Are you making the most of every enquiry, pitch or connection you make with potential customers?
Maybe you think you are – or maybe you think your company could do better – but one thing’s for sure, if you’re guessing at the answer, I guarantee you’re trailing behind other businesses in your sector.
I used to work for a super-successful and driven guy called Vince. Vince had previously been a professional cyclist, and he carried a lot of the work ethic that made him successful on his bike into his role as a manager of the large business we worked for.
Sometimes, I’d get to the office early and find Vince obsessing over the fine detail he could extract from his cycle-computer (we’re talking pre-Strava here!) and looking at maps of routes he’d ridden. He dissected every part of the route, looking for ways he could knock seconds off his time. He carried this exacting eye for detail into our sales meetings – he trusted us to handle our customers well, but he wanted to know that we were applying 100% effort and consistency to everything we were doing to find and develop opportunities with those customers.
“How did they wind up being here?” – “How many calls have you made?” – “How many emails have you sent today?” – “What happened to Mr and Mrs X from last week?” – and so on. He wanted to know that we were making the most of every interaction we had. If you weren’t 100% certain you’d made the most of every opportunity, you were leaving money on the table.
Vince didn’t like money left on the table.
As a business owner or manager – you probably don’t like money left on the table either. Special thanks to RawPixel for the cover image.
What is CRM?
What’s my cycling obsessed manager from 15 years ago got to do with a CRM system? Well, he was my CRM system. Actually, that’s not totally accurate – his fury about potentially missed opportunities was my inspiration to manage my relationships with customers to the best of my ability – and that’s exactly what a CRM tool is all about; Customer Relationship Management.
In reality, you’re probably handling your customers perfectly adequately. Friendly service, prompt replies to enquiries that come from your marketing videos, competitive quotes, etc. But really, that’s not what it’s all about. As Vince would quite often tell me, anyone can be nice and professional with a customer – but if you want to succeed where 99% of others don’t, you’ve got to be in their consciousness and developing a lasting relationship until you’ve sealed their business – and, beyond that, any on-going business they’ll bring.
A CRM system allows you to do exactly this. Log an enquiry, then see that relationship through – until it’s either a passed opportunity – or it’s money in the bank. Used properly, a CRM will mean there’s never any money left on the table.
Should you consider customers ‘opportunities’?
If you’re thinking that this formulaic approach to handling customers sounds cold, you’re absolutely right. While a good CRM system will allow you to create a process that each of your customers should be taken through, it’s not to say that they should be reduced to simply being ‘a prospect’, ‘a pitch’ or a ‘deal done’.
Photo by The Creative Exchange
CRM doesn’t replace the human side of what you do. When you call, email, visit, answer the phone – or interact in any other way, it should always be done with the values that underpin your business at heart. CRM simply removes any inconsistency and uncertainty from those already warm interactions. For most companies, there’s both a ‘business’ and ‘interpersonal’ side to what you do. Your CRM handles the ‘business’ element – ensuring that every customer receives the same, exceptional and effective service as the next person.
Why is consistency important?
Consistency in your approach to customers isn’t just important for your business – it’s absolutely vital.
If unintentional inconsistency creeps into a science experiment, then the experiment is null and void. If inconsistency creeps into your marketing efforts and the way you handle your customers, then you’re leaving a big question mark over what you do.
“Could we have secured the client if we’d followed up last week?”
“Would they have referred our service to someone else if we’d asked?”
“If we’d discounted by 5% – would they have signed up?”
It doesn’t matter how you define success. Whether it’s a college fund for your kids, unforgettable vacations, weekends where you can enjoy a game without worrying about work – or just the sense of knowing you’ve worked hard, these are the kind of questions that’ll haunt you if you come up short.
You owe it to yourself to make sure every single opportunity is seen through, beginning to end, with the best process and best service you can possibly offer.
How does CRM make this happen?
A good CRM tool is something of a blank slate. At a glance, CRM’s tend to look like a spreadsheet – but they’re much more.
You’ll start by mapping out every step that a potential customer can take between enquiring with your business, to becoming a paid customer. Chances are, you’ll also want to map out all the ways a potential customer can step out of that process too – wherever you might lose potential business.
Photo by NEW DATA SERVICES
When you’ve got this process in place, you’ll be able to feed your customer data in. When done, you can take a look at where you are – i.e. how many quotes you’ve got out with clients, how many people have said no based on price, how many people you’ve sent some initial info to but heard nothing back from – and so on. If you’re handling small numbers of customers, you’ll be able to look at each one – deciding what the next step should be – or, if your numbers require a bit more of an overview approach, you’ll be able to look at the points in your process that see the most conversions – or represent the point where people seem to be looking elsewhere.
Data is everything
A CRM system will let you understand how your business is performing. Now, many have the facility to consider how the finances look – but if you’re looking at a CRM for the first time, it’s good to come at it from a process point of view first.
Rather than hoping for the best, a CRM will allow you to truly see where your effort is going – and, importantly, it’ll let you adjust your process accordingly. Getting a poor open rate for your email marketing? Adjust your email marketing. Not getting any feedback when you call your customers a week after sending a quote? Call the following day instead.
There’s obviously no prescriptive way to make sure you’re making the most of your opportunities – but, unless you know, with pinpoint accuracy, what’s happening with your customers right now, any effort put into adjusting how you work has the potential to actually damage what you’re doing. CRM gives you the view you need to make sure you’re perfecting your way of working.
What do the numbers say?
Conveniently, IT company IBM compiled a huge range of statistics that relate to recent studies into CRM use – and they do some serious talking:
- Lead cost is reduced by 23% when CRM is used
- Average purchase value can improve by 40% with CRM
- 74% of businesses using CRM report better customer relationships
- Conversion rates can improve by up to 300% with CRM
- CRM can improve customer retention by 26%
And, not least; that the ROI on CRM is around $5 for every $1 invested. That’s almost literally a machine that returns a $5 bill for ever $1 bill you put in…
The real beauty of a good customer relationship management system is that it doesn’t represent a new, more difficult way of working. With built-in scheduling tools – and potential integrations with other systems you work with, it’s the ultimate in working smart > working hard.
If you’ve scrolled down here looking for the TL;DR version – would a CRM system benefit your business? Yes, almost unquestionably. If you’re the kind of person that wants to take responsibility and remove chance from the equation when you’re deciding how successful you or your business will be – looking into a CRM system needs to be right at the top of your to-do list.
If you want some great options, this extensive review article by Capterra will walk you through the best on the market today.