Running a B2B business comes with longer sales cycles, lead nurturing, and generally expecting customers to make a significant investment in your goods or services.
And in addition to needing to have a lot of patience, you also need to be strategic every step of the way. Knowing everything you need to know about prospects and customers. Following up with them promptly. Providing them with the education they need to make a purchase. Offering an extraordinary customer service experience.
Something that can help you keep all of those balls in the air is having good customer relationship management (CRM) software. It’ll tick all these boxes, making things a lot easier for your team, and a lot more enjoyable for your prospects.
But what, exactly, is a CRM besides a digital Rolodex? How would you know if you really need it? What are the benefits of CRM software? And what do you need to take into account when choosing the right platform?
A CRM is a platform where you store all of your contacts. But it does a lot more than replacing your hard copy address book (do those still exist?).
CRM software comes with a long list of features specifically designed to make business processes more efficient; especially from the sales, marketing, and service perspectives.
For example, it keeps track of every single interaction with a contact. So in addition to their names and contact information, you know how many times they’ve emailed and written to your company. What each conversation was about. Whether all of their questions have been answered and all of their issues resolved. Their concerns, preferences, and previous purchases.
All of these things are crucial for you to provide a seamless customer experience that will keep prospects and customers coming back to you.
It doesn’t matter what kind of business you run. If you’re keeping track of customers, you would benefit from a CRM. Spreadsheets are tedious, inefficient, and lend themselves to eventually having someone fall through the cracks.
From solopreneurs to Fortune 500 companies, a CRM will keep everything organized.
So yes, the type of CRM you need, the tier, and the strategies will all vary depending on your circumstances. But the common denominator for all businesses is that they would all benefit from a CRM — especially B2B, who have to expend extra TLC to close sales.
Even though you should be aware by this point that if you run a business, you would benefit from good CRM software, let’s go down the list one by one:
Your Contacts Database Is Disorganized.
All contact information is kept in a single, centralized location. Their past purchases, customer service tickets, queries — in an easy to find place. You can also keep it updated regularly by using scrubbing software tools to eliminate those who are non-responsive or who have made it clear they have no interest in the company.
You’re Not Getting Enough Sales Qualified Leads.
A lead is anyone who expresses interest in your company. But not all of them are at the same stage in the buyer’s journey.
Someone who entered their email to subscribe to your newsletter is what’s known as an Information Qualified Lead (IQL). Maybe they’re just starting to do some research. A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) maybe downloaded an ebook. Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) are close to making a purchase. Maybe they requested a demo or scheduled a call.
While you need to nurture all of them, time is of the essence when interacting with SQLs. A CRM will enable you to do so immediately.
Your Sales and Marketing Teams Are Not Aligned.
Sales and marketing can put in all their efforts into their job roles, but if they’re not on the same page, marketing may be working on attracting more IQLs, while sales is hoping and wishing for more SQLs to schedule a call. A CRM helps them optimize their efforts by enabling members from both teams to tag each other on contact files, as well as provide feedback.
You Have Ineffective Internal and External Communications.
Anyone who looks at a customer or prospect’s file will see complete information. There is no need to place callers on hold to go ask someone else what’s going on.
There’s no need to have the prospect/customer repeat themselves ad infinitum regarding their previous interactions with the business. You know what they need, and you can often even forecast what would make them happy.
Prospects Lose Interest Quickly.
Since you can automate workflows based on specific user behavior, prospects will receive lead nurturing emails from the moment they do take any preset action — such as subscribing to your blog, downloading an ebook, enrolling in a webinar, or leaving an abandoned cart. All of it happens automatically, so you remain top of mind.
You Experience Disorganized Processes and Wasted Time.
A CRM helps you move things along cohesively. This person does this, an automatic email goes out. This person does that, you get a notification.
Everything follows a preset order in a way that makes sense for your company’s specific sales processes. And because you can tag team members, everyone’s kept updated on what’s going on with their customer and prospect files.
Customer Issues Have Fallen Through the Cracks.
Customers that are left on the back burner are the equivalent to flushing money down the toilet. Think of everything that’s at stake: You could lose them as a customer. They could leave a bad review. They could change their mind about sending you referrals.
Or even if they barely noticed, you may miss upsell opportunities. Since CRM communications are personalized, users will always receive relevant emails. And since they’re automated, your team won’t have to manually keep track of everything.
Alright. So now that you have a basic understanding of the benefits of having a good CRM platform at your business, let’s look at the advantages that are specific to B2B companies:
CRM Benefit #1: The Sales Cycle Is More Complex than B2C.
When a consumer makes a purchase, they go online (or to a brick and mortar store), spend a few minutes comparing options, then buying what they need. No fuss.
However, B2B goods and services require a significant investment. Because of this, prospects need to gather enough information to get buy-in from the decision makers at their own companies. This process requires strategic marketing that guides leads down the sales funnel.
CRM Benefit #2: It Enables Better Contact Management.
When someone reaches out to your B2B company, you want to know exactly who they are. Have they called you before? Where do they work? What’s their job title? What have they expressed they need? What are their apprehensions? Do you need to follow up with them about anything?
A CRM will keep all of this data right in front of you as you interact with them.
CRM Benefit #3: It Provides an Improved Customer Experience.
Since CRMs enable automated communications, prospects and customers receive information fast. And because everything can be personalized, they’re only receiving information that’s helpful to them.
You can also automate suggestions based on their needs or past purchases, send congratulatory emails for a milestone or celebration, and provide better customer service with tickets that get attended to promptly.
CRM Benefit #4: It Improves Customer Retention.
For the reasons stated above (e.g., better contact management and improved customer experience), people are more likely to stay with you longer or become a repeat customer.
CRM Benefit #5: It Sets the Stage for More Effective Marketing.
A customer relationship management platform sends content that’s specific to each stage of a contact’s buyer’s journey. This is crucial for B2B companies, because a first-time website visitor, and someone who’s ready to request a demo, are not going to be enticed to move forward with the same type of content. You don’t want to treat them like fungible goods.
CRM Benefit #6: It Improves Business Efficiencies.
B2B businesses have plenty of tedious, mundane tasks (such as data entry and answering simple FAQs). On the other side of the spectrum, you have complex issues that require a lot of attention.
A CRM takes care of the former, so that your team can focus their time on the latter. Things get done quicker and more efficiently; which also keeps your employees engaged and happier.
CRM Benefit #7: It Provides Detailed Analytics.
Since B2B companies have longer sales cycles, it’s essential to take the pulse of your efforts to see if there’s any progress. CRM software lets you set up customized analytics dashboards and automate periodic reports to gauge how your marketing efforts are performing.
Are you getting enough open rates in your marketing emails? What’s the clickthrough rate? Increased website traffic? Identifying what’s working and what isn’t allows you to pivot before you waste additional time and money.
There are several factors you want to consider when researching CRM platforms for a B2B business.
The Size of Your Business
The size of your business will determine the type of CRM you need. Service providers often offer tiered pricing — from free, with basic services and limited contacts, to enterprise, with a long list of features and unlimited storage.
How Many People Need to Use It
Make a list of everyone in your company who will need access to your CRM to improve their job efficiency; because the same way tiered services allow different contacts capacity, they can also limit user capacity. Think especially about team members in the sales, marketing, and customer support departments.
Third Party Applications
You’ll also want to take into account all the other applications you’re currently using to run your business. Whether it’s just Gmail and Google Calendar, or an entire tech stack (e.g. Salesforce, Shopify, Slack, MailChimp, Keap, etc.), you need to ensure that the CRM platforms you’re considering offer the third party integrations you need.
Your Sales Strategy
Different CRM platforms offer different features. Which ones will work best for you depends on your sales strategy. Will your website have live chat functionality? Are you planning on deploying email marketing campaigns?
Features that every B2B company should care about are lead and pipeline management, workflow automation, and analytics. Other tools you may want to consider include quote generators, proposal management, and sales forecasting.
As a leading HubSpot Solutions Partner, we’re big fans of the platform. While there are many options to choose from, it behooves any B2B company to include the software in their CRM research.
Not only is the HubSpot CRM user friendly, it also includes a wide array of features to make your life easier at work, including the following:
- Free storage of up to a million contacts
- Prospect tracking
- Meeting scheduling
- Live chat
- Email templates and tracking
- Email campaign customization
- Omni-channel marketing automation
- Behavioral triggers
- Account based marketing
- A/B testing
- Dynamic personalization
- Adaptive testing
- Document sharing
- Sales quotes
- An extensive knowledge base
- Extraordinary customer support.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
So there you have it. A CRM is as crucial to your B2B organization as a well-designed website and effective marketing campaigns. So take your time, compare features side by side, then set up and implement your CRM, and watch your business grow as happy customers keep coming back.