Part 7-8 of our long Life of the lead series
Here’s a question: at what stage in a B2B company’s growth should it invest in a CRM?
Much, much sooner than you may think.
And here’s why you need a CRM – even if you don’t have any customers yet.

Paul Greenberg, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) thought leader, once offered this definition:

A technology and system that sustains sales, marketing & customer service activities.

It is designed to capture and interpret customer data, both structured & unstructured, and to sustain the management of the business side of customer related operations.

CRM technology automates processes and workflows and helps organize and interpret data to support a company in engaging its customers more effectively.’

Thanks Paul, but I’m not sure I’m any the wiser – can’t we lose the jargon and focus on the benefits?

Try this for size, from those plain-speaking folks at Salesforce:

‘The key to giving customers what they want lies in understanding them, and a CRM system does just that.

It facilitates things by giving you and the customer ease of communication, organized data, and improved customer service.

All of this will streamline the process of making sure needs are met and actions get resolved in a timely manner.’

Sorry people, but I’m convinced I can do this both simpler and more effectively:

Drum roll, please…

‘CRM is an essential software system for tracking, sharing and analysing interactions with prospects and customers.’

Apart from brevity my definition also has the benefit of recognising that CRM is not just for customers.

In fact, CRMs are incredibly handy ways to track prospects through the sales funnel, especially – though not necessarily – when combined with marketing automation tools.

It’s the prospect to lead to customer journey that interests us here, so let’s look at exactly how a CRM can help you smooth the flow and grease the funnel.

1. Speed and ease

Time spent searching through emails or scouring through notes to try and remember what conversations have been had, or even what the prospect’s phone number is, reduces the time you have building relationships and engaging interest.

It’s wasted time.

It’s also a recipe for disaster. If you can’t remember what email was last sent you run the risk of sending it again. And that’s a sure-fire way to lose a potential customer.

With a CRM everyone can see a complete record of each other’s interactions with just one click. And, as we’ll find out, so can the whole sales team.

2. Visibility

At a glance, CRM platforms allow sales teams to view their pipeline staged by progress and their opportunity queue.

Using filters each rep can drill down from an overall view to a view of the team to their own state of play and progress.

There’s never any doubt where they are in relation to their quota – and for managers there’s never any doubt where resources need reallocating.

3. Communication

CRMs are not just about making things simpler and quicker for individual reps.

They also vastly improve communication and information sharing across the whole business, even those in multiple locations.

Take, for example, a rep working on a prospect who has resurfaced after a year’s gap. Let’s not worry about where they went – our main concern is that the original rep assigned to them is no longer at the company.

So, where can we find out the conversations pursued and interests expressed?

Simple: in the CRM.

Or, perhaps, there’s been a territory rearrangement. Will everyone’s first few weeks be spent trying to figure out multiple spreadsheets?

Or will it all be laid out and easy to find in the CRM?

A CRM means there’s no need for lengthy handovers – just pass the baton and run with it!

4. The bigger picture

Because CRMs ensure reps track their activities and interactions in exactly the same way, reporting can be streamlined.

There’s no longer the need to agonisingly try and piece together info – analysis can be done at the click of a button.

A CRM is essential if you need to analyse your salespeople’s activities, to discover what outreach strategies, or which series of touchpoints work the best.

Without a CRM you run the risk of pulling inconsistently tracked data and reaching conclusions far from the actual sales reality.

5. Scalability

If you have plans for growth – and if you don’t, you’re probably in the wrong business – that bigger picture is just going to get bigger and bigger.

Of course, in those early days a well-structured and organised spreadsheet may well suffice. With just a handful of prospects and customers working manually is just about manageable.

Take a glance at your business plan, though. My guess is that in just a few years you’re forecasting at latest trebling your revenue.

What will that mean for your sales, marketing and customer service headcount?

Do you want them to be driving revenue growth or filling in and searching through info across multiple spreadsheets?

So why do you need a CRM?

Here’s the punchline (if you haven’t already guessed it):

You need a CRM so you can contact your prospects at the right intervals, with the best-suited information tailored exactly to their needs.