered.
CRM systems provide their users with the ability to capture useful intelligence on organisations and the people who work for them so that a greater understanding of their potential business support requirements can be obtained. They may also include potential methods by which such opportunities can be explored (more to follow). Such information may have been acquired via publicly accessible information such as a company websites or press announcements or, as a direct result of a discussion or meeting between both parties in either a formal or informal setting. The benefit of recording such information including the nature of any previous engagement, is that it allows the user to review what has been discussed and plan for any future engagement.
In larger, more sophisticated organisations where potentially there is a large sales force, being armed with such information is essential for setting the right agenda, creating the right impression and avoiding the appearance of being disconnected internally. It also means that the potential for going over old ground with a client or prospect and consequently frustrating or annoying that contact(s) is largely eradicated. From an internal perspective, the CRM system helps ensure time and effort is minimised within an organisation and that internal discord is avoided as those new to a relationship are aware of pre-existing ones and can therefore avoid unwittingly undermining them.
CRM systems when used appropriately, can act as a significant aid to the driving of effective sales meetings, sales pipeline reviews and new lead generation (see blog - why filling the sales hopper is vital to longevity). Almost without exception, it is a truism to say that in order to increase the flow of new sales leads within an organisation, an increase in the size of the sales pipeline is required. There are of course other factors in play such as clarity of the sales proposition itself and the effectiveness of any approach but, if the volume of new leads is too small or conversely too large to manage, then the sales pipeline can be increased or reduced accordingly. For this reason, having quick access to the pipeline via a CRM system report is essential as such transparency means changes to volume can be made and progress reviewed against the pursuit of leads. Furthermore, responsibilities and timelines can be allocated and assigned as necessary.
Earlier, contact databases were referred to as a support tool for engaging with customers or prospects. Well organised contact databases used in conjunction with mass mailer software can be utilised to impart valuable information to large numbers of contacts. This can then serve to inform and educate contacts, shape their thinking and in some instances inspire them to act. Such action may lead to further engagement with your organisation. With this in mind, a carefully planned, time sensitive programme of engagement can be built around customers and targets thus keeping your organisation front of mind. This is important in helping to ensure that your customers or contacts talk to you, not your competitors when they are ready to do so.
In summary, successful, proactive organisations will tend to have well-used, frequently populated contact databases and CRM systems which help them communicate with both customers and targets in a timely manner. Such systems should serve to aid the setting of effective one to one business meetings which will hopefully lead to new support requirements or product sales. (See section on business development training for more on this area.)