Are you looking to run your business more efficiently? Would you like your company to be more productive, agile, and responsive? Is it time to takey ...
The Seven Essential CRM Best Practices
Written by: Sean McAlindin
Sean McAlindin, a business and arts writer, has a decade-long experience in music and culture journalism and recently ventured into business writing.
Edited by: Sallie Middlebrook
Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.
Updated on September 14, 2023
The Seven Essential CRM Best Practices
The days of the traveling salesman are all but over. With the emergence of customer relationship management (CRM) software, sales, and marketing have entered the digital age.
Modern CRM tools help businesses track, record, analyze, and manage customer interactions. They can be a game-changer for sales, marketing, and even IT, by helping companies understand the customer journey. Any business looking to grow and succeed should seriously consider investing in CRM.
But which are the best CRM systems, and what’s the optimal way to use them? If you are thinking about adding a CRM system to your business, you’ve come to the right place. This guide lays out precisely how to select and leverage CRM for your business, with best practices for everything from planning to learning valuable lessons from the data.
1. Define Your Company’s CRM Goals and Strategy
Analyze current customer management processes
Before you even board the CRM train, your first step should be to take a good look at what you’ve been using to manage your customer experience so far. Whether you’re moving from one software to another, or just entering the world of CRM, you’ll want to take stock of what’s working and what’s not.
If direct phone calls and emails have long been an essential part of your customer service strategy, for instance, you’ll probably want to include them in your new plan. Chances are the Excel spreadsheets can go, but we’re not reinventing the wheel here – we’re just shopping for the best available tires.
Identify strengths and areas for improvement
It’s time to be brutally honest. Which areas of customer service do you do well, and which are lacking? What do you like about your operations and where are your current systems weak? Before making decisions, review your key performance metrics to inform your choices.
Clarify your reasons for implementing a CRM
If you want your team to have maximum buy-in, it’s important to explain why you’ve chosen this or that CRM. It’s going to take time for your team to get up to speed on the new system. If everyone has a clear understanding of the system’s advantages, they’ll be motivated to learn and leverage it.
Getting buy-in upfront from all departments, including sales, marketing, and customer service, will make for a smoother transition when you eventually decide on the right CRM for your business.
Set CRM objectives
What exactly do you hope to achieve with your CRM? Setting clear objectives, such as increasing customer retention, improving sales productivity, or streamlining marketing campaigns, will help guide your choice of CRM system. A clear set of goals will ensure that your CRM investment aligns with your business strategy and helps drive success.
2. Carefully Choose the Right CRM Solution
There’s nothing worse than spending time and money on systems and solutions that don’t work. Choosing the correct CRM system is essential to the success of your sales team, and your business.
Factors to consider
You want a CRM that includes three key capabilities: customizability, scalability, and integration. As you compare CRM systems, be sure to consider cost, ease of use, and customer support.
Keep in mind that there are three main types of CRMs: collaborative, analytical, and operational, and you should know which best fits your needs.
Look at your company’s needs
What exactly does your company need? Nail down your key needs and consider which tools are most likely to deliver. If you think multiple areas of your business could use some CRM support, rank them by priority. Consider which features are most important and the price you’ll be willing to pay.
The size of your company and customer base will likely shape your decision. Some CRMs only allow a certain number of users or can only process so much data without a drop in performance. Be sure to look into this.
Consider the technological aspect of CRM implementation. Do you want in-house software or a cloud-based CRM? A small business’ servers might be able to handle the CRM itself, but if you’re processing millions of customers, a cloud CRM would be more efficient.
An increasingly important qualification for CRM vendors, especially if you use them for lead generation, is their compliance with privacy laws. The nature of your business might require you to keep customer data confidential, so you’ll want to research these requirements before making a commitment.
Talk to your users and gather input
Beyond business goals, consider the needs of the employees who’ll use the CRM system. This will likely be the marketing, sales, and customer support teams, but could be other departments as well.
Arrange a meeting with reps from these departments and ask what they’d like in their CRM. Which features would help the most? How often might they use the CRM? Some employees may already have their eye on a system and pitch it to you.
It’s crucial to have a CRM that matches employee needs, as well as your company’s main devices and workstyles.
Check your budget
Now that you know which CRM features you need, revisit your budget plan and adjust accordingly. Having a clear ceiling ahead of time will prevent you from being swayed by upselling efforts.
On the flip side, some CRM vendors like HubSpot offer free entry-level packages, which could save you a lot of money but may exclude features your business needs.
Also, consider when you’d like to pay: are you looking for a one-and-done payment, an annual subscription, or a monthly fee? The answer to this question might depend on your cash flow and revenue expectations.
Do your research
With a clear picture of your needs and budget, you’re ready to start looking for a CRM. First, do some online research and reach out to industry friends and acquaintances for guidance. Expect to closely examine several CRM providers.
Weigh the input of respected contacts and colleagues, as well as customer ratings and reviews on sites like Trustpilot. You might even call the CRM’s customer service to ask a few questions just to be sure their customer service meets your expectations.
Keep in mind that most CRM providers offer several package options. If your company is growing, make sure the CRM solution will scale with your operations and that the provider is able to provide additional services in growth areas for your company.
Test it out
Once you’ve found a CRM that seems perfect for your needs, schedule a free trial with a sales rep so your staffers can test it out and see if it delivers on its promises. Have your employees evaluate their user experience and make sure it’s compatible with their software, devices, and workstyle.
If the testing experience is a bumpy one, ask the provider if it offers training and post-purchase support.
Negotiate a price
Once you’re confident in your choice, negotiate a deal with the sales rep. Ask if they offer discounts for small businesses or for including add-ons. Sales reps want to make deals – especially as most rely on commissions – so you could save a good chunk of change if you choose to negotiate.
Once you’ve come to an agreement, go ahead and finalize.
3. Plan Your Roll Out
Successful CRM implementation often requires a massive effort, so be sure not to underestimate it. You’ll need to allocate sufficient time and resources to installation and training. Essentially, implementing a new CRM means a wholesale reorganization of operations.
You want to come out the other side of this investment the better for it, so take the time to get it right. How will you roll out your CRM? Will you train supervisors first and then integrate the rest of the team?
The introduction is crucial as CRMs require a clear implementation plan with well-considered steps and timing. Don’t just wing it. Prepare a CRM onboarding, implementation, and training strategy before you turn on the system.
As the CRM goes live, encourage user adoption and engagement by setting clear goals and hosting seminars on how to best use the new software.
4. Provide Comprehensive Training
As you roll out your CRM, you’ll need to provide training across your company. Organize classes to cover the technical and conceptual aspects, while also creating training modules and materials and offering workshops and ongoing support to make sure your staff masters the system.
In the training, lay down some ground rules for using the CRM. Encourage teams to personalize their communications and create incentives to boost CRM use. Establish expectations, workflows and responsibilities for each team member to drive CRM usage across the organization.
5. Prioritize Data Integrity
One of the biggest benefits of CRM is its ability to organize and analyze data. You can ensure your software reaches its maximum potential by establishing data-entry standards for your staff.
It’s a good idea to standardize data tags and naming conventions across your organization. And before you implement the CRM, clean up your data supply to help smooth the transition.
Once your CRM is in motion, conduct regular data audits, implement data validation tools, and activate duplicate detection mechanisms. Encourage your team to take responsibility for data quality and make corrections as needed.
Soon after launch, you should start mining your CRM data for meaningful trends and patterns that could shape management decisions and help customize your CRM use for your business.
6. Foster a Culture of Collaboration
A significant advantage of modern CRM software is its purported ability to integrate all business functions. With sales, marketing, operations, customer service, and management all using the same platform, everything should be streamlined and in one place.
Before CRM you always had to dig through troves of old emails. With CRM, all those emails and other messages are all in one place. The goal is to strengthen collaboration and enhance the customer experience by ending the days when callers were passed from department to department seeking answers.
Some systems you’ll want to integrate into your CRM are marketing, sales, and customer support. With your CRM handling menial tasks like organizing leads and sending out emails and surveys, your sales team will be freed up for more important work.
It will help foster a culture of cooperation by setting organizational goals and standards around CRM. This is a tool that should help your entire firm work smarter and more efficiently. You may want to embrace it as your main platform for collaboration and communication.
7. Continuously Monitor, Measure, and Improve Performance
Continuously monitoring your CRM is the best way to optimize its performance. Identify and track important metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to gauge the impact of your CRM and how it might be improved.
Mine the data and leverage your CRM’s predictive analytics to get the most out of your tools. Continue to refine the processes and make data-driven decisions. Besides customers, a CRM can also track and analyze the performance of your sales reps.
You should be able to see which reps are meeting their quotas and how they interact with customers. Your reps should always know how they’re performing compared to the rest of the team, providing a constant incentive for everyone to put in their best effort.
As it gathers data, your CRM should be able to find trends, make projections, and guide your decisions in advance. It’s best to work with your CRM to create detailed reports that inform strategy.
Installing a robust CRM system is a great deal of work, but following a handful of best practices can make it all worthwhile. You and your business can get the most out of this essential software tool, driving long-term sales growth and broader success. So follow these steps, maximize your CRM benefit, and take your company to ever greater heights.
Best CRM Practices FAQs
Effective CRM strategies typically involve a combination of people, processes, and technologies. This includes having well-defined customer segments and personas, a streamlined sales process, efficient data management and analysis, and a customer-focused culture.
Common pitfalls when implementing a CRM system include failing to align the system with business objectives, underestimating the complexity of implementation, failing to adequately train staff, and not obtaining buy-in from key stakeholders. It is important to thoroughly plan and prepare for the implementation process and to communicate the benefits of the system to all stakeholders.
Businesses can ensure the successful adoption of a CRM system by obtaining buy-in from key stakeholders, providing adequate training and support to staff, establishing clear goals and objectives, and regularly monitoring and adjusting their strategies as needed.
Some emerging trends in CRM best practices include greater use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, increased focus on customer experience, and the use of predictive analytics to forecast customer behavior and preferences.
To ensure data privacy and security when using a CRM system, businesses should implement security measures such as data encryption, access controls, and firewalls. They should also establish policies and procedures for data handling and provide regular training to staff on data privacy best practices.
Some best practices for data management in a CRM system include establishing data quality standards, regularly auditing and cleaning data, providing ongoing training to staff, and using data validation tools.
Businesses can use CRM to improve customer service by providing personalized and efficient support, tracking customer interactions across all channels, and by using data analysis to identify and address common customer issues.
Businesses can measure the effectiveness of their CRM strategies by tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) such as customer satisfaction, customer retention, sales productivity, and marketing ROI.
What is Operational CRM?
Published on November 17, 2023
What is a CRM Database? (and How to Build a CRM Database System)
Published on November 17, 2023
You might’ve heard of customer relationship management systems (CRM systems) as powerful tools to take your business from good to great. Andit’s ...
CRM Pricing: How Much Does a CRM Cost?
Published on November 17, 2023
As a business owner or sales leader, you might’ve heard other people in your industry extolling the virtues of customer relationship management(CR ...