Customer relationship management platforms are a requirement for sales-driven organizations that need to manage communication with customers and prospects effectively and efficiently.
Spreadsheets and manual recordkeeping can only take teams so far, and implementing a CRM platform is a clear sign that your organization is prioritizing growth, streamlining workflows, and optimizing the sales process.
Nucleus Research conducted an analysis of its published ROI case studies on CRM deployments, and found that for every dollar a company spends on CRM, they now make back $8.71.
As your customer tracking continues to get more complicated, how do you keep your systems streamlined and efficient? The key is CRM automation.
In this CRM automation guide, you’ll learn how to increase efficiency, save time, and improve your sales team’s results by automating the functions of your CRM software. You’ll also explore the biggest advantages and functions of CRM automation, and how modern CRMs are using new technologies to deliver increasing value to B2B organizations.
What is CRM automation?
Customer relationship management (CRM) automation is the process of automating marketing, sales, and customer service functions to help teams track their engagement with current and prospective customers or clients. Automating your CRM eliminates tedious and repetitive manual data entry, skyrockets productivity, and saves team members time so they can focus on high-value activities like lead generation, relationship building, lead nurturing, and deal conversion.
New, relationship intelligence focused CRM platforms are also available for relationship-focused deal teams. Learn more about how relationship intelligence platforms like Affinity compare to traditional CRM platforms.
The primary functions of CRM automation
CRM automation tools perform many functions, but some of the critical things you should look for when you’re investing in an automated CRM tool include:
- Contact management: An automated CRM system helps manage contact information and customer data, including first name, last name, phone number, email, social media profiles, and company details.
- Lead management: Your team can keep track of their deal pipeline or sales pipeline by managing all lead-related activity with CRM automation. This can include lead identification, lead tracking, lead scoring, and end-to-end workflow management. With automated CRM functionality, salespeople always have the most current data at their fingertips so they can effectively engage with leads and prospects.
- Email marketing and marketing automation: Your customer relationship management software can empower your marketing teams with the ability to create welcome messages, email campaigns, and follow-up messages. List segmentation for personalized email messages is also a snap with automated CRMs that track email opens, map out changing customer preferences, and help you plan new marketing drip campaigns.
- Integration with other applications: Intelligent and automated CRM platforms easily integrate with other applications and tools, including calendars, email systems, help desk platforms, and project management tools. Automated email and calendar integrations facilitate company-wide collaboration and ensure that interaction histories are always up to date and available within a single source of truth. This reduces or eliminates the need to track down the last person who had phone calls with a client or spend hours researching the right person at your company to ask questions about a prospect.
- Analytics and reporting: CRM automation systems include customizable reporting features that help you optimize sales processes and marketing efforts with more data-driven decision making. Streamline all your reporting on KPIs and key metrics with high-quality data that is always up to date.
- Document management: A deal flow pipeline or sales cycle include massive amounts of documents, including quotes, invoices, RFPs, contracts, and due diligence research. All these documents should be readily accessible by everyone on the team, no matter where they are or what device they’re using. CRM automation should connect to or include document management tools so team members can upload, share, and read all information with ease directly from a relevant client profile, while maintaining version control.
The benefits of CRM automation
CRM automation trends run the gamut of business activity. Here are some of the ways CRM automation can benefit your company:
- Streamlining tasks so you can get more done in less time
- Generating more leads and increasing qualification rates
- Increasing sales conversions by focusing on your best leads
- Improving the customer experience by attending to issues more quickly
- Executing multiple marketing campaigns at the same time by working with marketing automation software
- Boosting profits by driving higher customer retention rates
- Freeing up service agents and sales reps to spend more time building relationships and solving complex issues
Best practices for CRM automation solutions
Automating CRM functions is meant to make life easier for your sales and marketing teams—but to get a high ROI from your investment, you must ensure optimal adoption of your CRM and keep your data clean. Follow these best practices for smooth implementation of your automated CRM:
1. Choose a user-oriented platform.
Getting CRM data automation off on the right foot starts with choosing the right tools. Your platform should include a clear, easy-to-use, intuitive user interface that responds quickly to search queries and provides full and complete customer data to the user.
2. Select an easy-to-use but sophisticated CRM platform
Boost the efficiency and productivity of your sales teams by choosing a platform that matches your workflows as simply as possible. Multiple teams will likely be using the CRM automation tool for a number of different purposes, so easy of use makes a big difference in CRM adoption rates. Keep everything in a unified source of truth for better data integration and higher utilization of the tool.
3. Make sure your CRM is mobile-friendly.
In this age of distributed teams, cloud applications, and globalization, data needs to be available around the clock on all mobile platforms and devices. Choose a cloud-based, device-agnostic CRM that provides real-time data management.
4. Track multi-channel data and connect it to your CRM
There is a lot that happens with a prospect before that person becomes a lead—and all of that activity needs to be automatically captured in your CRM so it can be analyzed and leveraged. Make sure your CRM platform is connected to marketing analytics tools that track landing page visits, form submissions, open rates, and click-throughs to provide your team with full context into every customer journey.
Leading companies also use social media as a channel for answering customer questions and providing support, and for consumer brands especially, prospects increasingly report that they want to interact with brands via chat or social media, rather than by phone.
Integrating social media tools with your CRM to capture more conversations can help your sales team understand client behavior and expectations, and also helps them respond more quickly to complaints, questions, and referrals.
5. Define a standard CRM automation process.
Allowing multiple formats for data entry and updates can damage your CRM data integrity.
Maintain data uniformity by creating clear and concise guidelines for any remaining manual data entry (including manually logged notes or custom-built fields) or data updates and import processes. Include drop-down menus rather than free-flow text boxes whenever possible, to reduce errors.
Improve your long-term data quality by providing clear instruction to your firm’s team members about how your CRM system should be used, and what will happen if your data quality erodes (i.e. incomplete or out-of-date information that leads to missed opportunities).
6. Customize your automation features.
You can customize your CRM platform so your automations work for your unique sales process.
Start relationships with new customers off right by setting up automatic welcome campaigns, or create follow-up reminders that nudge you to check in regularly with your top prospects or high-quality referral services.
7. Provide training.
With today’s advanced automation systems, user adoption will be far less of a problem than with traditional CRMs, but your sales and marketing teams will still need to know how to make the most of their customer and prospect data.
Provide training opportunities for your team members, including workshops, Q&A sessions, and one-on-one user practice sessions through your vendor’s support team.
Run a better business with CRM automation
When it comes to how to automate your CRM, your best bet is to start with a CRM platform that includes advanced automation features out of the box. Affinity’s automated CRM imports every email message, calendar meeting, and contact across your entire organization, and updates instantly as you build relationships with clients and prospects.
By eliminating the need for time-consuming manual contact data entry, you’ll free up over 180 hours per person every year, which you can spend on dealmaking and meeting contacts.
With relationship intelligence based on your whole team’s network and activities, you’ll never have to ask “Do we know someone at that company?” or “Who knows this contact the best?” because you’ll always have the complete history of every connection in your CRM and be able to find the best path to an introduction.
Talk to one of our team members today to find out how Affinity can help you connect with crucial contacts, create more opportunities, and close more deals.