Why invest in CRM?

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In the two decades that customer relationship management software has been around, the key question surrounding it has changed from "What is CRM?" to "Why invest in CRM?" to "Why not invest in CRM?"

The fact is, while thousands of business decision makers have enthusiastically embraced CRM - touting its galvanizing impact on sales teams and customer relationships - many potential customers bridle at the cost of deploying yet another software strategy, or worry that CRM is simply too cumbersome for employees to accept. These perceptions are largely unfounded. Some of today's best CRM products are both easy to use and highly affordable - indeed, they can be purchased for less than the cost of your monthly cell phone bill.

Why invest in CRM? There are many reasons. For starters, CRM gives sales teams "transparency" - a panoramic view of all customers, from lead to close of sale to ongoing customer management.

When a company chooses CRM software carefully and uses it effectively it can experience significant gains in productivity, employee morale and the bottom line. A well-designed CRM software tool can help front-line sales professionals:

  • Save time by quickly responding to new leads, scheduling calls, making appointments and forecasting results.
  • Maximize productivity with the automation of tedious tasks, such as the reports, proposals or work notes
  • Increase capacity by m anaging more sales opportunities
  • Increase effectiveness with consistent best practices

In addition, they can help executives and managers:

  • Make better business decisions based on up-to-the-minute sales data.
  • Create accurate forecasts by month, quarter and year
  • Streamline training by using standardized collateral, email templates and sales processes
  • Coach sales reps to identify where sales are stalling
  • Improve communication and collaboration between sales reps
  • Boost staff morale with reduced busywork and record keeping for sales staff

One company wowed by the power of CRM is ELK Promotions. ELK produces products in the awards and promotion industry. It manages the storage and distribution of pens, coffee mugs, apparel and much more that bear a company logo. With so many clients and products to manage, the Columbus, OH-based company needed to streamline its customer-management and sales processes.

How, for example, could it make sure a sales professional in one city had access to the same up-to-minute data that a sales professional in another had? And how could it use past ordering patterns to anticipate the next big events? ELK turned to hosted CRM software, and its salespeople now have immediate access to a client's order history. the company also no longer has to wait for clients to call; it keeps track of their ordering patterns from the previous year and call them before their next big event, which helps the company manage its customers better - which translates into more sales.

Another company, Sunnyvale, CA-based Corefino Inc., has been able to handle 25 percent more business since acquiring CRM software. The company offers professional accounting services that help small and midsize businesses lower their accounting costs while improving the quality and timeliness of their financial reports.

Before adopting a CRM platform, Corefino accountants faced the major challenge of tracking more than 45 client workflows, each consisting of scores of tasks, across two continents. After "looking under the hood" of a number of applications, Corefino chose a CRM software product to handle its complex customer service processes and reporting demands.

Corefino used the tool to create a set of workflows made up of "routes" and "queues" to fully automate their business processes. The CRM support reps provided phone and on-site guidance to script what both companies believed were some of the most complex and comprehensive workflows ever created in a CRM application. The workflow implementation was carried out in the space of a few weeks, which meant the company realized benefits quickly.

Now, when a customer service manager logs into her CRM account each morning, the system automatically displays her day's tasks in order of priority. When she completes a task, the tool automatically routes the incident to the to-do list of the next person in the process. If an item is overdue, the tool escalates the warning to the next level of management to ensure that important deadlines are met.

Many other SMB companies are in need of CRM technology to enable sales reps to exceed quota, help managers have a clear grasp of what each team member is doing and accurately forecast revenue. Somewhere along the line, most companies experience stalled sales, lost leads, faulty forecasting or any number of chinks in their sales or customer-management processes. And CRM can help avoid that.

Today's best CRM tools o ffer a host of time-saving, efficiency-enhancing features as well as "smart client" architecture that lets sales reps work both online and offline more easily. With the availability of affordable CRM, more and more companies are experiencing a strong return on investment. So, the question for businesses now, is why NOT invest in CRM?

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