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Technology Tip

Technology Tip
Dave Pelland Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.

Getting Started With CRM Software

Getting Started With CRM Software

Customer relationship management (CRM) software can improve the effectiveness of your small business sale efforts and operations.

CRM software helps companies organize information and processes to make it easier to stay in touch with, and serve, customers and prospects more efficiently by automating a lot of the follow-up and organizational work that’s easy to overlook in the day-to-day grind of running a growing business.

CRM has long been a staple of the sales operations of larger companies, but a new generation of cloud and mobile CRM tools are making small and medium businesses the fastest-growing category of CRM users.

Regardless of the size of your business, it’s easier to start with a CRM system designed for smaller companies and scaling up functionality as you grow than using paper records that you’ll want to convert into a digital format later.

Getting Started

CRM software helps automate key aspects of your sales funnel and customer service, such as following up with leads and prospects, checking in with existing customers, tracking orders, and resolving customer service issues.

CRM provides a shared database of customers, leads, and vendors, as well as industry or local contacts, so you and your team can keep track of who your team is talking with, when, and what’s said.

By having a record of every interaction you’ve had with a customer or prospect on a single screen, it’s easier to understand your relationship instantly and identify the next step to improve that relationship or generate new opportunities.

Along with customer conversations and email messages, you can also use CRM features to track:

  • Tasks
  • Events
  • Projects
  • Pending orders
  • Customer service issues

A CRM system will bring this information together, and make it easier for people to share information and collaborate on customer accounts.

Most systems also allow you to tag records with categories such as a customer’s location, who referred them, and other details that allow your sales team to prioritize their efforts. If a sales rep is visiting a customer, for instance, it’s easy to see any prospects or customers that are nearby to try to schedule a meeting.

Some CRM systems include reporting and analysis functions with dashboards that let you see how you’re doing at a glance, or to plan sales activities. Knowing how well an email campaign or discount promotion performs, for instance, can provide guidance if you’re considering similar efforts in the future.

And a growing number of CRM tools include social media integration, so you can monitor what your customers and prospects are saying online or measure your email marketing campaigns more effectively.

Mobile Tools

An increasingly important aspect of effective CRM systems is a companion mobile app that lets your sales team update customer records immediately after an interaction, or to review a customer’s status immediately before a conversation or meeting.

Being able to access and update this information easily on a mobile device can make a big difference in how often (or even whether) your sales team uses the tool. Since its overall effectiveness depends, in part, on having as much current information as possible, picking a CRM tool that easy to use offers valuable benefits to your small business.

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