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One of the key systems or processes need to help marketing get along with sales is a Closed Loop Marketing system, which transforms your sales and marketing process so you can close more deals more efficiently, and also provides feedback to both sales and marketing about what is working and what is not working, so each can improve over time.
But, to get the right data from sales to feed back to marketing, the sales team needs to use a CRM software to track and measure their sales activities. A CRM system is a key component to enabling closed loop marketing.
Lots of available CRM systems are hosted (provided on a software-as-a-service or Saas basis), so chances are, there's a system that fits your company's functional requirements and budget and will not require you to buy any servers or augment your IT staff. There are now secure, reliable and affordable options as low as $5 per user per month.
Selecting the Right CRM System for Your Business
To make sure you choose the right CRM for your needs, do your due diligence. This means getting clear on all the processes, i.e., workflow, you go through to:
- Import or synchronize leads from marketing activities
- Follow-up with leads and acquire new customers
- Support existing customers
- Analyze what works and what doesn't in the sales process
Once you have identified the key steps in your workflow, you should find a CRM solution that supports that workflow, and probably also has these features.
- Ease-of-Use - If a system is so complicated that you need a lot of training or a dedicated person to use it, it is actually a lot more expensive that it seems since it is going to consume a lot more people resources and you are less likely to use all the features because they are harder to implement. I think the best way is not to see a free trial or a demo, but to ask your friends who use the software to show it to you and talk to you about how they actually use it and if they like it.
- Integration with Other Applications - You'll most certainly want to integrate your CRM system with other applications like marketing and maybe accounting. Your CRM vendor will never provide everything you want. So make sure there is an ecosystem of partners that provide a lot of other applications that you can easily use.
- Flexibility to Support Your Business Processes - Some CRM systems are not that flexible, and you need to change the way that you work to fit their structure. You probably want it to work the other way around. Changing software is easier than changing a business process.
- Simple and Insightful Reports - One of the core benefits of a CRM system is that it takes data that was previously hard to access and aggregates it into one area, making it possible to get reports to see what is happening in the business. The success of the CRM industry with small and medium sized businesses is mostly due to the ability for the VP of Sales to get a simple and accurate pipeline report to help manage sales. (Most companies really use their CRM application more like an SFA or Sales Force Automation application, but that's a subject for a future article.)
- Support for Growth - If you plan on growing, you want to pick a vendor that will support that growth with additional features and pricing that makes sense for you and your intended growth path.