employees at work on computers
Incorporating CRM software into your business allows multiple processes to function together and provides information to all team members. — Getty Images/fizkes

Whether you’re a company of one or 1,000, chances are you still want to keep growing and thriving. Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a powerful business solution that can assist you in achieving that goal, among others.

CRM software aids in streamlining the communications you have with your customers and promotes transparency and accountability among your entire team.

Here’s what a CRM solution can do for your business, and how to choose the right one for your needs.

What does CRM software do?

CRM software helps manage customer information and interactions. Instead of using inconsistent spreadsheets or multiple tools to track your leads, you can log notes from every call, schedule customer follow-ups, automate certain interactions, update customer data in real time, and more, all from one centralized space.

From a resource for referencing client and business data — including customer preferences, past interactions, and more, to offer a personalized experience — to an organizational system for tracking each stage of all past and upcoming meetings with potential leads, employees can leverage a CRM in many beneficial ways. It can even be used as an instant messaging system to answer questions and share information across departments instantaneously, so all departments have what they need to succeed.

Businesses that use CRM software can access compiled data and reports that offer actionable insights, leading to better customer experiences. With this information, employees can make informed recommendations to clients based on their profile data and past interactions, helping a business achieve more sales and higher success rates.

Perhaps an even more important benefit is the ability to understand where your contact is in the customer lifecycle. Using a CRM provides greater visibility into lead progression and what communications have been exchanged to date. This is especially important if you have multiple people involved in the sales process for your business, as it creates a more transparent view of a customer for employees.

[Read more: Everything You Need to Know About CRM Software for Managing Customers and Sales]

Do I need CRM software?

While businesses of any size can benefit from CRM software, you may be wondering if it is worth the investment. Some clear signs you're ready to start using CRM software include:

  • Wasting valuable time on manual tracking processes. Wasted time is wasted money. Instead of tracking processes manually, a CRM can do the work for you while providing actionable insights that benefit the company — helping employees to be more autonomous and productive.
  • Having too many prospects to keep track of. As a business grows, it can be difficult to manually keep track of every prospect and the salespeople working on leads. Keeping a manual filing system, or having no system at all, can lead to important employees being out of the loop. Organizations can use CRM systems to manage their sales pipeline, track where each lead is in the sales funnel, and update contact information so your company won’t lose that lead, even if the salesperson eventually moves on from the company.
  • Experiencing a disconnect among your internal team regarding customer communications. Businesses that do not have a CRM in place may reach out to customers too frequently — or, conversely, may never follow up at all — leading to the loss of customers over time. However, with a CRM, businesses can track all communication between their team and customers to ensure customers receive the right amount of attention and follow-up to stay interested.
  • Lacking time to complete basic lead-nurturing tasks. Businesses that don’t have CRM software will find that their employees have less time — and are less successful — in completing basic lead-nurturing tasks. With manual processes, information can quickly get disorganized or lost, leading to basic tasks falling through the cracks. However, with a CRM, employees don’t need to focus on the mundane tasks and responsibilities that come with inputting customer information and can instead work efficiently.
  • Noticing unhappy customers. If a customer isn’t happy with your service, it’s important to address their issues and find out why — however, the root cause can often be difficult to pinpoint without a CRM and its compiled data. CRM systems provide a business with an arsenal of analytics and reports that can help determine the source of a customer’s issue, whether it's a lack of communication, a dissatisfactory product, or another shortcoming.
  • Being unable to properly track customer interactions. If your business is growing to the point where keeping track of customer interactions is impossible, consider implementing a CRM system. Customers want to have personalized experiences with companies, but without tracking tools, it can be hard for a business to provide the experience customers are looking for.
  • Feeling stagnant or experiencing slow business growth. For companies with stagnant or slow growth, it can be difficult to determine the cause without a system tracking everything from sales to social media to employees’ workflows. However, with data from a CRM, businesses can analyze information, find actionable insights, and make informed decisions to address areas where a business has gone stagnant — improving the company, strengthening customer loyalty, and closing sales.

[Read more: 6 Free or Low-Cost CRM Options for Small Businesses]

Customers want to have personalized experiences with companies, but without tracking tools, it can be hard for a business to provide the experience customers are looking for.

What to look for in CRM software

There are many CRM companies on the market, all offering a wide array of helpful features. When researching which CRM is best for your business, consider what your business needs are at the time of your initial research and what your needs may be in the future as your business expands. Here are a few things to look for:

  • The right value for the price. For the most basic software, a CRM can start at $5 per month per user. If you need robust software that does more than basic contact management, expect to pay upwards of $300 per month per user.
  • Sales forecasting. Using your existing company data, some CRM systems can predict future sales. With this information, businesses can make informed decisions as to whether their marketing campaigns or sales plans are on the right course, and can get a preview of what to expect in terms of future sales. This can help a business avoid an unsuccessful launch or campaign and, ultimately, financial hardship.
  • Employee tracking capabilities. Businesses can ensure they are operating efficiently by using a CRM system that tracks employee performance and activity, such as hours worked, sales numbers, and meetings scheduled. With tracking capabilities, managers can use employee data compiled by the CRM to lead performance reviews, reward hardworking employees, and identify areas for improvement.
  • Workflow automation. Many CRMs allow organizations to create rules for automated actions. These rules can tell the system what department to forward customer inquiries to, draft and send automated responses to customers, and follow up with leads or prospects automatically if they don’t respond.
  • Cloud-based, shareable access to customer data. A cloud-based CRM allows businesses to have 24/7 access to company insights and offers the flexibility to check on customers from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. If multiple people will need access to the data, look for secure data sharing features, so more than one user can work on the same accounts and centralize information.
  • Company-wide reporting. A standard yet important feature in CRM systems is the ability to track and report on marketing and sales efforts company-wide. CRMs can track everything from financials and invoicing to the number of outbound calls and emails sent to the stage at which a lead converted — and the sales agent who converted them. With these reports, businesses can see what strategies have worked and what is worth revisiting, allowing them to experiment with new ideas while monitoring their success.
  • Streamlined customer service channels. CRM software that offers the ability to streamline social media messages and email inquiries all from one place can drastically help marketing efforts by eliminating duplicate steps for employees. Certain systems allow businesses to track and resolve customer issues swiftly and in a personalized manner, with pre-made email templates, reference numbers for each case, and auto-generated acknowledgments of customer inquiries.
  • Third-party integration. When choosing a CRM system, ensure it integrates with your company’s most utilized software — such as commonly used programs like QuickBooks accounting software or DocuSign electronic signatures. While most CRMs are capable of integrating with some third-party programs, finding the right CRM to seamlessly integrate with your most-used software programs is crucial to keeping systems running smoothly and getting the most out of your investment.
  • Ease of use. Investing in CRM software that simplifies the process of getting your customers involved in the relationship-building experience can help save you a lot of time. Look for a CRM that is easy to use for creating tasks such as maintaining an email list and following up with prospects with just a few clicks. Determine what features are important to your business and choose a program that handles those tasks well.

[Read more: Business Intelligence vs. CRM: What’s the Difference?]

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Published October 12, 2022