mission suite, what is crm, crm, customer relationship management software

The Essential CRM: The Beginners Guide to Customer Relationship Management Software

For just about anyone in sales and marketing, a CRM, or customer relationship management software, has become a critical tool in the success of your sales and marketing efforts. What is CRM? Why do I need one? How do I use it? We’re going to do our best to do a deep dive into the answers to those questions and more here.

It doesn’t matter if you’re working in a B2B environment or a consumer environment, your CRM is going to be the backbone of your success.

Ultimately customer relationship management software is going to help you identify the good leads from the bad. It will help you manage the relationships with your customers, prospects, networking and referral partners (just about anyone you ever come in contact really) to make sure that none of your relationships are falling through the cracks.

To put it quite simply, if you don’t have a CRM in place, you’re losing money.

So just what is CRM?

Let’s start at the beginning and define this thing that so many of us in the sales and marketing world are talking about.

A CRM is a sales and marketing software platforms that helps your manage your business and customer relationships – hence the name customer relationship management software (sometimes called contact relationship management).

At a very basic level, let’s think about the Contacts app on your phone. Now I’m old enough to remember carrying around a small address book in my back pocket with the names and phone numbers of everyone that I knew in it. For that matter, I remember working from a Rolodex file for my business contacts! This was before everyone had an email address so fortunately I didn’t have to cross out a bunch of Juno and Netscape email addresses.

So what is CRM? At its most basic level, that’s exactly what it is! It’s your Rolodex, your address book or your Contacts app.

But if that’s all it is then why do I need one?

Remember, I said that’s what it is at it’s most basic level. Your CRM is a tool that allows you to track your interactions with your contacts. How many times have you met someone and forgotten whether you’ve followed up with them? Or what was discussed during your last conversation?

Any address book – whether it’s Google Contacts, your iPhone or even an actual address book – will store your contact information. Some of them even do that particularly well. But they don’t help you build your relationships.

When used correctly, your customer relationship management software will help you track everyone that you meet or connect with in a business setting – no matter who they are.

See a good CRM will help you focus your time on managing the relationships you have with those contacts.

In sales and marketing, relationships are everything. Bob Burg and John David Mann said it best in their book The Go-Giver when they said that “all things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust.” You don’t get to the “trust” part of that equation without the relationship. That’s what a good CRM can help you create.

Sure, you can create your own relationship management system by cobbling together a bunch of different platforms but why bother? It’s a lot easier (and ultimately less expensive) to just work with a system that’s already built for you.

What Features Can I Expect from a Good CRM?

There’s actually quite a bit a good CRM can do for you. As I’ve already discussed, it will be able to store and segment your contacts so that you can effectively manage your business and marketing relationships. Beyond that, there are a number of things that I’ve come to look for when evaluating a CRM but I find that they all fall under four main categories.

Sales Management and Tracking

When I talk about sales management, I’m talking about more than simply keeping your prospects and clients and customers in one place. Pretty much any CRM should allow you to

  1. Create, manage and track opportunities
  2. Easily visualize and review your pipeline
  3. Forecast sales revenue
  4. Track sales activities for individuals and teams

There’s a lot more that I can get into here but that’ll be for a different article.


I know that marketing automation and sales automation have become trite buzz words of late but there’s a lot of value to be had in automation in both marketing and sales. Here are a few ways that I use automation in our CRM to get things done:

  1. Automatically send follow up emails with prospects that I meet networking, canvassing or cold calling
  2. Stay top of mind by automatically sending out email marketing messages to my nurturing list
  3. Immediately follow up with people who reach out to us through our website or chat platform
  4. Remind me to reach out to a new contact after a set period of time
  5. Onboard new clients, respond to training requests and ask for referrals

What are you doing every day that you could automate? When I started automating these tasks, I started saving two hours per day. Imagine how much more money you could close in sales if you had two more hours every day to fill the top of the funnel.

Email Marketing

A lot of us like to use email to stay top of mind with our prospects and customers. Having your email marketing platform integrated with your CRM allows you to see if and when those prospects and customers have interacted with your content.

The benefit here is that you can more effectively qualify your leads based on how they’ve interacted with your emails. If someone’s clicking on a link in every email that you send, they’re probably a good candidate for a phone call.

So why can’t you just link your email marketing platform to your CRM? Well you can but integrations aren’t always reliable. If someone changes the password to your email account and forgets to update it in the CRM then your integration breaks and you’re not getting any information.

Keeping it all together is simply more effective and more reliable.

Inbound Marketing

There’s really a lot to unpack around the scope of inbound marketing. To keep it simple, think about everything you do to bring in leads on a regular (or irregular) basis. And I mean everything.

Inbound marketing has taken on a pretty specific meaning in recent years and is most often used in relation to digital marketing efforts, and that’s certainly a part of it but I’m also going to include things like in-person marketing events, coupons and SMS marketing.

All of these things should be able to send information to your CRM. Everyone who registers for an event, signs up for a deal in your store, or pretty much does anything that indicates they’re interested in your business, service or product offering should be automatically added to your CRM and be able to be followed up on.

So Why Is Customer Relationship Management Software Better?

I don’t suppose “just trust me” is an appropriate answer here, is it? Didn’t think so…

Back before I started Mission Suite, I used to do what I mentioned above and pull together a bunch of free platforms to try and create a good system. Eventually I even started paying for them. I even paid for that SaaS product that we try not to talk about here at Mission Suite.

While I’ve been around long enough to remember using address books and Rolodex, I kind of got excited about the idea of a customer relationships management software pretty early on. I never had to ask what is CRM because I kind of got the importance of it right off the bat.

As hard as I tried, though, none of the systems that I Frankensteined together really worked out for me. I ended up wasting a lot of time and sometimes money trying to get the job done and, in the end, it just wasn’t worth it.

So why buy a customer relationship software instead of using your own systems? Well maybe you can learn from my past experiences

You don’t have to manage a bunch of different systems

If you try and pull together your own “full” CRM from all of the different systems that are available to you, you might be able to do it all for free but here’s the problem: You have to manage all of those different platforms!

People have the tendency to forget just how much time it takes to manage different systems. Think about the frustration of having to manage six to eight different systems just to get everything done that one integrated customer relationship software could do for you.

You don’t have to worry about integrations and changing passwords

OK so let’s say you’re cool with managing all of those different systems. You still need them to talk to each other, right? Sure some of them integrate with one another natively but usually not. Now you have to either have a developer build out the integrations for your different systems or rely on the integrations that they provide through a tool like Zapier.

Now don’t get me wrong, Zapier is an incredible tool and I highly recommend it. The issue isn’t so much with Zapier but with the fact that every zap only does so much. What if you need something that the zap doesn’t do automatically?

Beyond that, what happens if one of your passwords change? I’ve seen it happen far too many times where the email marketing password changes but no one remembers to update the customer relationship software so there’s a ton of data loss.

It’s less expensive

This one’s a pretty easy one – once you’ve burned through the free trials of all of the tools that you signed up for you have to start paying for them. If you think managing six or seven different systems gives you a headache, imagine the headache you’ll get when you look at your credit card statement and see how much you’re spending every month.

It’s more effective

Lastly, using one system for your customer relationship management software is just more effective. Any time you can work with a natively integrated system (which is just a fancy phrase for “it’s all built to work together”), you’re going to get better results. You’re going to save time, save money and save frustration so that you, your sales team and your marketing teams can focus on actually generating and closing new business.

How Should I Be Using My CRM?

If you’re responsible for sales or marketing, your customer relationship management software should really ultimately work its way into the thread of your day to day life. My CRM has become the center point for all of my sales and marketing activities. As a result, I’ve found more success in sales and marketing than I did when everything was in separate systems.

Here’s an example of how I use my customer relationship management software. This is what I do on a daily basis. Keep in mind that I’m in a B2B environment so, if you’re working in a consumer focused space, your workflow may or may not be different.

Follow Up Alerts

Every time I create a follow up task for myself, I like to schedule it to be due at 9am. Then I’m able to mark my CRM to send me an automatic email reminder an hour before It’s due. This works particularly well for me because, as a result, I get a series of emails every morning at 8am telling me all of the things that I need to get done.

Now I also use my inbox as my task list (much to the chagrin of business coaches everywhere) so this is particularly effective for me. Also, because I typically don’t have a ton of tasks pre-planned, my inbox isn’t flooded with task reminders. This process won’t work as well for people who have 30-40 follow up tasks per day because they’ll simply get lost. For me, however it works. It’s also one of my favorite aspects of Mission Suite’s customer relationship management software.

My To Do List

If you are one of those high task volume folks, the To Do List is where you’ll end up spending your time in your customer relationship management software. My to do list reinforces the tasks that I need to accomplish for the day. This allows me to navigate directly to the task that I’m working on or that I need to mark complete.

This is also where the automated follow ups that I may not have marked to email me will show up. (Some lower priority networking follow up tasks aren’t always set up to email me).

If you have a high volume of prospecting or sales tasks to accomplish every day, you may not want to get email reminders as they’ll probably just overwhelm your inbox. If that’s the case, spend focus on your CRM to do list and you’ll end up doing a lot better.

New Prospect Follow Up

I do a lot of networking. Just about every day, I’m out there making new connections and those connections need to be followed up on.

A few years back, I implemented a system in my Mission Suite account to start automating my follow up process for new prospects and it changed the way that I’m able to sell.

Every time I come back from an event I input new contacts into Mission Suite’s customer relationship management software. Then I tag them with the follow up I want to execute. Based on that tag, Mission Suite automatically sends out the correct follow up email. Depending on the follow up campaign that I select, Mission Suite will send me an email reminder telling me to call the new prospect to follow up.

Obviously this works well for networking but you can apply the same principle to any prospecting – cold calling, canvassing, etc.

Pipeline Management

Obviously at the end of the day, the pipeline is what matters in your customer relationship management software. When it comes to managing your sales day, this is an important place to spend time.

I need to make sure that our pipeline is being managed appropriately and nothing is falling through the cracks. I do a review of my pipeline every day. This way I make sure everything has a task associated with it. As a result, none of our opportunities are being missed.

This is huge in making sure that your opportunities keep moving forward. No matter what, all of the deals that you’re working on should have tasks associated with them. This is how you make sure that you keep closing deals!

Lead Scoring

At this point I’ve made sure that my follow ups are completed. All my new prospects are in the right follow up systems. And the deals in my pipeline are moving forward. So now I’m ready to move on to mining my customer relationship management software for new leads.

Instead of calling anyone in a list, I’m able to search for people who’ve actually shown interest in my services.

Using lead scoring, I’m able to find people who have registered enough activity from my marketing efforts to show interest. This includes activities like reading emails that were sent out, clicking on links in those emails, downloading content from my site, or visiting specific pages on my website.

Once they reach a certain score, you can make a reliable assumption that they’re at least interested enough in what you’re doing that they could be a good lead to call on.

Email Marketing

With the amount of content that we create and distribute, it’s important have a channel to send that content out. Email marketing is a great channel to do that but creating new emails can be time consuming and challenging.

Using Mission Suite’s automated email marketing capabilities, we have an email automatically sent out to our database every week that new content is published to our site. Email marketing is all about consistency and reliability. Using this automation, we’re able to send emails every Friday around 6am so everyone knows what to expect from us.

I used our email builder to create a template, connected our blog and dropped a placeholder in the email template. Now I don’t even have to think about it. All I need to do is keep creating content!

How Much Should I Expect to Pay for a CRM?

Now we come to the question that everyone’s asking about CRM – does it have to be so freaking expensive? Well the short answer is no. When it comes to determining how much you have to pay for customer relationship management software, there are a couple different options that could impact the cost of your CRM. The two primary pricing models for customer relationship management software are per user and database size.

Per User CRM Pricing

Per user pricing for a CRM is definitely the most common option for customer relationship management software. Basically, you pay a certain amount for every person who needs to access your customer relationship management software. While this has been commonplace for a long time, there are a number of reasons that per user pricing can be problematic. If you regularly need to add new sales people, for example, this can be incredibly costly. And, if those people don’t perform, you’ll end up paying for nothing.

The only time that I’ve ever seen per user pricing work out for the benefit of the client is in the rare scenario when there’s one or two people with a massive database with no plans to grow their team. Some high profile personalities, recruiters, etc for example, can fall into this classification.

Database Size Pricing

Database size pricing, for most businesses anyway, is much more in line with the ways that a business’ revenue grows. Incidentally this is also the way that Mission Suite’s pricing is set up. Using the database pricing model, your cost only goes up with the number of contacts you’re storing in your database.

Using this model, you can give as many people in your company access to the customer relationships management software who need it without having to raise your costs. This works out a lot better for you because only lead and revenue generating employees will raise your costs. And that only happens when they’re performing well.

So What’s Next?

Well now I hope you know the answer to the “what is crm” question. Also, hopefully you have some insights into how you can be using CRM to help you actually grow your business. So now, it’s time to start using customer relationship management software. There are plenty of options to look at to determine the best customer relationship management software will be for you.

Mission Suite’s CRM is certainly worth taking a look at as you’re making these determinations to find out if implementing the automation inherent in Mission Suite’s customer relationship management software will help your business grow.

If you’re ready to take a look at Mission Suite, register for one of our demo webinars!

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