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Customer relationship management software is mainly known as a customer database, but a good CRM system can do a lot more.

Whether linked with other applications or as a standalone – modern CRM systems have become versatile platforms for an all-round support of opportunities and customers. In the following article I will name some valuable applications and functions to give you an overview of what is possible with a CRM system and how it can be used.

At a glance:

  1. Capture customer data
  2. Prepare and follow up customer meetings
  3. Manage appointments & plan routes
  4. Create reports and evaluate forecasts
  5. Next best actions / offers / generated content
  6. Manage service problems
  7. Create offers
  8. Manage social media contacts
  9. Support existing customers
  10. Create customer segments
  11. Power apps for individual software needs
  12. Communication templates
  13. E-mail links
  14. Capture customer data

First things first. Of course, a CRM system can capture customer data. But there are numerous advantages and functions that optimize working with opportunities as well as new and existing customers.

Number one is the advantage of a central database. It ensures that all customer data is collected and can be processed. This not only provides a better overview of all contacts, but also facilitates data protection measures.

Collected customer data can be categorized and segmented as desired. For example, you can link contacts that belong to the same company. Even company networks can be marked so it is easier for sales to trace relationships (for example, with subsidiaries or partner companies).

By the way, this is also a good approach for account-based marketing, i.e. to continue looking after existing customers and to position offers in other departments of the company.

Getting to know contacts better

One of the biggest advantages of modern CRM systems is the intuitive interface and the „drill-down“ option. Customer and contact data can be viewed at any time and is presented in a simple, structured way, so that, for example, the latest interactions, open orders or recommended content are displayed. Further details can often be viewed with a click on the corresponding info (drill-down), for example on individual orders, call histories or linked contacts.

This view can even be extended with peripheral systems:

  • With Marketing Automation links interactions with marketing campaigns can be measured and viewed
  • Social media links provide information on where and how the contact is active on networks, what interests them and with whom they are connected.
  • And links to an online store platform provide information on which offers the contact has looked at or which ones are already in their shopping cart.

Advantages for the sales department:

  • An overview that can be customized
  • Information on the entire customer history
  • No tedious gathering of information
  • Easy synchronization as soon as new information is added
  1. Prepare and follow up customer meetings

The informative contact overviews provide the perfect template for organizing customer meetings. With a glance at the history, sales can see, for example, which topics, content and pages interest the contact and whether there have been previous interactions.

A good CRM tool can already use this information to make recommendations for quotations and content and thus support the sales team in their preparations.

For the follow-up of the conversation, the company can create standardized question catalogs that are filled out by the respective sales representative. This allows information to be better structured and used for KPIs.

With a cloud-based application, it is also possible to fill out the questionnaire directly afterwards. Even if the sales rep is offline on the road, the data is stored on their device and synchronized with the central database as soon as a network is available.

Another advantage of the cloud is that sales reps can choose which device they travels with. Tablets might be suitable for demonstrations or videos and can also help with digital contract signing. Meanwhile, smartphones are perfect for trade shows and conferences, because with the right app they can scan business cards and transfer their information automatically to the CRM system.

Once the data is synchronized with the customer meeting, predefined, automated processes can be set in motion. For example, colleagues can receive a message with the information they need to draw up contracts and price models in order to prepare an offer directly. Or they can immediately check newly generated contacts (at a trade show, for example) and segment them accordingly.

Advantages for the sales department:

  • Standardized conversaion specifications
  • Necessary content is provided
  • Conversation documentation is synchronized immediately
  • Offline usage is possible
  1. Manage appointments & plan routes

A seemingly small, but necessary advantage for traveling sales people is the management of customer appointments combined with intelligent route planning. Of course, the sales department has its individual calendar embedded in the dashboard of the CRM system and can access it at any time. Ideally, the calendar is linked to their own smartphone, the e-mail browser of choice and other important applications and devices. This allows appointments to be easily synchronized.

With an e-mail link, the appointment function also enables the sales department to make and set appointments without having to leave the CRM system. The customer receives the appointment by e-mail.

Another exciting added value is the route planning. For example, there are already CRM functions that can precisely evaluate which contacts are close to each other to combine two or three customer visits on one trip.

In addition, the perfect route/journey planning can also be set to ensure that the sales rep arrives safely.

Advantages for the sales department:

  • Simple appointment planning at a glance
  • Synchronization with other calendars
  • Route planning for efficient meetings
  • Route planning for a fast trip
  1. Create reports and evaluate forecasts

There is hardly a CRM tool that does not offer analytics options. Especially in the area of reports and forecasting, fast and intelligent data processing is a valuable companion for daily sales work. It is also valuable for annual planning and estimation of key performance indicators that help make major decisions.

Forecasting can be used to define probable targets based on past and current numbers, predict market developments and identify trends. The more data sets available, the more accurate the forecasting can be. Of course, this also requires high data quality.

Smart forecasts have the advantage that they adapt to the given data. This means that targets are set that can be realistically achieved. Potential hurdles, setbacks or slumps are detected early and can therefore be addressed more quickly (e.g. market changes due to a pandemic).

The individual dashboards of a CRM system also enable individual forecasts, so that everyone can see their goals. For example, the sales manager wants to see the overall success of the team at first glance. However, the drill-down function can also be used to view individual performances or performance according to defined criteria, such as industries, offers or quarters.

Meanwhile, the individual sales employee can view their own goals and successes on a daily basis. In this way, even „lean periods“ can be identified early on. Comparisons with results from the previous month or year can also be used to determine whether it is normal, for example, to do less business in late summer or whether there might be other reasons for this.

Advantages for the sales department:

  • AI-generated forecasts that match the real figures
  • Customizable reports
  • Drill-down functions
  • Identifying potential hurdles early on
  1. Next best actions / offers / generated content

Next Best Actions or Next Best Content are analytics methods that generate recommendations for individual contacts. These are based on the behavior of the contact and other similar contacts.

With Next Best Content, interesting, relevant content is recommended, such as blog posts, white papers, fact sheets, videos, etc. These are particularly helpful in the qualification phase, but also in the support of existing customers, in order to build a relationship based on trust.

Meanwhile, the Next Best Action recommends action steps that are generated in a similar way. Depending on how the contact has behaved so far, it is compared with similar contacts who have made a purchase. The action that has led to a purchase in most cases with similar contacts is then suggested. This can be a phone call, a proposed appointment, or the sending of a customer demo.

The Next Best Offer can be used in particular with existing customers to up- or cross-sell. In turn, recommendations are generated based on previous behavior, which are highly likely to be received positively by the contact.

Advantages for the sales department:

  • Making the right decisions for customers
  • Based on successful customer interactions
  • The application learns with new data sets
  • The time required for research/information procurement is greatly reduced
  1. Manage service problems

Even though sales and service are usually separate company divisions, especially in the B2B market, sales is the customer’s first point of contact and must therefore also partially take over communication during support issues.

In most cases, CRM software not only provides an overview of currently open customer orders and problems, but also has internal communication channels for chatting or e-mailing with service colleagues directly in the dashboard and querying the status. This also makes customer care easier, since sales can, for example, obtain information about current service cases before a customer meeting and respond to them directly during the conversation. In addition, potential offers can be paused if there is a rather acute problem.

Advantages for the sales department:

  • Simple overview of current service cases
  • Possibility for proactive de-escalation
  • Better preparation for customer appointments
  • Sales as contact person and helper of the customer
  1. Create offers

CPQ software (Configure, Price, Quote) helps to determine price and contract models, especially for products that are highly customizable.

CPQ add-ons are now available for most CRM systems. This allows discounts, product differences, subscription variants, but also special features in the contract to be taken into account. Sources of error in the offer are thus reduced and both supplier and customer receive full transparency of the price structure. This reduces friction, shortens sales cycles and strengthens trust.

Advantages for the sales department:

  • Automated quotation generation
  • Individually adjustable criteria
  • Transparency for sales and customers
  • Shorter buying cycle
  1. Manage social media contacts

As already mentioned, most modern CRM systems can be linked to social media networks. This allows social media activities of contacts and customers to be tracked. Opportunities are identified and campaigns are planned directly on the social networks.

With applications such as the LinkedIn Sales Tool, additional analytics benefits can also be used to identify new customer groups, gain greater reach for relevant topics and place your own offers at the right time.

Advantages for the sales department:

  • Overview of relevant topics that interest customers
  • Use of networks to develop new contacts
  • Personal support for existing customers
  • Campaign management and reports
  1. Support existing customers

It has become apparent that existing customers are vital for companies in times of crisis. This makes it all the more important that they are not only contacted when business figures deteriorate, but that they are also continuously looked after on sunny days. Marketing Automation can take over topics such as newsletters, events and content management, but a CRM system also provides additional support by alerting sales, for example, if a contact has not been contacted for a long time or has shown interest in an offer (for example, by visiting the online store, etc.).

In addition, the contact networks already mentioned can be used to easily open up further business areas of a customer. A supplier of office furniture who has taken over the interior design for a Munich location of a globally operating insurance company can thus also identify other branches for their products.

The use of buyer personas – i.e. representative fictitious customer profiles – also allows the needs and requirements of various stakeholders in decision-making groups (buying centers).

Advantages for the sales department:

  • Long-term support for existing customers
  • Reminder for contract renewals or after a longer inactive phase
  • Warning for customers in danger of jumping off
  • Marketing Automation option for professional support (through newsletters, event offers, etc.)
  1. Create customer segments

Customer segments are used by the sales department to present offers, promotions and events to those customers who are most likely to respond positively to them. Segments can be easily filtered by industry, but also by personas or behavior.

With the use of artificial intelligence, there are now increasingly better ways of identifying customer groups through evaluations and thus finding commonalities that might not have been noticed at first glance.

This enables sales to use the right channels and effectively place messages to increase conversion rates.

Advantages for the sales department:

  • Smartly created customer segments
  • Customer segments are also made up of customer behavior
  • More targeted addressing of specific customer groups
  • Greater campaign success
  1. Power apps for individual software needs

Power Apps play a growing role in the CRM area. These apps can be created according to individual requirements using the low code/no code method, i.e. without extensive programming skills. From a tool set consisting of various options and data sets, the sales department can develop apps for the entire team or for individual employees that fulfill different functions:

  • Appointment reminders
  • Reminders when customer contracts expire, so as to enter into renegotiations with customers at an early stage
  • Automated reports on specific opportunities, customer groups or KPIs
  • Information when specific customers (groups of customers) go through certain processes
  • etc.

Power Apps have the advantage that the development hurdle is very low, but the area of application can be broadly defined. This means that even a small app that was developed from an individual need can quickly become an employee app used throughout the company if it turns out that the need was not so individual.

Advantages for the sales department:

  • Individual functionalities for employees and teams
  • Innovation potential for the entire company
  • Using customer data smart
  • Relief of IT / More autonomy in the choice of applications

Find out more about Power Apps and how you can use them in your company on our information page.

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  1. Communication templates

Whether in conjunction with marketing automation or standalone: CRM systems can provide templates for use to standardize and simplify the setup of e-mails, events or portfolios.

As a result, branding remains true to the brand, but content can be customized as needed.

Advantages for the sales department:

  • Scalability of e-mails, campaigns, etc.
  • Time for research and preparation is greatly reduced
  • Uniformly professional appearance towards customers
  • Templates can still be adapted/enriched for a personalized approach
  1. E-mail links

The link to e-mail programs can and should be used in a CRM system to reduce the switch from one application to the next, so that the CRM in the end is virtually the digital desk for the sales department, on which research, reports, customer care, scheduling, etc. can be done.

The advantage of an e-mail link is not only that communication can take place directly via the tool, but also that call histories are saved with the contact and can thus be traced later. Synchronization with the calendar is also worthwhile in scheduling, so that it is easy to see when the respective sales rep still has free resources. This can also be extended, for example to view the resources of colleagues if necessary.

Advantages for the sales department:

  • Organize all activities on one interface
  • Easy scheduling
  • Information overview of all conversation processes
  • Use of Template Templates

Does your CRM system meet your requirements? Or are you still searching? We gladly support you in CRM evaluation and implementation as well as optimization. Find out more on our info page.

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