How a CRM platform can improve your sales pipeline

A buyer's journey is never straightforward. Whether you're a retailer with a physical storefront or a SaaS consultant working remotely, every business has "window shoppers" who think twice before committing. The pandemic and stalling economy has made this even more true. Between lockdowns and layoffs, consumers are being much more calculative about how they spend their money. Fewer people are "walking past your shop," so to speak, which means you can't afford to let the ones who peer in slip away. Going forward, successful businesses will be the ones who bring their marketing and sales strategies together to nurture leads properly, and a CRM is the best way to do that.

Out with the old habits, in with the new

Consumer behaviour has shifted, and there's no telling if it will ever return to how it once was. As the pandemic escalated, many organisations realised that it was much harder for sales reps to generate leads through traditional methods like calls, face-to-face meetings, and direct advertising. So they adapted, and the result was an entirely new set of priorities for sales and marketing teams around the world. These priorities focused on two areas: guiding established and on-the-fence prospects through the sales funnel, and providing the high-quality customer experience necessary to retain them.

Fast-forward to today, and sales reps are having to work more closely with marketers to answer questions like “What’s the difference between these two products?”, “What type of consultation do I need to grow my business’s social media?”, and “What value does my business get from this product/service?” The typically linear process of ‘marketing creates the message, sales sells the message’ no longer works.

Prospects and customers don't just want a witty headline or a sales pitch. Your message has to be coupled with tangible and specific benefits for them as a buyer, as well as the support to make it happen. Whether you have dedicated departments for each function or a couple of employees running the show, this can only be accomplished through more collaboration between sales and marketing. A process that successfully integrates the two will help you stay competitive as the economy heals.

CRM: Where sales and marketing intersect

72% of salespeople say they use a sales tool once or more in a week. A CRM will help you visually represent your sales pipeline so your reps can close more deals, but it will also serve as a single source for all your customer information. Whether it's running marketing campaigns, advising prospects, or offering quality support to an existing customer, this information keeps your teams on the same page.

How a CRM can improve your pipeline

For 72% of users, sales intelligence tools are vital to close deals. It's no surprise why—a CRM helps you keep track of your metrics with custom reports and dashboards, and it also predicts sales patterns to help you measure performance and set realistic goals.

A CRM tool can act as a single channel of communication with your customers. Whether you're calling prospects, sending follow-up emails, or checking in on issues they've mentioned on social media, a CRM system can consolidate all your media in one place, ensuring that you get the complete picture every time.

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Online sales jumped during the pandemic. From local artisanal shops to larger retailers, everyone set up an online store to continue serving their customers. But there's more to selling online than an ecommerce site and a PayPal integration. It also includes marketing activities like live demos with executives, remote training sessions, and follow-up email campaigns. For example, during the height of lockdowns, liquor stores across the country did virtual wine tastings to keep their customers engaged and show off modern vintages. A CRM combines these activities effectively to help manage all in one place.

People buy from people they trust. A CRM system gives you an overview of your customers' every interaction with your business, making it easy for you to have contextual conversations. For instance, if you have to follow up with a customer about an upcoming payment, you can go into the conversation knowing details like how their previous interactions with your support agents went, how they've supported you on social media, and what reviews they've left about your services. This way, your call becomes more than just a payment reminder—it becomes a discussion where you can work to build a more genuine relationship with them. That's how you establish trust and deliver a high-quality customer experience—by understanding your customer. In fact, according to LinkedIn's Global State of Sales Report for 2020, 43% of respondents said their top metric to measure sales performance is customer satisfaction.

With a CRM tool, you can also build out your sales process no matter how complex or lengthy it is. A B2B sales pipeline may take much longer than a B2C pipeline. Regardless, you can map out your entire workflow so that every sales representative in your team knows what they're doing and how to proceed to the next stage. What's more, because you have a visual representation of your process, you can also review it and make changes whenever you need.

Part of this is knowing which leads are worth your effort. A CRM system will help you analyse your leads' data, communication patterns, and status in the pipeline to identify which leads you should focus on and when. This is invaluable information when you want to close relevant deals in the shortest amount of time.

Lastly, a key part of sales is doing a periodic cleanup to eliminate dead leads so you can focus on genuine prospects. Just try to be mindful about how your buyer's world may have shifted due to the pandemic. It used to be that a prospect who was stagnant in the pipeline for 3 days became a cold or dead lead, but now you might want to increase that threshold to 5 days. Some people still work from home and may be juggling other priorities or distractions while online. Perhaps they weren't ready to buy that two-person tent yet! A CRM will help you analyse your sales progress and map out your pipeline according to the current market and your business needs so you don't miss out on leads by misclassifying them.

CRM for industries

1. Real estate

Follow-ups are the key to closing a deal, and that couldn't be more true for real estate agents. When it comes to buying a house, most sales referrals come from friends and family, proving that trust is fundamental to success. That's why you should take contact management seriously. Essential CRM capabilities like custom reports, task management, and analytics make it easy to store contact details and deliver better services to your clients.

2. Healthcare

The problem with many CRM systems is that they don't cater to the vastly varied structures in the healthcare and life sciences industries. That's why you need a CRM that is customisable but also has strict privacy policies. As a business dealing with sensitive patient information, you need to ensure that your software partner complies with industry regulations.

3. Services industry

Unlike the other industries that use a CRM as a central database for information, service-based businesses run all of their operations on a CRM. Whether it's booking appointments, sending reminders, managing invoices, or handling customer support, you'll need to do it all from a single CRM system. Verify integration and API capabilities with various payment gateways and calendars, and take a close look at customisation options when choosing software for your business.

4. Retail

The retail industry thrives on seasonal sales and special discounts. Not only do you need comprehensive integrations with your inventory and delivery systems, but you'll also need easy-to-use vendor portals.

Regardless of what industry you're in, CRM software can help you identify crucial points in your sales pipeline and improve efficiency at each stage. It also allows you to work alongside your marketing team to nurture prospects and deliver higher-quality experience that users have come to expect in the post-pandemic world. If you're looking for an affordable CRM system that doesn't sacrifice quality, Zoho CRM might be a good fit. Here's what one of our customers has to say about it:

"We now have a global sales team from North and South America, the UK, Australia, Europe, and Asia who are using the Zoho CRM system. Our Direct Sales have recorded double-digit growth over the last two years."

Hanh Nguyen, Digital Marketing Manager, Aqua Expeditions
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