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What is a CRM? And Why Should I Use One?

Simply put, CRM -- or customer relationship management -- refers to software that tracks interactions with prospects and customers.


All CRMs store prospects’ contact information -- their name, email, and phone number, as well as any other identifying information a company chooses to track. CRMs can also group multiple contacts at a company under one account, which is helpful for sellers.

Beyond contact info, CRMs log reps’ touchpoints with their prospects, including emails, phone calls, voicemails, and in-person meetings. Some CRMs offer the ability to track deal stages and reasons for closed-lost and closed-won deals.

As anyone who's ever struggled with contact management knows, a CRM system is an invaluable tool for businesses that want to grow and scale (read: virtually every business). But on the other hand, it’s yet another solution that business owners must implement and train users on. Is it really worth it?

Absolutely. Here are the top four reasons why your business -- regardless of size, maturity, or industry -- needs a CRM.

1) It’s a centralized place for storing data.

In sales, speed and ease are critical. Spending precious time searching through their inbox or call history to get a prospect’s number or recall when they last spoke is a huge waste of a salesperson’s time. It’s also unreliable -- if they forget a touchpoint, they risk sending the same email multiple times and annoying a prospect.

A CRM provides a full, accurate record of a rep’s entire interaction history with a prospect that’s accessible with one click. Reps will never have to manually reconstruct a timeline of touchpoints again.

Reps can also use a CRM to view their sales pipeline and opportunity queue, which ensures they always know where they stand relative to quota. In addition, CRMs allow salespeople to filter opportunities by the ones they own so they only have to refer to one page to get a high-level summary of all their deals in progress. Some even provide a snapshot of a rep’s sales pipeline by sorting opportunities by deal stage, making forecasting painless.

2) It improves communication across an organization.

In addition to making life easier for individual reps, CRM systems also improve communication at the organizational level. What if a rep is working a lead that their colleague spoke to two years ago? What if they’re taking over someone’s territory and have only been given an indecipherable Excel spreadsheet of prospects?

With a CRM, reps can immediately assess what’s already been done with a given prospect and what’s next. Your reps don’t need to reach out to their colleagues to get interaction history, because the information they need is already in the system.

3) CRMs make managers’ lives easier.

Another organization-wide boon: CRMs standardize how reps track their activities and prospect interactions, which streamlines reporting.

Without a CRM, different salespeople can track activities in different ways, which makes it difficult for managers and leaders to piece data together to form a coherent picture. CRMs make data entry uniform, meaning managers can easily combine and analyze data to understand the overall health of the sales organization.

Keeping activity recording consistent also reduces friction when passing a lead from one rep to another, switching territories, or reassigning a departed colleague’s opportunity queue. Not only will all relevant information be accounted for, it will also have been recorded in a manner that makes sense across the sales force.

4) It’s a sustainable, scalable tool for growth.

You might be asking yourself, “Can’t I just do this all in an Excel spreadsheet and call it a day?”

With one or two or five customers, manually tracking every interaction is doable. But think ahead to one, two, or even five years from now. Presumably, you want to triple or quadruple revenue in the years ahead, and the time your salespeople will have to spend recording prospect and customer information is eventually going to take over their days.

Furthermore, what if you want to analyze your salespeople’s activities to discover what outreach strategies or series of touchpoints work the best (or, frankly, anything else about your sales force’s effectiveness)? Pulling inconsistently tracked data from multiple sources can drag out or compromise your ability to get an accurate picture.

Ultimately, there’s a very simple question you should ask yourself if you’re considering a CRM: Do you want to grow your business? Your ability to do so is dependent on contacting your prospects at the right intervals and providing them relevant information at the right time, and you simply can't do this effectively without a CRM.

Note: This article was originally published by our partner Hubspot.