Todd Martin

Todd Martin

Sales Strategy

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Is There a “Right” Way to Use CRM Software?

May 13, 2015

Kind of. Every sales team is different, but there are some universal guidelines that should make your experience better.

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I’ve written about how customer relationship management (CRM) applications have changed since they first appeared in the 1980s. We’re in the social CRM stage now. Most software products and websites designed to help salespeople improve their relationships with customers are building in ways to incorporate information and insights picked up from social media networks.

I think this is great. Terrific. I applaud the developers who are turning what is a very good idea into smart, user-friendly features.

Stay Focused

But there’s a temptation for both application designers and users to go too far. You can get so caught up in the connections and the interactivity and the coolness that you’re wasting valuable time. Worse, you may be ignoring your regular CRM-related work.

So use it as the tool it was meant to be. If you’re in the process of evaluating CRM systems for possible implementation, know what your needs are ahead of time, and don’t get caught up in unnecessary bells and whistles.

Speaking of which, don’t get carried away with automation. Automated marketing has its place, but also its potential dangers. So when you’re doing your occasional check-ins with customers, make them personal.

Keep Up

Many social CRM applications will help you create exceptionally complex profiles. These are your old contact records on steroids. You can often import email lists and social media posts and other information that lies outside of the confines of your CRM site. But your profiles and calendars and logs still need your input sometimes. So do your darndest to contribute critical information that can only come from your keyboard.

If you’re limping along with an old CRM system but you dread having to decide on a new one and implement it, visit the websites of some state-of-the-art social CRM applications and consider the possibilities. Know when to say good-bye. Many of your competitors are getting a jump on you because they have better tools.

Selection and Implementation

Some things to keep in mind if you’re shopping for a new system or preparing to introduce your sales team to one you’ve chosen:

  • Evaluate each candidate’s ability to integrate with other company functions, like the help desk and accounting. Developers build in safeguards so that each department only sees what it needs to.
  • Look, too, at whether these CRM solutions make use of existing tools. Do they integrate with Microsoft Office, for example, or is there at least some way to connect documents and spreadsheets to the CRM application?  Can you synchronize calendars?
  •  Consider the complexity of data input. Your ideal solution will not have a lot of extra, unnecessary features to confuse users, and its forms should be easy to complete.
  • Determine how much customization you’ll need, and look for it in your CRM candidates.

Finally, get input from your staff about the kinds of features they’d like to see. And once you’ve settled on a CRM system, have mandated training. People may groan, but CRM software – especially if it’s integrated with other company functions – simply must be as current as is possible.

This can’t be like the company football pool, where participation is optional. Get everyone on board from the start, and give them the opportunity to see how the right CRM site can help them create, maintain, and improve the right relationships.

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