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Table of Contents

What is Customer Relationship Management Software?

A CRM software or Customer Relationship Management software, as its name suggests, is a set of programs that enable an enterprise to manage its clients, contacts, contracts, sales leads, and employees, essentially helping it to manage its relationship with all its stakeholders. CRM tools are a catch-all term for all the sales, marketing, and service-related interactions of a company that serves to grow or to improves the company’s relationship with its customers or potential customers.

A CRM software for small business stores every bit of relevant information of present and potential customers, including contact information and account details in a central database. Best CRM software has been developed in the quest to enhance customer experience and customer engagement of the company. It provides a flexible structure for all the relevant information and processes that will result in greater insight into the customers and the industry trends.

A typical CRM solution will have features such as the dashboard, activities, contacts, accounts, and sales presentations as basic modules. Other modules such as sales force automation, advanced analytics, pricing & distribution, unified communications, and product configurator are also available and can be easily integrated into top CRM systems for small businesses.

How Does CRM Software Work?

To understand how a customer relationship software works, you must thoroughly understand what customer relationship management is. In essence, customer relationship management is a strategy that is developed to boost the value of a business and fuel its profitability by working towards building and creating customer loyalty and satisfaction. It acknowledges that there is a much better business sense in focusing on creating long-term relationships with existing customers instead of simply getting new ones. Once you understand this, all the CRM tools and their functionalities will begin to make sense.

In simple terms, CRM solutions enable businesses to manage their relationships with their existing and potential customers. They do not just help you manage these relationships but also analyze them. Every interaction of a customer with the company is tracked through various touchpoints, such as,

  • Contact Forms
  • Search Engines
  • Emails
  • Phone calls
  • Social media

CRM tools collect as much information about the customer as is possible. In this manner, a sales professional can instantly see a customer’s history with the company and understand who the customer is. As a result of this, the interaction with the customer becomes more personalized. This increases the chances of conversion. It fosters customer trust and loyalty.

CRM tools are based on the following:

  • Automation
  • Record Association
  • Insightful Reporting

All these three factors go a long way in making your sales process perform better. CRM solutions help you identify key, promising prospects and follow up on deals that are high-yielding. At the same time, they free up your sales professionals from focusing on manual, time-consuming, transactional tasks so that they can focus on doing what they do best- selling!

CRM solutions are more than just a solution to manage all kinds of sales-related activities. CRM software solutions also are capable of automating marketing activities. For example, they can automatically send customers emails or publish social media posts based on a schedule to keep leads engaged and increasing the chances of conversion. To this end, most CRM solutions today come with an integrated marketing automation functionality, while some are designed to easily integrate with other marketing automation systems.

Therefore, CRM software, when combined with marketing automation capabilities becomes a comprehensive solution that provides sales and marketing teams with all that they need to manage the sales and marketing funnels entirely- right from lead qualification to lead management to sales forecasting and deal closure.

Here are some of the ways CRM tools can achieve that:

  1. Alerts Regarding Important sales Tasks: A CRM solution helps you stay on top of your to-do list. Whenever something has to be done, a CRM software will remind you about it based on how you have configured its settings. Emails and phone calls can be prescheduled so that you do not miss out on anything. Every activity and every interaction are automatically recorded so that you can refer to them when you make action plans to close potential deals.
  2. Generating New Opportunities: Customer relationship management software helps you secure more business in an ongoing manner. For example, suppose a customer has logged in a question on an integrated help desk. CRM tools will alert if the content of the message indicates any upselling or cross-selling opportunities. As a result, the customer is funneled back into the lead pipeline and the possibility of potential revenue from the same customer is secured.
  3. Streamlined and Efficient Workflows: Sales activities are majorly divided into two categories- pre-sales and post-sales. A CRM solution will swing into action as soon as a lead or a potential customer is identified. After the lead is entered into the system, it will follow the lead’s journey through the sales process, while also automatically associating relevant records related to calls, documents, messages and reminders making it easier for sales professionals to provide seamless service with little effort.
  4. Build Better Sales, Marketing and Support Strategies for Better Outcomes: When implemented and used properly, CRM software can optimize sales and marketing efforts and yield improved and reliable results over time. We have already discussed how it can facilitate reporting and analytics. They provide business intelligence that can help you develop sound sales and marketing strategies in the long run.
  5. Optimize Other Solutions While Integrating with Them: In essence, a customer relationship management software helps you manage your sales pipeline. It collects and organizes customer data from various sources, including other tools and applications such as e-commerce platforms, and as we have already discussed, help desks and marketing automation systems. This also enables you to obtain more value from these solutions.

The Benefits of Integrating CRM System into Your Business

CRM Solution is such an integral and vital tool for any business, enterprise or firm today. Be it a large, small or medium-sized enterprise, customer relationship management software is a top priority. There should be no hesitation by businesses in integrating the best CRM system with other systems. If there is, this list of benefits should dispel their fears:

1. Automation of Everyday Tasks
Finalizing a single sale involves the successful completion of a number of small yet vital routine tasks over a period of time. Activities like filling up forms, sending reports, taking feedback, etc may seem insignificant individually but they play a vital part in a company’s sales/marketing strategies. The major qualm that employees have with task management is that they are too time-consuming. But with CRM tools, that problem is easily solved. Online CRM software programs automate these tasks, saving a huge amount of time for the sales and marketing departments. This means that they have more time to focus on the customers of the company.

2. Better Communication
The best CRM for small business improves an organization’s internal as well as external communication. It tracks all the relevant communication regarding the customers and streamlines this information, making it accessible to all the interconnected departments. This undoubtedly makes internal communication ie communication between different departments more effective. The sharing of customer data between different departments will also enable them to work better as a team.

3. Improved Efficiency and Productivity of Teams
Having all the information about customers in a central place where each relevant department has access to it makes everyone’s job easier. In marketing, collaboration plays an important part. Through web based CRM software, the Sales, Marketing and Customer Service teams have access to and can share valuable information regarding different customers, new products, and better processes. Teams can collaborate seamlessly to be more productive with the help of CRM tools. 

4. Better Quality of Customer Service
Customer service is vital for building customer relationships. Timely and helpful responses to customer queries should be the aim of the customer service department of any company. The best CRM software programs will make customer service a cakewalk. It will equip the customer service representatives with the customers’ preferences, past purchase history, and the issues they have faced previously, which would aid their search for a proper solution to a great extent.

5. Increased Sales and Revenues
Top CRM systems will improve the way you do business, thus increasing the volume of sales and the revenues. How? With the data collected using a CRM solution, businesses will be in an advantageous position to judge what’s really working for them and what isn’t. As more data and numbers regarding customer experience, their reactions to company’s products and marketing strategies are made available, through CRM tools, they will be able to make corrections and changes in the way they’re selling and in the products/services they are selling too. These targeted improvements should ideally enhance the sales and revenues as well.

6. Enhanced Customer Experience
Customer Experience or CX is one of the parameters that businesses are judged upon today. Why is it so important? Because customers are everything to a company, they’re the very reason CRM software for small businesses exists. Improving customer experience is an ongoing, eternally recurring endeavor for companies because satisfied customers bring more customers and repeat business. They are the valuable asset of an organization. Online CRM software builds customer relationships to improve and enhance customer experience. Best CRM systems can be used as a customer loyalty enhancement tool. Information in the CRM system can be successfully used to send the right message to the right customer. It can be used to keep customers updated on company news and the latest offers. Positive customer experience can be cultivated by seeking out their opinions and feedback on social media and email surveys also.

A List of CRM Software Dependent Industries

1. Real Estate

The usage of Real Estate CRM software is increasing drastically in the real estate industry. This is because a real estate system can cover the major requirements than any real estate company requires fostering. The most popular customer relationship management tools, for real estate industry, would provide the user with lead generation process, maintain a database, create a follow-up process, automated marketing, and sales closure. This system would automatically cover up the whole sales procedure from start to end. There are software like PropertyBase and Ixact which have raised the standards of real estate CRM systems. This is what makes them one of the top CRM software solutions available in the industry.

2. Hotels

The only way to retain the customer and get free word of mouth marketing in the hotel industry is by providing better service. In order to provide quality service, a hotel would require top-level management. This is where the Hotel Management CRM system becomes useful. These software allow the user to provide better management services by optimizing the whole hotel management process. Softwares like InfusionSoft and NetSuite provide the web based CRM software solution, for the hotel industry.

3. Construction

In the construction industry constantly needs activities like real-time activity, tracking, the bid recording process, organizing available resources and most important making a smooth lead generation to sales closure process. The popular CRM tools like JobNimbus is designed for construction industry specifically. These kinds of software provide all the necessary features and thus allowing the team to focus on more important activities like decision making and strategizing.

4. Pharmaceutical

In the pharmaceutical industry, the companies have to be very customer-centric as there are many substitutes for almost every product. So pharmaceutical CRM solutions are designed in such a way that each and every feature of the software is designed by keeping the customer in the center. There are best CRM software solutions, for pharmaceutical like Bpmonline and Kapture provide the company with web services, sampling, interactive detailing and field sales automation. So due to such requirements of the market and the attention to detail, by the popular CRM solution companies, there is such a boost in the demand for top pharmaceutical CRM systems.

5. Retail

Due to the surge of the influence of the internet in our daily life, the retail outlets have started to make their presence felt online. But along with this they also have to keep their brick and mortar stores as strong as they were earlier. This is the reason that has created a spur in the usage of retail CRM systems. There are top CRM software programs like SalesForce and Nethunt which provide the retailers with all the features required to match the present day demands of the retailing industry.

6. Legal

The legal CRM software provides the Law firms with the work of legal marketing automation, legal documentation, legal consultation, and communications. It is like LawRuler and SalesBoom automate almost all the clientele related activities and thus providing more insights to the customers and at the same time providing law firms to focus on rather important activities.

Key Modules of CRM Software

  1. Salesforce Automation: CRM software keeps track of customer interactions. They also automate the various business functions of the sales cycle that are mechanical and repetitive but are required to follow leads and attract new customers. In this way, salespeople can focus on more complex, specialized tasks.
  2. Lead Management: Customer relationship management software keeps track of the company’s leads. It allows marketing teams to enter these leads in the system, either automatically or manually, so that they can track them and analyze the data about them.
  3. Opportunity Management: Also known as lead scoring, CRM tools can help you identify customer leads that are most likely to convert. This helps sales and marketing teams to optimize the sales process, align their efforts in the right direction and become more efficient.
  4. Contact Management: CRM solutions can help you segment your contacts in various groups. This enables you to tailor your marketing strategies according to the various segments so that it resonates with each of them optimally. It also enables you to communicate with them in a personalized manner.
  5. Task Management: Sales professionals need to carry out various tasks to take a sales prospect through a particular stage and on to the next one. With CRM software, sales professionals, whether experienced or novices, know exactly which tasks must be accomplished as they move through the various stages of the sales process.
  6. Sales Forecasting: Customer relationship management software allows forecasting that can help you create benchmarks so that you can ensure that results are in line with your efforts. It also helps you determine your plans for the future.
  7. Campaign Management: CRM solutions let you manage your entire sales campaign on one single platform. This involves managing campaign ROI, scheduling and even analytics among other such functions.
  8. Billing and Invoice Management: CRM tools can help you keep track of invoices, create customized ones and get paid online faster. They allow you to automate recurring invoices, send payment reminders and even thank you notes.
  9. Social CRM: Customer relationship management software does not just track telephonic and email inquiries, but they can also manage and track customer interactions on social media channels. They can also gather valuable and actionable insights about the customer sentiment related to your brand, your organization, and even certain products and services, as a result.
  10. CRM and Sales Reports: CRM software can help you gather data from various sources including sources such as website traffic, social media and polls all on a single platform. They offer you various reports that allow you to analyze current and historical data so that you can create better sales campaigns.
  11. Mobile Edition: Customer relationship management software usually comes with mobile CRM programs and apps that allow users to view information, receive updates on sales campaigns and carry out various tasks on-the-go, on their mobile devices, no matter where they are.
  12. Cloud/On-Demand (SaaS): Cloud CRM solutions are hosted on remote servers. Software and hardware upgrades, updates, backups and security measures are managed by the CRM software service provider. However, on-demand customer relationship software solutions may not always be hosted on the cloud. There are also on-premise CRM software solutions that use a network of highly-customizable onsite hardware and software systems to store customer data and require software licenses.

Must-Have Features of CRM Software

In a market saturated with hundreds of online sales CRM tools for small businesses, it is important to find the right fit for your business. It is also incredibly challenging. Businesses should pinpoint the kind of functionalities that they’re looking for and find the best CRM system that caters to those needs. This is imperative in order to avoid switching over to a new CRM  platform because the first one did not meet the company’s needs in the way it was expected to. To save this trouble, a thorough research should be undertaken for the best CRM for small business for the company.

Following these steps is the best way to go about it:

  • List the goals you need CRM platform to accomplish
  • List the features you need
  • Decide upon budget
  • Get input from Marketing and/or Sales departments
  • Read user reviews of CRM on forums or third party websites
  • Find the CRM platform that is compatible with existing systems 
  • Take a free demo or trial of the popular CRM tools

A basic checklist of must-have features of various top CRM software is as follows:

1. Integration
Integration is the name of the game today. Most businesses use a multitude of software to keep up with their day-to-day operations. Online CRM software for small business should be capable of seamlessly integrating with other software such as ERP, HR software, SCM software, and the like. It’s a two-way street that will make the job of every department that much easier.

2. Mobility
Cloud and mobile are the final frontiers in software. Mobile versions of CRM tools are very important because sales representatives have to travel frequently to meet customers and potential customers. Mobile CRM systems allow them to have relevant information on them at all times, while also allowing them to make important changes in the database in real-time. Look for a web based CRM software that has a well rated mobile application for all devices.

3. Productivity
Which company does not want its teams to be productive? To stimulate maximum productivity, top CRM programs should have features such as integrated email inboxes. Since manual data entry is a major pain point for most users of customer relationship management tools, the software chosen should be one that is capable of pulling data from multiple sources so as to reduce the need for manual data entry.

4. Lead and Contact Management
Leads and contacts have to be nurtured and maintained for the rewards to accrue to the company on a continual basis. This is why a customer relationship management tools should have lead and contact management capabilities.

5. Batch Email Marketing
Email marketing is still very much alive and thriving. It is a core marketing strategy for many companies. Top CRM software should have batch email marketing features to allow the sales team to quickly design professional-looking emails even if they are not that familiar with design or coding.

6. Customer Targeting
The best CRM 
software solutions 
have the ability to effectively track parameters such as customer spending patterns, preferences, likes and dislikes, location, age, and gender. This is what eventually allows the company to target customers according to specific demographics. Using this information for different segments, targeted marketing materials and content can be developed for each demographic.

CRM Predictions That Came True

Following are some predictions that were made over 5 years ago about the way CRM platforms would transform over this period. These are the ones that actually came true for small businesses.

1. The Cloud Will Take Over
This has been a long time coming and has now finally happened. Cloud-based software has become more popular than on-premise software. The reasons, among others, are obvious: it is cheaper, more flexible, easily customizable, and supports mobile devices

2. Social CRM Will Boost Sales
Social media integration with best CRM programs has enabled sales representatives and marketers to reach their target customers in a much more effective manner. Social CRM solutions also give businesses the opportunity to build brand loyalty and brand awareness through promotional activities and using engaging content for target customers. It has definitely helped companies to boost their visibility and sales.

3. Mobile CRM to Improve CX
Most enterprises have switched over to using tablets and other mobile devices over laptops and notebooks. They’re lighter and have ease of use, which is a must for salespeople who have to travel frequently. There has been a steady migration to mobile CRM platforms, as it enables sales reps to access information about leads and customers at any given time and place.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • The key functions of a business CRM system include:
    1. Sales forecasting
    2. Task management
    3. Opportunity management
    4. Contact management
    5. Sales force automation
    6. Lead management, and much more.
  • You can choose cloud based CRM system or on-premise best CRM tools or crm tracking software, depending on your requirements.
  • You need to talk to the experts, who decide the solution based on your needs. You may want to reduce buyers’ churn, secure your data, allow your employees to operate remotely or seek other services. You can also use a software discovery platform like SoftwareSuggest which can suggest the best suitable best sales CRM solutions software according to your need.
  • Web frameworks like Ruby on Rails, Spring, Angular JS, ASP.NET, Express or Symfony are usually used to develop a CRM. They are all good choices. All these technologies can develop a stable CRM that is highly scalable and can process data swiftly.
    It also depends on what is important to you in your CRM software. For an application that must display maps and geographical data, a Django framework would be ideal. Angular’s Twitter bootstrap plugin will allow you to develop a great UI. The multiple modules offered by Node can manage the server efficiently, right from authentication to encryption.
  • While a ready solution will take just about a few days, a customized solution can take anywhere between two to six months. The time it takes to build a customised solution can depend on various things like-
    1. The volume of import data
    2. Number of customizations
    3. Third-party integrations
    4. Number of users
  • You will come across modules called Client Management, Order Management, Invoice Management, Events and Tasks Management, System Dashboard and so on, however, you will find that the modules are typically related to Sales, Marketing and Customer Service.
  • Most CRM solutions support automated data migration. It does not matter if the data has to be imported from notepads, Excel spreadsheets or even another CRM system. Most CRM solutions can import data from a wide variety of sources. Whichever source you use, ensure that your data is clean and organized and there are no duplications. Also, once the data is imported, you must review it carefully to tie any loose ends.
  • You must choose a solution depending on whether you want a read-only integration or if you need a one-way or two-way data synchronization. Any good CRM solution will typically support robust integration with customer information.

    For marketing, Facebook, Twitter and MailChimp are used. For customer service, Cases and Zendesk are popular. For sales, Google Apps, e-signing tools, payment gateways such as PayPal, Amazon Payments etc. are typical choices. For reporting, BI tools like Cognos BI or JasperReport can be used. For accounting, QuickBooks and CPQ are widely used.
  • As the name suggests, it automates various marketing activities- sending welcome messages to new customers, personalized messages related to recent transactions, thank-you messages, messages regarding offers and promotions to reactivate customers, and even messages that cross-sell products based on recent purchases.
    In other words, you can automatically trigger messages and communicate offers and promotions to your customers, based on various events. One can also measure the results of these activities.
  • There is no straight answer here. You must take to analyze the needs of your business before going either way. Developing a customized solution, implementing it and managing it, in the long run, involves a lot of work.

    It involves the entire software development lifecycle, right from gathering and analyzing requirements, to bug fixing, support, etc. However, what you eventually may end up with is a highly tailored solution that fits your needs perfectly.

    A ready solution, on the other hand, can be very simple to implement and manage. The software vendor will do most of the heavy lifting. However, since the scope of customization is limited, you will have to work with a system that does not fit as perfectly.

    You also enjoy lesser control over the entire system, its implementation, and maintenance in this case. However, most ready solutions in the market today are built to match all kinds of business requirements.

Karan VasitaBy Karan Vasita | Last Updated: October 19, 2020

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