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Even if you don’t know what a Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) is, chances are you’re using one.

That notebook with a page for each customer, that Excel spreadsheet where you keep track of all your customers, or the carefully organized labels in your email account are all part of your CRM.

At its most basic, a CRM is simply a system that helps you track the interactions you have with your current and potential customers.

But there are many layers to a CRM, including a lot of functionality you might not have considered.

So let’s get a step-by-step look at how the right CRM can take your business to the next level by streamlining your marketing and gaining you more customers.

What Does a CRM Do?

A CRM keeps all of your customer-related information in one place and gives you the ability to review data in order to make smarter marketing decisions.

The key is to make sure that you or your sales team is using the CRM to track every interaction with the customer or potential customer. This gives you the best view of your sales cycle to make sure that no leads fall through the cracks and no sales are lost.

Step 1: Track Leads

A Lead is anyone who has shown an interest or who you believe might be interested in what you sell.  Technically, Leads aren’t yet customers because they haven’t purchased a product or service, but your goal is to help those Leads become customers.  You can track Leads based on how you came into contact with them, for example…

  • through a referral
  • at an event
  • via LinkedIn
  • or through an inquiry on your business Facebook page. 

While a person or company is a Lead, you track the interactions you have and actions you take to convert them to a potential buyer, also called a Contact.

Step 2: Track Contacts

Once you’ve defined a Lead as a potential customer, you convert that Lead to a Contact in your CRM.  At this point you should know enough about the client to have a stronger idea of which product or service they want, their full contact information, and the type of marketing you want to implement to turn them into a Buyer.  If there is more than one person on your sales team, the Contact is given to a specific person.

Step 3: Lead & Contact Aggregation

Aggregation is the most important capability of a CRM. It means putting all of the information and interactions that you’ve had with a person or business into a single comprehensive view. This gives you an excellent overview of how successful your efforts have been in turning people from Leads into Contacts and Buyers.  All in one place you can see every email, phone call, meeting, or follow-up that occurred.

Using a CRM to Optimize Your Sales Process

Your CRM becomes your business oracle: You consult it to decide which actions you need to take in order to win new customers and keep existing customers happy.

Step 4: Track Interactions

You will be able to look at your CRM and know how many leads you have coming in each day and what interactions they’ve had with your team. Have they been called, emailed, are they in the nurture stream, have you sent them a mailer, etc.?  This keeps Leads from feeling neglected or falling through the cracks.

Step 5: Assign Follow-up Tasks

If you opt for a CRM in the form of software rather than that notebook or Excel spreadsheet, you or your team can automatically set up reminders at set intervals to make sure that valuable Leads and Contacts are contacted on a regular basis. These tasks are available as reports, which give you the ability to keep track of how your sales process and salespeople are doing.

Step 6: Create a Better Sales Process

With the reports generated by your CRM software, you’ll have an excellent overview of your existing sales process: 

  • How long does it take to convert a Lead into a Contact? 
  • How long to turn a Contact into a Buyer? 
  • What are the best sources of Leads for your business? 

Your CRM software allows you to clearly see definitive answers to these and many more questions.  The result is a more efficient and successful sales process.

Provide a Streamlined Experience for Customers

The power of the right CRM is that you can refine your sales process and customize the journey someone takes from Lead all the way through to Buyer.

Yet this customization doesn’t occur at the expense of your time. On the contrary, CRM software makes it easy to automate certain aspects of the process.

Step 7: Track Deals

In CRM-speak, a Deal is an opportunity to sell your business's products or services.  With Opportunity- or Deal-Tracking, you can look at the stages that your customers go through.  This lets you visualize the process (called a Pipeline) that your customers travel on the way to buying. You’ll be able to put yourself in their shoes and make the marketing process more inviting, and therefore more effective.

Step 8: Automate Your Marketing

As you become more aware of the successful actions of your sales process, you’ll begin to understand that some aspects of the process could be automated.  With a CRM software integrated with marketing automation tools, you can see and manage the entire picture from your marketing efforts all the way to the sale. By building reports in your CRM, you can track the return on investment for your marketing dollars and focus your resources on what is working the best.  Consider marketing automation as your next step in creating a successful business.

What Do You Want CRM To Do for You?

A CRM is a powerful tool in your business toolbox. It allows you to store information in one place so you can view trends, optimize your sales process, and convert leads into customers.

When you take your CRM to the next level with CRM software, you’ll also be in the perfect position to maximize your marketing efforts by seeing new opportunities and adding in automation.

Need support for your business? SCORE mentors are here to help. Talk to a SCORE mentor today and get started on the road to a profitable business.

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About the Author(s)

Ryan Rempel

Ryan Rempel is a partner at Westvyne where he specializes in helping his clients implement and optimize their Customer Relation Management (CRM) and Marketing Automation software. With his long history in technology, he can help your business with all of your software and marketing needs. Connect with him at LinkedIn.com/in/Ryan-Rempel or visit www.Westvyne.com

Partner, Westvyne
Carol Kerwin

Carol Kerwin received her Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Long Beach State College and a Masters in Business Administration from Pepperdine University.

Mentor, SCORE
CRM