4 Ways To Turn Your CRM System Into A Money Making Machine

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Let's face it: you didn't implement a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system just to be cool or to keep up with the Joneses.  If you're like many of my smartest clients you're looking for a return on investment.  A CRM system is an asset.  It's an expenditure.  It's an investment you're making.  You chose to spend money on this system in lieu of spending your money on other things - equipment, inventory, people, property - because you believe that you will get your money back - hopefully many times over.

Your CRM system should not be a glorified rolodex.  It needs to be a money-making machine.  It needs to significantly contribute to your sales. It needs to impact your profits.  Otherwise, why waste the time and effort, right?  The good news is that your system can be all of these things.  Just make sure you're committed to doing these four things.

Treat your data like gold.  Regardless of what all complicated things technology people say, the basic fact is that your CRM system is nothing but a database - plain and simple.  Your data is your gold. If it's out of date, missing or incorrect then it's lead. Just think of all the great things you can be doing with the right data:  targeting specific segments, going after customers with unique needs, pro-actively staying in touch with people, never letting anything fall the cracks, ensuring that all of your people are up to speed on what's going with your customers, prospects and community.  

Your action:  put someone in charge of your CRM database.  Make them own the data. Give them all the training and support they require to make that person is a superstar with the system. If there's bad data it doesn't have to be that person's fault, but it should be that person's responsibility to fix and implement controls to make sure that it doesn't happen again.

Replace your spreadsheets.  A database is nothing but a bunch of tables connected together.  A table is nothing more than a simplified spreadsheet with rows and columns.  What this means is that everything your company is doing on spreadsheets can be easily done in your CRM database, once your database has been properly setup and configured.  It won't take any more data entry by your people either - just a change in where the data is being entered. To get everyone into your system and using it to its fullest, get rid of your spreadsheets and replace them with your CRM system.  You will need reports to run your group or your company so rely on your CRM system to provide you with those reports.

Your action:  start with a pipeline report. You're probably already doing this on a spreadsheet (or multiple spreadsheets).  Get rid of them and start doing your pipeline in your CRM system.  It should list all of your opportunities/quotes/potentials with a dollar value, a closing time frame, a percentage probability, an owner as well as what happened last and what's the next follow up for the opportunity.  Live off of that report and you'll be living in your CRM system.

Integrate.  A mentioned above, a good CRM system should be an excellent database.  It's your definitive starting point for all of your sales and marketing activities.  But CRM systems aren't designed to do it all.  They're not your website, they don't do bulk email campaigns, they don't provide advanced marketing automation tasks, they don't talk to your phone system and they don't do accounting.  But that's OK. Because your CRM system is (hopefully) cloud based so therefore it can likely integrate with those applications that do.  The best CRM providers have a litany of partners and third-party app developers that have created integrations between your system and theirs.  My best clients have spotless databases that are connected to all sorts of other applications for performing specific services and specialized procedures.

Your action:  pick a third party app and dive into it.  I would start with marketing automation or, at the very least, email campaigns. My company integrates with a marketing automation platform that helps us with all communication and provides metrics.  But that's up to you.  For example, maybe getting your website integrated may be more of a priority.  Or your phone system.  But just pick one and make that integration a success.  Then wait a few months...and try another.  One at a time.  You won't build Rome in a day.  But you can turn your CRM system in to a fantastic sales and marketing tool over a longer period.

Automate.  This is a world of bots, robots, kiosks, artificial intelligence, driverless cars, autonomous trucks and virtual reality.  Smart companies are leaning on technology to perform tasks that were once done manually by humans.  The same goes for CRM.  Tomorrow's CRM systems will be helping business managers replace conversations with text messages, social media responses and customized emails that will answer their customers' questions faster and more accurate. Today's CRM systems have plenty of features to get you started - like workflows and alerts. Used the right way, these automation features can speed up your sales process, enable you to handle more customer requests and respond proactively if any problems arise.

Your action:  Create a workflow. I have one that monthly scans our system looking for customers that haven't received any calls or appointments from my team in over 90 days and if that customer is found I get an email alert.  This helps me to make sure my customers aren't being ignored. Consider automating your follow-ups after trade shows, re-routing customer requests from your website, assigning leads that you imported from a list, checking on open opportunities or even quickly onboarding a new customer.  All of these actions will not only impact your sales, but you'll see a difference in your customer service feedback and employee productivity.

These are just four ways you can make more money with your CRM system.  My advice? Implement one over the next five calendar quarters.  In just 15 months you'll be a CRM superstar...and your bank account will show the results.

Want to learn even more? Join Gene Marks and panelists from Marketo, ProsperWorks and more for “How to Turn Your Sales Process into a Money-Making Machine.” Reserve your seat today!

Gene Marks is a columnist, author, and small business owner. He writes daily for The Washington Post newspaper and weekly for Forbes magazine, The Huffington Post website, Inc. magazine, Entrepreneur.com, Fox Business and Philadelphia Magazine.

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