Automated tools for CRM—customer relationship management—have been around in one form or another since the advent of computers. It is a digital extension of the rolodex and other hand-kept methods that were used in times past to keep track of prospects and customers. CRM today goes well beyond simple contact management, however, and if intelligently utilized can help steer an enterprise into whole new levels of profitability.
The original purpose of CRM was to record contact information for a prospect or a customer, and to provide information about the importance of various personnel within a company and details of interaction with them. Scheduling was also part of early contact management systems; a sales rep could scroll through an application and put together a list of calls or visits for the day. Or, a more advanced application would cull through the database itself and provide a “to-do list” for a particular day.
CRM (customer relationship management) Advancements
As automation evolved, CRM software came about. At that point, it was possible to label a sales cycle as to its various stages of the sales process (even if a formal sales process had not been adopted). For example, if a name in a database was simply a lead, it would be labeled as such. If someone had demonstrated actual interest in the product or service, it could be so noted. On the actual commitment to buy, the sale could be shown as “booked” with a dollar amount attached to it. And, of course, closed sales could be shown.
CRM software, for the first time, made possible the visualization and overview of a company’s sales—where they stood, how much they could expect to make in a certain period of time, and how various sales reps were performing. To varying degrees CRM–customer relationship management—gave sales management and executives a clearer view of sales than had been previously available.
Today, CRM applications offer many different options, including detailed analyses of product lines, forecasts, past performance, sales teams and individuals, and many others. They can also be utilized for tracking of marketing campaigns and even provide valuable data for product development.
For all the years it has been around, however, a critical stumbling block for CRM—customer relationship management—has been adoption. A CRM solution can be sold to a company and implemented, but employees have a tough time understanding it, or find it doesn’t closely enough reflect actual operations, find it too complex, or simply too time-consuming. Executives and sales management cannot easily use CRM to perform analyses or forecasts, and end up sticking to methods they have always used. Additionally other departments in the company, such as R&D or marketing, never learn about various options of the CRM that could assist them in their jobs, so never take advantage of them.
While it is easy to blame a particular CRM product and its features, it is often a lack of knowledge of its use rather than a faulty CRM product. Training in its use has been weak, or the software vendor was lax in ensuring its customer really understood the product. Once a CRM is up and running, it is much tougher to get a CRM trained in as day-to-day work and “putting out fires” gets in the way of trying to learn something new.
The bottom line, however, is that CRM—customer relationship management—is a fantastic way to bring sales and expansion to your company. This is only true, however, if the program is truly used and used correctly.
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