The 6 Essential Integrations Your CRM Platform Needs
To answer your first question: Why CRM integration? Because in order to realize the maximum return on your CRM investment, you need to integrate your platform with as many workflows as possible.
Most CRM software provides some level of sales automation, analytics, and tools that enable your salespeople to collaborate more effectively. But it’s often been said – and rightly – that a CRM platform’s helpfulness is limited by the degree to which it’s adopted throughout your organization.
The exact ways in which those workflows will integrate into your CRM platform depend on how your organization is structured. For example, you may or may not handle a high volume of phone calls, a large amount of email and social media outreach, or an extensive customer support organization.
In any case, you’ll derive a lot more value from your CRM software – and gain clearer insight into your business’s everyday processes, along with insights into how to address inefficiencies – when you bring in data from certain core systems.
Here are six CRM integration best practices. Even if your business doesn’t deal with all these areas yet, you may find that your new CRM toolkit gives you exactly the resources you need to take advantage of them, in order to expand the level of service you provide to your customers.
Your email provider
Whether you’ve been using a web-based email platform like Gmail, or locally installed email software like Outlook, your productivity will receive a major boost when you integrate all your email network into your CRM system. Managing your emails within your CRM platform will help streamline your sales workflows, centralize internal and external communications, and enable you to discover new opportunities you might have missed otherwise.
The most immediate reason for these benefits is that your CRM platform will keep all emails and related data in one single, easy-to-access place. This means that when a message from a prospect pops up in a salesperson’s inbox, they won’t have to go digging through their own personal file system in search of all the relevant documents, call recordings and other assets. Instead, they can simply click on the prospect’s pipeline in the CRM software, and easily find every piece of info they need to move the deal forward.
When your CRM platform is integrated with your email provider, it’s able to provide this unified organization by relating all emails to the correct leads, accounts, companies and opportunities. Your salespeople won’t have to waste time organizing emails and attachments into folders, because the CRM software will do that automatically. This will enable your sales staff to spend less time on repetitive “grunt work,” and more time building relationships with clients.
Meanwhile, your CRM system’s integration with your email provider will give you access to a wide array of email-related analytics, which will allow you to see which recipients have opened which emails, clicked which links within them, and performed other actions within the digital side of your sales pipeline. Armed with this information, your salespeople will be better equipped to meet each prospect with the most impactful message for the precise stage of the customer journey they’ve reached.
Along the way, CRM analytics integrated with email communications can help forecast new opportunities, by anticipating the calls, documents and messaging most likely to be relevant to each prospect. Your CRM software may even be able to leverage data on your communication patterns to proactively predict new audience segments, and recommend unusual avenues of customer outreach that would never have occurred to you.
If your salespeople are still keeping their own separate personal calendars, it’s time to put an end to that problem right now. On the other hand, you might already be using a shared calendaring system like Gmail or Outlook calendar – in which case it’ll be all the easier to bring your collaborative schedule into your CRM system.
In either case, a single CRM-centric calendar will help make sure that all deals stay on schedule, commitments get met, important calls and meetings don’t overlap (or get missed), and salespeople are properly equipped to collaborate and support one another at the most crucial points in the pipeline.
Your CRM software’s ability to automatically sync schedules can save your sales staff a lot of time. Instead of a flurry of emails and calls to coordinate meetings, each salesperson can simply schedule the event on the CRM calendar, and the software will propagate it to everyone else’s devices. In fact, some CRM software even offers built-in tools for negotiating and agreeing on meeting times – saving everyone the hassle of dealing with complex email chains.
One of the most vital sources of data on your leads is – of course – your website. Whether you’re capturing millions of business-to-customer (B2C) prospects, or cultivating key contacts in a business-to-business (B2B) sales pipeline, integrating your website and CRM platform will help centralize your customer data, streamline your deals, and maybe even reduce churn.
Once your website and CRM solution are talking to one another, you’ll always have access to the latest data, without having to wonder whether a salesperson has forgotten to enter an order into the system, or whether all new leads are being routed to the correct team members. Plus, instead of spending hours copying and pasting customer data, your sales team will be able to focus on fine-tuning their pipelines.
But integrating CRM with business intelligence tools doesn’t only cut down on repetitive data entry – it can also help reduce the time it takes for your team to respond to prospects’ questions, and enable them to deliver more relevant, helpful replies. Each time a new lead comes in via your website, your CRM software can immediately route it to the correct team, depending on the product or service in question, or any other factors you specify. This means each prospect will always get a response from the right team member, about exactly the topic they’re interested in.
By enabling your sales staff to respond to prospects’ questions in a targeted, informed way, this integration between your website and CRM platform can also help cut down on customer churn. Customers who contact you via your website will be automatically integrated into your CRM pipeline, so your salespeople can guide them smoothly along their journey to a purchase.
Your customer support platform
Since you’ll be integrating your website’s analytics and lead-capturing functionality with your CRM platform, it only makes sense to integrate the support side of your organization as well. The customer’s journey doesn’t stop once they’ve made a purchase – ideally, that journey continues on into a relationship that, if cultivated well, can yield returns on your investment for years to come. But in order to forge that relationship as strongly as possible, you’re going to need a centralized repository of all relevant data on each customer.
A full 51 percent of small businesses are still using a dedicated customer service system (CSS) entirely separate from their CRM platform – but this is a big mistake. Research has shown that 84 percent of customers feel frustrated when a customer support agent doesn’t have the information they provided at some other point on their customer journey. In other words, information gaps on the support side lead to lost sales, angry customers and bad reviews.
But when you integrate your CSS with your CRM platform, your support staff will have access to all relevant data about each customer, no matter where in the sales or support pipeline that data was gathered. This means they’ll be in a much better position to greet each customer by name, follow up on issues raised in previous communication, and resolve the issue in a timely manner – helping close more sales, delight more customers, and boost your business’s reputation.
Your phone system
If your sales and support organization is highly focused on phone conversations, then your CRM platform is about to make your life a whole lot easier. When your phone workflow is integrated into your CRM system, you’ll gain a clear overall view of how time is spent on each call – but more importantly, your salespeople will have easy access to information gathered over the phone, which may prove highly useful as they guide prospects toward a sale, and provide ongoing support.
Many CRM solutions enable sales and support team members to log and record calls from a phone dashboard, and file calls along with notes, documents and other useful data, for themselves or other sales team members to access on future calls. And since your CRM software will also integrate all this phone-related info with customer data from other touchpoints, every member of your sales and support staff will have a ready repository of relevant facts, any time a call comes in.
Some CRM software even provides one-click VoIP dialling, right inside the platform itself. But whether your sales and support teams are dialling from within your CRM platform, or are just routing their calls through it, your CRM software can help route calls to the right departments, reducing hold times and dropped calls, and keeping your customers happier.
Your marketing automation and social media
While B2C businesses tend to focus on customer outreach at scale, B2B organizations tend to be more interested in cultivating smaller numbers of leads through complex deal pipelines. All the same, your organization most likely utilizes some form of marketing automation – and if you don’t, you should – so it’s time to integrate that functionality with your CRM platform, and organize all your customer outreach under one central dashboard.
Whether you’re handling email automation within your main CRM system, or using a specialized service like MailChimp or HubSpot, you’ll streamline your workflow significantly – and gain a clearer overview of your performance – when you bring that functionality into your CRM platform. You’ll be able to score and segment leads you’ve acquired via email, and use insights gained from your email campaigns to drive more targeted service throughout the support and customer nurturing processes.
On the social media side, many CRM platforms offer integrations with Twitter, Facebook and similar platforms, so your social outreach team won’t have to keep track of dozens of logins and passwords anymore. But that’s just the beginning. When you integrate your social media activity within your CRM platform, you’ll be able to schedule posts and tweets for future times and dates, track responses and engagement across multiple social platforms, and get more accurate reporting on your audience segments, and on the feelings of your customers.
As you consider which of your existing systems to integrate into your new CRM platform, it’s important to keep in mind that no CRM software is designed to do everything (no matter what the vendor might claim). Very often a third-party solution may provide exactly the functionality you need – and that’s fine. There may still be an opportunity to bring in data from that tool, in order to allow your CRM software to include it in your analytics and reporting.
And amid all the emphasis on streamlining sales pipelines and maximizing efficiency on the phone, it’s also crucial not to lose sight of what makes your sales organization so effective: that you don’t treat your team members like parts in a machine, but as human beings, who work hard to cultivate meaningful relationships with your customers. In other words, don’t use your CRM system to micromanage your teams, but to empower them with more actionable data, clearer customer insights, and tighter control over the documents and communications they need throughout every stage of your sales pipeline.