top view of two employees working on desktops
From managing contacts to automating processes, implementing a CRM system can be a seamless way to organize operations as your business grows. — Getty Images/Dean Mitchell

You’re looking to grow your business, but are you using the right technology to help you reach your goals? After all, your existing business processes and systems might not scale as you begin to manage more customers, more sales, and more data. A customer relationship management (CRM) system can be a valuable tool for keeping track of critical customer and sales information in one place, allowing you to stay organized as your business operations expand. Here’s what you need to know to decide if it’s right for you.

CRM software can help improve productivity by freeing up your employees from repetitive tasks and giving them more time to build relationships with customers.

What is CRM?

It’s not uncommon for businesses to record customer information and interactions in a variety of places, from Word documents to Excel spreadsheets to emails and even notebooks. CRM software helps you manage all of your company’s relationships with current and potential customers in a single, centralized location. This gives employees across your company—from sales to marketing to customer service—a better and more streamlined way to access this information.

A CRM system can be used to store customer contact information, identify sales opportunities, record service issues, manage marketing campaigns, and more. It can also automate many parts of the sales process, saving your business precious time and money.

Salesforce Sales Cloud

Getting to know your customers better is a key to driving sales. The Salesforce Sales Cloud is a cloud-based CRM system designed to make the process easier by offering a unified platform powered by artificial intelligence that provides, in its own words, “a 360 degree view of your customer.” It also offers additional tools to help keep track of leads and sales. Here’s a summary of the top features you should know about:

Contact management: Sales Cloud lets you keep track of important customer data, including activity history, key contacts, communication history, and internal account discussions. When you meet someone new, you can add them quickly into the system. Social collaboration tools such as Chatter allow you to share information and insights on your contacts across your organization.

Opportunity management: To help manage your sales deals, you can view a timeline of your customers’ activity and stay informed on where you are in the sales cycle. You’ll even be given tips on how to push your deals forward.

Lead management: You can access charts to visualize your lead data, set up automatic lead scoring so reps can prioritize leads, and track and manage marketing interactions with your leads. Once the lead is ready, you’ll be guided through what needs to be done to move the lead forward.

Reports and dashboards: You can easily build your own customized sales reports and visualize your data with charts. Dashboards allow sales managers to track team performance all on a single screen, which can be customized to fit your needs.

Process automation: Sales Cloud offers user-friendly tools to automate your business processes. For instance, Process Builder lets you automate complex sales processes with drag-and-drop actions and see a graphical representation of your process as you build it.

File syncing and sharing: You can put all of your files, content, and customer information in one place, which can be accessed by your team or even shared with customers. Filters are available to let you find what you need more easily, and you can also follow files and receive alerts when content is updated.

How to leverage for growth

Now that you know what a CRM system has to offer, here are some key ways it can help your business grow:

Create happier customers: According to a recent Salesforce report, 67% of customers say they’ll pay more for a great customer experience, and 84% say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business. CRM technology can create happier customers by helping your team provide faster, more personalized support. Agents and reps can quickly tap into customer information such as purchase history and previous interactions, allowing them to better respond to a customer’s needs.

Better lead management: As your business grows, the number of potential leads will likely increase. However, if you’ve been using a manual or outdated system for keeping track of leads, it could result in lost opportunities. A CRM system can offer state-of-the-art lead management tools to give you a better chance at making the sale, such as the ability to collect, organize and analyze a large volume of lead data and automate tasks such as alerts and reminders.

Increase productivity: CRM software can help improve productivity by freeing up your employees from repetitive tasks and giving them more time to build relationships with customers. For instance, manual tasks such as filling out orders or putting together complex proposals can now be automated.

Improve collaboration: When teams across your business have a central location to enter and access information, they can better work together to recruit new customers and retain existing ones. For instance, your marketing team can use the CRM system to identify leads that need more nurturing and create a strategy that will help your sales reps eventually close the deal.

What to look for in a CRM system

Once you’re ready to purchase a CRM system, here’s what to look for to make sure you’re getting a quality product:

Cloud capability: Instead of using on-premise CRM technology, which requires hardware and software that can be difficult to install, cloud-based CRM technology allows you to store your data securely online. This lets your team access and enter data anytime, anywhere from any device and can save you money on IT costs.

Mobile access: Your sales reps are constantly on the go, so you’ll want to give them a way to enter and access information from their phones or tablets. Look for a CRM system that offers a mobile app so they can seal deals more quickly.

User-friendly features: The whole point of a CRM system is to simplify your business processes, so make sure it’s easy to access and use. It should preferably provide demos and offer a free trial.

The right price for your needs: CRM systems can range in price, with some starting as low as $5 per user, per month. When you’re checking out the pricing options, take a look at the features included to determine what your business needs. It might not be necessary to pay extra for all the bells and whistles. However, it’s a good idea to try out a CRM system before you buy. The CRM you choose should also be scalable, so that as your business grows, you can easily upgrade to a more sophisticated version.