What is CRM?

What is CRM?

Customer Relationship Management Helps You:

  • Deliver a great customer experience
  • Get a handle on customer data
  • Go after the best opportunities
  • Cut down on manual work
  • Boost your bottom line

Deliver a great customer experience

Experience. Everyone’s talking about it, from Gartner, which has a customer experience summit, to industry reports.

The third stage of HubSpot’s flywheel — Delight — underscores the importance of customer experience (CX). It’s not enough to sell people something or even to meet their needs and desires with your product or service.

Today’s consumers want enjoyable, memorable, positive experiences when interacting with your brand.

They want to be delighted.

And not just once. CX applies across all touchpoints, from interactions on social media to online purchases using a mobile phone to customer service issues. What will providing a first-class experience do for your company? Consider this finding from a 2018 Salesforce survey: 70% of customers are willing to pay more for a positive experience.

Not only that, Salesforce research has also shown that expectations are going up across the board. Nearly 75% of customers say that a great experience with one company raises their expectations of other companies.

Using CRM software puts your business in a position to meet those expectations.


The CRM’s central database gives sales, marketing and service access to the same info, enabling your company to provide the consistent interactions customers think they should receive.

Access to customer data also helps you cross-sell items a customer’s likely interested in, thereby providing convenience. You can set rules in the system so that when someone buys a new iPhone, for example, they’ll receive an email about purchasing a phone case and protective screen as well.

With CRM, you also gain tools that allow you to personalize your interactions beyond emails with the contact’s first name. Social media integration provides insight into how your customers interact with your brand on different channels so you can respond accordingly. And you can use list segmentation for precise targeting, so you put the right content in front of the right people.

Get a handle on customer Data

Spreadsheet tabs multiplying? Mountains of scribbled notes threatening to bust down the doors? Scads of data bouncing around without a purpose?

If any of those sound familiar, customer relationship management can provide tremendous value. These solutions use a central database for storing data-rich profiles. Everything from contact info to likelihood to buy is viewable from a single screen.

The information updates as the contact progresses through your funnel, giving a real-time view. Some solutions also pull in data from social media sites, such as the person’s connections or how they’ve interacted with your brand online.

Go after the best opportunities

Knowing the health of your pipeline and which leads you should spend time pursuing is critical.

With strong customer relationship management, you get insight into those areas and more. That way your team doesn’t waste time chasing after the wrong leads and you always know where opportunities stand.

Many systems include a broad toolset that help direct your efforts:

  • Lead Scoring: Identify which prospects are hot — and which aren’t.
  • Data Intelligence Capabilities: Model a contact’s revenue potential, reveal which regions are the most profitable and more.
  • Segmentation: Group leads based on qualifying criteria, such as the products they’re interested in or what demographic they fall into.
  • Visual Pipelines: View what stage every lead is at and easily transition them through the funnel.

Cut down on manual work

Automation is one of the most helpful features CRM offers.

Tackling customer relationship management activities without a dedicated solution is a lot of work. Manually entering each new contact’s info. Scribbling notes to keep track of details. Setting reminders to send that follow-up email.

That workload isn’t scalable. Even if you have a team to help, doing things by hand isn’t efficient.

CRM solves that problem. They can update data when a change happens in the system, automatically pull data to display in charts and graphs, assign leads to different sales reps, and a host of other things.

Thanks to marketing automation features, you can build email sequences and define when to send each email, based on actions taken by the lead or customer.

  • Send a “thank you” email after a purchase
  • Trigger an email nurture campaign after a lead fills out a form
  • Deliver a monthly newsletter to subscribers of your members program

Boost your bottom line

At the end of the day, effective customer relationship management increases your revenue.

Besides pointing sales reps toward the best deals, it can notify your sales team when a lead needs attention lest they become a victim of the dreaded black hole known as “churn.”

Robust CRM software also comes with a host of analytics tools. Dashboards, charts, graphs and reports visualize a variety of metrics — giving you a comprehensive look under the hood of your business:

  • Email campaign performance (number of opens, click-through rate, etc.)
  • Deals closed per sales rep
  • Sales by region, vertical, product, etc.
  • Leads most likely to churn
  • Overall lead conversion rate
  • Average deal size
  • Forecast revenue

That list is only the beginning of what you can drill into. Such deep insights help you make smarter decisions and optimize for the most profitable outcome.

You don’t have to fire shots in the dark and hope you hit your target. CRM shines a light on where your business does well so you can direct your efforts toward doing more of what works.

FAQs: The Scoop on CRM

What Does CRM Stand For?

People throw the term “CRM” around a lot. But what does it mean?

Usually, they’re talking about the digital platforms used to store data, send email campaigns and the like. That’s what we’ll focus on in this article. However, the answer to the question “What’s a CRM?” actually has a close relative because CRM refers to both a concept and the technology used.

So before you can research What a CRM system is, you first have to ask what is customer relationship management.

CRM refers to customer relationship management, which describes the process used to manage every aspect of a company’s communication with prospects, leads and customers. It helps businesses generate and nurture leads, close more deals and retain customers with the ultimate goal of increasing customer lifetime value (CLV) and driving revenue.

What Is CRM Software?

Customer relationship management software, on the other hand, is the technology that helps your company execute customer relationship management. It’s often shortened to CRM, making it interchangeable with the concept of customer relationship management.

To illustrate, think of managing your customer relationships as your destination and the software as a car that takes you there.

Though CRM systems on the market have a wide range in terms of capability, they revolve around the central mission of helping businesses interact with consumers.

CRMs are typically grouped into three main types: operational, analytical and collaborative.

Operational: Helps streamline a company’s sales, marketing and service activities. This is where you’ll find applications for sales force automation (SFA), marketing automation and service automation.

Analytical: Lets you probe your data using methods like data warehousing and data mining. Equipped with robust analytical features, these systems help put your data to work by pinpointing trends, extracting insights, and painting a more accurate picture of who your customers are and what they want.

Collaborative: Breaks down silos across teams so they can collaborate more effectively. For example, when marketing passes a qualified lead off to sales, the sales rep can view the lead’s profile so they’re not walking into their interactions blind.

The thing to remember is that many customer relationship management systems offer a diverse set of features. True CRMs — aka not standalone SFA or marketing automation — combine elements of each type described above. This makes them one of the most powerful tools at your disposal.

Why Should I Care About CRM?

CRM is big, and it’s only expected to grow in importance and size. It surpassed database management systems in 2017 as the largest software market, with global revenue just shy of $40 billion.

And earlier this year, Gartner called it “one of the fastest-growing business software application markets,” with growth forecasted at 13.5% CAGR through 2022.

But there are reasons customer relationship management matters apart from the impressive stats and expert opinions.

Back to the car analogy, customer relationship management is essential in reaching your destination faster and more efficiently — yours might be increased growth, doubled sales or better customer service. No matter your goal, not having CRM is the equivalent of traveling cross-country by stagecoach when everyone around you is using a car.

Selling is hard today. People want experiences, not just products or services. They want to interact with your company on their terms, using different devices and channels. And data floods in from social media, websites and dozens of other sources.

CRMs provide you the tools you need to keep up with customer demands, put your data to work and improve your bottom line.

How Does CRM Software Work?

CRMs handle dozens of activities, with specific tools that aid each. But those all surround and support three main purposes:

  • Attract prospects and convert them to leads
  • Nurture leads until they become customers
  • Keep those customers happy and coming back for more

Let’s walk through the marketing, sales and customer service phases to see the purpose of a CRM platform in a company.


Marketing acts as the entry point, running campaigns and conducting other activities to generate leads. Marketing automation and email capabilities, such as customer targeting and triggered emails, play a central role at this stage.

Customer relationship management also provide contact management and lead management. Contact management lets you store all a lead’s info for easy access. Lead management comes with the following capabilities to convert prospects and monitor their progress through the funnel:

  • Lead generation
  • Web forms
  • Pipeline tracking
  • Lead follow-up
  • Lead capture
  • Lead distribution

The goal of this stage is to nurture leads to the point where they’re qualified for sales to take over. Automation and a 360-degree customer view make the handoff process more streamlined and less prone to error than it used to be.

Marketing also steps back in post-purchase, since many customers are candidates for repeat buying. A CRM helps send new offers, encourage upgrades and support membership programs to increase customer retention.


Once a lead passes to the sales team, they receive all the contact’s info and history. Here, CRM solutions use opportunity management, win/loss analysis, quote management and other tools to drive more deals.

Automations take repetitive tasks off the plate of the sales team, and cloud-based CRMs have mobile apps that give reps on-the-go access.

At this point, leads will either convert to customers, drop out of the cycle altogether or revert to marketing for more nurturing. No matter what happens, the CRM tracks everything.


The lead has become a customer. Mission accomplished!

Well, not quite. Customer relationship management supports the entire journey a customer has with your company. Given that retaining customers provides a far higher ROI than constantly losing them and going after new ones, giving them every reason to stick around is necessary.

This is where the service team takes the stage, to support customers so they don’t jump ship when something goes sideways. This includes responding to issues and answering questions.

You’ll find CRM systems that come with capabilities for building knowledge bases and help centers or integrating your current help desk solution. And since a customer’s profile contains all their past interactions and information, it’s easy for service agents to get the full picture so they can provide a more personalized, relevant experience.

Who Uses CRM?

You may think that only large enterprises need CRM. But CRMs are helpful even for companies with only a few employees. There are even solutions specifically for nonprofits.

Research by CSO Insights from 2018 showed that nearly every company uses customer relationship management, whether it’s a commercial product or an ad hoc version that stitches together different tools.

No matter what industry or company size you look at, customer relationship management has become a basic cornerstone of building a successful business.

As we just looked at, a CRM solution will mainly be used by sales, marketing and customer service teams.

When Should My Company Adopt CRM?

How can you know the right time to say goodbye to your spreadsheet and go mainstream? It depends on your company’s unique situation. Every business is different. That said, here are some good indicators it’s time to invest in effective customer relationship management:

  • Your spreadsheet has gone Frankenstein monster and is out of control. Keeping track of contact info is a nightmare.
  • You’re losing out on revenue and need software to produce higher quality leads and drive more sales.
  • Your business has outgrown your internal CRM concoction. It’s time to streamline work or drown in all the to-dos.
  • Your one sales rep leaves and you suddenly realize that there aren’t any processes and systems in place for keeping the pipeline full and the sales flowing in.

How Much Do CRMs Cost?

This depends entirely on the level of functionality you need. If you’re running a small operation, an open-source CRM or free version of a premium product may be adequate.

If you need more capabilities, there are a range of price options that can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars per year. A few things to keep in mind:

  • The typical pay structure for CRMs is subscription-based, where, you pay for each user either per month or annually. If one user costs $100, then five users would cost $500. The exception is on-premise systems, like those from SAP or Oracle, which have a licensing model where you make a one-time purchase and own the right to use the software.
  • Vendors almost always have different pricing tiers that add more capabilities the higher you go. So if you want an advanced feature — say, task automation — it’ll cost more.
  • You may also pay more for extra contacts or storage.

Should I Use Cloud or On-Premise Hosting?

This used to be a raging debate. But recently, it’s become less of a central factor as cloud CRM has become the preferred choice.

Gartner expects that trend to continue. 2019 will see cloud solutions account for 75% of the total spend on CRM software.

Our own research indicates a similar move toward the cloud. In speaking with more than 500 companies looking for a CRM last year, we found that 63% were solely looking for cloud-based applications while another 35% were open to the idea.

Cloud-based CRM brings a world of benefits to a business. With your software hosted in the cloud, there’s no need to worry about maintenance, security updates and other upkeep — the vendor handles it all.

Another key advantage is the flexibility cloud solutions offer. All users need is an internet connection, letting sales reps and others use the system from their home office, the airport and anywhere else.

That’s not to say on-premise deployment is ready to accept its place six feet under. It’s still a viable choice for some organizations. When looking at options for your company, keep your requirements at the forefront when determining which deployment method makes the most sense.

However, the cloud is certainly casting an ever-growing shadow across the CRM industry.

How Do I Select CRM Software?

Choosing software can be a complicated, time-consuming process. And with customer relationship management, there are literally thousands of solutions available to pick from. We’re here to make that journey more manageable and less stressful.

Whether you’re looking for a new system or your first CRM, our free comparison report is a great place to start. It’ll give you a rundown of the top products available so you can take your search in the right direction from the get-go.

We’ve also put together a number of CRM resources for you to peruse:

Recent Articles

Reports and Research

Confidence Comes from Data

CRM software selection is complex and beset with problems for both IT buyers and solution providers. We do 3 things to make it fast and simple:

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Professional Analysis

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Your Guides

Our industry journalists proudly distill the helpful information you read on SelectHub, always on the mission to share what matters to you can make your best decisions independently.

CRM articles are written and edited by:

Zachary Totah

Market Analyst and Team Captain

As a Market Analyst and Team Captain at SelectHub, Zachary Totah develops articles for the CRM space and helps oversee processes and projects.

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Mariah Hansen

Lead Editor

As the lead editor at SelectHub, Mariah edits and manages content for more than 40 different software categories, as well as writing for a couple of them herself.

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Thought Leaders

SelectHub has sought out and invited thought leaders to contribute to our CRM industry articles and resources. These thought leaders ensure we deliver quality content with the most accurate information, focusing on what matters most. No thought leader is compensated for their contributions, but shares our belief that information should be democratized so everyone can make the best decision.

Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee

B2B Marketing Strategist and CEO

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc., who helps companies with complex sales

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David Deans

David H. Deans

Senior Partner, David H. Deans & Associates

David H. Deans is the Senior Partner of David H. Deans & Associates. As a seasoned entrepreneur, he has worked within the multinational telecommunications

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David Dozer

David Dozer

President of Blaze IT

David Dozer is a Business consulting and ERP specialist with more than 15 years of experience in the enterprise software realm.

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John Chan

John Chan

Co-Founder and CEO, Shrood

At Shrood, we’re passionate about bringing advanced business intelligence to a host of industries including Retail, Wholesale, Manufacturing and Supply Chain.

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Andy Crestodina

Andy Crestodina

Co-Founder and CMO, Orbit Media

Andy Crestodina is a co-founder and CMO of Orbit Media, an award-winning 38-person digital agency in Chicago.

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Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler

Co-Founder and Creative Director, Velocity Partners

Doug Kessler is co-founder and creative director of Velocity Partners, the London- and New York-based B2B content marketing agency (a Content Marketing Institute Agency of the Year).

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Bryan Eisenberg

Co-Founder, BuyerLegends

Bryan Eisenberg the co-founder of BuyerLegends and is the co-author of the Wall Street Journal & New York Times bestselling books “Call to Action”, “Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?”, “Always Be Testing” and “Buyer Legends:

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Working with customers can be a challenging task. Keeping up with contacts, correctly diagnosing problems and ensuring satisfaction as well as positive interactions can feel like the weight of the world on the shoulders of your customer relations team. CRM software can carry a lot of that workload for business and sales processes. A CRM opens up amazing opportunities for small businesses and large enterprises alike to thrive. Now more than ever, businesses need to expertly manage prospects and existing customers with great care. Using a platform with the best CRM features is an essential part of that strategy, so we compiled a CRM functionality list to help you get started.

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CRM software is a game-changer. It boosts productivity (up to 34% according to one report) and helps you capture customer information, track existing and potential customers, develop marketing campaigns, and automate almost every process. With an enterprise CRM software solution, the capabilities are even more powerful. However, with so many service providers, different solutions and their distinguished features, the CRM world can be highly confusing. How do you figure out what exactly you need?

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NetSuite is a well-known player in the CRM industry, offering a robust platform that provides a wide range of tools and valuable insights into the customer lifecycle. But every business has unique needs and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. So what if NetSuite is not the best choice for you? To help you explore the top NetSuite competitors, we’ve compiled a list of CRM software that serve as alternatives to NetSuite that cater to the complicated business needs of thousands of companies. Let’s take a look.

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