Remember the days when CRMs were just a step up from a spreadsheet? The main claim to fame was the ease of sharing customer data in the cloud with coworkers. However, in a very short time, CRMs have transformed from simple digital spreadsheets to dynamic software systems that allow you to track the entire customer experience from awareness to conversion. CRM systems have become a staple in the world of businesses large and small, and in 2017, CRMs overtook database management as the largest software market.
CRM: An Operating System for Sales
It is easy to see that CRMs have evolved from data storage programs to full-on operating systems for marketing solutions. However, to better make the connection we have to discuss the definition and purpose of regular operating systems.
What is an Operating System in the World of Computing?
An operating system is an intermediary between software programs and hardware. It allows applications to run and is comprised of a user interface that enables users to look for and manage files and programs. For example, you can look no further than Windows, OS X, and Linux.
Operating systems can be complicated since their function depends upon the device or computer type they are running on. Developers have to create software programs for specific operating systems since each one reacts with hardware differently. The primary connection between operating systems and CRMs are APIs, the commands and functions programmers can use to interact with software.
Transitioning from the Spreadsheet to the Digital Workplace
The first wave of CRMs that started to look like their operating system counterpart was the move from the spreadsheet to the digital workspace. The usage of CRM systems began all the way in the 1980s with the first internal digital Rolodex system from ACT! The next decade innovated on this approach by developing the first automated salesforce systems. For the first time, inventory control and customer interaction could be tracked by a CRM system based on a company intranet.
CRM juggernauts like SAP and Salesforce emerged to produce the first Software as a Service (SaaS) CRM options. The 2000s were known for the switch to the cloud as Salesforce delivered one of the first cloud-based CRM systems. This was met with the emergence of Oracle and Microsoft's entrance into the CRM world. CRMs have evolved past the cloud and SaaS characterization to produce more dynamic options.
Why is a CRM Useful for Sales?
So, we have touched on the history of this technology and why it is emerging as an unintentional operating system for marketers everywhere. However, why is a CRM useful? Why is it a tool your company should invest in? Here are five reasons why CRM systems are essential for a successful sales strategy.
All Customer Interactions are Stored
How do you know if a customer has moved beyond following you on Twitter to signing up for your newsletter? When do you follow up with a potential client that asked for a demo? CRMs allow everyone on staff to note all communications with customers so sales and marketing teams can help push these individuals further through the sales funnel.
Emails are Centralized
Did your team send a welcome message to a customer who just signed up for a newsletter? Which sales rep is assigned to the newest client? CRM systems keep all this information up-to-date and organized. Many CRM options even allow you to automate specific email messages based on a customer's interaction with your site or the team, further solidifying the client-business relationship.
Keeping Track of Metrics
What is your conversion ratio? How are your various points of interaction (social media, email, cold calls, and chatbot conversations) pushing leads through the sales funnel process? CRM systems can store information that helps you track these metrics and compare data to past results.
CRM systems enable you to take those metrics you have collected and project future data. You can use past conversion data to add values to various points of attribution and make conjectures about how many contacts you need to make to meet multiple conversion goals.
While project management software is ideal for task management (and you can find recommendations for great systems here), CRM systems can also allow leaders to assign tasks to teams. This feature is perfect for ensuring specific clients are reached out to, and that teams are aware of what strategies they need to implement to move leads down the funnel.
CRM systems are worth their weight in gold for marketers who understand the variety of robust tools they provide. CRMs are useful for ramping up any sales strategy. The intricate tools offered gives marketers a full stack of marketing options to choose from for success.
Features That Keep Sales Running
CRM systems come with a host of options for marketers to implement a successful sales strategy. Again, these days and times, data storage is not the only reason these programs exist. CRM systems facilitate various types of automation while tracking vital data points. Here are some additional features now offered by these robust systems.
Operating System Feature #1 Contact Management – At its core, a CRM system lets you keep track of all contacts. However, it is a step up from a simple spreadsheet as it is built to allow you to search for communications, and record notes about each person quickly. Also, multiple people can collaborate on keeping the contact tracking portion of the system up-to-date.
Operating System Feature #2 Overall Collaboration – Whether it be sending emails, creating landing pages, or tracking metrics, today's CRM systems let you hand off documents or projects to other team members without missing a beat. A cloud-based system makes this even simpler to do since these edits can be done from any computer.
Operating System Feature #3 Workflow Management – Along with collaboration, team leaders can pass tasks and work projects that are having to do with customer service, lead nurturing, sales calls, or other customer interactions to other members of the team. Since these acts are documented, there is no mistake as to who is involved or who isn't.
Operating System Feature #4 Quote Management – Sales reps can also use CRM systems to navigate complicated sales transactions. Reps can use these applications to help walk customers through what they are getting for the quoted cost. These quotes can then be converted to a proposal and then an invoice that is sent to the customer.
Operating System Feature #5 Social Media Integration – CRM systems allow you to post social media updates to various platforms, and also monitor what is being said about the company on the specific platform. This feature lets teams tap into another resource for generating leads.
CRM systems allow marketers to set up commands that cause various platforms to share data and information with one another to facilitate multiple marketing functions. From triggering emails based on client actions to initiating a workflow for client-based sales projects, CRMs are the ideal operating system for skilled marketers. CRM systems have no choice but to continue to evolve to facilitate complex marketing tasks as technologies continue to transform.
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Chanell Alexander is a writer for TechnologyAdvice and a digital marketing strategist.