Choosing the Best B2B CRM in 2024
As businesses become increasingly technology-driven and data-centric, there is an ever-increasing need for business customer relationship management amongst sales and marketing teams.
Business-to-business (B2B) customers have specific needs and requirements that require specialized tools to manage their sales cycle. B2B CRM software is designed specifically for this purpose and helps companies streamline the operations of customer relationship management (CRM) with more efficiency.
In this guide, we will provide you with an overview of B2B CRM benefits, features, and a list of key considerations to help you choose the best B2B CRM for your business in 2024.
What is a B2B CRM?
A B2B CRM system is like a GPS for your business. It directs your sales process, helps you navigate different customer scenarios, and provides real-time feedback that can inform your pipeline. Done right, this system is far more than a tracker for phone calls, deal management, and customer data.
Just as a GPS system considers the terrain and conditions to give you more accurate directions, a B2B CRM system takes into account all of the factors that influence your sales process. It helps you create a customized roadmap for your customer relationships, identify potential issues, and manage communication more efficiently.
In addition, in 2024, every CRM worth it's salt will provide insights into your projected cash flow, monitor sales performance at a granular level, and have a heavy influence over your entire sales and marketing plan.
Why does every company need a CRM?
A CRM is a powerful tool that can help you maximize customer relationships and sales opportunities. By utilizing a CRM system, companies are able to better understand their customer base, track customer interactions, automate certain processes, and optimize their sales pipeline.
It also creates a central repository for all your customer data, giving you a more comprehensive view of your customers and helps you make data-driven decisions.
You can also use a B2B CRM to better understand the customer experience and identify opportunities for improvement. With this information, you can create more effective marketing strategies and tailor your outreach to each customer's individual needs.
Why are B2B CRMs different than B2C?
Customer relationship management software is not created equal. Consumer-driven sales reps need quick, shallow data at a glance. With less of a focus on relationships and more so on sales cycle velocity, the data sets they need is far different. Business-to-consumer (B2C) CRMs are designed for a different customer journey.
Often, the CRM for a B2C company is as simple as keeping track of sales that have already occurred without and sales reps speaking with a customer (think e-commerce, apps, etc.). The sales reps in this environment could have little interaction with customers, if at all, so the CRM software this type of team needs to be transaction focused, not focused on customer relationship management.
If a sales team is involved in the process, it could be as simple as fielding a call from web forms on the website. Again, the type of CRM software needed for this is very much focused on a transaction-focused sales funnel.
In contrast, a B2B CRM is designed to foster long-term relationships and create an ongoing dialogue between customers and a sales team. A B2B CRM is the "sales hub" that allows you to combine a multitude of technologies, data sets, and alignment between sales and marketing teams.
In 2024, if you're marketing tools and sales management processes aren't aligned, you're going to lose the battle in market penetration. Marketing automation to nurture leads in ongoing deals is key while sales focuses on lead generation, speaking with every potential customer personally, and managing sales pipelines. If these processes are segmented, you end up with CRM platforms that cause more confusion and frustration than they do help.
What features should be in CRM?
The features of a B2B CRM can vary depending on the software and your company's needs. However, there are five specific features that every CRM system should have, regardless of the nuances of your specific sales funnel.
1) Monitor Customer Communications.
Your ability to see what is going on in every deal at all times is key. If a sales team isn't tracking what happened, the next step in the sales cycle for a specific deal, and a way to see customer conversations, you have a very expensive, annoying CRM without meaningful utility.
2) Visual Sales Pipeline Views
This isn't new. Seeing your existing and potential customers in visual sales pipelines has been around for a long time; however, it's rarely properly taken advantage of. Instead of glancing at "pretty charts", you should be able to see every conversion rate across every stage in each of your sales processes. In a world where complex sales cycles dominate the B2B sales space, it's imperative sales teams can quickly see what is working, what isn't, and how they're pacing.
3) Sales & Marketing Automation
While nearly every CRM platform can automate easy tasks like auto-logging emails and customer support activities, the name of the game in 2024 is true automation and alignment between sales and marketing.
Omnichannel marketing isn't just for marketing departments. Rather, sales and marketing need to be aligned in messaging across all platforms, channels, and conversations. To do that, a CRM software done correctly will act as the "source of truth" for both departments, no matter how many other marketing automation tools and sales tools are used on top of it.
Common features that every meaningful CRM software has include:
- Email marketing
- Workflow automation
- Outbound marketing and lead generation
- Web forms
When sales and marketing are working off the same data and take advantage of the features mentioned above, you start to create a true customer journey and frankly, have a less annoying CRM!
4) Lead Scoring
While lead scoring is part of lead generation and marketing automation, it deserves its own category here. If you're not familiar, see here for what lead scoring is and why you need it.
Your sales funnel is going to be full of sales leads at any given time with prospects from lead generation, potential customers in your sales pipeline, and existing business customers with growth opportunities. The reality is these leads aren't created equal. Providing sales teams with lead scoring in their CRM software helps them focus on priority leads.
Prioritization (higher lead score) comes from a prospect's engagement with marketing campaigns, web forms, demographical information, and other data that might be in your CRM platform. This doesn't just help sales teams know which leads to target. Good B2B CRM software is also going to solve problems with marketing attribution, campaign influence modeling, and channel spending.
5) System Integrations
There isn't a sales team in the world that doesn't use multiple tools for deal management in conjunction with their B2B CRM software. On top of that, marketing tools range from ad platforms to enrichment software to project management. Incorporating all of these into your "source of truth", simplifies everything. Simplicity is what creates a well-oiled sales funnel.
Common integrations include:
- Lead generation tools
- Data enrichment platforms
- Website analytics and user tracking
- Reporting tools and business intelligence (BI) software
- Intent data for outbound sales efforts
If you don't combine each of these tools in your B2B CRM software, you end up with disjointed, complex efforts that often conflict with one another in messaging, timing, and deal management practices.
What CRM trends are emerging in '23?
While the section above is focused on what features every B2B CRM software should have for a B2B sales process, that doesn't cover emerging technologies that are strong "nice to haves". As technology continues to evolve, so do B2B CRM systems. In 2024, we can expect to see a greater focus on personalization and automation.
1) Artificial intelligence (AI)
From chatbots to predictive analytics, AI is quickly becoming integral to a successful B2B CRM system. AI can help automate tedious tasks such as data entry, lead generation, identifying current customers sales potential, and lead scoring. It can also enable personalization at scale by gathering insights from past customer interactions and recommending relevant content or products that meet the customer’s needs.
2) Mobile CRMs
More businesses are turning to mobile apps to manage their customer relationships. While companies aren't visiting prospects like they used to, sales teams are working from home, on the go, and even abroad more often than they ever have before. Mobile B2B CRMs allow businesses to provide better customer service on the go, while also giving customers access to important information and updates at any time.
3) Persona-based segmentation
Rather than just segmenting customers by basic demographics, CRMs are now able to get more granular by creating customer personas. Companies can use this information to develop targeted marketing campaigns based on each customer's individual needs and interests.
This segmentation, similar to lead scoring criteria, can take into account lead engagement with marketing campaigns, website behavior, demographic information, and more. While lead scoring is the process of assigning numerical values to a lead, segmentation is the cornerstone of sending the right messaging to each lead with communication that will actually resonate.
4) Industry-specific CRMs
Every industry has its own unique needs, and companies are beginning to develop B2B CRM solutions that cater to these specific requirements. Take wealth management and financial advisory for example, as described here. These industry-specific CRMs provide pre-built features and functionality that make it easier for companies to get up and running quickly.
The process of deal management for an insurance brokerage is going to be far different than SaaS and professional services. Large CRM platforms are making special suites for each industry, but there's also a strong push for CRMs built solely for each industry, without the fluff or noise from more generic systems.
5) Self service
More companies are providing their customers with self-service portals that let them access information and purchase products or services without having to talk to customer service. By empowering customers, companies can streamline the customer experience and reduce average resolution times.
It might sound odd to have customers access your CRM platform, but most systems provide portals, web forms, or similar to help them provide you the data you need without hindering sales cycle velocity.
How to choose the best CRM for you?
Your choice of a B2B CRM system should depend on the needs of your business and how you plan to use it. Consider the following when making a decision:
1) Identify your needs
Every business has different needs, and a B2B CRM can be tailored to those specific requirements. Focus on the features that are essential for your company's success. For example, if you need a detailed view of your sales pipeline, choose one with a robust visualization engine.
If you depend on customer data for decision-making, make sure that the CRM you choose has advanced analytics tools that can provide up-to-date insights into customer behavior.
2) Score the features and functionality
Most B2B CRM systems offer a similar set of features, including customer data management, automation of sales processes, reporting, and analytics. The differences are in how well they actually do those things and what that means for your business. Try to score and weigh each feature's capabilities and ease of use. For instance, an advanced system should have enough flexibility to be adapted to your existing business practices.
Another example is real-time data processing. How quickly your B2B CRM system can process customer information and provide actionable insights is vital for the success of any B2B company, especially if it deals with large volumes of customer data.
3) Think about scalability
As you add customers and new products, you'll need a system to help manage the increasing complexity of customer interactions. Make sure that the system you choose can accommodate your company's growth and provide enough flexibility to meet future needs.
Look for a B2B CRM that has a cloud-based infrastructure and one that's easy to integrate with other third-party applications. This will make it easier to scale up quickly when facing unexpected demand.
4) Put Customer Relationships First
The last thing you want is a complicated system that frustrates customers and employees alike. Look for a B2B CRM that is user-friendly and easy to navigate, so users can quickly find the information they need. If your sales reps are frustrated, it will inherently create a more awkward dynamic when they're struggling to manage the deals, track and involve multiple decision makers, and generate leads.
Ideally, the system should also have features such as automated customer support, personalized recommendations, and mobile access for on-the-go use. This will make it easier for customers to get the help they need and provide a better overall experience.
5) Security should be a top priority
GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA have made it clear that customer data must be stored in a secure environment. Make sure that the B2B CRM you choose has strong security measures in place to protect customer information from identity theft and other malicious activities.
Basics such as data encryption and two-factor authentication should be provided, along with additional features such as role-based access control and automated alerts for suspicious activity.
Best practices for using a B2B CRM?
In order to get the most out of your B2B CRM, it is important to understand best practices for using the system. Here are some tips to help you get started:
1) Create clear goals and objectives
The more specific your goals are, the easier it will be to measure success and determine whether or not you are achieving them. Determine what you want to accomplish with your CRM and set realistic goals that can be evaluated over time.
2) Make customer data collection a priority
In order for your B2B CRM system to be effective, it needs up-to-date customer information. Set up processes for collecting data from customers and ensure that all the relevant contact and account information is stored in the system.
3) Streamline your sales process
A B2B CRM system should automate many of the manual tasks associated with customer management, such as lead tracking and follow-up. Use the tools available in your chosen system to streamline processes and free up time for more productive activities.
4) Customize analytics reports
Analytics are essential for gaining insights into customer behavior and the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Use the analytics features in your B2B CRM system to create customized reports that can be used to make informed decisions about future strategies.
5) Train employees on how to use the system
The success of a B2B CRM depends heavily on employee buy-in and adoption. Ensure all users are properly trained on how to use the system and take advantage of its features. Provide ongoing support and guidance so employees can get the most out of their B2B CRM experience.
Who are the industry sales CRM leaders in 2024?
As mentioned above, industries are creating their own CRMs to serve their unique needs. However, there are a few CRM systems that tend to stand out above the rest. These CRM systems already cover the basics without customization: document management, key marketing features, communications tracking, and pipeline management.
1) Salesforce CRM
Salesforce CRM is an industry leader because of its comprehensive set of features and capabilities. Its scalability makes it suitable for businesses of all sizes, while its product suite allows users to manage customer data, track leads, automate workflows and more.
Additionally, Salesforce provides a wide variety of integrations that can be used to connect with other business systems such as marketing automation, accounting and analytics. Salesforce also offers top-tier customer support that ensures users are always able to quickly resolve any issues they may face while using the platform.
2) HubSpot CRM
HubSpot CRM is an industry leader because of its intuitive user interface and powerful automation capabilities. It includes a range of tools that make it easy to track customer data, manage contacts, set goals and create workflows.
Furthermore, HubSpot also provides powerful marketing tools such as lead capture forms, email campaigns and advanced analytics. These tools enable users to get insights into customer behavior and measure the success of their marketing efforts. Finally, HubSpot's top-tier customer service ensures that users receive timely assistance when they need it most.
3) Microsoft Dynamics
Microsoft Dynamics CRM is an industry leader for enterprise companies due to its extensive feature set and scalability. It offers powerful tools to manage customer data, track leads, automate workflows and more. Additionally, Dynamics CRM provides a range of integrations that can be used to connect with popular business systems such as ERP, marketing automation and analytics.
With its advanced analytics module, users can easily measure the success of their campaigns and obtain critical insights into customer behavior. Furthermore, Microsoft's superior customer service ensures that any issues faced while using the platform are quickly resolved.
4) Pipedrive CRM
Pipedrive CRM is an industry leader for small companies due to its user-friendly interface and powerful automation capabilities. It includes a wide range of features such as custom fields, task management, team collaboration, and lead scoring that help users save time and increase their productivity.
It also provides options to connect with popular third-party applications such as Slack, Google Calendar, Stripe and Google Sheets. Finally, Pipedrive's excellent customer service ensures that any issues faced while using the platform are quickly resolved.
5) Zoho CRM
Zoho offers powerful tools for managing customer data, tracking leads, automating workflows and more. However, Zoho also provides dozens of integrations with popular business applications such as ERP, marketing automation and analytics.
In addition, users can take advantage of the integrated analytics module that allows them to measure the success of their campaigns and obtain insights into customer behavior. Finally, Zoho's superior customer service ensures that any issues faced while using the platform are quickly resolved.