Here are the 5 fundamental steps for a successful CRM strategy

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There are plenty of advantages to using a good CRM platform. A quick look at our guide to the best CRM software will prove that. The lead generation, contact management, and analytics features on offer can supercharge a company’s sales strategy, converting prospects quicker than ever. 

But making the most of any CRM tool - whether it’s designed specifically for sales, real estate, marketing, or any other niche, depends on more than just choosing a platform and hoping it does all the work for you. A successful CRM strategy requires effort, after which some of the industry’s leading tools, such as Salesforce, Zoho, or Bitrix24, can get you closer to your aims. A CRM, like any other piece of business software, is simply a tool. You still need to know how to use it.

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5 fundamental steps of a successful CRM strategy

1. Identify your goals

For your CRM platform to deliver the kind of results you’re looking for, you need to have something that you’re aiming at - a goal. Or perhaps, multiple goals. But the point is, your CRM results will be aimless and fragmentary unless you have an overarching strategy to guide you. 

The first step to crafting a successful CRM strategy is setting out your goals. Canvass opinion from all relevant stakeholders to find out the different objectives that your CRM could help you meet. Some common objectives include improving customer satisfaction, boosting sales, streamlining workflows, and enhancing communication.

Once you’ve outlined the objectives that are important to stakeholders, start working out how your CRM can help. Prioritize the objectives that are most important to your business and formulate some KPIs that will allow you to track whether your CRM implementation is helping to drive you closer to your goals. And communicate your goals as clearly as possible. Share your objectives and ensure they are aligned with your overall business strategy.

2. Understand your customer needs

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It should come as no surprise (CRM does stand for customer relationship management, after all) that any decent CRM strategy has to involve your customers. It’s important to remember too, that this needs to consider both existing customers and prospective ones.

Understanding your customer needs should start with data. Collect and centralize your customer data, which CRM tools can help with due to their database and analytics functionality. This data could be around anything that holds relevance to the customer relationship, including contact information, previous purchases, communication preferences, and more.

To get hold of the customer data that will tell you their wants and needs, businesses should identify where they can collect customer from, including sales records, past marketing campaigns, and customer interactions. You should also conduct a clean-up of all your data, removing duplicates and inaccuracies to ensure data integrity.

Of course, every business is unique - and so are its customers. But there are a few general steps to follow. Create customer personas to help guide your marketing or sales initiatives, talk to your customer service teams to find out what’s frequently coming up, and look at ways you can shift your company output to deliver the kind of tailored response that modern customers are looking for. 

3. Streamline your processes

A CRM platform will only prove truly transformative if you’re workflows are in order. Before you start looking at particular features, identify the areas in need of an efficiency boost. You’ll see a rise in productivity that will be welcomed by employees and result in higher customer satisfaction levels. 

To begin streamlining your processes, take a look at the tasks that take up the most time for your marketing or sales teams. Look at whether improvements can be made here and, crucially, look into whether there are any CRM tools with automation functionality that can help. Automation can significantly reduce the burden placed on your staff, allowing them to focus on adding value.

Also make sure you create standardized workflows for the most common processes, providing documentation to ensure there’s no doubt about the way things are done in the company. And if automation features are being employed, it might also be a good idea to offer training to your staff so they aren’t put off from using your CRM by its learning curve. If training can lead to faster, more efficient processes, it will quickly repay any investment in time or capital. 

4. Embrace lead management

Identifying leads is essential to generating sales but not all leads are created equal. In fact, it’s vital that businesses don’t put effort into chasing leads that are unlikely to go anywhere. This is why having a lead management plan is such an important part of using any CRM tool. 

Start with lead generation. Identify a list of potential customers and think about how you can make your business as attractive to them as possible. Then look to qualify your leads. Perhaps you are targeting small business clients or maybe you are only interested in offering your services to enterprises. The type of customer represented by each lead will make a huge difference as to whether they are worth pursuing or not.

When you think leads are particularly strong and relevant, it’s time to nurture them. Customer outreach will be important here and your chosen CRM should help by recording touchpoints across a variety of communication channels. When leads have been nurtured sufficiently, it’s time to close the deal. Create a plan for conversion and ongoing customer support so long-term loyalty can be created.

5. Make a plan and get everybody on board


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There’s not much point in having a well-structured CRM strategy that is guaranteed to supercharge sales if nobody knows about it. That’s why it’s crucial that team leaders craft a clear strategy, document it, and share it with all relevant stakeholders - marketing, sales, or even the entire company.

Think about ways of integrating the CRM with other solutions in your tech stack and which personnel will be involved in using it. Create a regular reporting and analysis routine so you can track the performance of your CRM solution and its impact on your objectives. And collect feedback from your employees and customers about the sales and support process. Strategies are not fixed, so your CRM needs to boast the flexibility to adapt.

Barclay Ballard

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with ITProPortal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.