What is CRM?

What is a CRM? Ultimate Guide to CRM Systems in 2023

You probably can’t picture modern life without your phone’s contacts app. It’s challenging enough to keep track of everyone’s phone number without also having to memorize their email and postal address.You’ve probably heard of customer relationship management (CRM) if you’re a company owner or a marketing and sales professional. Our primary goal while implementing CRM is to enhance our company’s functions as they pertain to your customers.

It is estimated that 23% of salespeople are still not using a customer relationship management (CRM) solution.

You need further assistance managing your professional relationships, and your phone’s address book just isn’t cutting it. You need to keep tabs on more than just sets of numbers, names, and addresses; you also need to record their product and service interests, purchases, employers, and other demographic information.

Sales teams still maintain customer relationships manually, despite the availability of advanced CRM solutions.

Instead of using automated processes that would greatly improve their efficiency, they rely on email clients, spreadsheets, and old-fashioned databases.

In light of the fact that 75% of businesses intend to increase sales with the help of CRM programs, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to the concept, operation, and variety of CRM solutions for your perusal.

What exactly is a customer relationship management system?

Customer relationship management (CRM) is often shortened to just CRM. Simply put, CRM is the practice of centralizing and optimizing all relevant customer data and related processes through the application of data analytics.

What is CRM (Infographic)

Relationship management with customers is crucial to the growth and prosperity of any company. Having dependable, ongoing connections with clients is vital to your company’s success, both now and in the future.

Nonetheless, you will have encountered the terms “a CRM system” and “the greatest CRM platform” during your commercial dealings. That’s a piece of software designed to make it simpler for business owners to keep tabs on their correspondence with leads and customers. Rather than using disparate tools to keep track of customer information, more companies are switching to a centralized customer relationship management system (CRM).

Customer relationship management software allows for centralized storage, retrieval, and management of all relevant customer data. By having all relevant data in one place, sales and marketing teams can better assess where their pipelines are at any given time. This facilitates consistent communication between the company and its clients, which is essential for a successful sales team.

However, a customer relationship management solution’s duties extend far beyond simple data collection. It’s a boon for finding leads quickly, adding new contacts, and following up efficiently, among other uses. Thus, it becomes simple to advance potential buyers along the sales pipeline.

How CRMs came to be

CRM’s modern roots can be traced back to the 1980s. The Kestnbaums, Robert and Kate, were among the first to use databases for marketing. Specifically, it was a type of direct marketing that used statistical analysis of a company’s customer information to determine which consumers would be most receptive to an inevitable advertising push.

After they developed this idea, new ideas, and approaches, such as client lifetime value and channel management, were introduced to the business world by Kestnbaum and Robert Shaw. There is much discussion over who came up with customer relationship management (CRM), but if you consider Bob Kestnbaum’s impact on contemporary marketing and strategy, he undoubtedly deserves credit.

But it was Mike Muhney and Pat Sullivan who introduced the world to the concept of customer relationship management software. Their product initially called ACT (Automated Contact Tracking), is still a household name in the customer relationship management industry.

In the 1990s, a proliferation of businesses and software programs centered on the concept of customer relationship management. Numerous ERP systems suppliers, like Goldmine and Maximizer, jumped into the market early.

The introduction of Salesforce’s cloud-based customer relationship management technology at the turn of 2000 radically altered how businesses were run. Since then, there has been an ever-increasing demand for even more capabilities within CRM programs, prompting providers to develop ever-more-refined solutions.

Contact management in the present day is impossible without social media data, which has led to the expansion of CRM solutions to incorporate this information. Additionally, mobile CRM systems are progressively gaining traction thanks to the enormous popularity of smartphones.

There is a plethora of customer relationship management (CRM) platforms available today. Most of these are web-based applications that help firms of all sizes simplify their sales operations, conduct more effective marketing campaigns, and automate their customer interactions.

What can a CRM system do?

The core purpose of every customer information system, including CRM software, is contact management. The goal of a customer relationship management system (CRM) is to centralize and organize information on customers and other contacts, from potential customers to existing partners.

Email, spreadsheets, and open-source databases are all excellent examples of publicly available tools that can be used for this work. Honestly, you’d be spot-on with that assessment.

However, the actual value of customer relationship management software is in its ability to streamline the entire sales and marketing process, not merely in keeping contact details for individual customers. Let’s see if we can make sense of this with a basic example.

Customer relationship management programs are based on interpersonal connections. You’ll be able to locate all of your coworkers and any related messages in one convenient location. You may find out who on your team has been in touch with them recently to set up an introduction, get a head start on preparation for your next encounter, and nurture leads by having automated messages sent to them.

You rarely need to memorize a phone number these days. It’s likely that you have the contact information for anyone you often interact with, be it your parents, spouse, or friends. Putting in a call is as simple as touching the person’s name in your contact list. In fact, with the help of a voice-activated assistant, you can ask to make a phone call instead of typing out a command.

That’s a massive improvement over the conventional approach of looking up contact information, which entails sifting through books, notes, and business cards. The contemporary method is more convenient and helps you save plenty of time and trouble.

Customers’ information is now collected and stored in several companies. These may include the chief executive officer, marketing director, or sales force. Sales and marketing efforts are slowed considerably when the consumer information is dispersed in such a haphazard manner.

It’s also challenging to provide targeted messages to leads and turn them into customers when there is no unified source of information. Furthermore, manual data entry processes require a lot of work and time investment.

How do CRMs help with these issues?

Your company may avoid these issues and provide a seamless service to customers with the help of a customer relationship management solution. A customer relationship management system (CRM) is helpful since it allows you to centralize all information pertaining to customers and leads.

Customer relationship management systems facilitate monitoring client actions throughout the sales process by serving as a central hub for this data. Furthermore, CRMs give salespeople sophisticated analytical tools that aid in the discovery of new business possibilities. Concurrently, they guarantee efficient marketing automation.

This leads to happier customers, more repeat business, and higher individualized email and phone contact rates. In addition, CRMs direct the customer through the sales funnel at every stage, influencing them to take the necessary steps to close the deal.

Customer relationship management systems are helpful in the marketing and sales phases and the support and maintenance phases. Customers in today’s multi-channel world may first voice their dissatisfaction on social media before contacting the company directly by phone.

Using a customer relationship management system, your staff can monitor and respond to inquiries from any medium. By keeping tabs on all customer service interactions in one place, the business, and the client benefit from a holistic understanding of the service’s efficacy.

In short, a comprehensive customer relationship management solution may aid your company in managing all aspects of client interactions, from initial inquiry to final sale. A high-level explanation of how customer relationship management systems facilitate this goal for your company follows.

What do CRMs do?

Now, we’ll investigate how customer relationship management systems (CRMs) to aid in achieving sales quotas and organizational objectives. The CRM system aids in monitoring a lead’s progress across several touchpoints, including phone calls, social media, and email, as soon as a qualified lead is created.

CRM Types Infographic

Once enough information has been gathered. The system notifies the sales team of the following potential solutions they might take to close the deal. When one customer responds well, a business might take several steps toward closing a deal. Such measures can include:

  • Sending a follow-up email.
  • Making a personal phone call.
  • Even dropping by in person.

The CRM then updates its records based on the prospect’s activity in response to these attempts and initiates a new sequence of sales procedures. Some CRMs even can provide real-time customer behavior forecasting, which can greatly assist sales representatives in helping customers throughout their buying experience.

If the CRM notices that the lead is no longer engaged, it will stop prioritizing it and instead focus the sales team’s efforts on more promising leads. Doing so aids in focusing sales and marketing efforts where they will yield the greatest return.

Furthermore, CRMs produce significant analytical data, such as consumer demographics and preferences, in addition to tracking prospects across channels. A customer’s path can be better understood using this kind of information.

Which CRMs Come in Which Forms?

In a nutshell, the primary focus of any customer relationship management system is on leads and sales. You can keep tabs on leads for customers and clients in any customer relationship management system, add details as you strive to persuade them to utilize your service or product, and convert the lead into a sale once they’ve made up their minds to buy. A customer relationship management system (CRM) is essential for a sales team to collaborate effectively. It allows team members to see the current status of deals at any time, regardless of who is responsible for what part of the process. There are five main categories into which customer relationship management systems fall, in addition to the bespoke solutions developed for individual companies.

  • Collaborative CRMs
  • Operational CRMs
  • Campaign Management CRMs
  • Analytical CRMs
  • Strategic CRMs

Although most CRMs nowadays are all-in-one suites that combine functionality from several categories, it’s still helpful to have a firm grasp on these distinctions so you can prioritize the functions that are most important to you in a customer relationship management system.

Collaborative CRMs

Collaborative customer relationship management systems are effective because they make it easy for information to be shared throughout many departments. Collaborative CRMs, in contrast to operational CRMs, put more of an emphasis on improving customer service than on increasing sales and marketing.

One of the benefits of implementing a CRM solution like this is the facilitated communication between teams. Thus, workers are granted unrestricted entry to consumer information that is otherwise spread out in several silos.

Collaborative customer relationship management systems have two key features: interaction and channel management. Both of these functions are designed to enhance the various ways in which businesses connect with their customers. These resources offer a unified method of handling client data and spreading that data throughout the organization.

Companies with a need to coordinate the efforts of several divisions can benefit greatly from adopting a collaborative CRM system. It’s also an excellent fit for businesses that seek to increase consumer loyalty.

Operational CRMs

This form of customer relationship management software provides an integrated view of current and potential customers, which is used by the sales, marketing, and support departments. All of your contacts’ data can be organized in a standardized manner with the help of this type of technology.

In addition, the software includes features that can automate marketing, sales, and customer care operations. Thanks to this kind of automation, the previous sections can coordinate their efforts to find, cultivate, and close new prospects.

Most types of businesses can benefit greatly from operational CRMs. It is recommended for online stores that place a premium on client satisfaction to employ this type of solution. It is also helpful in organizing data and optimizing processes to reduce waste and unnecessary effort.

Campaign Management CRMs

This customer relationship management form incorporates operational and analytical CRM elements. The ability to gather and examine client information is a boon to any company’s marketing and sales efforts, and this tool gives you just that.

If you want to leverage client data to conduct campaigns like email marketing, then a customer relationship management system is the right solution. Typically, marketing automation platforms like MailChimp can be integrated with customer relationship management systems like Salesforce.com to give in-house campaign management tools.

Analysis-based CRMs

This type of CRM does what it says on the tin: it improves the data collection and analysis of customer behavior. With analytical CRMs, you can aggregate data from various customer channels and touchpoints to gain a complete picture of consumer preferences.

Analytics-driven customer relationship management systems allow businesses to monitor and learn from client actions taken at each stage of the sales process. Data mining principles are applied to the gathered information to uncover valuable patterns and metrics that may be used to improve the quality of service provided to customers by this type of program. With this method, businesses can save time while improving the quality of their decision-making.

Although there are customer relationship management systems designed for smaller businesses, analytical CRMs are usually not practical for companies that are just getting their feet wet and don’t have a lot of internal data yet.

On the other hand, analytical CRM shines when used by well-established businesses with mountains of data from which to conclude. Using this software’s data, companies may create tactics that speak directly to their clientele.

Strategic CRMs

This software is a subset of customer relationship management systems that emphasizes the customer’s journey even more than its collaborative counterparts do. What sets it apart, though, is that it delivers in-depth information about client behavior and allows you to personalize your interactions with customers over time.

A company that places a premium on maintaining healthy, mutually beneficial connections with its clientele will find this instrument invaluable. This tool is not helpful for businesses that run short-term campaigns or focus on one-time transactions.

Along with these categories, customer relationship management (CRM) software can be further subdivided into on-premise and cloud-based options. The critical distinction here is in the software’s deployment: in an on-premise CRM, all of the data and processing occur within the organization’s four walls.

The on-premises deployment model eliminates the need for customer relationship management (CRM) data to leave the local network or the company’s private intranet. The software purchaser is responsible for performing the majority of the necessary maintenance.

Contrarily, SaaS (Software as a Service) cloud-based CRMs guarantee accessibility regardless of physical location. Simultaneously, the service provider here handles all required maintenance.

The Benefits of CRMs

Having established how customer relationship management systems function, we can now examine their various benefits for your company. Here, we’ve compiled the most salient advantages of CRMs so you can receive a quick, comprehensive overview of how they might increase your business’s bottom line.

  • Give comprehensive insight into consumer behavior
  • Help divide customers into groups based on their demographics
  • Boost your ability to keep customers
  • Facilitate improved and quicker sales
  • Facilitate the provision of individualized service to clients
  • Maintain perfect, individualized customer communication
  • Help ensure that client information is safe and secure
  • Enhance the sales process by meticulously tracking duties
  • Give users a single interface to access all customer and lead data.
  • CRM marketing technologies facilitate the management and tracking of your marketing initiatives.

These benefits may explain why customer relationship management products have become the most prominent software market in the world. Revenue in the customer relationship management (CRM) market is projected to exceed $80 billion within the next five years, and this expansion shows no signs of slowing down.

Which CRM is Ideal For Your Company?

It’s clear that several CRMs share features, and some programs offer more than one service. This is why it’s essential to consider the following criteria when choosing a customer relationship management system for your company.

It would be best if you began by compiling a list of the features and functionality you need from a CRM system. Using these criteria, you can determine if a more niche CRM solution is necessary for your business. Think about the specific industry you operate in, as this will play a role in determining the best CRM for your company.

Next, survey the market to see what options exist. Both open-source and commercial CRM systems are readily available nowadays. Cost is an important consideration when choosing a customer relationship management system, but it shouldn’t be the only one.

Instead, it would help if you thought about the solution kind and the CRM provider’s capacities. Provide adequate help if so. If so, is it a cloud-based SaaS service or an on-premises tool? You should think about these things.

Last but not least, don’t overlook the importance of individualization. A cookie-cutter customer relationship management system will likely be tailor-made for your company. It is recommended to investigate its adaptability to your specific requirements by exploring its customization options.

Finally, Requests for Proposals (RFPs) can be sent to facilitate the search process. Obviously, this isn’t required, but it might help you make a better choice if you do.

Which CRM Tools Work Best?

Selecting the top-performing CRM software is a challenging job with many factors to think about. A wide variety of options are available to you, ranging from paid CRM systems to open-source CRM tools.

Because of this, we’ll give you a quick rundown of some of today’s most crucial customer relationship management (CRM) products. I’ve compiled a list of the three best customer relationship management apps for your perusal.

Zoho CRM

Regarding customer relationship management (CRM) software, Zoho is the best option for small and medium-sized businesses. ZOHO CRM is one of the top Analytical CRMs on the market, with over 150,000 users across the world.

ZOHO gives you a birds-eye view of your organization with tools like data analysis and insight extraction, sophisticated reporting, and sales enablement. Further, it has compatibility with more than a hundred external programs.

HubSpot CRM

HubSpot CRM is a relative newcomer to the CRM market, yet it has quickly gained a sizable fan base. The reason why so many companies today use HubSpot as their CRM of choice is because of its user-friendly layout, a comprehensive set of marketing features, and straightforward navigation.

Marketing and sales teams will find HubSpot CRM to be an invaluable tool for lead management. Moreover, the program includes features like an email integration tool, a sales pipeline data overview, and chatbots powered by artificial intelligence.

What’s more, you may use HubSpot entirely without spending a dime because the company offers the software for free. A premium upgrade is available if your company finds a need for more advanced features.

Freshworks CRM

Freshworks (formerly: Freshsales CRM) has implemented AI-based capabilities to improve lead management and sales.

This customer relationship management system aids in identifying and pursuing the most promising prospects across the entire customer lifecycle.

MailChimp, Piesync, and Zapier are just a few examples of the digital marketing solutions that Freshworks is compatible with. Moreover, it has RESTful APIs, which make it simple to manipulate data. Furthermore, it complies with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), so your privacy is assured.


A customer relationship management system (CRM) is just a tool that can improve your company’s ability to provide a unified experience for your clientele and to move potential customers along the sales funnel more quickly.

The improper CRM, however, can have the opposite effect and lead to a drop in sales as your organization expands. Before choosing a customer relationship management system, it is vital to take a comprehensive look at your company.

Using customer relationship management (CRM) software, you may bring order to your chaotic contacts with clients rather than spending your time trying to remember the last thing somebody said to you. CRM may seem hard at first, but after you get the hang of it and start using automation, you’ll save time compared to your previous methods of searching through emails.

Bijan Zamani

Bijan Zamani is an entrepreneur and founder of series startups in United Kingdom and Middle East. Zamani is a full stack developer and CEO of large startups that attract millions of users on monthly basis. Zamani has been featured in over 50 publications and was recognized as a top 20 under 20 entrepreneurs by EW in Middle East.

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