CRM Basics – What Is It?

CRM is a fancy acronym for a customer relationship management system. It’s a class of software that has been around for over twenty years and continues to evolve with the overall increase in digital marketing. It won’t call up prospects and sell your products (yet) but when properly applied to a successful sales process can significantly enhance sales and most importantly positive customer interactions.
Brief CMS & CRM History
Today’s best selling CRM’s from companies like Salesforce, Microsoft, Hubspot, Oracle, SAP etc. are the latest embodiment of Rolodex’s of the past. In the pre CRM software days folks used a rolodex to keep track of sales prospects and accounts.
Each paper card had a person / company, contact information and address (many reps wrote notes directly on these cards). Sales people usually took paper notes or had an electronic spreadsheet to keep customer interaction notes on.
Then software companies like ACT created CMS’s (contact managements systems) / electronic address books and in essence developed the pre-curser to CRM systems of today. They allowed you to keep your contact information and addresses for your prospects / accounts on your PC. They were static and did nothing except store contact data.
The next step was the creation of the first CRM’s by companies like Siebel founded in 1993 (& later acquired by Oracle). Although they were little more than electronic CMS’s – their marketing and sales teams promoted a rich feature set (compared to CMS) and the race was on to develop the next great CRM sales tool.
Today a customer relationship management (CRM) system is a focal point of almost every marketing, sales and customer interaction for mid to large companies.
CRM’s are a sales person’s best friend when properly married to a successful sales process. It organizes and helps develop relationships with prospects/clients so that reps know the history of the account, last interactions, next steps and to do’s. This is dependent on the sales rep putting relationship interaction information into the CRM – if they don’t the system is little more than a last generation CMS data dump.
The best CRMs do so much more than the baseline CRMs and are the reason why sales reps care. These systems can actually plan your sales day and week without the rep having to remember what to prioritize.
They tell you who to contact, how, why, last interaction and probability of sale. They can also surface up sell opportunities; remind users that a prospect hasn’t been contacted / followed up with or surface accounts that have been neglected. Most importantly the best of these systems actually prioritize your accounts so that the rep knows where to spend their most valuable resource, time.
The next generation of CRM’s is already starting to take shape in the form of VDA’s ( Virtual Digital Assistants – see article: Sales Person’s Dream Assistant ). CRM’s are here to stay and are only limited by the sales process they support.
No CRM can replace a poor sales strategy or sales process that isn’t working or needs strategy development. That being said a CRM that is fully integrated with a working sales process is like catching lightning in a bottle. Look at companies with a strong growth track record and you’ll likely see an integrated sales and CRM system with the CRM supporting the sales reps every action and helping them do more than they can on their own.