Not Just an Address Book: 4 Hacks to Turn a CRM into a True Sales Tool

Not Just an Address Book: 4 Hacks to Turn a CRM into a True Sales Tool

CRMs are like gym memberships. Everyone buys one but most will end up only using it once in a while. Most users (about 71% in some estimates) feel satisfied with the results they’re getting out of their CRMs, but that leaves nearly 30% disappointed. To many in this group, CRMs are nothing more than a “glorified address book” that’s best put aside and taken out only when there’s new contact info to be recorded.

That’s a massive waste of CRM potential. Keep in mind that a well-implemented CRM platform pays back up to $8.71  for each dollar spent—not to mention a 29% improvement in sales, a34% boost in sales productivity, and a 42% enhancement in sales forecast accuracy.

The key idea in turning your CRM into a productive sales tool is to focus on the customer journey and to make sure that the platform maps the people (your marketing and sales reps) into the right stages of the process.

It’s okay if you don’t have any idea how to do this. Most CRM users encounter this difficulty when translating overall strategy into specific actions. That’s why we’ve rounded up four concrete steps to help you get started:

1.) Track customer lifecycle stages

Right out of the box, most CRMs come shipped with some pretty slick segmentation features, but these capabilities tend to be underused. Typically, CRM segmentation begins with features for segregating people into groups like contacts, leads, opportunities, and customers. These, of course, are only starting points.

To really feel the sales benefit from a fully functioning CRM, you need to classify your target buyers according to life cycle stages. Life cycle stages allow you to set relevant and timely engagements, helping you minimize wasting resources on misaligned touchpoints.

While customer life cycle varies from one organization to another, a bare-bones outline (according to HubSpot and Christine Donahe) looks something like this:

  • Subscribers
  • Leads
  • Marketing-qualified Leads (MQLs)
  • Sales-qualified Leads (SQLs)
  • Qualified Follow-ups
  • Inactive Follow-ups
  • Open Opportunities
  • Lost Opportunities
  • Current Customers
  • Past Customers
  • Evangelists/Advocates

This further implies that you need to follow a well-defined method for ranking and classifying leads in your pipeline. Using customer life cycles and lead scores also provide an added benefit for CRM users. It streamlines the process of categorizing and finding CRM records, making sales reps’ workflows more efficient.

Related: 12 Easy Methods You Can Accomplish Massive CRM Success Rates

2.) Pool data into a single, 360-degree customer view

Acquiring a holistic customer view still ranks as one of the top perks of using a CRM. But, according to Gartner, fewer than 10% of CRM users actually achieve a 360-degree customer view, and no more than 5% manage to turn this insight into growth.

Data silos prevent companies from attaining 360-degree views of their customers. That’s because data barriers hinder users from quickly discovering patterns and linkages between different customer actions/attributes (e.g., buyers and buying history), oftentimes forcing users to compile one-time datasets multiple times in a campaign. Silos also drag down productivity by making users repetitively sift through records from separate sources. In fact, Cyber Sphere Security reports that 30% of marketers blame the difficulty in gleaning useful customer insights on having too many isolated data sources.

To begin breaking down data barriers, start with the following:

  • Connect your CRM with your collaboration/workflow tools
  • Create a single, central hub of information with all your different data sources
  • Append demographic, transaction, behavioral, and social data into customer segments
  • Team up with your IT or dev team to take full advantage of CRM APIs
  • Prioritize customer profiles over database schema

Related: Top ISO Certification Firm Boosts Sales Pipeline with Callbox

3.) Power your sales team with mobile and social tools

As CRMs increasingly play the role of sales and customer intelligence repository, features that enable reps to remotely access and modify information are becoming even more critical.

Nucleus surveyed 233 CRM decision-makers and found that sales reps increased productivity by 26% with the help of social networking and mobility features in CRM applications. In addition, the study revealed that data accessibility for salespeople (visualization, customer profiles, mobility, and embedded information) cuts their sales cycle by 8% to 14%.

Also, the Aberdeen Group reports that 24% more sales reps achieve annual sales quotas thanks to mobile access to their CRMs. According to the research, organizations rely on the following mobility and remote access functionalities:

  • 58% of top-performers make their CRMs device-agnostic by integrating it with mobile tools their reps use out on the field.
  • 75% of companies support syncing calendars, contacts, events, and tasks.
  • Other top features include email access, data I/O, live chat, web conferences, and access to marketing materials.

Related: How to Use SEO To Influence B2B Buyers On Social Media [GUEST POST]

4.) Keep the ‘face’ in ‘interface’

No matter how powerful or well-integrated they get, CRMs will always remain a tool—and tools are only as effective as the people and processes that use them. Before you can expect great results with a CRM platform, you need to secure user buy-in and adoption. That’s where usability comes in.

When asked to rank what features mattered to CRM users, 65% of respondents told Inside CRM they preferred ease of use, 27% prioritized schedule management, and 18% pointed out data snapshots.

IBM also says that companies which provide quality CRM training tend to see very decent adoption rates. Among companies whose CRM training programs were given an “exceeds expectations” rating, 71% report that at least 90 reps actively use their CRM platform.

Finally, CRM Magazine notes that technical support and customer service are two other crucial factors that influence end-user adoption.

All this boils down to improving the user experience in order to drive adoption. Here’s a quick list of tips:

  • Involve end users early in the procurement and implementation process
  • Educate users on concrete benefits, not features or functions
  • Make sure the CRM solution offers adequate support and learning resources
  • Assign a “CRM champion”, an internal employee users can turn to for help and support
  • Set up a process for gathering user feedback and promptly acting on issues
  • Use end results (such as leads processed, prospects followed up, or deals closed via the platform) as metrics to gauge adoption, not just login rates

Another factor that causes friction between CRM implementation and adoption is that the end-users themselves see CRMs as getting in the way of their tried-and-true methods. Sales reps tend to be an obstinate lot, so they’ll most likely end up eschewing anything that takes away their favorite tools and tactics. The only way around this is to find a CRM tool that enhances (not replaces) the things that have been working so well for them.

The Takeaway

Despite the availability of CRM, ERP, and ERP platforms, it’s somewhat surprising that close to 70% of mid-to-large-sized companies still rely on spreadsheets for collaboration. Even for those that do use CRMs, almost half (about 43%) admit they leverage less than half of the available features in their platforms.

That’s despite the dozens of potential benefits that CRMs offer. The keyword here is “potential”. It’s going to take the right approach and culture to transform a CRM into a true sales tool.

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