Todd Martin

Todd Martin

Sales Strategy

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Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Applications: Similar Features, Different Approaches

August 18, 2014 , , , , , ,

Let’s back up a little and explore the innards of CRM solutions.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post titled “7 Questions to Ask When You’re Looking at CRM Solutions.” It occurs to me that some of you may be new to our profession, and you haven’t been properly introduced to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and websites. Others might be experienced salespeople, but you’re still using paper and pen, or a hybrid of computer software and Rolodex, file folders, paper calendars, etc.

Todd Martin 081514 imageSo I wanted to use this space to briefly talk about the elements that comprise state-of-the-art CRM applications. In 2014, there are dozens of them, and they’re all over the map:

  • Some are still desktop-based.
  • Others are desktop-based with links to the internet.
  • Many reside solely on websites.
  • Some offer only the traditional CRM features that we’ve seen since the 1990s, while others have moved beyond those basic capabilities.

All, though – at least the best of them – have similar characteristics. I’ll outline those most commonly found today.

A contact database. There’s a class of software called “contact managers,” like ACT!, GoldMine, and Maximizer. Many of these products are still available as desktop software. CRM software and websites still have this core attribute, a series of pre-defined screens with specialized fields for storing information about your business contacts. If you already have a computer-based file containing contact data, you can often import it.

A history log. Your contact database has another element that is critical in the sales process: a record of your past interaction with every individual and company. CRM software and websites have built-in fields – or entire screens – for logging phone calls, meeting notes, on-site-visits, emails, etc.

A mechanism for tracking opportunities and leads. This means more than a list of dates and meetings and other activities. Many CRM applications offer tools for visualizing the sales pipeline.

Integration with other related applications. State-of-the-art CRM solutions can be integrated with dozens of other applications, ranging from word processing to email marketing to accounting, as well as general productivity tools.

Searching and reporting capabilities. The busier you are, the more critical it is that you can find information quickly and get customized overviews of your sales status.

“Social CRM”

Today’s best CRM applications provide an easy way for you to create a much more comprehensive profile of your customers and prospects. They help you find their activity and connections, their likes and dislikes, their challenges and their needs, by seeing how they interact on social networking sites. You can actually view those “streams” of updates within your CRM application, right in the individual person or company’s profile.

Social CRM solutions fill in some of the blanks, providing insight into who your contacts are, not just how they prefer to be contacted and what they purchased from you most recently. A good social CRM application can help you know your customers and prospects to a degree never before possible.

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