Make it a big year for your business with a fresh, new outlook on CRM.

As 2013 draws to a close, we reflect on what we’ve achieved and what we want to accomplish in the next year. This usually involves an analysis of our revenue figures and forecasting for 2014 – and possibly a promise to frequent the gym more often if you’re me.

Have you thought about how your company approaches customer relationship management? Not just how you approach CRM from a technical perspective, but how you actually develop relationships with your customers?  Having a CRM strategy is crucial for the future of your sales team and your company, especially today when one bad online review can break you.

Let’s start with what CRM buyers were thinking in 2013

In a study by, regardless of whether an organization was evaluating CRM software for the first time or replacing an existing program, a vast majority were evaluating software because they wanted to increase efficiency.

Paul Greenberg, owner of The 56 Group, LLC said “In their early days, CRM systems were really good at creating operational efficiencies. They still do this today, but now it’s also about how effective they can make each interaction in terms of actually growing revenue (not just cutting costs).”

“We need an automated and centralized system to allow our marketing team to be more productive,” one person said, for example. Or, “We want to manage the sales process better and improve our ability to nurture leads,” said another.

CRM software doesn’t look the same as it did even 5 years ago. Take Base for example, we urge our clients to forget everything they know about CRM and imagine what it could be.

For years, your CRM system forced you to log all of your activities but gave you almost nothing in return. No wonder you ended up hating it. What if your CRM system could capture all of your interactions automatically so you could spend less time typing and more time winning? What if it could be smart enough to tell you which opportunities to focus on? What if it would help you prepare for a meeting by doing the research for you? That’s the vision we have at Base.

Looking to 2014

So what should you do next year to make sure you’re improving your efficiency without sacrificing the relationships you have with your customers?

1. Build rapport early

Often, a sales rep is the first person in your organization that a customer meets. First impressions count, so you need to ensure that your reps know how to present themselves and the company in the best light. Do your reps have a mission statement? Can they explain what’s most important about their company culture? Beyond price or quality, why should anybody build a business relationship with you? Even if these questions aren’t explicitly asked, the answers should come across in everything a sales rep does and says.

2. Reconcile numbers vs. relationships

Sales is a numbers-driven field, and jobs are kept or lost based on how well you can meet a quota. The risk here is that by pushing too hard to close every lead, reps can lose track of the human element to their role. In the long run, that will mean lost sales.

Being successful requires a balancing act, pushing for great numbers while making every client feel valued. To keep sales professionals engaged with the people they’re selling to, your company should offer them support with a strategy for customer relationships.

Customer relationship management is more than just a tool. It’s a philosophy and a guide for how you want your sales team members to interact with their clients. It reminds them to look farther than numbers to generate success from building relationships.

3. Understand that loyalty is a two-way street

You always hope that a first-time customer will become a long-time customer. How can you work to develop that loyalty?

The first step in building loyalty from a customer, is to be ready and willing to give it in return. You’re seeking a financial investment, and in exchange, your entire company needs to invest time and resources into that person. Whether that takes the form of regular email chats, a dinner on the town, or a handwritten thank-you note, your sales team should have standard practices in place for making your customers feel valued for more than just their money.

4. Invest in a CRM that will get you there

CRM software is most closely associated with a sales team, but the best practices and tools go beyond that one division. Your marketing team needs to understand the wants and needs of your clients, and customer service professionals work with clients day in and day out. You need to have a strategy in place for how they will approach those interactions. Their tone should be consistent with the precedent set by your sales team.

Leaders in your organization need to make those decisions about philosophy and implement them across the entire business. Without this foundation for your company, you can’t present a unified front. You’re not just a group of individuals, you’re a team. If you can’t be consistent across that team, the relationships and the business performance suffer.

No matter what tools you use to handle the organization, storage and analysis of customer data, the spirit of CRM is not in a piece of software. It’s a part of your company’s ethos and culture. Weaving customer relationship management into the fabric of your company will make it stronger, and over time, more successful. It’s one of the best choices you can make for your 2014 business plan.