6 Questions That Will Reveal If Your Business Is CRM Ready

15 March 2019

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is not a new topic and most businesses will have an appreciation of its ability to organise information about customers and all their interactions. The efficiency it brings is a selling point but the question remains - does my business need it?

For many organisations in a close-knit market like New Zealand, or working in a focused sector like manufacturing and engineering there’s a view “we know all our customers anyway so why change.” A more manual, pick-up the phone or email when needed, approach has worked well - but it’s time consuming and not as effective as it could be, as relationships and needs change, along with the requirement to manage an ever-increasing amount of information.

CRM is a growing consideration and if taken on is a significant milestone in a business’s development. It’s also transformative in improving the way you can deal with customers and prospects, and it can streamline the way you carry out marketing and sales, with flow-on benefits to your revenues and bottom line.

But every business is different and how would you know if yours would benefit from CRM? And even if it would, how do you choose from the multitude of options available? Here are six questions we believe any business leader or senior manager should ask before deciding whether they are CRM ready.

1. What is CRM?

An obvious place to start. G2 Crowd defines CRM as “a bridge between your sales team to your management level, to your marketing, to your prospects, to your current customers, and back again”.

CIO also sums it up nicely: “Businesses that properly integrate CRM solutions into their operations will gain valuable insights by capturing and correlating information about customer behaviour in a single interface.”

In short, CRM is software that stores and analyses sales and marketing interactions with customers (and potential customers). As a data repository it has some natural advantages over paper-based or spreadsheet-based record keeping systems. Information and insights can be easily shared across a company and, if your top salesperson quits, you don’t lose vital prospecting intelligence when they walk out the door with their Rolodex and diary.

2. How could CRM help YOUR business?

If you’re thinking about investing in CRM it’s almost certainly because you’re experiencing some form of business pain you want to resolve. It could be one of the following scenarios:

  • Your competitor has increased sales and you think it’s because of their new CRM.
  • You’ve missed out on a recent opportunity and when asking why you didn’t get the business the prospect said the company they chose provided more information and education about its product and service.
  • Your boss, or the board, has asked you to review sales and marketing and recommend how it can be improved after conversion rates declined.
  • You’ve invested in a business and you realise the sales and marketing process needs updating in order to improve sales ready leads.
  • You are in charge of sales and marketing and there’s no clarity on each customer, such as their stage in the buyer’s journey. Your bonus depends on your team’s performance so you are determined to streamline the process.
  • You already have a CRM but it hasn’t improved results – it’s complex and difficult to use.

Whatever the situation, you’ve realised there is a need for order and structure in the way you handle customer relationships so as to bring more predictability and velocity to the sales process.

If that applies to you, implementing CRM (or possibly replacing the non-performing solution you already have) should definitely be a consideration.

3. How do you currently track customers?

A stocktake of your sales and marketing tools and systems can provide invaluable insights into the potential benefits of introducing a CRM solution.

Do you currently have different systems used by different members of your sales and marketing teams? If so, what advantages would you gain from the company-wide visibility that’s possible through CRM?

How extensive is your use of spreadsheets? In our experience most people will use a spreadsheet as their foundation customer relationship system. This is a very basic, manual, time consuming and inefficient process which also comes with the issue of version control.

Are you using a CRM already but it’s not delivering the expected results? There are a vast array of solutions on the market – some research should shed light on the option that’s best for your business (see question 6 below).

4. Do you have a way of consistently and efficiently keeping in touch with your customers to keep them informed?

Are customer relationships held and owned by individuals and not shared? If so, what would be the implications if a key staff member left?

Is it each individual staff member’s responsibility to keep in touch with customers? This is a very manual approach and limits the ability to share information between different sales people.

5. How do you know when to follow up with your sales targets?

Are you reminded automatically? Is there any priority given to different potential customers, ie. when are they sales ready?

Asking this question may lead to the realisation that the current way you track sales leads, as well as the activity of sales team, is not as structured as it should be. You may have lost potential sales as a result.

6. Okay, CRM sounds like an option. What now?

If the questions above have uncovered some uncomfortable truths and potential business risks, CRM is likely to be the answer to the issues your business faces around control, order, visibility, transparency and value when it comes to customer relationships.

The next step is to start researching your options. As with any business question, the three usual avenues people explore for advice are:

  • Friends and family;
  • Business associates (including fellow business owners, peers, associates and mentors);
  • Online (web searches, podcasts, blogs, ebooks).

This research will generate a variety of potential solutions for your particular requirements. Overall, you’ll find the options include:

  • Build your own CRM solution – an expensive route to take, and generally not a good investment given there are hundreds of off-the-shelf options available that will cost less. However, people still go down the bespoke route and there may be particular reasons why they choose to do so.
  • Buy a well-known CRM - there are hundreds of options, as any online search will reveal. Choosing the right one for your business is about aligning your needs with the specifications and strengths of the various solutions. The more you know about your requirements, and what will work best for your business, the more secure you can be that you’re in a position to select the right solution.
  • Use a free CRM – Don’t discount the free options – there are some very powerful and effective solutions out there that you don’t have to pay for. But also be aware that going with a no-cost CRM doesn’t mean you necessarily get the ideal customer management solution for your business included.

An example of a free and highly-regarded CRM is HubSpot, a good choice if you are just starting out using CRM. However, while you can use the tools for as long as you want, and there’s no limit on the number of contacts or people using the system, if you want to take full advantage of it's automation features, you’ll need to upgrade to the Sales Pro license.

A good place to start your research journey is by visiting trusted software review sites such as www.g2crowd.com,www.capterra.com or www.softwareadvice.com.

There is more choice of CRM than ever before and by asking yourself the questions we’ve posed, you will be well on your way to understanding how to find out which solution best meets your needs and making a decision.

Wrapping up

The key benefit you can expect from a CRM is better value from the customer relationship process, and that leads to increased sales. It can help drive sales velocity, one of the top concerns of CMOs at the moment.

But as HubSpot points out, CRM is an investment – of time, if not also of money: “Sales reps need to adapt to it. A manager may need to train them on its functionality. Established, proven processes may need to be recreated in the new system.”

The biggest hurdle you’re likely to face in your CRM implementation journey is ensuring the appropriate behaviour change. To encourage a team to change habits developed over many years is a tough ask for any business owner, senior director or manager.

So the most important way to do this is to ensure you pick an intuitive and easy-to-use CRM.

If it’s complicated it just won’t be used, and you will either have to invest heavily to train and get people to use it, or ditch it for another – both expensive routes you don’t want to go down. If your chosen CRM doesn’t do the whole job, or meets resistance form users, it will cost you more in the long run.

But done well, implementing a CRM could be a pivotal business decision that sets you on a trajectory for growth.

Further reading about CRM

A beginner’s guide to CRM

The Right Questions to Ask When Considering a CRM For Your Business

Top questions and answers about CRM

Best free CRM software, 2018: 7 top tools