By Denis Zhinko
Small businesses can be notoriously good at putting smart automation at the core of their daily operations. CRM software is no exception once adopted, it brings structure and purpose into sales and marketing activities, namely in terms of well-managed, transparent and effective management of the customer base including leads, prospects and opportunities.
Yet, its extra value is in its capability to enhance the efficiency with which marketing and sales teams carry out their daily routine tasks.
Below, we are unlocking some of the areas where small-business CRM adopters can reach a higher performance efficiency through automating certain chores and thus making them less burdensome.
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1. Bring Marketing and Sales Together
CRM can become a single solution with many doors to role-specific capabilities, which allows for synergy between marketing and sales departments as they share access to a single silo of customer data while collaborating within the same application.
The scope of such cross-pollination covers lead scoring, qualification, and assignment while providing productivity tools for cross-team collaboration, such as discussion boards, feeds and chat boxes. An extra perk is that instead of having a fragmented picture of your customers’ relationships, it’s possible to stay more in control over their personal journeys at every stage of the sales pipeline, including attraction, engagement, acquisition and retention.
2. Switch on Lead Nurturing Automation
Although sales cycles vary from one industry to another, quite a big share of customers don’t usually make a purchasing decision during their first contact. It takes personalized, targeted marketing activities to warm them up, and this is where CRM software comes in handy.
One of the acclaimed CRM advantages is that the system won’t let you forget about your leads to nurture. There are two ways to do that. The one is a complete automation when the system sends out personalized nurturing messages to the leads on the list in line with a pre-configured timeline according to the forgetting curve principle (for example, in one, then three, then six weeks and so on). The other is semi-automation when the system compiles nurturing messages for specific leads that are then modified and sent out by sales reps manually.
This functionality comes together with email integration to enable synchronization with email services such as Microsoft Outlook or other. All in all, this is bound to ensure less time-consuming but more effective and personalized follow-ups that can also be monitored by sales managers when necessary.
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3. Introduce Automated ‘Best Practice’ Suggestions on Proposals
At some point, a well-attended CRM system becomes a source of wisdom for sales people. Over time, it can accumulate best practices adopted by the department, providing that the salesforce is incentivized to keep it all up and valuable.
For small businesses, this approach works well especially with the process of drafting proposals, since such businesses’ scale and precise focus of what and how they offer makes room for standardization. In fact, it’s about translating the accumulated best practices into semi-automated proposal templates triggered by entering particular customer parameters like a company size, industry, need and estimated budget.
Just to illustrate, if selling office furniture, you could configure and generate proposals by choosing the number of workplaces to be equipped, furniture sets or items, delivery options, and final price with everything included. Apart from plain convenience, this could help you deliver truly personalized pitches while providing a supporting tool for your sales force, both mature and newcomers to the team.
4. Tap Into a Pool of Nice-to-Have Tools
CRM systems have a boundless potential when it comes to add-ons that ease daily routine. A superstructure atop of the regular CRM foundation, these integrated applications can help to tailor the system to your team’s real-world needs.
The extended CRM functionality can come from either out-of-the-box features or third-party apps (like the ones found on Salesforce AppExchange or Microsoft AppSource). The variety of tools to integrate is impressive. From sales pipeline visualization and mobile-friendly customer surveys to such opportunity management tools as quota calculation and deal evaluation, these apps can make the life of marketing and sales teams so much easier at a little chunk on top of regular CRM licensing fees or even for free.
This all brings us to the bottom line. The common thread of the approaches we’ve just covered is automation of routine tasks, like those associated with lead management, nurturing and proposal preparation. By taking the administrative burden off your sales people, you leave more space and time for intelligent work, raising performance efficiency and minimizing the likelihood of mistakes caused by monotonous chores.
And when it comes to getting such a system up and running, there is a tendency among CRM consulting companies, ours being no exception, to suggest modern cloud-based CRMs for SMEs that considerably lower adoption barriers and allow to tap into a variety of customizable, efficiency-focused add-ons.
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First, setup costs are minimal as practically no hardware is required. Then, flexible licensing models allow to choose the required scope of CRM functions and add users whenever you need, all while providing data security levels comparable to large-scale enterprise solutions. One of the most common examples being SalesforceIQ and the coming Microsoft Dynamics 365 suite where editions are differentiated by company sizes.
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