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How does a CRM differ from a Sales, Marketing or Client management

Technically speaking, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the strategy and software involved in managing customers for the Sales, Marketing and Support departments. These were traditionally the customer facing departments in a business. However, now with the web, this definition is being rewritten as we speak with the 4th leg of CRM being eCommerce or Digital Commerce and with the top Cloud CRM vendors leading the charge of how business is run today.

Whether you are a small or medium sized company or the largest Enterprise, you owe it to yourself to see how far the Cloud CRM offerings have come in finally delivering on the long promise of 'getting' your business.

How a CRM processes and software align depends on the type of business, or business unit, and the art/science of how to handle the different scenarios that arise and make the people, process and technology go hand in hand, so that you end up with a system and the software to that is successful and well liked by users.

This in practice is easier said than done.

Generally speaking buyers have not a great deal of knowledge of how fast the top Cloud CRM vendors have come in the last few years. It's enough to make your head spin if you try to do all the work yourself, you are going to need to work with your Cloud CRM vendor and partner with them early on in the process and let them help define what your business could be, based on where you are today and what pain points you need to address to get to the next level.

The reality is, that the top Cloud CRM systems have many facets that can be used by different types of organizations and processes, but using the same software, just with different configurations. You wouldn't realize it is the same application, but it works on the idea that one platform that works for all businesses is more nimble than one built for one particular purpose or vertical. It comes down to putting the power in the hands of the business user and empower them to make a system that works for them, instead of the other way around.

Let's look at this by way of a few examples:

CRM is Marketing Sales and Support, Client Management and more. Let me explain. A business who sells widgets or products might be interested in self service sales from their website, along with a shopping cart and the ability to process orders in a shopping cart environment for your employees, coupled with Drip email marketing campaigns, the ability to track issues and resolve them and add answers to a Frequently asked questions database that is search-able by your customers, and you have a successful CRM implementation.

Now, take the example of a business development manager at a Bank. They don't deal with leads, they have an existing book of clients. They view CRM as the definition of Client management, managing and strengthening relationships with key top customers. They want account and contact management, to track who reports to whom, track calls and client needs, followup on important dates like birthdays, anniversaries, etc. and to build up the trust with the client, work on getting more of the business, referrals, etc. They too would use the same CRM to accomplish their goals.

Now take the example of a professional services organization like lawyers, accountants, consultants, HR firms, etc. They sell hours of time. Every client interaction and every minute of each working hour must be accounted for and billed out to customers, Project tracking with Time sheets is a benefit, and they need real time document generation with merged fields so that the client not only gets an email but also a snail mail letter generated and automatically saved against the client record in the CRM so they can mail a copy as well as email a copy to the client. They need an audit trail, for security and compliance, to track every click made by every user, time-stamped to the second, and tracking what database fields were updated to. They too will use the same CRM system to manage their work.

Take the case of a Health care company. They are not a sales organization, but use the same CRM for managing facilities and patients, bookings and appointments and followups are all handled in the same CRM system.

The key in success is to make sure you have a real conversation with your vendor about what can be done. Talk about the short term, medium term and long term goals of your implementation. Let them build a solution for you instead of thinking of it as something you should do yourself. Much like you wouldn't want to fix our own car all the time, you take it to a mechanic. Let the CRM vendor wow you with a solutions to the problems you are having, but do share your problems with them.

You would be surprised to know that any good Cloud CRM system these days is fully customizable and has all the features built into it that you would need. You may need to integrate the Cloud CRM system with third party software or home grown applications, or other Cloud or SaaS services. The less integrations the better as it adds extra time, complexity, cost. Try and find a suite of solutions that are available pre-integrated, out of the box, but yet set up for your unique business processes. No two companies are the same, even if they are direct competitors, so the key is to partner with a CRM vendor that has the implementations under their belt. Beware of shelf-ware and companies who can't show you 90% of what you need upfront in an online demonstration.

The take-away: stop worrying about so many accronyms and get on a one-on-one online demo for 30 minutes with your CRM vendor and let them dazzle you with how far the technology and knowledge has come in the top Cloud CRM vendors. It is a Cloud CRM vendor you are looking for, regardless of how you define the software you 'used to use'. It has changed so much that all the good stuff is consolidated into a few top offerings.

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