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How to use a CRM system

Want to automate tedious tasks? Improve customer relationships? And boost sales? Here’s how to use a CRM system effectively

A customer relationship management system (CRM) is an invaluable bit of software in the toolkit of a growing small business.

The right system will allow you to monitor, manage, and make sense of the wealth of customer data created by day-to-day activities.

Read more: Best CRM for small business

CRM systems offer a multitude of features, which can make them as unwieldy as they are useful for the uninitiated.

That’s why it pays to familiarise yourself with the many different facets of your system, and to establish how to use a CRM system effectively for your business.

This page will cover:

What is a CRM system?

Every time you make contact with an existing or potential customer, valuable data is produced.

Cloud-based CRM provides a way to track and store this data, producing actionable insights, and improving customer relationships.

This can fuel targeted marketing campaigns and boost sales. Essentially, it’s a way to provide effective customer service in an increasingly complex digital world.

For more information, visit ‘what is a CRM system?’

Why use a CRM system?

Previously, customer data remained trapped in someone’s head or on a stray hard drive. This meant missed opportunities and suboptimal customer interactions.

Now, CRM systems are able to track and monitor customer data at an increasingly granular level: from their first visit to your website, to every action they took whilst on the page.

This can lead to:

  • Enhanced customer experience
  • Higher productivity
  • Better collaboration
  • Valuable insights

How to use a CRM

Now you’re familiar with what it does and why you should use it, we can explain how to use a CRM system.

These are the steps you need to take:

1. Add your salespeople

First things first: add all your salespeople to the system. This ensures they can start producing, recording, and using all of the data that’s going to form the backbone of your CRM system.

Give them an introduction to your chosen system, and most importantly, familiarise them with the features they will be using on a day-to-day basis.

Be careful not to overwhelm them with too much information – it can be confusing. They’ll do better by learning on the job.

2. Customise your settings

Create deal stages in your system that accurately reflect the stages in your sales team’s pipeline.

This means you can start to build up a picture of how and when leads are:



And closed

Now you have a standardised process for your sales reps to follow, and eventually, some benchmark stats to measure against.

You can also create properties that you want to track for each customer. Your CRM system will have defaults, but you may want to record other information that is uniquely useful to your business.

3. Import essential data

If you are currently using a spreadsheet to keep track of prospects and opportunities, your new CRM system will probably give you the option of importing a CSV file containing all the relevant information.

4. Integrate other business tools

CRM software allows you to combine marketing, sales, and other business functions in one central hub by integrating your essential tools and platforms.

Not all providers will integrate with other widely used tools. If you are already heavily reliant on a number of tools, select a CRM that is able to integrate with them.

5. Customise your dashboard

In order to make the most out of your CRM system, you need to customise your dashboard to display the metrics that are most valuable to your business.

This may change depending on what your objectives are at any given time. Just be careful not to overload it, so that it becomes difficult to find salient information quickly.

6. Enable reporting

You can configure your CRM system to create tailored reports as often as you deem necessary: daily, weekly, monthly, etc.

You could even use these reports to encourage some healthy competition by detailing how each salesperson is performing…

Measuring success

There are countless metrics you can collect data on to measure sales success, and to inform decision making. Below, we discuss what you should be paying attention to:

Sales metrics can do more than just keep an eye on your profits. The right tools can help you measure revenue by market/territory, conversion rate, number of calls made, email open rate, and more, representing individual, team or business-wide performance.

Because of this, it’s important to narrow your focus and track the metrics you think will be most valuable for your organisation (which varies from business to business). This will prevent you being overwhelmed, and enable you to respond to vital insights more quickly.

HubSpot has created an ‘ultimate guide to sales metrics’ that breaks down and explains every metric you could conceivably track, and why you should do so.

According to HubSpot, the five most important sales performance metrics across the board are:

1. Revenue

Simply tracking how much money you’re making over a specific period of time is an vital metric, and an essential starting point for tracking other metrics.

You can then break down your revenue to see how much of it is coming from:

  • New businesses
  • Existing businesses
  • Renewals (if on a contract basis)

2. Percentage of sales team hitting quota

A quota is a target that you give your sales reps to hit for a specific period, such as a month, quarter, or year.

Measuring what percentage of your sales team hit their quota can tell you whether you’ve set set these quotas too high, or too low.

For example, if only around 50% of your sales reps are achieving their quota, then they are too high. This is a problem, as it could damage morale and motivation. Alternatively, there could be some outliers that are underperforming, and need to either be helped or let go.

However, if nearly 100% of your team are hitting quota, then your team could be coasting…

3. Average deal size

You can calculate this by dividing the total number of deals by the total amount made from these deals.

Measuring this gives you an indication of how your deals are changing size over time: are they getting larger, shrinking, or remaining stable?

What you want to happen depends on your strategy. Do you want to target bigger business customers and land larger deals? Or close lots of quality small business customers?

You can also spot whether any of your sales reps are making either much larger, or much smaller deals than the rest of the team. This could mean they are not following the wider business strategy, or need to up their game.

4. Conversion rate

Conversion rate is the percentage of leads that actually become customers. From this, you can work out how many leads you need to achieve your revenue targets.

You can also use historical conversion rates to see how effective your salespeople are over time. For example, if the average value of deals closed is rising and you’re closing a similar number of deals, then overall sales performance is getting better.

5. Sales funnel leakage

Sales funnel leakage tells you at what point leads drop out of your pipeline. You can determine this by tracking conversion rates at every stage of the sales process.

This helps you to identify weak or ‘leaky’ points in the pipeline, so you can patch them up and ensure more prospects turn into paying customers.

How to use a CRM database

The database is the foundation of a CRM system. This is what stores and organises every single piece of information about a customer – from name and address, to meaningful interactions.

This ensures easy recall of relevant data, allowing you to optimise every future interaction and seize every opportunity.

You can store as much or as little information as you need to in your CRM database. The platform will recommend a number of fields to fill in for each customer, but you can tailor this to your business.

Consistency is essential. Make sure to record the same details for every customer in the database so they can be compared and contrasted effectively.

Read more: What is a CRM database?

Next steps

Feeling confident that you can use your CRM platform to help your business thrive? Good. With a thorough understanding of the many ways a CRM system can make your life easier, you’ll be growing your business in no time.

Remember to only use the features you think will be useful for your business, and to only track the metrics that matter.

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Henry Williams
Henry Williams

Henry has been writing for since 2015, covering everything from business finance and web builders to tax and red tape. He’s also contributed to many of our industry-renowned annual indexes, including Startups 100 and Young Guns, and created a number of the site’s popular how to guides. Before joining the team, he reviewed films for a culture website, and still harbours ambitions of being a screenwriter.

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