Business owners across the country spend millions in pursuit of customers. Business owners confront me often with “I want more customers” or “I need more customers.”
Often, I respond to these charges explaining that a customer is not something you can grab. They are people with thoughts and ideas, likes and dislikes and preferences. People choose to listen or watch your presentation. They choose to form and maintain a relationship based on what stimulates their intellect. Your task is to find the person that is stimulated by your ideas, thoughts and platform. Then build a relationship with them.
I often use the analogy of physical health to illustrate this point. Physical health requires work, discipline and commitment. It can’t be purchased from a store bottle. Although, many would believe it could. One acquires health through proper eating habits and a regular exercise program.
This analogy works on many levels. For instance, just as choosing too many of the wrong foods such as sugars and starches will have negative effects on your energy level, choosing the wrong customer group will lead a miscommunicated message and loss of income and reputation.
The other variable in the analogy is exercise. Exercise burns fat, develops muscle and keeps most of the body’s organs working at optimum levels. Your relationship with your customer is your exercise program, in that working on your relationship with your customer will develop the trust and understanding required to form a profitable relationship. A CRM system is a tool to help you develop a relationship with your customers, just like Reebok running shoes facilitate your exercise.
Businesses make a crucial mistake when they do not invest the time nor resources towards a healthy CRM system. When asked if they have a CRM or marketing program many business owners reply, “I don't have time for that right now.” This brings us back to the analogy above: “I don’t have time to go to the gym” or “I don’t have time to go to the supermarket and buy healthy foods.” These remarks have the same result on the body as neglecting a CRM or marketing program has on the customer base. The state of both declines rapidly.
Another common response to the use of CRM is “CRM systems waste money so, I don’t use it.” Similarly to the treadmill exercise bike sitting in the basement with clothes hanging on them, once a CRM system is purchased and put into place it requires the discipline and commitment to use it. A CRM system is a tool to help you manage customer relationships, just as Reebok shoes, exercise equipment or a gym membership are tools to help you improve your health and well-being.
The formula for the level of relationship is the sum of interactions between you and that other person.
Hopefully the level of your relationship with your spouse or your significant other includes many interactions happening every day resulting in an elevated level of trust and understanding. In business, relationships require many positive and customer enhancing interactions that result in elevated trust and understanding, albeit not to the level of your spouse or significant other. In this instance, we are trying to build a different type of relationship that allows for a long-term valuable experience for the customer and a positive effect on your reputation and bottom line. This will depend on the dollar amount of the product or service. If you're just selling a cup of coffee, there should not be intense interactions at every sale. A larger more sophisticated transaction, such as a merger or acquisition, can last months or a year in the making and often form very important bonds between customer and service provider.
Relationships in business are complex and fluid. They expand, contract and evolve and in many cases the players change, as the course of the relationship takes shape. When communicating to thousands of customers, a CRM system becomes a crucial tool that will prevent crossed lines of communication and lost revenue, due to confused customers. Each interaction has an outcome either positive or negative depending on the person’s perception, so every interaction that you have with the customer or a prospect is a test. Keeping your appointment or conference call is a day to day task that can build strong relationships over time or end them quickly, when missed. A CRM system is designed to be a tool to help you keep track of the relationships and interactions, so you can watch the relationship evolve and make correction, where needed.
Just as your customer base grows with your business a CRM system grows you’re your customer base. The right CRM system will depend on your needs, just like the Reebok running shoes. Similarly, running shoes and the CRM system should be easy to use and help you achieve your goals. I wouldn’t purchase running shoes with lead soles and would also not purchase a CRM system that doesn’t fit the needs of my customer base. Once you have the right CRM system, however, you still need to be disciplined to use it and committed to acquire the knowledge and training to use and understand it. You may be required to watch training videos to learn more about CRM tools or hire a consultant or trainer to help.
The 9 Must-Have CRM features
CRM software has changed drastically in the last 18 months giving salespeople a set of tools to help find and transition a prospect down your sales funnel to a customer. The must-have features are:
- Integration Options - How many 3rd party integration options does the CRM have access to? The top 10 CRM systems right now have an average of 50+ different integrations to 3rd party software. I would like to identify how many new integrations have been added in the last 12 months. This shows if the CRM software company is investing in their product.
- Contact Management – This is the ability to store customer details like name, email, address, phone numbers, etc. Every CRM system provides this basic platform. A good CRM will also allow you to track customer social media profiles and instant messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Slack etc..
- Mobile App - Your CRM must have a mobile application for your phone. If not, you have the wrong system because small businesses thrives on remote access. A new feature, for example, is to link my mobile phone to a CRM system app, so when somebody calls me, the CRM app checks that phone number and displays the customer details. When I make a call on the mobile phone it can add the call to my customer’s timeline.
- Automated Capture - This feature captures different tasks like making a call; sending and receiving emails to customers; website visits; social media activities, etc..
- Live Chat – This feature allows live chat on your website and links directly to the CRM system, so it can record the conversation and outcome of the interaction with customer or prospect.
- Dashboard - A good dashboard is helpful to get focused on the KPI for business. Did you make phone calls; send enough email; complete tasks etc.?
- Task Management - An important factor so you can manage your task and need to be able to link to the calendar and mobile phone.
- Content Repository - A list of articles to help the sale process. Typically to help answer common questions written in style of one-on-one that can be easily sent to customers either by email or instant message apps.
- Deal Stage - Most CRM systems can be customized to operate on a specific sales process. Whether your company has three deal stages or 15, you should be able to program these levels into the software and attach associated values. Retailer deals are the same as customers transactions. As such, you can know what your customer has already purchased.
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