Every sales team needs a CRM platform to organize customer data, but challenges such as manual data entry can make the tool difficult for organizations to maintain.
CRM platforms have always tracked customer interactions during the sales cycle, but over the years, vendors have adapted the tools to do more. For instance, some platforms use AI to suggest what sales agents should do next and which customers to prioritize. CRM platforms improve marketing, optimize workflows and more, but sales leaders shouldn't roll out a new system without forethought.
Benefits of CRM platforms
CRM platforms offer many benefits, such as personalized marketing, increased productivity and AI-powered forecasting.
Personalization. Organizations with effective CX often tailor their customer service and marketing efforts to individual customers and customer segments. This personalized approach to CX can increase customer satisfaction and sales. However, organizations can only provide personalized CX if they carefully record customer data, which is where CRM platforms come into play.
CRM platforms track customer data such as demographics, purchase history and customer service interactions. With this information, marketers can perform targeted advertising. Also, because CRM platforms let agents access past interaction history, customers don't have to repeat themselves to different service agents.
Productivity. Organizations can integrate their CRM platforms with other tools, such as calendar and electronic signature applications, to streamline workflows. When organizations integrate their CRM platform with e-signature apps, the system can automatically populate forms with customer information from the CRM's repository, such as name, phone number, address, email and more.
Also, CRM integrations can increase agent productivity because they let agents perform various tasks from one UI. For instance, if a sales team integrates its CRM platform with email and calendar apps, agents can view their sales pipelines, customer interactions and upcoming appointments in one place.
AI. Organizations can use AI-powered CRM platforms to gain valuable business insights. For instance, CRM platforms with forecasting tools can detect trends in customer data and give sales agents recommendations on actions to take next. Also, some AI-powered CRM platforms use sentiment analysis tools to detect customers' emotions such as anger or happiness, which can tell sales and service agents how a customer feels during a given interaction.
Challenges of CRM platforms
Despite their benefits, CRM platforms can introduce new challenges, such as data silos, manual data entry and resistance to change. Before sales leaders purchase CRM software, they should ensure their organization can handle these challenges.
Siloed data. Although CRM platforms store and organize customer data in a central location, different departments often rely on different CRM software. Siloed information can pose a problem when sales agents transfer customers to the service department or vice versa. If the service team doesn't have access to the same information as the sales team, customers may have to repeat themselves.
To avoid this problem, organizations can invest in a customer data platform. CDPs can store information from CRM tools and other sources in a central location that all employees can access.
Data entry. CRM platforms record valuable customer information, but maintaining the data takes work. Agents may need to manually enter data into the system to keep customer accounts detailed and up to date. Manual data entry can pose a challenge to agents who frequently travel and may not have time to constantly update the system. However, some CRM platforms use AI to automatically populate customer accounts with information from emails, texts, phone calls and more to simplify data entry.
Adoption resistance. Organizations may face resistance from employees as they roll out a new CRM system. To ensure a successful rollout, business leaders should fully support the implementation and potential changes to business processes that the platform may bring. Without leadership support, team members may struggle to embrace the system, which defeats the project's purpose.
Types of CRMs
Over the years, CRM platforms have evolved to do more than collect customer data. Depending on their functionality, they can fall under one of the following categories:
- RevOps platform. These platforms have features for marketing, account management and retention, and new account acquisition.
- Sales automation tool. In this category, products focus on the sales cycle and data collection to manage the sales process.
- Sales analytics tool. These tools analyze sales and customer data to offer insights on the sales pipeline and client rankings.
How to choose a CRM
Before sales leaders select a CRM platform, they must set goals for the system and evaluate their options. The following steps can help organizations choose the right platform for their needs.
- Define the organization's requirements. Sales leaders must identify system requirements and goals for tracking sales activities.
- Evaluate available products. Organizations should review and compare CRM products to determine which platforms best meet their needs.
- Assess the internal sales processes. Before CRM implementation, sales leaders should know what their agents do daily and what features could help them the most. When leaders understand their agents' workflows, they can more accurately determine which CRM platform to purchase.
- Define necessary KPIs. Sales leaders must determine which sales KPIs best measure success.
- Check references for post-implementation insights. As organizations evaluate CRM platforms, they should get feedback from other sales organizations that use the same platforms.