Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Explained

In any business, attracting, engaging, and keeping customers is key. As your business grows, it can get overwhelming to keep track of the stages in the selling lifecycle where your prospective and current clients are, making it imperative to implement customer relationship management.

What Is CRM?

Customer relationship management (CRM) is the process and tools through which your company develops and maintains a long-term relationship with its clients and customers. CRM software is designed to facilitate and automate common CRM activities, such as email outreach, lead generation, and contact management.

Read more: CRM vs ERP: What are the Key Differences?

How CRM Works

Your sales, marketing, and customer service activities all serve CRM. There are specific tools typical of CRM software that support your staff in these areas and help your business make smarter sales and marketing decisions.

  • Automation Tools: Automation tools help you schedule and manage your outreach efforts — whether via email, text, or some other means — so you can focus on other essential business activities.
  • Customer Data Collection & Organization: CRM software aggregates customer contact information, demographics, purchasing patterns, and much more. This goldmine of information gets richer over time, and will inform when and how you reach out to customers.
  • Reporting & Analytics: CRM software has the power to generate reports that alert you to past and current sales and marketing performance. It can point out strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities in your sales and marketing efforts.

The size of your business ultimately determines which of these CRM software tools might be useful. CRM becomes particularly essential as your business outgrows the SMB category; nevertheless, SMBs benefit from CRM as well.

Read more on CRM Strategy & Uses for Small Businesses

Benefits of CRM

CRM software supports a customer-focused sales and marketing strategy in a variety of ways.

Identify & Pursue the Most Promising Leads

Let’s say you’ve generated a ton of leads from a recent ad campaign. That’s great, but only a small fraction of those leads will actually convert. So how do you know which leads are part of that pool? Some CRM software can actually sift out the warm leads that are most likely to convert, so your sales team can pursue the most interested prospective customers.

Manage Contacts

With data on your side, you know when, how, and how often to contact customers on their terms. CRM software enables you to collect data on prospective and current customers, and use it to personalize your interactions with them.

Know What & When Customers Buy

With CRM software, you know your clients’ purchasing patterns. For example, if a client purchases your product roughly every three months, you may want to reach out and offer a subscription delivery service model. CRM software can also alert you to a change in buying patterns, so that you can upsell, cross sell, or downsell as needed.

Provide Exceptional Customer Service

As in any relationship, communication is key. CRM software enables open and frequent communication between you and your clients. Moreover, when customers inevitably run into issues with a product or service, CRM software facilitates swift redress to keep them happy.

SMBs as well as large businesses reap these benefits in using CRM software. However, depending on the size and maturity of your business, some of these benefits are going to be more or less immediately apparent in your sales and marketing efforts.

For example, while you’re aggressively growing your business in its early stages, you may notice first and foremost how CRM software boosts your ability to find and track down serious leads. The added benefit here is that targeted lead strategy is cost-efficient for young — often cash-strapped — businesses.

In contrast, for larger, more established businesses, the greatest improvement from CRM software might be in the area of customer service, as you leverage customer data and feedback to hold onto and grow your current customer base.

Examples of CRM Software


Nimble is CRM software that aids businesses of any size, but can help small businesses in particular with a variety of sales and marketing tasks, such as contact management. It also easily integrates with social media platforms, so you can meet customers on their terms in digital spaces.


HubSpot is a user-friendly CRM tool that serves a variety of needs. It offers five different hubs that allow you to centralize your sales, marketing, service, operations, and CMS priorities under one roof. Its content management features are especially beneficial for businesses that need an easy way to streamline their website efforts across sales and marketing teams.


Salesforce is a full-coverage CRM platform offering a wide range of solutions for sales and marketing teams and beyond. Sales Cloud, for instance, is geared towards sales teams and enables contact management, funnel management, personalized campaigns, and more.

Zendesk Sell

Zendesk Sell is cloud-based CRM software that is most suitable for medium to large businesses. Zendesk Sell helps you stay on top of customer support tickets, gain insights from analytics, follow promising leads, and capitalize on opportunities with predictive funnel analytics.


Zoho is a cloud-based app that specializes in lead management, but also automates tasks, generates reports, and more. Like other CRM solutions, Zoho also uses AI to predict the most promising leads. Zoho further integrates with Google Drive, Mailchimp, and other apps sales teams are likely to use on a daily basis. 

Additional CRM Resources

The providers listed above are just a few of the major CRM options that can help you keep your customers happy, but it can be difficult to choose the right CRM software for your particular business needs, size, and industry. Here are some additional resources to browse and learn more about customer relationship management:


Lauren Hansen
Lauren Hansen
Lauren Hansen is a writer for TechnologyAdvice, covering IT strategy and trends, enterprise networking, and PM software for,,, and When she's not writing about technology trends, she's working out or spending time with family.

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