Staying Afloat: 4 Questions to help you with your CRM

Ah, Customer relationship management. What fun. How best to keep track of all the contact information, the emails, the phone calls, the order history, the quotations, the visits…? Sometimes it might feel a little like you’re struggling to keep your head above water!

There are two main categories of solutions to the problem of Customer Relationship Management (or CRM). The first is a formal software system. There are certainly lots of them out there! Basically, you add in all of your contacts, and then record various interactions with them: Activities, Deals, Emails, Phone Calls, Visits, you name it. Often, these systems have accompanying apps, plugins to your web browser or email software and more. Pretty neat stuff. They cost, of course, typically a per-user, per-month fee that varies anywhere from $10 to $300(!).

The alternative to a formal CRM is, quite often, chaos. Or, “You’re Holding Everything Together with Spreadsheets & Post-It Notes,” as one article (here’s the link, but we’ll talk more about it below) put it. All too often, the management of customer relationships is totally dependent on one person: that customer’s sales rep. Now, of course we want our sales reps to build relationships with the customer, but what happens when the sales rep is on a much-needed vacation? That’s when the frantic phone calls happen: “When did you say we’d have it there?” “What price did you quote her?” To say nothing of what happens if the sales rep moves on.

In addition, even if you can keep it all together, you no doubt recognize that you could be doing better. What kind of communication does your customer prefer, and how often? What prompts them to buy? You likely have a general intuition, but it’s difficult to come up with answers that are backed by solid information, even though you have the data.

The article I referred to above is called Do You Really Need a CRM—or Just These 8 Contact Management Essentials?, and it’s a good read. While their actual 8 points are (understandably) geared towards the features of their product, I’ll summarize by posing a few questions:

  1. What does your business need to manage your customer relationships? You likely want to integrate various parts of the business (Marketing efforts, Sales history) and also have the information accessible to anyone in the company who needs it (this means your Sales reps don’t need to take their phone to the beach!).
  2. How should you segment your contacts? Drip uses tags, and custom fields (a bit technical, I know. Check out their knowledge base article for more info). This gives you lots of flexibility in keeping track of your contacts. What phase of your sales pipeline are they in? Did you give them a demo? Do they like text messages better than email? Do they buy product only when it’s on sale? This is valuable information but it’s hard to shoehorn it all into an Excel spreadsheet or post-it note.
  3. How can you best keep a history of interactions with the contact? Drip is a powerful tool, in that it can integrate website visits, email open rates and more. The ideal thing is that instead of having the CRM populated in addition to the actions you perform, it gets populated by the actions you perform. Some of those are easier to do than others, but when keeping the CRM up to date becomes a burden, it’s going to get left by the wayside when things get busy.
  4. Can you automate your process? Maybe your memory is better than mine, but I have real trouble remembering to follow up on things. A post-it note helps, but when your computer monitor gets covered in them, it might be time for something new. The article talks about this in the Notification Emails section of point #6, and it’s a really powerful idea. Ideally, you’ll be able to create a standardized, repeatable process for nurturing new customers, and for pitching new products or promotions to your existing ones. Then, instead of you having to remember to keep your CRM up to date, your CRM will start to let you know when it’s time to take the next step.

So, what does all this mean? Stick with Spreadsheets & Post-it notes? Or bust out the credit card & sign up for a formal system? As you may have guessed, it depends. But hopefully asking yourself a few questions before making a decision will help you make an informed one.

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