Despite the popularity of CRM for B2B firms, there is still some uncertainty as to how exactly businesses should make it work for them.

Partly this is down to a number of misconceptions around how it helps, what it offers and who can make the best use of it.

In part one, we considered whether it was solely useful for improving customer service, how complex the software is in reality and if it offered a one-size-fits-all solution for every business.

Here, we’ll examine some more of the myths around CRM processes, providing some insight into a technological trend that is only set to become more popular as businesses continue to focus on offering a good experience to their clients.

CRM for B2B vs B2C – Can it be a good fit for them both?

CRM’s reputation as a tool for improving customer service procedures can give the impression that it is better-suited for the B2C market than for the B2B one. However, this is simply not the case – as many cases of successful CRM adoption within the B2B sector stand to prove.

CRM for the B2B customer experience

For one thing, there has been a massive trend in B2B over the last decade towards adopting more innovative marketing trends, learning from the traditionally more flexible and engaged B2C sector.

After all, representatives of B2B organisations are still human and they like to be entertained (read: not bored) by whatever communication opportunity comes their way. This has led to a rise of B2B technologies that automate the most routine tasks of customer-company interaction, so the company can devote the maximum amount of time possible to human-to-human communication.

Commonly, CRM is divided into three broad categories: marketing automation, sales force automation and support & service automation. Let’s see how each of these contributes to the B2B customer experience.

You can also view this video for a quick summary of the following section.

Marketing automation

CRM for B2B marketing automation2
Marketing automation has been developed to foster interactive and personalised communication between a company and their B2B lead. The modern marketing automation systems are now able to create a whole unique experience for just about anyone.

Have you recently been to the website and watched a video about fly fishing? The next time you return, you can expect a welcome page with your name and an offer to download a white paper about fly fishing or a limited time offer for a fly fishing trip.

Similarly with lead nurturing capabilities, the modern marketing automation systems are now able to automatically follow up with emails based on your interaction on the website or with the sales team.

Other marketing automation features include:

  1. Real-time triggered campaigns – anytime a lead fills in an online form, an email is sent to their email address with a follow-up information and the lead is set to receive a chain of nurturing emails that will further educate them about the company’s offering
  2. Intelligent website forms – these are placed on the website according to who the lead is and contain fields with questions that the lead hasn’t been asked yet; the lead’s answers are automatically mapped into the CRM system
  3. Online behaviour tracking – keeping track of everything the lead has done on the website, including where they came from, how they navigated around the website, from which page they left, but also how much time they spent on individual pages, which Call to Action they clicked etc.
  4. Social media management – everything from scheduling posts, tracking customer sentiment, following the market thought leaders and setting up alerts for unusual social activity
  5. Single view of the customer – having all customer information appear on one screen with its complete interaction and transaction history for a holistic overview of the nature of your relationship
  6. Lead scoring – prioritisation of leads based on recency, frequency and importance of their interaction
  7. Event management (including webinars) – customisable pre-defined series of steps that have to be carried out during every stage of the event including event planning, budgeting, tasks, promotional activities and follow-up activities
  8. Web analytics – reporting on the state of your website, how many leads are landing on which page, how much time is being spent and how many pages are being visited during individual visits but also which pages need more work as their bounce rate is high and leads are not converting


Sales force automation

CRM for B2B sales force automation
Sales force automation has been developed to help companies improve their sales efficiency and visibility.

What we mean by this is what marketing automation is for marketers, sales force automation is for sales people – a tool that is specifically tailored to speed up their way of doing things. This way sales people can minimise the amount of time they spend ‘dealing with papers’ and use that time to meet with prospects – and sell!

Perhaps the most important function of sales force automation is its planning and reporting ability. The users (sales people) can establish goals to achieve, plan individual activities strategically and track their progress against these goals. Goals can be set for individuals or teams and their progress can be monitored visually and of course with customised reports.

Other common features of sales force automation include:

  1. Activity management – scheduling appointments, taking notes, recording outcomes of appointments, creating appointment lists and reports, setting alerts and reminders, automatically recording all online communication
  2. Email management – similar to that in marketing automation but more straightforward and simple. As with everything else, this feature can still be customised to give the sales person the most flexible and efficient email engine possible
  3. Contract management – creating and auto-populating contracts directly from the system, track and amend all contract information, renew and cancel contracts
  4. Mobile CRM – modern CRM systems go with the flow and offer the full CRM capabilities within their mobile apps. Those systems that do not offer the full mobile CRM capabilities should still be customisable enough to enable the sales person on the move to make necessary amends, access the CRM offline and check all necessary information
  5. Opportunity management – create, manage and track all opportunities, manage all tasks that need to be taken to push the opportunity down the sales funnel, manage quotes and proposals, establish probability of sale, filter and prioritise opportunities based on desired criteria


Service and Support automation

CRM for B2B service & support automation
And finally, the last big area of CRM is the service & support automation that has been developed to enable the customer service department to serve customers more quickly and efficiently.

As you might expect, service & support automation enables the support team to manage their support tickets, report on performance and search the ticket history to find the solution to the most common problems more quickly.

The most serious/delayed problems can also be set to escalate to another member of the team to make sure they are resolved on time. All tickets are automatically moved down the workflow as soon as a task is completed to allow for quickest progress possible.
While utilising this kind of technology in the B2B market, it is important to keep in mind that B2B customers are likely to be aware of what’s going on, as the word about this technology is spreading fast. Or better still: they might by already using it to nurture their own customers too! This is still not very likely as for example, companies using marketing automation are still a small minority, but it’s growing fast.

This doesn’t mean however that they will favour whoever seems to push out some ad-hoc communication without the help of this powerful software. Who would you rather prefer – someone who is organised enough to anticipate in advance what interaction you’d prefer and give it to you, or someone who bases their communication on guesswork and labour-intensive manual actions?

Flexibility of CRM systems in B2B companies

The software’s inherent flexibility means it can be useful in any number of contexts, offering a great deal of value when it comes to B2B sales processes.

Manufacturing firms can use CRM to help predict their sales successes over the coming year, while their counterparts in oil and gas will find it useful for following up potential sales leads or tracking information about existing customers. This video offers an overview how NatWest, a financial services company, serves their B2B customers with the help of Microsoft Dynamics CRM:

While there’s no doubt CRM is popular among B2C companies such as those in the retail finance sector, it would be foolish for B2B marketers to dismiss its potential usefulness. Companies however need to be cautious about the best practice of using CRM systems for client interaction, as the sales cycle tends to be very different between the B2C and the B2B market.

The best way to make sure the CRM solution will fit their particular needs as a B2B company, it’s best to consult independent CRM system reviews and choose an implementation partner with a long successful history of implementing that particular software in a similar market.


CRM is only for large B2B businesses

Many people might think of CRM as something that can be utilised by certain kind of firms but is not an option for others, particularly in relation to the firm’s size. While there is clearly a difference between how a small retailer and a huge corporate entity would utilise the software, that doesn’t mean that in general, CRM is more suitable for one than it is for the other.

On the other hand, it is crucial that people planning to install CRM within their business plan consider how they want to use it and what elements of the system they feel will add the most value to their proposition.

CRM for small B2B companies

CRM for small B2B companies
Small businesses are likely to have limited budgets and the need to implement the solution very quickly. While this does seem like a gross oversimplification, in our experience it has usually been the small firms that aimed for something that’s easy to learn, extremely cost-efficient and simple to implement.

Small businesses are likely to implement a CRM solution to help out with the most mundane tasks and to speed up their day-to-day operations, including:

  1. Email management – A system of creating, testing and sending emails and tracking their delivery, open and click-through rate; often with the ability to track which lead performed a certain action with every individual email
  2. Documents – A database of all sales literature in relation to best practice, market trends and information and also past quotes & proposals, presentations, notes etc.
  3. Jobs/tasks – A system for creating and keeping track of jobs (broken down to individual tasks) that are assigned to individual users and can be marked as completed, in progress or can be escalated to another user based on its importance and the users’ competence
  4. Correspondence database – A virtual inventory of all correspondence between leads and the company – including physical correspondence such as letters, faxes, parcels, brochures, event invitations etc. Also good for keeping track of non-physical communication such as phone-calls, texts, face-to-face contact, scheduled & unscheduled meetings, etc.
  5. Account management – A process of gathering information about every individual lead, taking note of every interaction and advancing the lead down the sales funnel based on the progress in their decision making. Accounts can be delegated to individual users and reassigned to other users based on their competence and role in the organisation (sales, customer support, etc.).

While small businesses are not likely to have a big IT team in place, they are very likely to benefit from CRM solutions that operate from the cloud. This way a small business looking for a CRM solution can kill two birds with one stone – reducing their initial setup costs to minimum (by paying a small monthly fee – compared to the set up costs associated with an on-premise CRM solution) and not having to worry about the system’s setup, infrastructure, data storage and so on.

CRM for medium-sized B2B companies

CRM for medium sized B2B companies
Medium-sized businesses, in our experience, benefit from CRM systems that are more closely customised to their needs while still not being over-optimised to the point that they would hinder productivity.

These companies are usually in that spot where they have enough customers to keep the cash flow coming in comfortably at the same time as looking for new opportunities for innovation, new markets or just looking to really strengthen that position in the market they already serve.

A common issue of medium-sized B2B businesses that can usually be resolved by a smart CRM system is the complexity of the company’s growing network. The need to organise the information of individual companies, individuals as well as cluster is what a well-optimised CRM system should be able to do for any B2B organisation.

In addition to the features that small businesses utilise in their CRM systems, medium-sized companies usually also profit from:

  1. Campaign management – A more sophisticated organisation of promotional campaigns that work in relation to each other: a complete database of offline and online events, their planning, budgeting and responsible users
  2. Elaborate market segmentation – Organisation of the lead database by several layers of criteria, including company size, industry, location, turnover, lead score, date of engagement, product of interest etc.
  3. Analytics and reporting – A business intelligence feature that lets you review your performance in relation to employee effort, results, progress against goals, overall market tendencies, customers’ online activity, customer issues raised, win/loss ration against individual competitors etc.
  4. Budget and revenue tracking – Also based on powerful analytics, the CRM system should be able to report on the incoming revenue, raise flags when budget is being overstretched and forecast future revenue based on the current sales pipeline
  5. Customer service – A system of tracking individual customer tickets in relation to the company’s account and products, being able to set individual service level agreements and track performance against them, and customised service queues with alerts, reminders and task escalation
  6. Sales automation – As already mentioned, sales automation is something that can benefit any company with a sales team. Medium-sized B2B companies usually profit from a centralised lead information database, reminders & alerts, elaborate sales funnel and opportunity segmentation, competitor tracking, performance reporting etc.


CRM for large B2B companies

And finally, large sized businesses are usually very keen on optimising all of their processes to the maximum detail as this often results in greatly improved speed of delivery and revenues.

Since these systems are highly customised, there is no typical set of features that a “standard” large company would utilise – rather the same set of aforementioned features that are delicately fine-tuned for optimum performance.

So does size matter for a B2B CRM?

In our experience, size definitely matters when choosing and implementing the right CRM system. Doing plenty of research and taking a careful, thought through decision can help you avoid valuable resources worth of investment down the line. Simply opting for the same kind of set-up as a larger competitor is likely to end in tears, which is why working with experts who know exactly what your options are when it comes to CRM is so important.


CRM will reduce the need for analysing data

CRM for B2B data analysis
CRM software is useful for many reasons when it comes to examining information. By putting all kinds of data and figures in place for people across a company, it makes it far easier for workers to keep track of statistics.

Also, because it archives information, looking through it to develop an understanding of trends and potential market shifts is far more possible.

However, it is important that companies do not simply put their CRM software in place, rub their hands together and wait for instant success. Having the right staff in place is also crucial if firms are to take advantage of their new technology.

In fact, it’s the most successful B2B companies that leverage the full power of analytics that their system offers. It’s like buying a fancy car: on one level, you buy it to enjoy the smoothness of driving and great fuel efficiency. On a deeper level, you’re also very chuffed by the looks you’re attracting from everyone else.

What we mean is, buying a CRM system and only using it for automating tasks without analysing data is like buying a fancy car without enjoying the attention it attracts.

Enough of metaphors though – here is what a good CRM system should be able to analyse & report on:

  1. Marketing – quantifiable success of all online & offline campaigns, including audience reached, responses received, leads generated, leads warming up, leads by status, leads by score, lead conversion ratio, amount of leads qualified, pipeline investment & revenue, etc.
  2. Sales – performance of individuals and teams regarding sales closed/lost, amount of meetings & events attended, opportunities in the pipeline, opportunities by value, monetary value of every stage of the pipeline, amount of revenue expected in the next period, invoice revenue, etc.
  3. Support – performance regarding amount of tickets served, cases resolved/unresolved, contract by account territory and status, contract by owner and status, average time spent on resolving various types of issues, etc.


CRM will be too technical for my company

CRM for B2B too technical
We come across this myth quite often, and it’s quite understandable. With IT budgets under pressure, particularly for smaller companies, it is somehow expected that buyers are rather wary about the prospect of implementing and using a new piece of software across their business.

However, the reality is that modern CRM tends to be fairly simple to understand and unlikely to cause any major problems, or place a seriously increased burden upon IT infrastructure.

With storage offered in the cloud, marketing chiefs will not need to worry about anything like server space or set-up. Furthermore, enough external support should be provided that any issues can be sorted out at the providing company’s end.

Implementation needs to be carried out correctly if you are to benefit from all the possibilities offered by the software, but once this process has been completed a fairly smooth ride can be expected.

For this reason we always recommend our clients work closely together with us so we can establish their needs and goals and tailor the CRM solution to their exact requirements. And not to forget, the suitable type of training will ensure that the users are happy with the system and can make the most of it.