There is so much debate on CRM systems (customer relationship management) in B2B—which one to choose, when to implement, how should it be used, who will be responsible for it, and the biggest question of all: do we really need one?
Every company, big or small, communicates and manages customers in some way, shape or form. Even small companies who might not be ready to invest in a complete customer relationship management solution will use Outlook or something like it to manage their contacts.
How do you know when you really need a CRM, as opposed to being able to get away with a spreadsheet or other simple solution? A comprehensive CRM system becomes more critical when you have several people in your organization managing clients, tasks, communication and appointments. One way to evaluate your readiness is if you need to implement one or several of the following processes:
- Track your opportunities and leads
- Share data with several representatives
- Review your sales pipeline on a regular basis
- Communicate with reps in other geographic areas
- Determine where your clients are in the sales funnel
- Require a comprehensive reporting system
CRM systems are generally flexible and can be tailored to meet your needs. Most B2B companies use a small fraction of the functionality because that might be all they need at the time. As your company grows, so too can the features you implement.
What can a CRM system do for you? A properly implemented system can drive your company’s profitability by giving you and your employees a clear snapshot of your customers, prospects and business as a whole. Sales calls, customer service inquiries and related technical information will be available for anyone associated with that account. Marketing activities and campaigns can be tailored for specific customers and/or industries making each campaign much more effective. The key is to have a system that employees will actually use. The best way to get your staff to use a new system is to make sure they are properly trained and understand the benefits of a well-managed system.
If you’re in the market for a CRM system, research your options. There are many programs available and they all have different levels of sophistication, user ease and investment required. For some tips on evaluating which system might work for you, have a look at Tania Fioretti’s blog post "5 Things to Consider Before Selecting a CRM System." It provides practice pointers for B2B companies.
What CRM system do you use—and how well is it working for you?