Selecting a CRM That Works for Your Sales Process

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The market for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software has no shortage of options from which to choose. With so many choices competing in the space, no one can say they don’t have alternatives. In spite of the options, it’s still questionable whether most companies are finding the right CRM for their sales process.

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Most CRM providers focus on meeting the needs of a ‘stereotypical’ sales team and leave it to the purchaser of software to accommodate the software in their sales process. Even the platforms that attempt to market themselves as industry specific still force their customers into a predefined sales pattern. While it might seem desirable to try to custom build a solution tailored to your needs, it’s unnecessary in almost all cases. This post will attempt to outline some of the critical factors to keep in mind as you shop for a CRM.

When looking at the different options available to you, it’s important to keep a few things in mind up front: what features are customizable to fit your needs; how can you train your sales team to use it effectively; and what features are different than your current process, but won’t make an impact if they can’t be customized. With these things in mind, we can break down CRM options based on how they fit your existing model and how they might facilitate a change in your current sales process for the better.

Define your sales process

Before you can ever begin searching for the best CRM system for your company, you need to establish your sales process. Whether your team already has a concrete plan in place or is still trying to prove the best method to get to your customers, this is the moment in the buying process to develop a system of how your customers are going from finding you to buying from you. As you fill in the sales funnel, make an effort to understand each little set along the way that helps to move the buying process forward.

Sales is becoming increasingly complicated as competition increases and customers become more educated before entering the sales funnel. With the added complexity, it no longer always makes sense to push straight for the close of the sale. Instead, it’s becoming necessary to understand every step in the buying process.

Marketers talk about micro conversions as the baby steps that move a prospect forward towards an ultimate purchase. These micro conversions can be anything from engaging with a sales email to downloading a case study. The increasingly sophisticated sales technology stack is making it possible to measure micro conversions during the sales process too.

Tracking your sales process at a detailed level creates an opportunity for salespeople to focus on the leads with the highest likelihood of success. If properly configured for your business model, CRM software is an essential aspect of acting on detailed sales intelligence. To find the right software to do this, there needs to be a clear understanding of exactly what that process is.

Plan to retain your customers

Businesses that intend to grow need to go beyond acquiring new clients, and plan on retaining them once they’ve been acquired. Your CRM system is an essential part of this process, but its role in account management is often overlooked for its role in the initial sales pipeline. Make sure your new CRM will meet the needs of the significant part of your business. At this stage in the customer relationship, the CRM is less about organizing the sales pipeline than about ensuring consistent follow up and putting all team members on the same page to delight the customer.

Your CRM becomes essential in managing existing relationships by helping to organize ongoing engagement with clients in both a sales and customer service capacity. The latter ensures that they remain satisfied customers. The former is about staying focused on developing the relationship to gain further business opportunities. Anticipating customer’s needs is also important because it maintains the relationship as their needs evolve.

Link your sales process to the buyer’s journey

For salespeople, there are few things worse than a sales process that is out of sync with the journey your customers take. Providing them with information not relevant to their needs confuses the buying process. Even more frustrating is when the sales process is out of line with the buying cycle. Rushing to the close, or being afraid to put pressure on them can have serious implications to your sales process.

Aligning your process can be complicated, but it can also be a simple process depending on your business and industry. While conducting a win-loss analysis is beyond the scope of this article, there are great resources out there to help walk business leaders through analyzing sales data to understand the effectiveness of your sales process. The goal is to look at where your team is losing and fill those gaps, either with training with technology.

Hand in hand with the selling process is how companies train their salespeople to use the CRM system. The software you select can have great technical specifications and fit the needs of your organization on paper, but success hinges on participation from sales. The implementation of CRM software offers a great opportunity to revisit the sales process with the entire sales team. This opportunity not only gets their buy-in on the new software but on improving the sales process across the company.

What features do you need?

Now that we’ve taken a tour of your sales and account management strategy, we get to the point where it makes sense to begin looking at features. What features you’ll need depends on your business and what you uncovered examining your sales process. When selecting a CRM, bare in mind that the goal is to start and develop relationships with customers. Everything that your CRM offers you needs to be in service to this goal. Choose a system that stays focused on helping your team to sell better to both new business and existing accounts.

The specific features to select for in a CRM revolve around the topics we’ve discussed thus far. Your CRM should provide visibility into your sales pipeline while being customizable enough to fit the specifics of your sales process. While having the right features is important, it’s just as important to minimize the amount of clutter in your platform. Too often, a company’s CRM becomes the catchall place for all manner of features that do little to nothing to help the sales process. These system excesses are a major reason behind poor platform adoption in many organizations.

Here’s a short list of features that are important in making a CRM an effective sales tool:

Contact Management – Relationships are at the center of the sales process. Selling today can involve managing multiple relationships across the organization. Keeping track of each of those individual relationships is important for effective selling and increases opportunities for cross-selling across the organization.

Deal Management – While individual relationships are the foundation of selling, monetizing those relationships is where they truly become value added for your business. Monitoring what deals your sales team is working on is key to forecasting sales and ensuring a well-run sales pipeline.

Interaction Tracking – As relationships are built and deals moved towards the close, there are dozens of individual interactions, from phone conversations to emails. Recording these is a vital part of the sales record. An important feature in any CRM is the unlimited ability to store notes, documents, presentations, and to capture your email exchanges with clients.

Sales Team Coordination – Managing one sales pipeline is a challenge; managing a full team’s is even harder. Make sure your CRM can accommodate information views at every level of the sales organization. Being able to manage sales operations efficiently across the team is an important aspect of keeping your team nimble and your salespeople satisfied.

Integrations – CRM systems need to be kept simple to enable efficient selling, but other teams in the company still need to access its data to achieve their objectives. Integrating your CRM with other tools is a great way to add critical functionality to your system without weighing down your sales team with unneeded features.

Look for a CRM that can offer the advanced functionalities that you need without getting in the way of serving your customers. There are a number of great choices on the market that are designed to fit a variety of requirements. As you start sorting through the options, keep a clear understanding of your sales process and the challenges in acquiring and retaining customers. This article is a great place to start looking at which systems are on the market.

The right CRM system will give your sales team an edge and accelerate your sales pipeline. Set them up for success by picking a CRM that fits the needs of your business.

Looking for Customer Relationship Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Customer Relationship Management software solutions.

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About the Author

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Zen Newman

Zen Newman is a marketing analyst at PipelineDeals where he drives demand generation through a variety of channels. PipelineDeals is the preferred CRM of more than 17,000 sales professionals worldwide for its focus on helping salespeople start, develop and grow their business relationships.

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