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How to improve your customer relationships with CRM

How to Make the Right First Impression with CRM

Sales have known for years how important making a first impression is – just like any social interaction, it’s awfully difficult to alter a first impression after the fact.

Yet it’s not Sales who are the first to communicate with potential clients; marketers are. They’re the first to raise brand awareness and essentially are responsible for creating your organisation’s first impression on the public.

This is our advice on how Marketing should use CRM to help control their first impressions.

  1. Social strategy
  2. The rise of social media and social networking has meant that marketers are even more likely to create a brand’s first impression.

    • Real Time Data
    • The most obvious benefit of using social media data to fill in the gaps in your leads’ profiles is the constant stream of information. The right CRM should be storing all of this information for you, providing you with a well-rounded view of your lead long before you pick up the phone, ensuring that when you do call them, the conversation can be much more personalised and relevant.

      Does the lead regularly update their social networks at the end of the day proclaiming their fatigue? It may be beneficial to avoid calling late in the afternoon. Likewise, if recent updates suggest the lead is in a good mood, take the cue and call them.

    • Observe trends
    • Observe trends, even if you’re limited to post sale data; there is still useful information to be obtained. Become a detective, asking the right questions could produce information which eventually leads to more interesting content from the customer’s perspective.

      What traits do these customers have in common? Particular age? Particular job title? Whilst it’s not an exact science, you can assume some connotations about these traits. Even if only 60-70% of those people fall into the stereotype, it means that 60-70% of those reading your content feel as though it has been tailored to them.

      Use CRM functionality to ‘listen’ to your customers, what they’re saying to your business directly and, most importantly, what they’re saying to their peers about you (which can often be a completely different message than the one you were expecting). Leverage this information within your CRM to tweak and refine your marketing in line with their feedback.

    • Know your audience
    • Your company’s CRM system, depending on how well it is being used, contains a database ranging in size from only those who have previously purchased from you to all those who may have just checked your website a handful of times. No matter the size, it will be of use to your marketing department to scour through and get a feel for those you’re actually trying to reach out to.

      If your CRM is predominantly filled with those at the customer support stage of the funnel, question why and attempt to implement a more well-rounded CRM strategy. This will teach you whether those you expected to be in your products’ target audience are in fact in your target audience, leading you to alter marketing campaigns accordingly.

    • Engage Customers in a New Way
    • Traditionally, your main mode of communication would be telephone. And, when it comes to closing a sale, this may still be the case – but it’s no longer the only way to engage. Extend your voice and play a part in online conversation, contribute to public debate and interact with customers and leads alike. While opening private conversations may be a little intrusive, commenting on relevant posts is a good way to build up a rapport and show off the more human side of your company.

      Social media research in this way is great for your marketing team who can use what you bring back to them to target campaigns more specifically.

      Microsoft Dynamics offers a social media listening tool which automatically monitors all relevant conversations. Coupled with your intuition, you can notice the right opportunity to intervene and strike up a conversation.

    • Broadening the Sales Role
    • The move towards using social platforms to garner a 4D view of your leads comes at a time when customers are making their own way through the funnel through online research. This means that Sales teams have to work a lot harder, potentially moving way out of their comfort zone.

      An example of this could be providing quick answers to questions posed on social media platforms, much in the same way as they would have on the phone. In this role, the link between CRM and social media is key as the CRM provides the sales rep, amongst others, access to all the information they will require to respond speedily.

      A recent study by Microsoft claimed that 78% of respondents believed that social media was the future of customer service. It’s clear that Sales will have to play their part in this as the consumer shifts towards independent purchases.

  3. Personalised emails
  4. You have a wealth of information about all your customers and all your potential leads, so why are you sending out generic emails? This approach does not give out the best first impression nor is it best practice.

    Whilst your ideal target demographic may share some common traits, it’s important to recognise that they aren’t all the same. Be sure to segment your data and send communications that are more targeted and relevant – a forward-thinking CRM system such as Microsoft Dynamics can help you automate this process. Small things that can be personalised through automation, such as full correct names, should be considered standard. Whilst it’s only a minor revision, people are more receptive to communications that appear tailored to them as an individual.

    Have you begun implementing your email marketing campaign as a means to get more information about leads? Placing forms in front of content? How responsive are the leads? A common complaint is that leads are simply unwilling to provide personal details, but this is not the case.

    Look at banks; they successfully gather plenty of personal information about their clients, because the client understands what they get in return. Give customers what they want, at this point you’re no longer in the first impression stage but they are still impressionable. If your forms are gating content no one is interested in, people are not going to participate, so once again make the content engaging and something people want.

  5. Archive
  6. Presumably your inbound marketing efforts are quite successful; you’re getting people to interact with your website, blog, content and social media. People are coming to you and have already formed their first impression of your company, what next?

    As we touched upon earlier, archive all this information within your CRM to help you fill out your lead and make them more human. It is all valuable information even things as menial as the number of times they have visited your website could alter how your sales team approach the lead when the time comes. As hard as it is to create a second ‘first impression’ or turn a poor first impression around, the converse is not the case.

    Failing to note down particular interactions with your inbound marketing, then failing to note it down could mean that the sales team are starting from scratch. Confusion between departments will not be favourable from a client point of view.

How to Improve Communication with Prospects, Customers & Partners

  • Shared Calendars
  • The shared calendars available through a CRM such as Microsoft Dynamics are a blessing to all sales people. They serve a purpose when it comes to improving relationships and communication with prospects, customers and partners.

    In the case of both prospects and customers, any reminder or activity will be known to your whole team, not just you. What this means is, even if you happen to forget about a planned call or meeting, someone in your team should be able to notice and remind you. Not only is this useful in terms of client-business relationships, it helps boost camaraderie within your team. It goes without saying that failing to attend a meeting or missing a call is poor communication and likely to have a negative effect on your relationship with clients.

    In terms of partners and senior staff, having visible calendars ensures that they can manage from a distance. They can have an overview of your work, as well as the whole teams, without the need to micro-manage, inhibiting your ability to work fluidly.

  • Automated Reminders
  • Once again, this point refers back to minimising forgetfulness and remaining attentive to your customers’ needs. As an extra safety measure, and to avoid relying on staff reminders, Microsoft Dynamics can create automated reminders to guarantee that you don’t miss the call or meeting.

    At the time of the appointment’s creation you can – and should – detail the experience. Writing points of reference within the notes of an automated reminder will allow you to remember the previous interactions and begin subsequent communications where you left off.

    This is even more important when it comes to new business development – especially if a previous business call leads you to understand that a lead may be interested in the coming months but not just yet. Schedule reminders just prior to this date so you can get back in touch, remind them of you, your services and, most importantly, beat the competition to the lead.

  • Templates & Reports
  • Templates found within a CRM such as Microsoft Dynamics can range from a basic “sorry for any inconvenience” email to more complex contracts – all of which can streamline your communications, making them more efficient and effective. Altogether more important is a CRM’s ability to retain scripts, allowing your weaker sales reps to use the phrases and techniques of your more fruitful reps during sales calls.

    Internally, using your CRM to compile reports of your activities is a more efficient way of updating your partners and superiors. Get straight to the point with straight talking facts that identify ROI, areas of success and areas where improvements are needed.

    Your CRM can create accurate reports and charts of the way your company works. Use some of this data to create visually appealing, yet empirically sound, content to interest your target demographic.

  • Automated Response
  • Automated features found with your CRM are not limited to reminding you of impending calendar events. Sending automated responses to clients and prospects is useful when, for example:

    • Customer queries are passed on to relevant departments internally; it is best practice to include a timeframe within which they will be replied to.
    • To help customers track the progress of an order or shipment.
    • To offer additional products after purchase or delivery.

    They’re all minor features in their own right but they improve the customer experience, by keeping the client informed and creating a positive impression of your organisation.

  • Lead Segmentation
  • If you’re using a modern CRM, you will be offered the ability to segment your leads. And, if you want your content to start getting serious traction, you need to segment the leads that are receiving it.

    The products and service you provide could very well appeal to wide demographics that won’t be using them for the same reasons. Separate these people by job title or industries to make sure they do not receive content that is diametrically opposed to the field they occupy.

    Segmenting leads has been proven to help massively boost engagement levels within marketing content.

  • Buyer Personas
  • Lead segmentation is just the first step; taking that line of thought to its final conclusion should lead you to the creation of buyer personas. You create buyer personas by identifying who your main target markets are and creating a stereotype of sorts that encompasses the major points of each demographic. Well thought out personas include names, responsibilities and key issues, helping you to create more bespoke and targeted content. Adding personal details gives you the impression that you’re writing to one person, who shares many peoples’ goals.

    Buyer personas not only help you, as the content creator, write for your target demographic but it also boosts engagement levels as the content is more relevant to their interests.

  • When to Market
  • Research has shown that certain times of the day and certain days of the week have better engagement levels depending on the medium. Organise your communications accordingly; social media is probably best going out on an hourly basis, while emails have been shown to get the best traction if sent out on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Certain industries have their own particular quirks for instance; those in agriculture are more often than not away from their computers in the morning and therefore unlikely to read publications uploaded around this time.

How to Approach and Liaise with New Customers

Having a steady supply of existing customers is a necessity to keep your business running smoothly, but if you have any intention of expanding your company, it’s crucial that you get some new accounts on the books. Overall, it is quite a difficult process; using your CRM efficiently will help you to make the process a little smoother and little more cost effective.

  1. Interdepartmental Communication
  2. Generally speaking, new customers are only new to you in Sales. If the marketing team have been performing as they’re expected to, then in all likelihood, they’ve known these leads for some time.
    Find out what they know about the lead, no matter how seemingly mundane, it could help you build on the good first impression.

  3. Coordinate
  4. Rather than personally discuss the details of leads, work in conjunction with Marketing and ensure that they are filling out these details in the company CRM. It makes for a more reliable system and it’s what it is there for.

  5. Research
  6. Spend a short while reading the file on the contact you’re about to call. Even a few moments getting to know the lead’s name, details and even lead source will give you something to open with and make the call all the more personable.

  7. Scripting
  8. By definition, you must have had new customers at one point; ask yourself what worked? What chatter did your sales team use to both open and close deals? Ideally you will have already archived this information, otherwise think about what it was and create a script. Your CRM can thus archive a script, for easy access when you embark on your new calls.

  9. Take notes
  10. You’re unlikely to make a sale on your first call to a lead, no matter how keen they sound on your call – they’re unlikely to have the final say there and then. Other calls may be all the more wary, asking to call back later in the week, month or year and seemingly blaze about the entire situation.

    Don’t be disheartened by this, take a note of the time they have asked to re-schedule. Subsequently, be sure to place a reminder in your CRM to call back when they claimed, they may well have been interested but without the funding or resources at the time.

  11. Be Personable
  12. Above, we outlined the efficacy of scripts; there is a slight qualification to this point. Don’t come across as robotic, if that means not following the script line for line and simply using it as a guide, do so! It’s a difficult task but you need to come across effortlessly and subsequently give them a reason to purchase from you. This is why researching beforehand is so important, so you don’t slip through lack of insight.

  13. Don’t Cold Call
  14. In the strictest sense possible minimise cold calls, don’t simply just ring numbers from a batch of data. The work Marketing has done and uploaded on to the CRM should mean that the data there is slightly warmer, aware of the company and more likely to purchase. Calling cold leads versus those that have been marketing qualified is likely to contribute to a higher call rate but significantly lower return. Be efficient with your calls.

  15. Score Your Leads
  16. Once again this requires you to converge with your Marketing team but together you should be looking to score your leads. Lead scoring just helps you quantify the amount of engagement leads have shown, it’s a direct continuation of following marketing’s leads and helps you pick the most important leads.

Help Bring Back Existing Customers

Obviously, all businesses need to attract new customers to continue growing – but you want to ensure that there is a contingent of returning customers, too. They bring in revenue whilst costing significantly less in company expenditures to guarantee the sale.

Follow Up

The easiest way to get customers to come back to you is by simply remembering them. If you let it, your CRM does this for you. Help Sales implement a culture of placing reminders after phone calls to follow up at the date specified – or more broadly in the coming months if no date was outlined.

Marketing

Marketing shouldn’t be limited to new customers. Although it is traditionally known as a means of getting a lead interested in your company – and therefore the early stages of the funnel, Marketing can play a very crucial role in recycling customers. Nurturing leads is a great way of not only keeping unused leads warm but also keeping previous customers interested.

A CRM is the best place to implement and track your lead nurturing campaign, with the lead scoring capabilities inbuilt within.
Once again, it’s your duty to ensure that Marketing are aware of this and have suitable processes in place to benefit from it.

Incentivise

Discounts or offers are a great way of attracting previous customers to return. Use the information stored within your CRM to personalise these discounts, offering an incentive that’s so meaningful to them as an individual, they simply can’t refuse. Share this task out between Sales and Marketing, as it falls between both their remits.

Bolster Customer Service

Customer service can be the deciding factor for many consumers. People will go out of their way to find better customer service so make sure yours is up to scratch. Get your customer support staff to setup the CRM in such a way that you give your customers no choice but to return. Route query emails to the right people automatically, to ensure that a response and solution is given in time. Use your CRM to monitor your social media channels; it’s fast becoming the most important means of communication for younger customers.

If you’ve used your CRM correctly, you will have stored the customer’s history there; purchases, billing history, outstanding complaints and more.

Not only is CRM a great tool to store customer information but it is also a great tool for ensuring your customer data is up to date. Is a customer’s password about to expire? Set an automated reminder followed by a message to boost satisfaction. Do you suspect a client may have changed number or address? Regular interaction with customers will help cement your relationships going some way towards ensuring client loyalty.

Identify Profitable Clients

This is a role the financial team can get involved with more prominently; identify which of your previous customers has been the most profitable. It is true that attracting returning customers requires far less time and fewer resources than attracting new customers, but it still requires time and money. Use your CRM to identify which clients brought in the most revenue, which customers required the least amount of time to do so and which customers are worth avoiding.

Forward this information back to Marketing & Sales to help them refine their campaigns and strategies and ensure the profitable clients are the clients who are regularly returning to you.

Learn from feedback

CRMs, like Microsoft Dynamics, give your business the ability to archive customer feedback; use it! Once this feedback is recorded, all future interaction with customers can be personalised and tailored to ensure the utmost client satisfaction.

If previous conversations with clients led to some constructive feedback, use your CRM to note it, making sure that, when you next speak to that client, you have taken on board the previous comments.

Effective use of this technology is the 21st century equivalent of ‘service with a smile’; it is showing your customers that they are important to you.

Remember that the customer is an individual

A customer is more than just a potential sale. Learn more about them as an individual and reap the rewards. What’s more, be sure that everything learnt from interacting with customers is added to your CRM.

This depth of knowledge is an asset, which can – and should – be capitalised on by your company.
Companies pay good money for market research. Effective CRM use means you can create your own research without the added expense, all the while making the customer feel cared for.

Allocate your resources effectively

Use your time and resources effectively by profiling customer records. Flexible CRM systems, like Microsoft Dynamics, allow the CRM user to grade the profitability of accounts. Knowing which customers are most valuable to your company allows you to allocate more time to protect these accounts. Conversely, your CRM database can help you identify why some customers may be less profitable and help you open avenues to rectify this.
 
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Dave Burrell

Dave Burrell

Solutions Consultant at Redspire
A Microsoft Dynamics Technical Pre-Sales Professional, Dave provides a bridge between the project team and our technical staff. He’ll interrogate customer requirements and then articulate them to the development team.
Dave Burrell

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