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 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.


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.

How to use CRM to Increase Sales Productivity

So you’ve got a CRM in place and you’re wondering how it actually contributes to your bottom line.

This blog will take you through some of our top tips on how to make your Sales team more productive using your CRM system.

Use your CRM to maximise time spent selling

Improving the amount of time your team spends on calls and closing sales is an issue faced by most Sales Managers. Your superiors may be on your case to get more sales from you and your sales team but, at the same time, encouraging you to do more with less.

So, offering professional training to your current team or employing additional staff isn’t an option. But there is a solution that can help you increase the way in which your current sales team spend their time – simply through more effective use of your current CRM.

We have outlined 6 tips that can help you get more from your CRM – and more from your sales team in the processes.

  • Automate reminders

We can’t stress how important automating reminders is to any role within a business, but particularly for Sales. Should a lead indicate that they may be ready to purchase in the coming months, be sure to note the timeframe and other important details. You want to make sure that you beat the competition but without wasting more time ringing indiscriminately in the meantime.

  • Lead scoring

Work in combination with your company’s marketing team to outline a lead scoring procedure.
Having your CRM track where your leads lie within your funnel and automatically update their progress means that you can spend less time monitoring leads and more time picking up the phone to those that are ready.

  • Use call scripts

Use your CRM’s ability to save sales scripts to ensure that minimal preparation is needed for the more routine sales calls. Having an outline of proven phrases and dialogue can effectively shorten sales calls, meaning that you can fit more in your day.

  • Mobile CRM

Various studies have shown how using a mobile CRM can increase productivity in sales staff by as much as 25%. With access to a mobile CRM, your sales staff are capable of researching on the go, meaning the time spent in the office needn’t be used to prep for a meeting but can instead be used to continue with sales-based activity.

  • Minimise admin tasks

Most CRMs offer fantastic automated functions that can minimise the amount of time you and your sales team spend doing admin tasks. Have email templates saved to send to clients you have just spoken to or ensure the company as a whole has a routing system in place to automatically forward certain emails to the correct person. Time saved here is time that can be spent selling to prospects and leads alike.

  • Use social media

Using social media to help coordinate your sales calls is crucial; important information can be gleaned from a lead’s social media output – particularly their mood. Mood plays a massive part in whether a sale will be closed. It’s all well and good making calls but if the call isn’t working towards a sale, then you’re not maximising your time spent selling.

How to Manage Your Team More Effectively

Management is a skill that not everybody has – and even those who are naturally gifted managers should be wary of resting on their laurels. It’s a skill that one should always aim to work on, refine and improve on a regular basis.

This is easier said than done but perhaps one of the most effective ways to do is through the adoption of a CRM in company ranks.

A forward thinking CRM, such as Microsoft Dynamics, can provide many benefits to an organisation.

In the past, we’ve shown how a CRM can increase company profits, improve interdepartmental alignment and boost productivity. Another favourable advantage of CRM is the ability to boost team cohesion and, in turn, make managing your team far easier and more effective.

  • Improved Processes

Many sales people complain about the lack of coherent processes in place in their organisation.
Whilst some people thrive on the simplicity of just being given a quota and left to fend for themselves, many more need a more structured approach to selling.

Using your CRM, find out how your most profitable sales people approach their sales. The number of occasions that a sales person has been in contact with a client, the amount of time spent on the account and even the script used to call customers can all be obtained from your CRM.

Use this information to help define profitable processes. But don’t stop there; ask your staff to provide their input to ensure everyone is in agreement. Allow staff to come to you, in confidence, to make sure that everyone can voice their feelings or suggestions. Everyone needs to be on board with the same objective in mind. See more about improving your sales process with CRM in the next section.

  • Increased Visibility

Visibility is paramount for effective team management and your CRM can provide complete insight into your team’s work. Use the shared calendars to keep track of your employee’s itinerary for the upcoming week. Organise meetings quickly and effectively, all the while ensuring that everyone is available and aware of the booking.

This added visibility extends beyond the booking of meetings and the ability to view your team’s itineraries; it lets you observe their time spent on various accounts. Identify the different approach of individuals and offer advice, where necessary. Conversely, if you see something done well, congratulate and celebrate the success.

Ensure that increased visibility isn’t solely limited to management. Facilitate competition by including a progress bar within your CRM to spur your department on to sell more. Healthy competition is always beneficial to sales teams, but it’s your job to manage this and make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.

Remember; visibility of your staff’s activity shouldn’t be a ‘witch hunt’ – and it’s important that your team knows this. Be sure to explain to them that the need for visibility is to improve their role and the department as a whole.

  • Track Targets

Create achievable targets agreed on by both your superiors and your staff. Whilst you may believe that announcing targets, which you know to be unachievable, will boost office productivity you’re more likely to be faced with a demoralised workforce.

With these agreed targets in place, the visibility from your CRM will allow you to get an accurate picture of your team’s progress. You can refine this one step further and create individual targets; better man management equates to happier team as a whole.

  • Set an Example

For all of the above to be effective, you need to be sure that the rest of your employees are using the system continuously. Undoubtedly, extensive use of the CRM is outlined in company procedures, but the best way to inspire use is to do so yourself.

Likewise, avoid breeding contempt by showing that you’re capable of doing everything that you ask your staff to do. It’s all well and good laying down targets but show that not only have you achieved similar targets in the past, through data archived in your CRM, but that you are still capable of doing so. Leading by example is one of the most effective motivational tools available to management – so use it to your advantage.


Eight steps to smarter sales processes

  • Analyse your time

Time is undoubtedly one of the most valuable assets in your company. Depending on its size, it may well be the single most important. Take a step back and get an overview of how you spend your day.

Observing from this bird’s eye view is the first step to finding out where you can ultimately save time. A forward-thinking CRM system can help you to do this with in-depth insight.

  • Delve into your CRM

It is quite likely that you don’t know everything within your organisation’s CRM; even the most well trained students will find previously unknown functions hidden within. This is particularly true of Dynamics CRM due to the regular updates made by Microsoft. There may be additional time saving tools that are perfectly tailored to dealing with cumbersome and resource heavy tasks.

  • InsideView

If you’re using Microsoft Dynamics CRM in the United States, make sure you make the most of InsideView. As the name suggests, the program gives you an inside view into your leads’ businesses as well as that of your competition. Vital information such as leadership change or financial circumstance can affect the outcome of a sale; make sure you know all of this in advance.

  • Monitor trends

You have your clients’ previous buying history in front of you – do you notice any trends? Customers often follow sales patterns, why not anticipate these and contact your lead in advance? Use your CRM to identify trends and get in touch with your customers prior to them contacting you (or a competitor).

Not only could you get the sale in a little earlier but you could help cement relationships with the client by showing this attention to detail.

The beauty of using a CRM rather than a simple spreadsheet is that a CRM can help place the data in context. Identify the leads and customers you’re spending a significant amount of time in communication without results and maybe shift some of that time on to prospects and customers that you know to be more promising.

  • Cloud

Is your CRM still relevant? Many CRMs are now moving to the cloud. Cloud computing allows you to access files anywhere on any mobile device. No longer are you confined to the traditional set up of in-house dedicated servers and immobile desktops. Being more flexible with your set up could save you time and allow work to be done on the go.

Are there provisions in place for you to adequately sell on the move? In line with their cloud offerings, CRMS such as Microsoft Dynamics offer mobile phone apps. This allows your sales team to work on the go without burdening them with laptops. Using mobile CRM tools will give your out of office sales people the same quality data as those based in house.

  • Social data

Your company may well have a pretty efficient archiving system with plenty of client data collated from traditional sources -but how about social media data? The most forward thinking CRMs have social media platforms fully integrated within them. Creating a situation where lead information is updated in real time by the lead directly.

Also, proactive use of social media allows sales teams to target those outside of their traditional sales silo.

  • Know your client

Spend a few moments revising the details of your lead before contacting them. Although you may have the screen in front of you during the call, a previous look at the data will make for a more fluid and impressive sales pitch. Having a person in your company that regularly goes through your most important leads and updates their profiles with new information from social media is also a good way to make an impression.

  • Know your organisation

Do you need to forward calls on to different sales reps? You need to be able to do this quickly; either remember all relevant phone numbers and directories, or ensure that they are visible on your CRM to speed up the process. In a broader sense, impress your clients by knowing important details and figures about your own business. Once again keep them easily accessible on your CRM, if unable to memorise them.

Refine your Sales strategy with CRM

Having a dedicated sales strategy is crucial to push your business forward and land more sales. More important even still is ensuring that your strategy is shared throughout the Sales team and objectives are unified.

The ability to step back and get an overview of your strategy is crucial to finding issues with it and subsequently altering it for the better. Using a forward thinking CRM, Sales teams have the ability to take that much-needed step back.

Manage Your Sales Funnel

Cutting through the sales noise that many targets are now savvy to, advanced CRM systems help sales teams to organically nurture leads through the sales funnel. Marketing collateral or sales pitches that may engage those at the top of the funnel may be completely redundant to those much further through the process.

Use the information harnessed within your CRM to adapt your sales pitches accordingly and ensure that a company-wide strategy on how to sell to those in different parts of the funnel is live.

Up-Selling & Cross-selling

A CRM allows you to pinpoint accurately who your biggest customers are. An even more nuanced reading of your CRM will let make comparisons of these top clients. Which leads are taking the most time to close? Which leads require the most man power? There are important comparisons to be made here. Client A may spend the most at your business but require much more time than Client B, meaning that Client B does in fact give you a bigger net profit.

There are tools built within CRMs to help you notice these trends – and your sales team can use these to their advantage; know what Client A likes to purchase? Suggest similar, additional purchases and make the account more profitable.

Maintaining Relationships

It’s a well-known fact that people buy from people – and we know it is often advantageous to have a single customer-facing salesperson on the same account to build a relationship but this may not always be feasible. Using the information leveraged from a CRM, any sales person within your team can instantly have a rapport with a client, thanks to the wealth of knowledge already accumulated.

Mobile and Cloud

The speed of change with the CRM world has been staggering, with the most forward-thinking systems updating constantly. Using a CRM that operates in the cloud means that, not only do you benefit from always having the latest updates, but you also have access to your database anywhere. Microsoft Dynamics has taken this a step further with a mobile app that ensures your sales team can remain strategic – wherever they are.

Improve your CRM and sell more

It goes without saying that there are numerous benefits to adopting a CRM throughout your company, but how can an advanced CRM solution help you impress your clients? This countdown highlights what we believe to be the five most important advantages of a fully integrated CRM solution.

  • Professionalism

Using a CRM exudes an air of professionalism to your customers. We both know that you don’t remember all these facts off the top of your head; that you use a CRM to hold all of this information – but most customers do not. It’s a smart way to make each of the thousands of clients stored on your CRM feel as important as possible and, of course, they are important – but it would be unfeasible to remember the intimate details of them all. A CRM helps you to achieve this.

  • Reliability

CRM systems as a whole are far more reliable than the paper and pencil method. Long gone are the days with scraps of paper strewn all over your desk, scraps with single words that made sense at the time but no longer amount to all that much. Everything can now be stored on a single database giving both you and your company access to everything about every lead. Most modern CRM systems have cloud versions of their software providing you with redundancy in case any internal computers do go down.

  • Time Efficiencies

CRM systems allow you to spend more time selling and less time dealing with niggling admin issues.
The most adaptive CRM systems, such as Microsoft Dynamics, have a whole host of automated functions embedded within them which, if used properly, will save you significant time. Even the familiar and well thought out interface of Microsoft Dynamics ensures that you spend as little time as possible when inputting data from a call.

CRMs that integrate with email clients, as Microsoft Dynamics does with Microsoft Office, will save you time. Emails sent to your business are subsequently categorised and sent to the appropriate department without you lifting a finger.

  • Unification

CRM can help with unification; the most successful businesses are those that share a company-wide strategy. When sales and marketing are aligned, both work far more effectively and a CRM acts as a common ground where ideas between both can be shared. Sales want a certain quality of lead supplied from Marketing – and with a good CRM in place, they can play a part in choosing the settings that automate the passing of leads from one department to another.
As a sales rep, you can provide feedback to the Marketing team to help confirm which campaigns have produced the most sales ready leads. Alignment is crucial if you want to succeed in the world of Sales 2.0.

  • Track ROI and Generate More Revenue

Despite the possibility of a multitude of other benefits, if ROI doesn’t stack up, any process or technology is unlikely to last long term. It is here, however, that full scale adoption of a CRM comes into its own. Not only will it greatly increase your ability to track ROI of each activity but also increase profits throughout your company.

Using a CRM will also help you to close sales more quickly. The quicker your team closes a sale, the sooner they can move on to the next call. Knowing that sales is a numbers game, the more calls you can make, the more sales you can potentially close and the more revenue you can therefore bring in.

Increased customer satisfaction can also increase ROI; the professionalism afforded to companies that adopt the technology means that customers are more likely to purchase from them again. This means that the Sales team can work less to secure repeat business and spend more time acquiring new business.

Discover how to boost sales success with our free eGuide: ‘The ultimate guide to: increasing sales performance’.


At Redspire, we’re passionate about all things CRM. That’s why we decided to create this guide to choosing and implementing CRM software.

As we believe Microsoft Dynamics CRM to be the best CRM, we often reference it throughout this article – however, feel free to apply this best practice to any CRM of your liking.

How to Spot When it’s Time to Upgrade Your CRM

Do you constantly feel that you’re the last to know about the status of a lead? Is there poor alignment between departments? Is your CRM the last place you go for access to key info? Is your CRM nothing more than a glorified spreadsheet? If so, you may be limited by a legacy technology that’s holding back your business – and your bottom line.

Don’t labour under the impression that sticking to aging equipment is the best solution, especially if it begins to affect productivity. This is why we have put together this guide to try and help you identify whether your CRM is still up to the job, or whether it is actually time to look elsewhere.

  • Are You Doing More Than You Need To?
  • Do you constantly find yourself having to build complex solutions for, what should be, simple problems? Workarounds are, generally speaking, inventive ways of overcoming software deficiencies.

    How long can you work against the grain to combat something lacking within your CRM? It could be adding valuable man hours to tasks, which could be best used elsewhere. Take a step back and assess, how much time an older CRM is costing you. If you find yourself working against your technology more than with it, it may be time to start looking for a new solution.

  • Communicating outside
  • For example, are you spending too much time communicating outside of your CRM? The amount of time you spend adding the information you’ve gleaned from your communications into your CRM manually is wasted time.

    Most modern CRMs automatically archive conversations, meaning that you’re free to move on to more important tasks more quickly. Your CRM should act like a hub, pulling in all forms of communication effortlessly.

  • Creating your own workarounds
  • If you begin spending more time using in house or niche solutions because your CRM lacks sufficient features you may well benefit from looking at upgrading. If this is the case your CRM isn’t saving you time, as it should be, it’s simply over complicating the way you work. The number of features found in modern CRM, even the most vanilla CRM, is huge. Companies such as Microsoft are even offering stores with additional extensions to prolong the life of their CRMs and boost functionality.

  • Support Network
  • Being committed to CRM, suggests a commitment to the customer, after all it’s in the name.
    Whether that means providing additional training, support or keeping you informed on the latest updates. Ask yourself; are you getting the best possible service from your supplier?

  • Low user adoption
  • Traditional thought would leave you to think that, with poor user adoption you may want to retire your CRM altogether, but it may be the CRM itself which needs altering. The problems of an unnecessarily complicated or unfamiliar CRM won’t go away, even with additional training, staff could still resent the tech.

    A solution can be to upgrade to a CRM that shares an interface with common software already in use within the company. For those familiar with Microsoft Office, Microsoft Dynamics CRM shares a UI and many operations with the Office suite, meaning users should be more engaged with it.

  • Updates
  • Is your current CRM still supported with regular technical updates? Even if you find that your system still runs well, there comes a point when a lack of updates and maintenance to the CRM will cause it to become redundant.

  • The Cloud
  • For many organisations, cloud computing has become vital. Does your current CRM store data on the cloud? Ask yourself whether the work you are doing could benefit from a cloud CRM.

    What does the cloud CRM offer?

    • Mobility – Perhaps most importantly using a cloud CRM offers up the opportunity to sell on the go. Any device with an internet connection can access your database anywhere.
    • Peace of Mind – As contradictory as it may appear, storing your data off-site at a data centre rather than on-site, is actually a safer solution. Data centres specialise in data security both logically and physically. They also offer significant redundancies in case of emergency.


  • Social media
  • Are your social media platforms being run independently of your CRM? Marketers underestimate the amount of information they can glean from social media. If you’re not running them in conjunction because your CRM software is incapable of doing so, you may well need to upgrade.

    Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been focusing heavily on the social side of their CRM system implementing social features to help rearrange the data into a meaningful way. All of this is within the CRM so you aren’t using disparate sources for your data.

  • Unable To Keep Up
  • Are your competitors speeding ahead of you? Using the most up to date software gives your competitors a real edge, can you really afford to let them get away?

    Lead scoring is a feature embedded in most modern CRMs that helps you target leads and prospects more effectively. Lead scoring helps both marketing and sales judge when to pass on a lead to sales and to make a pitch. Having a more concrete way of judging where leads are within your funnel gives your competitors an added advantage. Don’t be left behind using workarounds while your competitors beat you to your leads.

    Lead source is another important function of modern CRMs, which helps measure your marketing departments ROI more effectively. It helps your marketing team recreate successful campaigns, but also externally allows more senior staff to help dictate how new campaigns should work.

    The ability to measure lead source and lead score, these are crucial features which give marketing teams a massive edge in terms of campaign creation.

  • Very little strategic selling
  • If your sales team are selling on an ad-hoc basis this could be down to an ineffective CRM. Use of a comprehensive system should allow you to forecast and plan ahead, so if your sales team are not working in accordance to this, they’re not working as effectively as possible.

    A strategic selling is helped greatly by a CRM that can provide reminders to call certain leads in line with a particular cadence.

    How to… Choose a CRM That’s Right for Your Business

    Make your working life easier

    If you’re considering investing in a new CRM, you are doing so to make your working life easier. A CRM system can indeed simplify many aspects of your business. The correct CRM will: automate time-consuming and laborious tasks, provide a one-stop shop for key metric data and allow you to maintain ever-changing, detailed customer information.

    The unification of this information allows for previously unseen comparisons to be made. An alternative look at your figures can highlight excesses and subsequently inspire new cost cutting measures. The correct system can save you time and money, but a bad decision could cause an unnecessarily long crossover period and added complication. Which is why you must…

    Research thoroughly

    Take the time to research the suppliers of the system that interests you the most. Learning about CRM vendors is essential. You’re implementing a CRM, in part, to improve customer service so get to know their customer service.

    How much support do they provide before, during and after implementation? Is on-going training available? Are they willing to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision? The more research and interaction you take part in, the more satisfied you’re likely to be when you finally do adopt.

    Consider familiarity & integration

    There is no denying that switching systems is a big and possibly disruptive move. To ease this burden as much as possible, look to choose a system that your business is most familiar with. Consider what software your business relies on and choose a CRM which aligns itself with it. Increased familiarity can shorten the period of adoption needed by your staff.

    For example, Microsoft Dynamics shares the same interface as the Office range, which could benefit companies reliant on the Office package, allowing them to adopt the system more quickly. Familiarity is likely to boost user adoption, if you have spent money implementing the technology, you want your staff to use it. Once again the correct supplier is crucial; while familiarity is beneficial, the support provided by the supplier is imperative.

    Make it future-proof

    Ensure that the system you choose will be customisable, not only for your current needs but your future. Thinking long term is key when adopting any new technology let alone a new CRM. You undoubtedly aim to grow your business so make sure that your CRM can grow too.

    Regular updates and customisability are often good indicators of a system that’s in tune with the constantly evolving business world.

    How to Choose a Secure CRM

    1. Transparency
    2. How transparent is your potential vendor? Are they forthcoming with the answers to your questions? What’s more, are they willing to explain where your data will be stored?

      Microsoft prides themselves in their transparent approach – and any Microsoft Dynamics CRM customer knows exactly where their data is stored. This knowledge extends to both the primary and back-up locations for their centres.

    3. Privacy
    4. It’s your data – and you should be able to limit who has access to it. Is your current CRM provider scanning your emails or data mining in order to advertise more effectively? How would you know? And would they tell you if they were?

      Microsoft guarantees complete privacy when hosting your data and do not use these details to advertising or analytical purposes.

      Be sure to speak with your provider about your data being ring-fenced. Even in a public cloud, your database should be kept separate from others to minimise any mingling or cross-contamination.

    5. Industry Standard Security
    6. Is your CRM and its parent company in line with industry standards? Data protection is of vital importance and it’s worth finding out if your cloud CRM provider conforms to the International Safe Harbor Privacy Policy. This is of particular importance to companies that work in both the EU and the US; security levels are higher in the EU so, to maintain this standard, US data centres have to opt in and become verified.

      How long has the company you’re dealing with been in business? Microsoft has been offering secure online data storage for 15 years and remains at the forefront of this everincreasingly sophisticated technology.

      Data centres are known for being highly secure buildings, requiring extensive identification to gain access to them from the outside. But what about from the inside? Does everybody within the organisation have access to your data? Do you want everyone to?

      Microsoft has a series of restrictions in place to allow only a select few operational personnel into their server rooms. Digital security on such a large and important scale should be proactive not reactive, which is why the more forward thinking CRM cloud providers are those that search for issues before they even arise.

    7. Redundancy
    8. Another face of security is redundancy; you need to know that, in the unlikely event of equipment failure or blackout, you can rest easy. Microsoft data centres are state of the art with backup facilities not only for data but also prevention against a smorgasbord of environmental disasters. What’s more, sophisticated data centres have excellent internal climate control to allow their hardware to work optimally for as long as possible.

    How to Choose Between ‘Off the Shelf’ and Bespoke CRM Systems

    The beauty of modern CRM systems lies in the huge level of customisation available from them. It goes without saying that even the most vanilla CRM offers massive functionality but their true value isn’t unlocked until you start to bring it in line with your own business requirements.

    Some of the major CRM platforms have built up a following from third party developers to increase functionality and ease of use. Microsoft Dynamics has a store dedicated to a range of free and paid additions that can greatly boost the functionality of the system. The decision is all about realising your own objectives and needs – then customising your CRM to realise them.

    1. Speed
    2. How quickly do you need your CRM in place? For some, the only answer is ‘immediately’ whilst others have more time to ensure things are done to their specifications or in line with other contracts they have in place.

      If you want a bespoke system, it’s likely that you’re going to have to allocate more time to get the implementation done correctly. We have been known to spend weeks, even months, working on bespoke setups to ensure that our client’s specific needs have been met and their CRM is aligned with their business processes. Conversely, an off the shelf version of Microsoft Dynamics could be implemented within days.

    3. Cost
    4. Of course, with more customisation comes higher cost. We pride ourselves in the transparency of our cost plans with each of our four solutions offer varying levels of customisation and competitive pricing. We’re also upfront about our day rate, meaning that if any of the solutions don’t completely suit your needs then we can design a package around your requirements.

      But if budget is a major factor when it comes to CRM, not only is Microsoft Dynamics’ default software more than suitable for the majority of organisations, there is always the ability to update and customise your CRM at a later date.

    5. In-house ability
    6. Survey how skilled your in-house staff currently are and plan accordingly. Our larger packages include significant levels of training to help bring your staff in line.

      If your in-house team are already experts in the CRM field, using the basic package may be sufficient as they may already be well versed in workarounds and solutions to more bespoke products.

      If you’re only just entering the world of CRM and your staff lack the required expertise to make the most of the new system, opting for a larger package isn’t necessary – despite the depth of training provided. We can create packages with more basic systems but with enough training to get everyone up to scratch and capable efficient CRM use.

    7. Identify your needs
    8. The flexibility of our consultancy approach means that you can choose what would best suit your needs – and when.

      • Do you need support in identifying improvements?
      • Require additional training?
      • Need help to develop assets or customise workflows?

      Redspire can support you in this all-important audit – from understanding your strengths and weaknesses to putting together a plan to move forward.


    Implementation Success with Microsoft Dynamics

    There are many benefits to be had from using Microsoft Dynamics; not only is it a cost effective tool but also forward-thinking and continually updating. The key to maximising its effectiveness begins at the implementation stage. The implementation phase should be coordinated to ensure that all potential kinks are worked out before full roll out.

    Assess Your Needs

    Make sure you know why you’re looking for a new CRM? Is your old CRM simply not up to the task anymore? This isn’t much of a surprise in the past few years; both the trends and technology that underlie CRM systems has changed drastically.

    Both social media integration and use of the cloud are now necessary features of CRMs whilst, as little as five years ago, this wasn’t even a consideration. Microsoft Dynamics’ integration of InsideView means that you have access to your customers’ social media streams embedded within the existing data you have. Having this real time information helps to formulate more personal marketing campaigns and content, ensuring better engagement.

    The standardisation of cloud computing (and the need for businesses to make this a key consideration with regards to how they work) has also seen a shift in the way CRMs are used.

    Microsoft are investing heavily in its cloud technology department to ensure that it remains at the forefront of the sector. From a business perspective, it is encouraging to see such investment from Microsoft; having chosen Dynamics as your CRM means that you can rest assured, knowing that Microsoft will continue to update and invest in their products to keep their clients ahead of the curve.

    Supplier Choice

    Possibly the most important aspect of implementation is finding the right supplier. This will play a massive part in how successful your implementation of Microsoft Dynamics is. It will affect how quickly you hit the ground running, so to speak, and in turn improve the speed in which you see your ROI.

    The correct supplier should be willing to afford you as much or as little help as you need. Even before any software is installed and training is received, the right supplier should help you to outline what your business objectives are.

    With this information, the right supplier should create a bespoke implementation scheme to allow you to reach these business objectives as easily – and quickly – as possible. This should include as standard the Sure Step Methodology, Microsoft’s best practice guidelines to Dynamics implementation – although many of the more thorough suppliers will go a step further.

    To further refine the implementation process, Redspire includes the TrueFIT journey, which places your business objectives at the heart of the process and builds the implementation around it.


    Staff training is the crux of the whole implementation process; done incorrectly and you are left with an expensive piece of kit that very few in the business can use effectively. Even if your team is quite familiar with CRM systems, the speed of advancement in this technology may mean that additional and more tailored training is necessary.

    The training should be unique to your business and its needs. It should include training sessions for staff well before anything is installed, to minimise crossover period once Dynamics is set up.

    Importantly, training sessions should be interactive; that is to say, make sure those being trained are able to use Microsoft Dynamics as they go along rather than merely observing the instructor.

    Interactive training such as this will shorten the time it takes for all users to successfully adopt the program.
    The advantage of providing training before any physical implementation means that you can take staff considerations on board, things can be altered and improved with more ease than post implementation.


    Your supplier should have already helped you to devise a strategy – but it doesn’t end there; a strategy needs to be worked on in house as well as with your supplier.

    To make sure Microsoft Dynamics is doing the most it can for you, you have to ensure that you have cross-departmental buy-in. Your supplier can advise you of this, but only you can really implement it, ensuring that the whole company buy into the idea – otherwise your CRM use will be somewhat maimed.

    An interesting and effective way to do this is to create a CRM implementation team consisting of individuals from all the departments who will be directly involved with it. This will give each department a say in what CRM customisations and considerations would be beneficial for them.

    Following this best practice advice should ensure that you are successful in your implementation campaign and therefore can use CRM efficiently and effectively.

    Top Tips to Guarantee ROI on Your CRM Purchase

    For most companies, the numbers are all that matter; everything needs to be accounted for and everything needs to prove to a substantial ROI. Starting from this point of view is a large reason as to why many companies have looked away from CRMs as means of improving their company profits, believing it to make a negative impact on their bottom line.

    But this needn’t be the case. In fact, CRM can actively boost your bottom line. All it takes is a little know-how…

    Used correctly, a CRM is easily capable being beneficial to your company, quickly proving its ROI and going on to create profit. Certain key points need to be considered however to ensure that your
    CRM quickly creates a return.

    • Understand the CRM
    • Understanding your CRM is the first port of call to ensure that you guarantee ROI. This means many things from the importance of training your staff correctly to understanding the concept behind a CRM.

      For many, a CRM is just one thing; a database to store contacts, but to view it this way is to miss the point. You have to understand that a CRM is a business-wide concept as much as it is a technology, unifying your company and creating harmony. The most up to date CRMs out there are providing ways so that everyone in your company can benefit from having this kit.

      From small things which integrate receptionist and admin staff, having access to office calendars for planned meetings can help them swiftly book meeting rooms and be ahead of the game. To larger things such as the ability for Marketers to research and create marketing campaigns almost entirely within a CRM, there is a lot on offer.

    • User Adoption
    • Secondly, no matter how much a company and its employees buy into the concept of a CRM without the correct training it won’t matter.

      User adoption is paramount to ensuring ROI and the best way to guarantee user adoption is to train your staff accordingly. Make sure that everyone is competent on the software before it is rolled out.

      For those who are already well versed, consider some specialised or advanced training on the kit. There are plenty of training providers out there, specialising in all sorts of niche subject matters concerning CRM.

    • Be Social
    • Social media use is obligatory in this day and age, where once a customer may have rang the customer support line, now they choose to contact the company through their social networks.

      They’re often the first place potential customers go to scope out details regarding companies and their services. Modern CRMs have begun to integrate these channels within their software.

      Just because social media is still deemed a relatively informal platform, people who complain through it still expect speedy and formal resolution. In fact it is in your best interest to do so, unlike a phone call made in private, posting on a social media page can be visible to all and have a knock on effect with other customers. Luckily a linked up CRM can notify you quickly of any issues, and store the data of the complaint to your lead’s history on your CRM, so you know how to approach future communications.

    • Measure Metrics
    • A CRM turns your sales funnel to glass, giving your company transparent access to where each and every one of your leads are within it, but also where they joined. Such information is of vital importance to marketing teams, measuring lead source helps give a better picture of how effective certain marketing campaigns are.

      You can take this further by introducing lead scoring and help track leads more effectively to give Sales a fighting chance of closing more leads. Combining your marketing and sales team to curate their lead scoring efforts meaning they agree on the definitions.

    • Go Mobile
    • A recent study suggested that adopting a mobile CRM could improve staff productivity by as much as 25%. It’s becoming the norm that people want the same level of connectivity from employees out of the office as those in-house.

      Mobile sales reps are more likely to close deals if they have access to the same data as those in the office. Not only can the rep continue their research on the way to the meeting, they can show the client important information without having to lug a heavy laptop along with them on every occasion.

    How to Avoid CRM Implementation Failure

    The high failure rate of CRM implementations is often highlighted. Yet the overarching reason for this typically lies with poor implementation methods and suppliers rather than some innate flaw surrounding CRM. The key is finding the correct method (and supplier) that would suit your business and propel it to the next level.

    If you’re in two minds about CRM or still in the early phases of the implementation process, it’s worth reading the following content and researching further.

    It’s a massive gamble to purchase a CRM without a competent supplier or well-considered strategy behind it; think of the financial hit of half implementing a CRM and then having to back track or, worse, simply not being able to use it at all. Conversely, think of the attractive ROI from a fully implemented, fully functional CRM with a supportive provider behind it.

    Identify the possible reasons for failure

    If you’re aware of what the pitfalls are, you’re in a much better position to avoid them…

    1. The wrong vendor
    2. Even at the right price, the wrong vendor is still the wrong vendor. It’s true, if you’ve paid less for a CRM that fails, you’ve physically lost less money but you’ve also not got a CRM.

    3. The wrong CRM
    4. There is a huge stream of CRMs out there and, as with any technology, it’s essential that you take the time to identify the one that best suits your needs, objectives and, of course, budget.

    5. Unclear objectives
    6. Without a clear journey and destination, how do you know where to take a CRM? Many CRM failures can be attributed to muddled objectives between departments and a failure to work together.


    Ways to overcome failure

    Having covered some of the main reasons why CRM implementations fail, we move on to the important aspect; how to make them work. The proceeding points are not a complete failsafe but will hold you in good stead when you execute your CRM.

    1. Research thoroughly
    2. As we mentioned, the wrong vendor and the wrong CRM play a large part in the downfall of CRM projects. The best way to overcome these is to research both completely. There is no excuse really, you’re about to spend a significant amount of money on software, you want to know you’re getting the right thing for you.

      Identify the right CRM for you. You will find that most CRM providers offer 30 day trials, use these to gain a feel for the platform. Factor in things like UI and UX. Also the complexity required to do simple tasks, which is measured in clicks to get desired effects, on the face of it this is pretty innocuous but multiplied thousands of times the time wasted on clicks adds up.

      Once you’re clear on what you want from CRM and have chosen the right one for you, seek out the correct supplier. Suppliers are possibly more important than the software itself, a good supplier will help you refine what you need from the kit and help implement it in a realistic time frame. They should be able to find oversights in your thinking and stop you from causing your own downfall. Search for things like partnerships and accreditations to ensure that your potential supplier has the required knowledge base.

    3. Unify departments to create your strategy
    4. An innate advantage of using a CRM is its ability to unite departments within your company but this should begin before you implement it. Organise a meeting to get your departments together and decide the objectives wanted from a CRM, decide how you will measure lead scoring so that both Marketing and Sales are happy. Decide who in the customer support team will be in charge of which complaints or queries. Planning ahead in this way lets people know what their role will be once it’s in place.

    5. Train your staff
    6. The right supplier should be able to help you here, but it needs to be touched upon in advance. Training is the most fundamental element of the adoption process, without the correctly trained staff supporting operations your CRM is useless. Assess skill levels between staff members and observe discrepancies from there, with the help of your supplier, plan an effective training regime to get the most of your staff.

    7. Think long term
    8. Don’t expect too much instantly, a CRM won’t provide all the answers in the short term. It’s a long haul solution which will require work to perfect. Implement things in phases but with a clear outline of where you want to be in the future. Once again working in collaboration with your CRM supplier and consultant, you should create this pipeline prior to the actual implementation of the CRM.

    Much of what is crucial to the deployment of the CRM must take place before any actual software is installed on company computers. A lot of companies fail to take this on board, rushing headlong into a CRM and hoping it all works out. As with most things prevention and preparation are better than reparation.

    How to build your Sales Pipeline

    CRM is no longer just a database tool; businesses now have the ability to supercharge their sales processes, engage customers and targets more effectively and, consequently, convert. The result? A healthier bottom line and happier customers.

    A forward-thinking CRM system, such as Microsoft Dynamics, can take that even further. With the ability to understand more about your target, access to real-time information, you can transform your marketing strategy to create compelling customer engagements.

    • Know your target
    • Understanding your target is key to developing effective, relevant communications that can be successfully nurtured into a lead and beyond. But customers today are savvy and a predictable name mail merge just won’t cut it anymore.

      With this in mind, use CRM to better understand your target – from their purchasing history to average buying cycle – and allow this to dictate your communication strategy. Is a lead’s trial about to run out? A membership due to expire? Leverage the information that your CRM can provide to gain a competitive advantage with regards to targeting, ensuring your time is used as effectively as possible.

    • Get efficient
    • Businesses implementing traditional marketing tactics without any CRM insight only spend 46% of their time doing their actual role. This is due to the fact that they are forced to spend their time on laborious, administrative tasks.

      A good CRM system, however, can automate processes to create efficient workflows, consequently removing the need for manual, repetitive tasks. This ensures that the resource available to the marketing team is focused solely on nurturing their database and generating those all-important leads to hand over to Sales.

      Microsoft Dynamics CRM can support a wide range of processes – from the simple automation of a routine task to a complex series of activities that support the wider marketing strategy.

      Be sure to choose a CRM system that allows you to focus on an area in which your time can be best spent.

    • Work with Sales – not against them
    • Did you know that average engagement with a customer begins 57% of the way into the sales cycle? By the time a prospect initiates a conversation with a vendor, they’ve already spent a significant amount of time on research.

      This means that the importance and influence of marketing is significantly increasing. Marketing has always had “early access” to this audience, but the duration and opportunities for impressions are rising.

      It’s imperative, then, that you work with your Sales team to help them understand your importance in the buying cycle and how, by working together, you can dramatically increase the quantity and quality of your leads.

      With this in mind, it’s essential that CRM becomes an integral member of the team – bridging the gap between the two departments; offering sales the detail they need on marketing leads, and providing marketing with the right information on their prospects.


    Top Tips to Build a Better Pipeline

    A refined pipeline allows you to streamline and drive your organisation forward. Below are some of the crucial first steps you can take towards a more refined – and profitable – pipeline:

    1. Nurture, Don’t Sell
    2. If early communications with leads suggest that they are not ready to purchase, what makes you think that they will be ready in as little as 2 or 3 weeks later? You should continue to communicate with leads but any subsequent communications you have should be carried out from a nurturing perspective, organically warming up the lead rather than forcing your product or service upon them.

      It’s all about building a relationship with the lead; you want them to perceive you as an organisation that will educate rather than sell them something they do not need. This ensures that, when qualified leads do enter your pipeline, you are certain of their quality and have an accurate understanding of their potential to close.

    3. Make the Most of Your CRM
    4. A CRM is the easiest and most efficient way of building on your current pipeline. Hopefully, you already have a CRM in place but, if not, be sure to purchase one capable of fully integrating all accounts, contacts and sales opportunities.

      Within the CRM, it’s essential to have a lead scoring system that’s agreed upon by both your department and Sales, ensuring that there is no confusion as to when to forward the lead to Sales.

      Your CRM is your biggest ally when it comes to managing and improving your pipeline. The ability to
      automate workflows and reminders is one of the the most valuable of its functions, ensuring that none of your leads go cold and a consistent approach is taken across the board. Workflows also guarantee that you’ll be automatically reminded of when to contact them as per previous communications.

      Did you know?
      Your CRM can help you create automated responses to customer issues. Have your ‘thank you’ and ‘we’ll be in touch shortly’ emails drafted and ready to send at the touch of a button.

    5. Create Great Content
    6. To build a more substantial pipeline, it’s essential that your leads have a reason to stay connected to you; a reason to want to buy from you. This is where educational, non-sales-oriented content comes into play. Make your resources interesting and engaging by thinking outside the box.

      Approach an issue in your sector from a new angle, offer genuinely supportive advice or simply cut through the marketing noise with new content formats and themes. Whatever you do, put the client first and remember to support them – not sell to them.

    7. Branch Out
    8. Branch out through social media. Social media is now firmly established as a branch of marketing, one that continues to grow year on year. The major CRM creators have taken this on board and now CRMs such as Microsoft Dynamics offer complete integration with a large variety of social media platforms.

      Many within the younger generation, who are prone to using social media frequently, are less likely to engage with long sales calls. They want instant answers to their issues, and dialogue through social media, so play into their hands. It will bolster your pipeline by unlocking a whole new avenue that was previously out of reach.

    9. Increase Marketing’s Productivity
    10. A better pipeline goes hand in hand with increasing the productivity of your marketing team. Once you have your burgeoning pipeline, how do you expect to cope if your team’s productivity hasn’t increased? Use your CRM to increase productivity in the right areas.

      A system like Microsoft Dynamics offers huge levels of analytic insight into the work you do. Use the CRM to identify which marketing campaigns produced the most leads and the highest levels of engagement. All this information is to hand, use it and replicate it to further increase the pipeline.


    Monitoring Your Sales Pipeline

    Naturally, once you build your sales pipeline, you have to monitor it carefully. There is no better way to monitor the progress of leads through the pipeline, than to use a CRM to give you this insight into the sales process.

    1. Collect everything
    2. A CRM should store every interaction between your business and your customers, no matter how innocuous it is. If ever there is a blockage, the ability to revert back to even the most minor detail, could help you come unstuck.

    3. Unification
    4. Your CRM is your one stop shop, don’t split data over several pieces of software. Everything under one roof, allows you to get a better overview of your pipeline in case any issues arrive.

    5. Define your stages
    6. Don’t be afraid to customise your CRM or adapt your business when it comes to defining the stages within your pipeline. Well defined stages allow you to keep a realistic and pragmatic view on where your leads lie within the funnel.

    7. Delegate
    8. Modern, forward thinking CRM systems, such as Microsoft Dynamics, allow you to automate many tasks. Let the computer guide and track your leads for you, to maximise precision in your data.

    9. Make use of forecasting and analytics
    10. Make the most of analytic data which your CRM correlates, and uses to create powerful forecasting tools. Leaving you with a recipe to recreate successful campaigns and amend weaker campaigns.


    Many businesses tend to view day-to-day process as tasks that have to be done. But this is to forget that everything in a business should have a purpose: to take care of your customers and to deliver profitability.

    By seeing day-to-day process as a ‘necessary evil’, business can overlook a very real opportunity to streamline your operation, move faster and add more value to your customer relationships.

    Is your business still being held back by manual processes? Here are our top tips for changing how you work.

    Shift your focus

    Your people are your most important asset. But what happens if one of them leaves? If your business is currently leveraged against individuals, you run the dangerous risk of activity coming to a standstill if they decide to move on – taking their way of doing things with them.

    The first step in moving away from manual processes is to start viewing your customer relationships as owned by the organisation, rather than by individuals. Automating processes by investing in a CRM system ensures that your customers can be retained, even if a member of staff is not.

    Plan your strategy – then stick to it

    Before you can automate your processes, you first need to identify what those processes are. This requires you to really understand your sales objectives and how a CRM can support them by alleviating some of the more manual elements.

    Modern CRM systems can automate processes such as Lead Scoring, Routing and Qualification, as well as Case Escalation and Customer Risk Evaluations.

    Once you’ve identified and mapped out your processes, it’s imperative that everyone adheres to them. This will ensure that there are no discrepancies in how people are working, results are in line with expectations and, most importantly, your time is spent as productively as possible.

    • Plan role changes clearly
    • Always remember that the aim of your CRM system is not to remove responsibilities but to create added freedom from the administrative burden. You should therefore plan carefully how your team can develop and enhance their roles, maximising the use of their time to add tangible value to the bottom line.

    • Consult your customers
    • Changes to the way you work should always focus on the end result: improving your overall customer experience. You could consult your customers from the outset, understanding what their expectations are then allow this to guide your strategy for change.

    • Engage your teams
    • It is important that your teams in Marketing, Sales and Finance are fully engaged in the process of choosing and using a new system. You should make sure that everyone knows that your CRM system is a tool to help and support your teams, rather than measure their productivity or output. With that system underpinning them, your teams can go on to achieve great things.


    Choose a system that moves as quickly as you do

    Just as you’re constantly looking to grow and boost sales, it’s essential that you work with a CRM system that wants the same for you. It’s a waste of time, money and effort to define and build your processes only to find that, by the time they’re finalised, your system can’t provide the level of functionality required to carry them out.

    Microsoft Dynamics CRM enables and empowers your Sales and other departments to work together to as a single unit. Constantly evolving, adding new functionality and finding new ways to help you harness CRM technology in a productive way, it is as forward-thinking as you are.

    • Choose a system that evolves with your business
    • Microsoft Dynamics CRM enables and empowers your Sales, Marketing and Finance teams to work together as a single, customer-focused unit.

      As a CRM system, Microsoft Dynamics helps you to automate processes, communicate more effectively and free up your people to deliver even greater results. It is a formidable, market-leading business tool that is constantly evolving, adding new functionality and finding new ways to help you harness CRM technology in a productive way.

    • Review regularly
    • Once you have established new ways of working, it makes sense to set up regular reviews.

      This enables you to assess what you are doing well and identify where time and resources could be allocated differently. The analytics created by your CRM system will also help you to see where your Sales, Marketing and Finance teams are connecting successfully, creating synergies and enhancing efficiencies.


    The benefits of Sales & Marketing alignment

    The importance of Sales & Marketing alignment is often overlooked in favour of each department working on its own and for its own ends.

    This modular thinking may help create a bit of competition between departments but, in the long run, it is not a successful model for running an organisation.

    The key to modern business is ensuring that, throughout an organisation all departments are working towards a common objective, albeit through different means.

    Nowhere is this truer than in the alignment of Marketing & Sales. They are the engine driving most organisations but other departments can also benefit from better inclusion, notably the customer support arm of your business.

    The easiest way of ensuring better office connectivity is through the adoption of a CRM, which should help to draw your departments together.

    • Transparent Pipeline
    • A CRM gives you insight into the workings of all your staff. It gives every department access to what everyone else is doing and when they’re doing it. This overview gives management a great insight into all company processes, and gives them a better perspective when planning new business strategies.

      A transparent pipeline ensures that every department can support each other when necessary.

    • Singular Data Source
    • Having a single customer database is a great advantage to your marketing department. Studies have suggested that nearly 30% of marketers feel that a disparate data source is the main reason they fail to glean useful information about their target audience.

      Get all departments to work together through the CRM in order to boost the marketing department.

    • Remember Your Customers
    • Access to the complete history of previous customers is a massive benefit that can increase company unity and profits. It is far cheaper – and not to mention far easier – to sell to existing customers than to new prospects. Even after a sale ensure that the customer continues to be nurtured.

      Your customer support provides an excellent means of retaining customers. Nurturing should extend to Sales and Marketing, who can provide the possibility of up-selling.

    • Score Leads
    • Although this requires extra work to implement, an effective scoring matrix that combines the insight (and agreement) of Sales and Marketing to devise a lead scoring system is one of the most beneficial functions of a CRM. Most importantly, it offers an agreed understanding of what each department wants from its counterpart.

      In non-lead scoring, non-lead nurturing organisations, as many as 79% of leads sent over from Marketing aren’t converted by Sales. Both lead nurturing and lead scoring can greatly reduce that percentage – and more converted sales equal more revenue.

      Did you know?
      46% of marketers with mature lead management processes have sales teams that follow up on more than 75% of marketing-generated leads?

    • Speed Up Processes
    • The automated functions within a CRM blur the line between departments. If a lead has downloaded a piece of marketing content, alerts should go to both Marketing and Sales. Sales need to be quick off the mark when it comes to responding to these events, leads could lose interest or go to a competitor in the meantime.

      All this work decreases the sales cycle, with more leads going through the sales funnel quicker, more revenue can be made.

    • Reduce Cost per Lead
    • Not only do more qualified leads equate to more revenue coming in, it also reduces the cost per lead. Working towards higher quality leads with the help of a CRM and content that helps to nurture those leads, means that the leads passed over from Marketing are more likely to be converted by Sales.

      This increases Marketing’s ROI by decreasing the cost of each lead, quite simply because they’re being more efficient with their time due to the CRM.


    CRM: Bridging the Gap between Sales & Marketing

    So how can you align the departments to ensure that they work together and support each other’s objectives?

    Here are Redspire’s top five tips to ensure that Sales and Marketing are working together as effectively as possible:

    1. Ensure that both teams adopt a single CRM system
    2. Using a single CRM system such as Microsoft Dynamics ensures that teams have access to the information they need to retain existing customers and generate new ones.

      A single view technology such as Dynamics allows your organisation to be entirely transparent about budgets, objectives and resources – providing Sales and Marketing with visibility to information as and when they need it. Additionally, a single system helps to remove any possible gaps between expectations and results.

    3. Transfer information seamlessly between teams
    4. If both Sales and Marketing are maintaining a single CRM system, information can move between the teams seamlessly. No more lost contact details. No more missed appointments. No more opportunities lost to the competition because one team failed to pick up where another left off. In other words, no more playing the Blame Game!

      Access to the same information means you can empower your teams to make the right decisions at the right times – whether that’s changing the communications Marketing are currently working on or the lead ranking of prospects Sales are looking to close.

    5. Check Sales and Marketing are talking the same language
    6. Often, miscommunication can be the biggest cause behind missed objectives. Using a single system helps to get your teams using the same terms of reference. For example, have you clearly defined when ‘a lead’ becomes ‘an opportunity’? Are your Sales teams understanding exactly when and how they can capitalise on the work their Marketing colleagues have already done?

      A clearly defined process ensures that your customers enjoy a consistent, rewarding experience – no duplication of workload, no ‘going back to the office to double-check’; just knowledgeable teams that are all up to speed with their customers’ accounts.

    7. Qualify leads
    8. A CRM system like Microsoft Dynamics can help Marketing teams to qualify leads much more effectively before they are handed over to Sales. This, in turn, increases the credibility of Marketing as well as boosting the productivity of Sales (as they are no longer having to look for leads of their own to convert; they have a ready-made list from Marketing).

      By building automated processes into your system, you can ensure that leads are handed over to Sales at a point where the allocation of extra resource makes business sense.

    9. Compile and review data
    10. It is easy for a culture of ‘finger-pointing’ to arise between Sales and Marketing. ‘They didn’t convert’ vs. ‘They didn’t create’. By building your approach around a single CRM system, you can begin compiling data that enables your organisation to understand more clearly which sort of leads are converted and which are not.

      It will also enable you to spot patterns in customer behaviour that your Marketing teams can capitalise on, as well as understanding precisely what kind of marketing investment generates results, sales and return on investment.

      To encourage a dynamic, agile approach, hold regular meetings that include key staff from both Sales and Marketing (at least quarterly) to review your results and make any appropriate changes.