What Is CRM Software? | U.S. News

Popular CRM Software

A CRM is Customer Relationship Management software. At its core, a CRM is simply a database that helps a company keep track of all of the details about prospects and customers. Today’s CRM systems focus on easy-to-use interfaces and workflows that you can update and customize with just a few clicks to make it easier than ever to keep track of critical activities and information about your clients.

CRM systems aren’t dusty old libraries of information either. For companies that integrate and use CRM software effectively, they’re a second brain for your marketing, sales, and service departments. Companies use CRM solutions in three aspects of their business: strategically, operationally, and analytically.

Strategically, a CRM software helps your business focus on customers and customer outcomes. When all of your prospects and customer data are in one system, you can clearly see what’s working, what’s not, and what changes you need to make.

Most businesses primarily use the operational functions of CRM systems. Using a CRM software improves the flow of information between departments and streamlines your operations. For example, a sales rep or account manager can see notes from the customer support team in the CRM about one of their key accounts having trouble with an order. The account manager can then reach out to their contact to improve the ordering experience. Without a CRM, the customer support team would have to remember who the account manager was and contact them directly – making it easy for essential customer interactions to get lost.

Finally, companies can use CRM software to improve their business analytics and visibility. Marketing teams can track their marketing efforts’ effectiveness, sales managers can get insights into pipeline revenue and open proposals, and customer experience managers can review their team’s performance and identify improvement opportunities.

A CRM system focuses on the customer experience, which means that contacts and accounts are at the heart of the data collection process. CRM software offers contact management tools that go beyond phone numbers and email addresses to track every interaction your company has with a contact, as well as work it does on the contact’s behalf.

Modern CRM systems have a web-based interface through which employees can enter data about a contact’s activity, either at the account level or the contact level. You can sync email exchanges you had with the contact (so no important details get buried in someone’s inbox), add notes about phone calls and meetings, and update the status of proposals.

Marketing teams can also create and track campaign activity to measure effectiveness. Because CRM software manages both current and prospective customers, marketing teams use lead scoring systems and automation to move prospects through the funnel from a marketing qualified lead to a sales qualified lead.

Finally, customer experience teams can also track details of efforts to support existing clients, giving 360-degree visibility into the whole organization’s customer experience. CRM systems offer customizable interfaces for each department and make it easy for each department and individuals to focus on their areas of responsibility.

CRM systems hold data from sales, marketing, customer service, and other areas of the business in one database so that no details get lost or overlooked. Plus, by leveraging AI-based data flows and automation, a CRM system helps the entire staff focus on the most important priorities without getting bogged down in the weeds.

Despite the fact that $11 billion is spent on CRM systems annually, they’re not for every business. To make the most of the investment, you need to have the right kind of business with the right challenges.

CRM systems bring together data from several different departments, helping them work together and improve visibility across the organization. If you’ve heard the phrase “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing” or witnessed a disagreement between a sales manager and a marketing manager about the impact of a specific campaign, then you’ve encountered some of the problems that using CRM software can help you overcome.

Here are some challenges a business may be facing a CRM system can address:

  • Leads falling through the cracks, including missing follow-ups
  • Incomplete or inaccurate customer data
  • Inaccessible customer data across departments
  • Lost sales and upsell opportunities due to incomplete communication records

Suppose your business is highly transactional or self-service, like an e-commerce retailer. In that case, a CRM system may not be needed, because many of your customer details are stored in your e-commerce and marketing automation systems.

On the other hand, companies with longer or more complex sales cycles or ongoing contracts and repeat business can improve customer acquisition and retention with the help of a CRM system. A company doesn’t even need a big staff for a CRM system to be valuable. The CRM system’s primary value is in its ability to help record details and allow business owners to make data-driven decisions. Even freelancers and solopreneurs who are working with multiple clients need to get all those details out of their heads and off of sticky notes scattered across their desks.

Compare Quotes for CRM Software

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The Best CRM Software of 2022

Nimble »

4.2 out of 5

Monthly Cost $25/User & Up
Subscription Plan Monthly or Annual
Trial Period 14 days
See Review »
HubSpot »

3.9 out of 5

Monthly Cost $25/User & Up
Subscription Plan Monthly or Annual
Trial Period 14 days
View Plans »
Agile CRM »

3.8 out of 5

Monthly Cost $14.99/User & Up
Subscription Plan Monthly or Annual
Trial Period N/A
See Review »
Nimble »

4.2 out of 5

Company

$25/User & Up Monthly Cost
Monthly or Annual Subscription Plan
14 days Trial Period
See Review »
Learn More
HubSpot »

3.9 out of 5

Company

$25/User & Up Monthly Cost
Monthly or Annual Subscription Plan
14 days Trial Period
View Plans »
Learn More
Agile CRM »

3.8 out of 5

Company

$14.99/User & Up Monthly Cost
Monthly or Annual Subscription Plan
N/A Trial Period
See Review »
Learn More
Pipedrive »

3.8 out of 5

Company

$15/User & Up Monthly Cost
Monthly or Annual Subscription Plan
14 days Trial Period
See Review »
Learn More
Zoho »

3.8 out of 5

Company

$9/User & Up Monthly Cost
Monthly or Annual Subscription Plan
15 days Trial Period
View Plans »
Learn More
Insightly »

3.8 out of 5

Company

$35/User & Up Monthly Cost
Monthly or Annual Subscription Plan
N/A Trial Period
See Review »
Learn More
Apptivo »

3.7 out of 5

Company

$10/User & Up Monthly Cost
Monthly or Annual Subscription Plan
30 days Trial Period
See Review »
Learn More
Keap »

3.7 out of 5

Company

$79/User & Up Monthly Cost
Monthly or Annual Subscription Plan
14 days Trial Period
See Review »
Learn More

Choosing a CRM system can feel daunting. There are dozens of possibilities, and they all use impressive language to convince you that their system is the right one for you. And with price tags ranging from free to more than $100 per user per month, it can be hard to tell where you should invest and where you should save.

The basic core functionality of all CRM systems is the same: the ability to track customer data. The primary differences between CRMs have to do with how they track that data and what other tools they either come with or work with.

Before you start shopping for a CRM, take an inventory of your needs.

  • Data tracking: What data do you need to track for your business? Which departments need to enter the data and which need to access it?
  • Process improvement: What processes in your business would you like to improve or streamline? What processes and systems do you need that you don’t currently have in place?
  • System integrations: What existing systems does your business use that need to work with your CRM? For example, you may already use marketing automation tools or customer service systems that contain data that should be in your CRM. Other popular integrations include accounting software and project management tools.
  • Technology experience: How comfortable are you with customizing and integrating technology? While some CRM systems have straightforward tools and limited customization options, others are highly complex systems that use their own language.
  • Budget: How much do you want to spend on your system? Most CRM systems are priced on a per-user basis and can be purchased annually or monthly. The average CRM is about $30 per user per month.

Once you’ve identified these needs, then it’s time to start evaluating CRM software. Create a shortlist of CRM systems that align with your needs, and then assess them to see which works best for your business. Most CRM systems have a trial period of about 14 days so you can see how the system works. Free trials are useful because they keep you from having to rely on carefully staged demonstrations hosted by sales representatives.

When evaluating a CRM system, include team members from each critical operational area that will be using it. Sales, marketing, customer support, and IT all need to work together to select, implement, maintain, and customize your CRM. CRM software can only transform your business if everyone on your team uses it.

Comparison of CRM Training Methods

Less Annoying CRM »
Online Courses
In-Person Courses
Video Tutorials
Training Guides
API Documentation
Nimble »
Online Courses
In-Person Courses
Video Tutorials
Training Guides
API Documentation
Freshworks CRM »
Online Courses
In-Person Courses
Video Tutorials
Training Guides
API Documentation
HubSpot »
Online Courses
In-Person Courses
Video Tutorials
Training Guides
API Documentation
Agile CRM »
Online Courses
In-Person Courses
Video Tutorials
Training Guides
API Documentation
Less Annoying CRM » Company
Online Courses
In-Person Courses
Video Tutorials
Training Guides
API Documentation
Nimble » Company
Online Courses
In-Person Courses
Video Tutorials
Training Guides
API Documentation
Freshworks CRM » Company
Online Courses
In-Person Courses
Video Tutorials
Training Guides
API Documentation
HubSpot » Company
Online Courses
In-Person Courses
Video Tutorials
Training Guides
API Documentation
Agile CRM » Company
Online Courses
In-Person Courses
Video Tutorials
Training Guides
API Documentation
Pipedrive » Company
Online Courses
In-Person Courses
Video Tutorials
Training Guides
API Documentation
Salesforce » Company
Online Courses
In-Person Courses
Video Tutorials
Training Guides
API Documentation
Zoho » Company
Online Courses
In-Person Courses
Video Tutorials
Training Guides
API Documentation
Insightly » Company
Online Courses
In-Person Courses
Video Tutorials
Training Guides
API Documentation
Apptivo » Company
Online Courses
In-Person Courses
Video Tutorials
Training Guides
API Documentation
Keap » Company
Online Courses
In-Person Courses
Video Tutorials
Training Guides
API Documentation
Zendesk Sell » Company
Online Courses
In-Person Courses
Video Tutorials
Training Guides
API Documentation

A CRM system is only valuable if your employees use it consistently and effectively, and you have high-quality data. That means you need to make sure your team is well trained on how to use the system properly and that the CRM software is configured to meet your needs.

Using a CRM in most cases is pretty simple. Because most CRM software is cloud-based, you access it via a web browser or mobile app. Data is updated through text forms and drop-down menus, not unlike using social media or writing an email.

Customization, integrations, and workflows can be more complex. Most CRM software providers have training available, as well as written guides and documentation. The availability of live customer support varies from vendor to vendor and even from plan to plan. Many also have partners and consultants who can assist with setup and customization.

Even once your CRM is set up and configured, you will need to keep up with some regular maintenance. Your CRM software company will periodically add new features and functionality and change the features you’re using. Once you’re using the CRM regularly, you may also identify opportunities to improve your processes or integrate additional features. In these cases, you’ll either need to leverage your internal team to make the changes or work with a third-party consultant.

Learn more

For more information on CRM software, please see our pages:

CRM Software

Before choosing a CRM software for your business, look at our other reviews to determine which CRM is most suitable for your unique business needs.

Other Ratings from 360 Reviews

For more insight into other business services to help grow your company size, look at our other reviews.

How U.S. News Evaluated CRM Software

We explain what matters most when it comes to buying a CRM software by sourcing consumer and professional reviews. U.S. News researched the most important features of CRM services to provide an unbiased evaluation of CRM software. Our goal is to empower businesses with the information and tools they need to make informed decisions. More information about our 360 Reviews methodology for evaluating CRM software is available here.

U.S. News 360 Reviews takes an unbiased approach to our recommendations. When you use our links to buy products, we may earn a commission but that in no way affects our editorial independence.

https://www.usnews.com/360-reviews/business/crm/what-is-crm

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