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SalesTech Part 1 - The Customer Relationship Management Tool

The critical elements of a Customer Relationship Management tool, what's driving its growth, and some helpful tips when planning for a new CRM tool.

The customer relationship management (CRM) industry has seen staggering growth for many years - with the global CRM market projected to reach $97.9 billion by 2025 and $131 billion by 2028 (Statista, 2022).

global CRM market projected reach

A CRM is one of the most important sales tools in sales rep’s arsenal. It provides a centralised platform for sales teams to manage customer interactions and prioritise activities so that no customer feels ignored, and no sales opportunity goes to waste.

Over time, CRMs have evolved to become a central tool for marketing, customer service and product teams, in order to understand customer interactions. According to Grandview Research in 2022, 82% of the businesses claim to utilise their CRM systems for process automation and sales reporting, and 92% of businesses say technology is essential to attaining their objectives of customer-centricity and fostering deeper brand ties.

Usage of CRMs within businesses is going from strength to strength, fuelled by improvement in sales enablement tools, processes and resources. Cited in many resources online - 91% of businesses with over 11 employees are now using a CRM as their core sales enablement tool, and according to Software Advice, 74% of them are saying that CRM software has improved their access to customer data.

In this article we look at what is driving uptake of CRM tools within businesses as well as some tips on how to plan for a CRM tool. CRMs are now at the heart of ever-growing business, so if you haven't invested in one as yet, and if you are projecting growth, now is the time to at least start thinking about it.



What makes Customer Relationship Management tool so valuable and what are the critical factors?

1) The need to connect and understand customer data beyond sales interactions

As consumer interactions become more complex and as leads come into a business in multiple ways through growth of digital as a sales channel, businesses need to be able to connect platforms and technologies with customer data in order to provide a more personalised experience.

The CRM tool (which was traditionally only used by sales teams) is relied more and more by marketing and customer service teams. Therefore features and outputs have become more sophisticated to incorporate customer-centricity and relevancy.

Research by Accenture confirms that high-performing businesses - i.e. those that substantially outperform over the long term - are five times more likely to use customer data compared to low performers, and CRM tools enable this.

2. Accessibility drives results

One of the key factors behind the growth of CRM is accessibility. Companies want access to customer data in real-time, with CRM solutions that are mobile enabled and are on the cloud leading the way. 87% of businesses use cloud-based CRM platforms, whilst 81% of CRM users access their CRM from multiple devices.

Mobile CRM access does not just increase use of the software as more and more teams working remotely, but also enables the productivity of the workforce - with users of mobile CRM achieving greater results than those that are not. Similarly, offering CRMs via the cloud enables access anytime, anywhere - whether it be a web browser or mobile device.

A study by Forrester with more than 1,000 European organisations reports that mobile CRM apps deliver greater results - with a 74% increase in customer satisfaction due to faster response to requests and inquiries, 87% improvement of sales and employee productivity, and a 73% improvement in business process efficiency.

Similarly, a Nucleus Research report finds that for companies using a mobile CRM, 65% are achieving their sales KPIs / quotas. Whilst only 22% of reps using non-mobile CRM have reached the same targets.

Mobile CRM usage statistics

3. Sales and marketing automation

One of the biggest benefits for a CRM system is the provision of sales automation or a set of automated actions that streamline and optimise various sales-related processes - designed to improve efficiency, consistency, communication, and collaboration. The whole idea is to make business interactions with customers as effective as possible whilst managing the efficiencies of your sales team. Overall, the benefit is more meaningful relationships achieved in less time, with more prospects - allowing reps to move leads through their pipeline more quickly.

A CRM system also provides automated workflows that enable marketing teams to spend more time on strategic and revenue generating tasks, such as creating marketing campaigns that resonate, analysing the data from those campaigns, and testing different approaches based on those analytics. Email marketing automation platforms are now almost “standard” inclusions or small additions to CRM package offerings. All of this enables teams to spend more of their time working with customers who have more complex questions, problems, or needs.

4. A need to be more efficient with managing leads

Many online sources quote that more than 50% of marketers now consider lead generation a top priority in their marketing campaigns but generating the right leads is not easy.

Newer features of CRM systems such as lead scoring and other AI-enabled functions are resulting in greater outputs and efficiency for sales and marketing teams to generate and nurture the right leads and scale this process. One of the use cases around scoring leads is to automatically prioritise quality marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales opportunities. Other use cases include using AI to determine and review data around each sales opportunity to forecast the likelihood of an early close-date, as well as what the right type of communication is for, the relevant opportunity, and its stage in the sales cycle. Finally, marketing can support sales activities with relevant pieces of content to help increase conversion rates and to support more productive sales conversations.

5. Bigger CRM footprints lead to better sales results

Aberdeen reports that 67% of companies plan to increase their overall footprint of CRM utilisation over the coming year. This means expanding the number of users, the various touch-points in the customer’s lifecycle and especially the sales effectiveness technologies with which the CRM is integrated. Such initiatives pay off, with companies focussing on expanding reporting the following results:

  • 52% more proposals, quotes or RFP responses delivered to customers / prospects (14.25 per sales rep, per month, vs. 9.40)

  • 32% higher overall team attainment of sales quota (62% vs. 47%)

  • 24% more sales reps achieving individual quota (56% vs. 45%)

  • 23% higher lead conversion rate(33% vs. 27%)

  • 11% more quotes resulting in orders (41% vs. 37%)

6. Better collaboration across sales, marketing, and service

When data is organised and managed by a CRM platform, businesses have a comprehensive understanding of customers, which, in turn, leads to more aligned messaging and strategies cross functionally.

As the CRM system can serve as a single source of truth for all transactional, business, and customer data that has been gathered on your customer, different teams across the company can work with the same customer or follow a customer's progress through marketing, sales, and service. Everyone who has access to your CRM can work together because they have the latest information - which helps target product and marketing efforts, speed sales cycles, and deliver better and more efficient customer service.

7. A need to track real time KPIs and performance metrics

Business reporting that tracks current, historical and future data about customers, sales and interactions is key to gaining insights to deliver success and continuous improvement to business outcomes - and given the speed of the market most of this needs to be in real time or close to instant as possible.

CRM tools now come with standard reports that can assist sales, marketing and customer support to enhance their processes whilst also offering insights for leadership and executives regarding the company's health and revenue trends.


user checking online analytics

Choosing the right CRM for you

Some tips (and some learnings) to help you consider the right tool for your business before you talk to any vendors...

Goals and needs >>

Identify your needs and what you want to achieve from the CRM tool and then align as a business. This usually starts as a sales team, but as leaders talk to other areas of the business, further needs are identified. Too many times I have seen sales deciding on key needs without consulting other teams. Then, when the CRM tool is live, there is considerable effort to rework and integrate the salesTech into existing infrastructure. Conducting a company-wide needs analysis from the get-go ensures the right stakeholders are engaged and on the journey from the outset.

Key features and must haves >>

When identifying ‘must-have’ features of your ideal CRM solution we recommend documenting the non-negotiables vs the ‘nice to have’s. These usually tie into your needs and goals, for example the need to integrate with your core finance system for invoicing, or the need to be available via the cloud or on mobile. This process can also take time, and looking at needs from a customer lens also ensures expectations are met. Some successful ways to collect data include: surveys /customer feedback on sales process, social media or google reviews, and learning from your internal team.

Teams and key stakeholders you need to engage >>

Identify which teams will actually use the CRM and what for, i.e.: identify use cases (what they will be doing exactly within the CRM and the desired outputs). This also then feeds into the key features and must-haves. We recommend not only going to customer-facing teams such as sales, marketing and customer service, but also to internal teams that impact customer experience, i.e. the finance team. In one major implementation, it wasn't until we spoke to the Head of Finance that we learnt that invoices were the biggest bottleneck impacting customer experience - let alone cash flow. By engaging with finance we understood the need for the customer and were able to deliver invoices in a less confusing and more timely manner. This reduced internal overhead by many hours and also significantly improved cash availability.

Data requirements and definitions >>

Any piece of salesTech requires work to be undertaken from a tech or data point of view, and this requires exploration and prioritisation. The first step is to identify and document the data you have (as well as need/want to capture) and plan to house in your CRM. We then recommend talking to your tech and or data team to help flesh this out further. Collectively and clearly documenting all elements of the data plan - including existing and required data, where the data comes from and the definitions, as well as aligning all data sources you have available via a data structure prior to commencing the project will save you lots of time later. From experience, aligning teams and data sources and structure can take a few months - if not more - depending on the complexity of your business.

Budget >>

Then you need to plan your budget. Your budget may be unknown at this stage but we recommend an “up to” figure for the new tech, with additional allocation towards additional users, upgrades, training and additional functionality. You may also need 3rd party resources to assist if you don't have an internal team to support for implementation and ongoing. It's often the ongoing program of work that is unfunded - so it's critical that you work with the finance team from the beginning to at least understand what is available and what is required to draft a budget. Once you have achieved this, you can start to pull together the bones of a business case. Once again, the ideal scenario is that all teams involved /proposing to use the tool should contribute to the case and assist you in ‘selling it’ to the business.

Pick / find a sponsor >>

Finally, we strongly recommend you appoint an executive sponsor to help you navigate the decision- making team and also help you voice your position at the executive table. Earlier we recommended identifying your needs; these needs would most likely have come from problems or opportunities. If your sponsor starts to talk about these needs early in the process, by the time the business case arrives at the executive table, most of them should be familiar with them and the need to address them in order to support growth. A perfect example of a sponsor is the Head of Finance or CFO. In this scenario you would have been able to articulate to the Head of Finance or CFO that their invoicing issues would be resolved with data being centralised, thus they see the benefit of the tech and are able to speak from their experience and impartiality and support this initiative.


In part 2 of SalesTech - The CRM tool we will continue with the topic of planning for your CRM and dive deeper into the steps involved in procuring the right CRM tool and what implementation could look like.



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