We recently pointed out the importance of the sales department as a significant marketing channel, while explaining how to optimize the performance of the sales department and the entire organization. In particular, we have discussed:
- Creating detailed job descriptions for all employees, ensuring that each person understands where his/her position falls within the overall chain-of-command in a company
- Ensuring that the right department handles corresponding tasks, through internal transparency
- Optimizing your Head of Sales position by providing appropriate support, especially when salespeople become managers for the first time
Another central component to a successful sales force is the use of a CRM (customer relationship management) platform. CRM software allow firms to make strategic decisions based on detailed customer data. Good CRM programs can track every touch point your organization has with a prospect from lead to inquiry, sale to service, and even referral. They gather market data in real time, generate sales forecasts, and allow firms to gauge the effectiveness of different programs. By placing sales, marketing, and customer service onto the same interface, your company becomes more efficient by matching customer needs with company offerings.
There are a myriad of CRM packages available, making it difficult for firms to find the right fit. CRM has many levels of complexity, from basic customer contact management to tracking sales and customer social media interactions. On the cheaper end of the spectrum is Zoho, a pay-as-you-go service with different packages. The free edition includes a basic sales force, marketing, and customer support automation with reporting, forecasting, and Web forms. The most expensive edition, which costs $25 per user per month, includes additional features such as inventory management, custom data, security, workflow management, group chat, and auto-responders. Zoho is a straightforward and cost-effective CRM program, but it lacks many desirable characteristics offered by more expensive options.
Salesforce is considered the leading CRM program, with robust offerings and sleek designs. This is one of the first CRM programs developed, and it has stayed relevant to small businesses while also supporting Fortune 500 clients such as Starbucks and Siemens. Salesforce has five editions of its Sales Cloud 2 product. The editions that range from $5 to $65 per user per month are geared towards smaller businesses. The $5 per user per month tracks contacts, customer interactions, tasks, leads, and offers document sharing and mobile access. The $65 per user per month offers additional features such as full reporting and analytics, custom dashboard, e-mail marketing, sales forecasts, and real-time data sharing.
When trying to decide which CRM program is best for you, consider your company size and goals. Less expensive options like Zoho offer all of the basic tools while the more expensive options are streamlined with superior features. To utilize your CRM most effectively, remember that CRM should not only increase sales, but also deepen customer relationships. What CRM software do you use and what has your experience been using it? We’d love to know.