Episode 64 of Landscape Digital Show reveals how CRM systems can become digital assets of customer insights that increase sales productivity.

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CRM Systems: Digital Assets that Increase Sales Productivity

Recent research conducted by industry CRM leaders Salesforce and Hubspot indicate companies using a CRM are more productive and sell 30-40% more than their competitors.

Our 2017 digital marketing survey revealed more than half of landscaping industry respondents do not use a CRM. Specific feedback suggests this is due to confusion about the role of CRM in general, set-up, training, and maintenance costs, and how to choose a CRM that is right for the business.

These are all important considerations that are best addressed by considering what the business wants to accomplish with its CRM and the resources that it is prepared to dedicate to those objectives.

The Role of CRM

The term CRM is short for customer relationship management. And when you consider its meaning it becomes obvious that it’s not just the CRM, but the planning and implementation of actions that affect customer relations that are vital to CRM success.

CRM technology promises sophisticated customer insights, but that information is unattainable without taking the time to plan for its acquisition.

This is a challenge even with basic CRM’s. There is a learning curve.

In addition to several industry-specific CRM systems, I have worked with several of the top-tier CRM’s, including Goldmine, Salesforce, Hubspot, Infusionsoft, and Nimble. They all have their merits.

Finding the one that works best for your business will require an assessment of objectives and the resources necessary to accomplish them. Typical CRM objectives include:

  • Capturing leads
  • Giving every lead the attention it deserves
  • Filtering out leads that are not a good fit
  • Tracking leads to ensure they convert to sales
  • Nurturing relationships with leads until they are ready to buy
  • Tracking referrals within your network
  • Maintaining a centralized log of all customer communications
  • Building a database of customer insights
  • Fulfilling all customer commitments
  • Following up on key anniversary or milestone dates
  • Responding to specific segments of your database when necessary
  • Automating sales and marketing actions

CRM Set Up and Costs

A CRM should allow for easy importing and export of data. Depending on your skills, this may be a service that you will want to hire out because it should only take a few hours at the most for someone familiar with the system.

Training is necessary to get the respective team members using the CRM properly, including owners, managers, and sales and support teams. Note that more team members will increase the monthly cost of using the CRM system because additional seats must be purchased, but keep in mind some of those seats can be shared.

After the initial training, which can be significant, most CRM services will provide regular system updates for little or no cost. However, this will require the dedication of at least one person in your organization to keeping everyone current.

Choosing the Right CRM

You probably think of a CRM as a tool, and it is when you first acquire it. Yet, over time it becomes a digital asset that can be mined for business opportunities, including referrals and upsells.

Therefore, it’s important to choose a provider that you are confident will be there for you for years to come. Also, the leading CRM systems integrate with other services, such as Gmail and Outlook, and social media.

Look for a CRM with a track record of partnering with other companies because that usually brings additional value to you at no additional cost.

More sophisticated CRM’s such as Salesforce, Hubspot, Microsoft Dynamics, and Infusionsoft carry a higher price tag and require greater skill and time to employ the many features. Do your homework and test-drive these systems before making that commitment.

If you decide to move forward, be sure to negotiate your best deal. You’ll discover the big players will work with you on pricing to get your business locked in.

Among the more affordable, yet powerful CRM’s are Nimble, Zoho, Insightly, Sugar, and the free version of Hubspot. Pricing for these systems is typically around $30 or less per month per user, and most provide a free short-term trial.

The truth is there is not a perfect CRM because every company has different needs, budgets, and skillsets. If your experience is like mine you will discover there are systems that just seem to fit how your business operates.

For example, if you are a heavy email user, consider systems like Nimble with integrations that allow for automatically adding contacts directly from email.

Once you have selected a CRM your task is to give it a chance. This is vitally important because some companies get frustrated and quit. I’ll admit to having done this once after paying for the entire year in advance.

For a CRM to deliver on its promise you have to develop the discipline of using it to make regular updates, while also learning new skills.

Some companies resist this because it’s one more thing to do at the end of the day, but you will discover it to be an invaluable practice.

A habit that works for me is keeping a notebook in Evernote where I make notes of my CRM workflow after learning new techniques. Over time you will build a set of company-specific tutorials that will save you time and that can be passed along to others.

Remember that a CRM is a means to better relationships with your customers. You may not necessarily enjoy learning technology or data entry, but if you commit to it you will be rewarded with insights that help to close more deals.

And who doesn’t enjoy closing more deals?

Call to Action

The call to action for this episode is to double down on your commitment to your CRM. Rethink what you want to accomplish with it or start researching other CRM systems if you believe you haven given it a fair shake and it’s time for a change.

Before you do that contact customer service and explain your situation. I was ready to quit my current CRM until I got the help I needed.