5 CRM Software Features To Streamline Your Business

What are the CRM software key features to look for?

At their core, a number of CRM software tools could easily provide you with their implementation of a contact manager, lead pipeline, lead scoring, some rudiments of sales and marketing automation, sales tracking and multiple ways of getting in touch with your customers, ranging from email, phone, IM or live chat.

Wisdom gleaned from actual usage by diverse industry users point to CRM key features that are essential for today’s businesses to thrive—and survive, to fend off the stiff competition provided by similarly positioned businesses. For your convenience, our experts have distilled all the disparate views gathered from the field and picked the most essentials that you should know.

Specifically, we will be looking at how CRM could streamline your business through these five critical features: centralized and associated records—the so-called customer 360° view; lead management—that is, through lead scoring; collaboration; third-party application integration; and practical insights through reports and analytics

We’ll also look at how CRM has allowed businesses to follow where the buyers are: in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, in Instagram. For example, data from LinkedIn alone reveals that 96% of sales professionals use LinkedIn at least once a week and spend an average of six hours per week on the professional networking site.

The businesses who are quick to realize this are of course reaping the rewards already, to the tune of them gaining stunning numerical advantages that their competitors ignore at their own peril. In this article, you’ll learn the five critical features of a CRM, plus more:

Once you have made the list of essential features for your CRM software and are ready for a purchase, it will also help you to pay attention to the following tips in order to see a smooth transition ahead.

5 CRM Software Features To Streamline Your Business

1. Centralized and associated records — 360° view

Among CRM software key features, this core function of a CRM is also its most crucial. The CRM application’s contact management tool not only collects customer data: it organizes all pertinent information pertaining to any one customer, segmenting them by associating characteristics and information that are critical to how agents communicate and relate to them in order to guide them in converting to actual buy. Segmentation could mean organizing customers into groups that share similar characteristics such as geography, age, gender, buying pattern or any custom rules.

A prospect becomes a lead and the CRM tracks such lead as it progresses through the sales pipeline and make first purchase, updating records at each stage to keep agents making informed actions and decisions at each contact point. It profiles customers according to some categories, relationships and communication history.

This feature enables a CRM to give a complete picture of all customers—the customer 360° view. This 360° view of customers presents contact details, demographics, transaction history, support engagement all retrievable through tags and filters at a moment’s notice. With your market segmented, you can easily proceed with promotions that especially appeal to segment members, even target individual customers. To illustrate, think of a customer planning on a month’s trip to the Alps; you can then push hiking and other mountaineering-related products to him. You can see how the CRM have just reduced the cost of promotions for you, eliminating those campaigns that are of no interest to the recipient while increasing the relevance of material you send out.

In short, it’s the power of information realized, a font of opportunities at the hand of a smart agent, sparing yourself all the trouble of wasting time collecting and consolidating all relevant associated customer data—the CRM has done it all for you.

2. Lead Management: Lead Scoring

Lead scoring addresses the common prospect enigma: which one among the forest of contacts in your database is worth the time following up on. It undertakes an elimination process, discarding low-grade entries and instead pointing your sales team on track going after your best opportunities, so they don’t waste time on dead end leads.

Relying solely on agents to do all the rights things can be a suicidal approach. A CRM strong in lead generation and follow-through, both in automated customer notices and reminders to salespeople can quite literally save the day.

A CRM that scores the myriad population in its storage using crucial parameters is heaven sent. The tool should be powerful enough to let you come up with a customized set of scoring criteria that takes everything you know about your contacts into account. A CRM that empowers you to assign point values to virtually any data you’ve collected on a lead, or actions your leads are taking on your website, in emails, even via social media positions you against the competition in many ways that are simply not available before. The CRM has just allowed you to focus on leads with the most promising ROI while saving you from needlessly wasting time pursuing false leads.

3. Collaboration

All that crucial information about your customers in your database, their lead scores for example, mean nothing if the people in your company who should have use of them do not have access to them in the first place.

Specifically, that much data could only make a difference if your marketing, sales and customer services folks could share them even as they exchange information, capture novel ideas and contribute to winning practices.

The wealth of rich customer information should enable sales to feed on-the-ground data to help marketing craft campaigns and brand messages. Marketing can feed sales with new leads in bulk. Both teams can share contacts, deals, and insights that fast track the sales cycle.Total team effort enables a company to connect with customers, partners and employees on lead generation, sales opportunities, service cases and marketing campaigns. CRM truly comes into its own when sales, marketing and support teams work closely together.

4. Third-Party Application Integration

Integrating your CRM with third-party solutions maximizes your productivity by allowing all of your business applications to talk to and work with each other seamlessly. Integrating saves you substantial amount of time by significantly reducing the need to copy information from one tool into another and minimizing human errors—even irritation. For example, a CRM integration can be used to log and track every time you send a sales proposal to a prospect, eliminating the need for manual data entry.

CRM integrations make your job easier by automating tasks you’d otherwise have to perform via other software tools. Integrations for one can put more of your sales team’s essential functions in one place, turning your sales communication platform into a central hub for email marketing, customer support, accounting, document management, and more.

Integrations even allow you to access the area of social media capability. When you consider, for example, that 72.6% of salespeople using social selling exceeded quota 23% more often, you realize how integrating CRM with social media lets you engage your prospects in ways simply not possible before, while offering windows to direct prospects and their network among others.

When you integrate your CRM with the major social channels, you acquire instant access and a quick way to interact with customers through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. That effectively gives you a share of the two hours a day that each person online spends on these channels.

5. Insight through Reports and Analytics

All that 360° customer database, lead control, collaboration tools and social management mean less if you are not able to see the results, assess them, and make corrections and forecast that a capable CRM reports and analytics tool should handily give you.

This critical feature allows you to stay on top of the other features already mentioned by giving answers to the following lines of inquiry:

  • Which campaign gave you the maximum no of leads?
  • What was the most profitable channel?
  • How did sales, marketing and customer support perform with the CRM tools throughout a selected period?

Data is only valuable when it gives you the ability to find out something to act on for your business. All that information in your system is for naught if you only use it to capture and store massive amount of information without extracting insights from it.

Unleash the power of your CRM by having it gather and later analyze customer data. The analytics should give you critical information to help your employees perform daily tasks better and your upper management make more accurate business decision.

Examples of CRM Software

1. HubSpot CRM

Free forever, easy to use but running on powerful engine under the hood, HubSpot CRM is built to be the CRM platform that you can stick on for the life of your business. As far as HubSpot CRM features go, you cannot go wrong choosing this tool for both an introduction to what CRM software is all about, as well as sticking around after you discover its immense business-enhancing prowess.

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HubSpot CRM will help you clearly profile your customers and organize every single detail of your their communication with you. It lets you assign and track deals, control the performance of your agents, and offers a single, detailed dashboard where all team members can keep track of your company’s activities for heightened team collaboration. It gives you powerful access and management of social media, along with the powerful insights that your business will need at the end of the day to inform your next actions.

The vendor offers a comprehensive free trial to get you up to speed with the features. You can sign up for the HubSpot CRM free app here.

2. Freshsales

Freshsales gives you core customer information profiling tool, lead and sales management, communications tracking, along with sophisticated analytics and reporting tools. Its also backed by excellent customer support that its parent company is famous for, along with the standard seamless integration for the times you need to hook up the application with third party applications.

This Freshsales overview should give you a good idea how this leading application could help your business.

The vendor has an appealing free trial where you can tinker with the features at no cost. You can sign up for the Freshsales free trial here.

3. Salesforce CRM

One of the leading names in CRM, Salesforce CRM helps you track all customer information and interactions in one location and manage them for more leads. Its Lead Management, Marketing Automation, Sales Data, and Partner Management tools let you track these leads until they are ready for conversion.

Other Salesforce CRM benefits include its robust mobile app for Android and iOS featuring real-time data from dashboards and custom reports, plus a Feed First feature that lets you at once see the most important information based on your settings. Its AppExchange Apps lets you add more functions and tools as you see fit. Salesforce Sales Cloud also allows you to get insights from varied, real-time customer data and create critical reports, sales forecasts, and territory models.

If you want to investigate the features closely you can easily do so when you sign up for a Salesforce CRM free trial here.

4. Pipedrive

While providing leading universal CRM features, Pipedrive pricing is reasonable enough for it to be the CRM of choice for many small-to-medium-sized businesses. Built by sales people and hardcore web app developers, Pipedrive organizes your business leads in a way that will give you an excellent overview of your sales, and allow you to focus on the deals that you want to prioritize.

Pipedrive’s core strength lies in direct sales, which efficiently manages your company’s sales pipeline. The downright intuitiveness of the system helps you distinguish hot leads and priority deals, and develop an individual approach for each of them without wasting too much time. Negotiating a deal, or maintaining lead relationships in general is a fully flexible process, and you can quickly customize it to promote your brand or adjust the conditions you no longer agree with. Pipedrive allows you to switch on/off entire modules, and guarantees there will be no side effect on the quality of your service.

You can check the solution closely when you sign up for a Pipedrive free trial here.

5. Zoho CRM

Among the list here, Zoho CRM is arguably the most capable in social media management. Other Zoho CRM details show the application offering lead and contact management, sales pipeline management and purchase control. It automates daily sales tasks, converts web visitors into hot leads, imports prospects from external sources and parties, including trade shows, direct emails, and seminar. Once imported in the system, Zoho CRM matches the leads with the appropriate sales agents, to optimize the opportunity of converting the leads into buyers.

Zoho lets you identify and target inactive leads with historical data to realign your customer messaging. Its Business Card View tool allows you to quickly access all pertinent customer information in one window without the need to scroll or search. The Notes Section displays the time and content of past conversations for a more personal and logical communication.

You can easily sign up for a Zoho CRM free trial here and get to know the features firsthand at no cost and without commitment.

8 Helpful Tips to Facilitate Smooth CRM Transition

A smooth transition will help your staff get up to speed faster and gain a deeper level of confidence. By following these steps, you will avoid unnecessary complications, retain normal operations more quickly, and make sure your employees as well as customers happy.

1. Keep the tool simple

The objective of CRM software is to boost your efficiency. That means you should also look for something that amply answers your needs. Stay away from any tool that is too complex for you. It may be sometimes tempting to have the latest and greatest solution with all the bells and whistles. Generally, however, you better off sticking with a solution that’s intuitive and practical. Getting a simple tool should also make it easier for your employees to make the transition and swiftly put the software to use.

2. Explain the benefits

Many staff workers will be unsurprisingly apprehensive with a new software program. One of the quickest ways to get the employees to embrace and adopt the change is to show how everyone will benefit from it. This may include showing employees how this tool will improve their work, speed up their tasks, and improve the overall organization. Try to highlight tangible benefits that are particular to your business.

3. Organize a training seminar

Designate a time for your staff to sit down and understand the software solution. You can hire someone or ask a representative from the vendor company who learns a lot about the product or has a lot of experience with it to come in and discuss with you and your staff about its features as well as answer questions. This expert can walk your employees through the software and even provide a hands-on demonstration. Generally, employees can learn the basics within a session or two. Plus, you avoid unnecessary complications.

4. Your employees should not be overwhelmed

If the adoption to this new CRM software will involve various numerous and complex changes, then you might want to slow down the transition into smaller and more “digestible” steps. This way, you can adopt and implement the new software better, cutting back on errors and reducing the learning curve. Give your employees enough notice so they can also adequately prepare. Each employee should be substantially familiar with an aspect of the software before going to the next. You may also decide to give out one-on-one instruction sessions with any employees, especially those who feel they are struggling with the transfer until they find themselves comfortable enough to use the new software.

5. Keep everyone in the company in the loop

Another effective technique although simple is to keep the employees informed of the switch with periodic updates. These updates may include emailing weekly newsletters to explain to them where your business is in what stage of the transition process and what they should expect from the process in the near future. You may also want to get a CRM consultant who could handle these communications and engage staff members who may need additional assistance.

6. Accept feedback

Allowing employees to constructively provide their feedback, whether they are positive or not. This would result in less employee resentment. Getting feedback from your employees should help you assess where everyone in the company is and let you decide which areas or issues you need to address. If find you are getting a consistent pattern of complaints or negative feedback from employees, you may take the necessary responses to address the issue before it become a huge issue.

7. Be flexible

You would definitely want to switch to happen without a hitch, but sometimes this does not happen no matter how hard you try. It helps therefore to anticipate any issues and be flexible enough to address them. One good idea is allowing extra time to make the whole shift in case your workers are experiencing difficulty. You may also want to get some software experts who are readily available to respond to questions and provide support. This way, a few issues won’t completely throw you off track, and you can still have normal business operations for your company throughout the process.

8. Test and tweak

Finally, it is crucial you implement some form of metrics or analytics to assess how well your swtich is going. This will differ from software to software, but your business has to come up with measurable statistical data to indicate your progress. From there, you can determine which adjustments needed to be done to maximize efficiency as well as keep not only your customers but also employees happy.

Adam Goldberg

By Adam Goldberg

Adam Goldberg is a senior market research analyst and one of the key customer experience technology and CRM pioneers working for the FinancesOnline review team. He has been cooperating with FinancesOnline for over 5 years now. During that time Andrew has analyzed more than 2,000 CRM solutions and he’s well-known for his honest reviews and his unique perspective on challenges and opportunities posed by customer-centric innovation. He’s a strong believer in business process automation and the role it plays in customer data management, conversational intelligence, and customer engagement. His work has been mentioned in many major publications and media sites, including MSN, Springer, TheNextWeb, and CIO.

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