CRM: Foe or Friend – A little history might help

CRM: Foe or Friend – A little history might help

I used my first "CRM" in 1990; it was a DOS version of Act! At the time we called it a contact manager. I picked it up because a friend spoke highly of it, so I got my own copy and loaded the program on my PC. I made that choice, and it was clearly my friend. It transformed my life; I was hooked on the technology immediately. I entered all my contacts and added all my notes for all my customers and prospects, and I diligently scheduled my follow-up with them. The computer reminded me when to call. My contacts and their phone numbers were easy to find. It was magical! I was also able to sync my data to a handheld HP device, and that gave me ultimate freedom away from my desk! I recall using my 6-watt car phone and being the ultimate king of the road in my Upstate New York territory!

There were no emails back then, so I carried a pager allowing me to know who to call back. In those days there was no Google or Chrome because there were no websites, so it was important to have my contacts in one place. DBase III plus was the common place to track customer data.

Act! was a revolutionary tool because it combined a scheduler with a database. It was clever and quick. It was one of the very first digital tools for salespeople. With Act! you could say goodbye to the Daytimer and Dayrunner. The technology helped me stay focused on capturing my customer's information and remember their journey. It also provided quick queries for their information, as needed. Ultimately, it helped me win more opportunities.

My mindset towards the technology was excitement. I remember always getting the latest version of the software when it came out! In it were always new features that could help me get an edge!

Today CRM is still used for the same purpose and has amazing features to connect with your customers. CRM is now shared, and managers, as well as salespeople, have access to the same database. And that is where things have changed! CRM is for everyone. It is the company's database and not just the sales team. It is for managers who have found it is easy to look at a dashboard snapshot of their business. It is also for marketing, customer service and project leaders. All find tremendous value from their CRM.

In my experience, when folks embrace their CRM, they find both productivity and success. Here are a few tips to make the most of your CRM experience as well as some traps you should likely avoid.

7 tips to make CRM your friend:

1. Align your sales and marketing teams, so that both use the same platform and tools to develop leads and follow-up on opportunities. Use CRM to consolidate and track those activities.

2. Develop your ideal prospects in CRM. This requires that you customize your CRM with the ideal profile in mind. For example, you may focus on prospects with a certain size, within a specific industry, that display a particular mindset about your products and/or services, and where you have access to those with the power to make decisions.

3. Use CRM to take relevant notes about each customer. Include their customer journey. Capture current and future products and services they may need based on their input.

4. Schedule your follow-ups and meetings in CRM. Always know when and how to follow-up with your prospects.

5. At a minimum, start and end your day in CRM. This will help guide your daily activities and will ensure you don’t fall behind in keeping your data current.

6. Make CRM the hub for all your information. This likely requires integration with other systems and may also mean you need a good reporting tool such as Power BI embedded in the CRM.

7. Take it where you go, making sure you have a good mobile solution that provides the tool you need, such as mapping your contacts, getting your dashboards and lists, and driving activities even when out of the office.

Avoid the following 7 traps of CRM:

1. Use CRM out of the box with no customization or configuration. This leads to frustration and may actually decrease productivity. You need some customization, automations, and dashboards to be meaningful for your business.

2. Downplay recording important notes and activities you have with your customers – either not doing it at all, keeping it in your personal email platform, or kidding yourself into thinking you’ll get to it later. This sub-optimizes the value of your CRM and doesn’t allow for good transitions as people come and go.

3. Inadvertently assigning ownership to the wrong individual. If someone else enters information into CRM, make sure contacts and accounts are assigned to the right owner. This will avoid duplication and confusion in your CRM and will help users quickly find the contacts and accounts for which they are responsible.

4. Using the CRM as a “hammer” to impose on your salespeople creates ill will. Encouraging the use of CRM to meet a goal, however, is helpful – especially when you combine it with a contest. Make the CRM work for the salesperson because he/she sees how it helps them succeed (not just to please a manager). CRM sometimes has the reputation of being “Big Brother”, which builds resentment. Find a way to leverage the tool, so that all functions and users win together.

5. Keeping all platforms, including CRM, separate and distinct with no integration. This includes digital marketing automation platforms. If the sale and marketing team are working in two different systems, that is counterproductive. Databases should be synched at the very least, and leads should be created in CRM for salespeople to follow-up.

6. Leadership doesn’t use CRM to run the business. To be successful, leadership should provide the resources for a good implementation and continuous improvement of the CRM and should use it themselves to guide key business discussions.

7. Skimp on training. Yes, your CRM should be easy and help you focus on your work, but as with any new system or process, training is essential. It is important to get the proper training and guidance needed to learn how to use the tool effectively.

CRM should always be considered your friend because it is there for your support. Every CRM should be designed to win the salesperson and manager but most importantly the customer, of course!

A good CRM is one that is used throughout the organization. It helps you be more productive and provide insights about your customers. It is a hub for your communications from lead to close. CRM should capture all the digital marketing information it helps generate, as well as customer service details and project tracking for any of your services.

If you’d like to learn more, we’d be delighted to help. Call TopLine Results at 1-800-880-1960 or reach out to We have loads of experience to help you avoid the traps and embrace the tips to maximize the benefit from your CRM.

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