Increase your sales using CRM
It’s not a magic bullet, but CRM could give your small business a competitive edge over your rivals. Ian Whiting from Markinson Business Solutions explains how.
When it comes to building business relationships, few technologies are as powerful as Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
When CRMs are used effectively, businesses can dramatically improve their sales, market insight and customer interactions - the result of which can be a sharp rise in their bottom line.
Unfortunately, too many small businesses don’t make full use of their CRM platforms, instead using them as glorified contact management systems. That, or they expect them to be a magic bullet for under performance, and deploy them in the absence of proper strategic thought.
What it can do for you
CRM systems can deliver a range of benefits, including increased sales through deeper customer understanding, more efficient marketing through better targeting, and higher levels of market insight.
The good news about CRMs is that they’re more accessible than ever. With low start-up costs and growing feature sets, web-based platforms are now an excellent place for small businesses to start.
But to really make the most of what CRMs can achieve, it’s important for businesses to understand that CRM is not just a technology, but a business approach.
If they’re to increase customer loyalty and spending – and lift that all important bottom line – CRM systems must be used as part of a broader ethos of strategic business.
This means identifying the business outcomes you’re aiming for before you deploy a CRM (or revisiting them once you have).
As the face of your business, the key is to give your sales and service representatives whatever they need to put their best foot forward whenever they engage with a customer.
From purchase histories to service calls to account notes, they should be able to see a wealth of information about individual customers – letting them know exactly who they’re dealing with.
The biggest benefit of this is, of course, more profitable customer relationships (in every sense).
CRM systems help to forge these deeper relationships in a number of ways.
As mentioned, when armed with detailed and up-to-date information about particular customers and their various histories, sales staff can build relationships based on insight, not guesswork.
Secondly, the information that CRMs are able to track makes for better market intelligence, and campaigns that are more focused, targeted, and geared towards individual customers.
This means that when you approach a customer with a new product or proposal, you’re doing so with their needs in mind.
As a result, the job of doing business becomes a little easier. Customer satisfaction increases. And, because they’re able to achieve more, staff satisfaction lifts as well.
For businesses with limited resources, one useful application for CRMs is automation.
One consumables business we’ve worked with have used their CRM system to develop automated methods of keeping in touch with customers.
They chose this as a means of differentiating themselves in a market where consumers have a lot of choice, and it’s helped them to be more responsive while spreading their tentacles further.
They’ve also integrated their CRM directly with their website - something that’s given them a mass of information about spending and buying habits which they’re now leveraging to take advantage of emerging trends.
Another approach that some of the businesses we work with now use is to analyse and then replicate successful behaviours.
Some have examined their most successful sales, for example, to discover the amount of contact their businesses have with those customers, before setting that as a benchmark KPI across all their accounts.
“Rubbish in, rubbish out,” is a real danger when it comes to CRMs. If yours collects insufficient information or the wrong types of data, then you’ll see poor decision making and missed opportunities as a result.
To prevent this, again, make sure that you clearly define your aims before working backwards to develop your CRM, ensuring that it supports your strategy.
For small businesses, another pitfall to watch for is price. Web-based services do have the advantage of low start-up costs, but they quickly become expensive the larger you grow.
To avoid this, anticipate moving to a more traditional solution when it becomes more economically effective to do so, and make sure that any online solution has provisions in place for extracting your data in a useful format.
Whether your aim is to drive sales or increasing customer spending, a CRM system is a must. It’s not only sellers who are seeking their benefits. Customers too are demanding better, faster and more integrated experiences.
At the moment, new CRM features such as tablet and smartphone access and social media integration are changing what’s possible. And while some small businesses use CRM well, many do not. As a result, it’s a great opportunity for those who can do so to find a competitive edge.
Ian Whiting is CEO of CRM, ERP and POS experts Markinson Business Solutions. The company was established in 1986, and now has offices in several locations across Australasia and hundreds of businesses who rely on their solutions.