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A Quick and Easy Guide to CRM For B2B

B2B CRM stands for Business to Business Customer Relationship Management and refers to systems, technologies, strategies, and processes that help B2B companies manage their relationships with existing and potential customers. B2B CRM can help B2B companies better understand their customers’ needs.

What Is A CRM?

A CRM tool lets you store customer and prospect contact information, identify sales opportunities, record service issues, and manage marketing campaigns, all in one central location — and make information about every customer interaction available to anyone at your company who might need it.

Why Do You Need A CRM For B2B Sales?

A CRM system helps companies with B2B sales identify new leads, track them throughout the sales cycle, and finally, close the deal. Without such a system, where would you put your notes, how would you get this information easily, and who would need to know about them?

A top rated CRM solution makes work easier, more efficient and reduces costs. And with a CRM in place, your sales team can focus on the day-to-day interactions that they need to have with their prospects, customers, and partners.

A CRM for B2B simplifies your daily work with customers.

Contact Management

A CRM does its best to help you manage relationships with all the customers you work with, whether you’re working with them directly or via a partner. Contact management is the most direct and obvious way to do this; a CRM stores information about conversations you’ve had with each customer, including their contact information, the date of the last conversation, and any files you sent to them. It also stores documents like contracts, agreements, pricing information, and support notes on each customer.

And that’s just for starters.

Your CRM platform should also help you organize your day with customer-focused tasks. It should bring together your customer data in a format that’s easy for you to browse, easy for you to use to quickly find the information you’re looking for. That can include calendar and task management, reporting and analytics, and more.

The right kind of CRM software can help you prioritize your work and focus on the tasks that will help you close the deal or provide maximum value to the customer. It can help you do your job more efficiently, and, over time, that can mean more satisfied customers with fewer support issues.

Vendor Management

CRM software makes it easier to keep track of your vendors, and it can help you manage vendor relationships. In the world of B2B sales, knowing your vendors is even more important than it is with B2C sales. Many vendors are part of a supply chain, and changes in pricing, or delays in the delivery of parts or services, can have major ripple effects throughout that chain.

Vendor management software can help you keep track of all the vendors you work with. It can help you keep track of quick calls that come in on your cell phone and to-do lists related to communications with the vendor. It can also help you set up call logs directly in the CRM, log your time, and record the date of an interaction. The same vendor management software can help you set up rules and alerts, a way to quickly see when you need to do something.

Project Management

It’s challenging enough for sales organizations to provide timely, proactive support to their customers — and yes, many phone and email interactions can be considered support.

It’s even more challenging to keep sales and marketing staff on the same page. Marketing staff is often at the forefront of creating content and developing collateral for use in marketing campaigns. Marketing campaigns are often linked to new product launches, which may impact sales staff as they work with customers to ramp up production and initiate new projects. Issues that arise during the B2B sales process could also require input from members of the IT team, or IT might be involved in building new systems to support B2B customers.

Every company probably organizes its project management approach a little differently, but a CRM is very well positioned to capture all that information in one place. Some CRM software connects directly to project management tools, like Microsoft Project, SalesforceIQ, and Basecamp. Others include built-in project management or collaboration features.

All of that helps provide a clear view of the customer and— at least indirectly — to the day-to-day work your team is doing.

Service Management

We say it over and over again: “CRM is not just for sales.” It’s true — sure, a CRM can make sales teams more efficient. But it also helps companies with service and support. It’s not uncommon for a B2B company to spend more time supporting customers than it does selling to customers and prospects.

Many B2B customers have very specific needs. A managed service provider might provide ongoing support for a variety of technologies, for instance. Within an MSP, a CRM helps sales, customer support, billing, finance, and operations keep track of what needs to be done and how to work together to serve their customers.

A good CRM lets you keep track of all your interactions with a customer. You can manage their concerns, service issues, and even review historical notes on previous interactions. You can store information about vendors and service providers, so that your team can discover and connect with experts.

And your CRM software should know when the user you’re viewing is in service, so that it can disable the “sales” functionality (like proposals and quote generation), until that user has transitioned out of service and back into sales.

Analytics and Reporting

A CRM can help you gather data from your customer interactions to highlight problem areas, see what impacts your sales, and spot opportunities and trends. You can slice and dice your data in many ways to look at hot markets, focus on products or services that are doing well, or spot potential problems. You can look at which customers are supporting your channel partners.

With the right analytics, you can also slice and dice your data to find out what happens after a conversion. Do they return to the site? Do they make repeat purchases quickly? Or are there any issues?

Without a CRM, you can gather customer data from a variety of different sources: your support ticketing system, your marketing automation system, your order management system, your accounting system, and more. It’s good to gather information in these places, but if you never bring that information together into one central place, it can be difficult to really understand what’s happening with customers.

Some CRM software can gather data from multiple systems and stores. Some integrations are available through third parties. Others— including some industry-specific applications— are built right in.

How Does CRM Improve B2B Sales?

We’ve talked about how CRM software can help B2B sales teams by streamlining all sorts of tasks that make sales, support, and other professions easier. It’s also worth looking at the impact of CRM at a higher level. A CRM can make a huge difference to the success of individual salespeople as well.

Individual salespeople can use CRM to keep track of opportunities, manage customer relationships, and prioritize outreach. That means that salespeople can make faster calls on their phone, and can be productive during those calls. That can help them improve overall productivity and reduce the time it takes to make a sale.

Individual salespeople can use CRM to network more effectively, both with their existing contacts and with their prospects and customers. That can give them a significant advantage over close-to-the-vest sales managers.

Working side-by-side with a CRM can help sales/service and sales support teams improve their interactions with customers. Using prompt follow up is one way to keep the customer informed of progress, solve customer problems quickly, and keep the relationship strong. It’s also important to capture customer feedback, to ensure that your team is doing what the customer wants and needs.

And a CRM can help sales teams stay aligned with and informed about their clients. That can make the sales cycle shorter, which is key for B2B sales.

Aesthetics and Reviews

You might have noticed that none of these points mention anything about a CRM that looks sleek and interfaces with your other programs easily.

If you’re looking to make a big investment in CRM software (or perhaps just a small investment), it’s always useful to see what other people think of that software. Because that’s what you’ll be using in your business, you want to make sure it will fit within your business processes and pick up the data you want it to capture.

When To Use A CRM:

  • Sales, service, and support teams can use CRM software to keep track of what the business is doing for each customer. 
  • Help when projects go off track or slow down
  • Improve customer satisfaction
  • Help businesses respond to problems quickly
  • Help salespeople manage their opportunities efficiently
  • Help salespeople stay connected with their prospects/customers
  • Help sales teams and their customers stay aligned and on track
  • Reduce the time it takes to close a deal
  • Help sales teams focus on the opportunity that’s most promising
  • Automatically maintain records of customer interactions

Questions To Ask Before Buying A CRM:

Once you’ve decided that CRM will help your company, how do you pick the right software? It’s not quite as simple as it might seem. First, it helps to understand what some of the core functionality of CRM software is, and what it looks like. This will help you understand what you want from your CRM software.

Do I Need To Store My Sales, Service And/or Support Data In It?

If you need to gather and store data about sales activities, service activities, or support activities, you’ll want to make sure that your CRM software is able to handle all or most of that type of data in a central location.

Do I Want To Track And Track Activity Around Projects?

If you want to track information around project activities, you’ll want to make sure that your CRM is able to keep track of schedules and as-time-elapses. You’ll need to know how to prioritize the project and assign resources to it.

What Is The Installation/upgrade Process Like?

An advanced CRM will have an installation process that’s designed to be easy for most businesses to use. It might also have an upgrade process that can be performed by the business without having to involve a programmer.

What Types Of CRM Are There?

An enterprise CRM will have strong system-wide capabilities, but will combine a number of different tools to provide different views of the data. A contact CRM is much simpler, but will focus on doing one thing exceptionally well. A CRM that’s built using your existing data might use that data to run the system. Whether a CRM is generic or built for you, you can expect to see it act like a database, with a data entry form, a query that pulls data from tables, and a form that renders the output from the query and return it to you.

What Data Does The CRM Software Handle?

Each CRM will handle a different set of data. There’s no right or wrong system here— the choice of CRM really depends on what kinds of data you need to retrieve.

What Features Does The CRM Software Have?

There are CRMs with communication tools, dashboards, and customizable reports and mobile apps. Some CRM systems are highly customizable, and some have easy interfaces. The features you use will depend on the data you need to work with

What Integrations Are Available?

The ability to connect the CRM to other software packages is important, primarily because it will make retrieving data easier, but also because it will let you use the CRM in much more efficient ways. You and your team can store your conversations in the CRM so you can respond automatically. Your sales team can use the same CRM to connect with leads from social media sites. You can use the same data to run analysis on your sales performance and to request reports from your service organization.

What Support Is Available?

Support options may vary from CRM to CRM, but you can expect to find answers to all kinds of questions about the software working correctly, initiating support, and running into errors. You should also be able to find support for integration, training, and any other aspect of your CRM

How Much Does It Cost?

One of the most important questions you can ask about a CRM is how much it costs. Different CRMs have different price ranges. Prices may depend on how the CRM is licensed, on how many individual users you need, and other factors.

Does The CRM Require A Lot Of Customization?

It’s important to understand what level of customization you might need, and to understand how difficult it might be to customize your CRM. Many CRMs come with a long list of features and a short list of customizations possible.

CRM Myths:

As powerful as CRM can be, it can also carry a lot of myths around it, especially if you’re just learning about CRM, or learning about it for the first time.

CRM Is A Commodity

This myth is particularly pervasive in larger organizations, but it’s easy to see why it would be a tough pill to swallow for a smaller business or a startup. You might not have the resources, time, or money to replace a CRM if something goes wrong.

Does Your CRM Make Everything Look Pretty?

Many people want to have access to all the functionality of their CRM, but prefer to use an attractive interface such as salesforce. This is why you can find yourself not getting around to switching from a pretty interface to a more functional one.

Does CRM Need To Be Simple?

CRM doesn’t have to be simple to be useful. It may be considered simple to some people, but it doesn’t have to be simple to make it work for you. You can choose a software that’s simple to install and simple to fix and still get the benefits you need.

My CRM Doesn’t Need Anything Else.

People often think that when they install a CRM, they’re done. A CRM can help you work better with clients, but it won’t help you get more clients. It won’t help you achieve your sales targets. It won’t make sure your staff is performing up to their potential.

CRM Is All About Big Data.

When you first start with a CRM, it’s easy to focus on the details you put in the system, but the CRM only really works if it’s part of a broader strategy to increase your business sales. While you might need to start with the basics, a CRM can also help you isolate and solve the problems in your sales process—it can help you look at the data from a broad point of view.

CRM Is Just For Big Companies.

CRM software has evolved over the last two decades. While today we think of them as being part of the system, at one time they were standalone, expensive, and difficult to implement. Over the years they’ve become easier to use and more flexible, and it’s now extremely easy to find CRM software that you’ll be able to use on your own without outside help.

Must I Download Software To My Computer?

Yes and no. Downloading offers a great advantage: the CRM is always available from any device that you have, provided you have an internet connection. But, there are many cloud-based CRM solutions like Salesforce CRM that take all the functionality of the software and put it in the cloud. Even with downloading software there are two benefits:

  • You can always login from anywhere.
  • Upgrading and changing the software is a simple matter of doing it from one location.

CRM is not a full and complete solution to your problems. It’s sometimes difficult to see how CRM can be used, and why it’s better than simpler solutions such as spreadsheets, email, or knowledge management systems. All of these systems do things that CRM can do. You need to find the right CRM to work with the way your company works and you need to integrate the system with the other software you use.

Do You Need Everything A CRM Can Do To Succeed?

Not at all. There are many small businesses that have had great success with their CRM. They may not be using every function of the CS and they may not have all the information they could possibly put into the system, but they’re running a successful business and they have a powerful CRM. The key is that their CRM fits their business and it helps them close more sales.

Do You Need A Lot Of People To Use The CRM?

It’s easy to think that anyone who’s using a CRM must be in your organization, but that’s not necessarily the case. There’s no reason you can’t integrate your CRM with a professional services company to help you with your needs. Your sales team can connect with an outside CRM to ensure that all your data is in one place and you can get the reports you need without the need for a dedicated staff.

Do You Need A Lot Of Your Resources To Install The CRM?

CRM technology has come a long way. Today it’s possible to configure your CRM and have it running within the hour. On top of that, depending on your needs, you’ll find the complete CRM system will fit on your desk or on your laptop computer.

CRM works only for top level sales. You can use a CRM to work with sales, marketing, or support. It’s easy to find examples of how a Customer Relationship Management system has been used to help with sales, and how a foundation of information has been created to help with marketing campaigns, but you can also use CRM to ask and answer questions about public relations, to determine the best way to support your customers.

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