The latest customer relationship management (CRM) applications have introduced new features not available in legacy solutions, as well as more accessible deployment options for businesses of all sizes. These two characteristics combined for massive growth, with Forbes reporting a projected $127.5 billion market by 2018. CRM vendors are making heavy investments in their solutions to try to gain a competitive advantage as these applications shift from the enterprise to mid-sized and small businesses. Modern CRMs particularly excel at improving your company's lead generation efforts through several key features.

Social Media Prospecting

Social media gives you critical data for your lead generation efforts, but you don't have the time to manually look through your prospects' profiles every day. This feature brings key information, mentions and responses into your CRM. You get greater customer insight and the opportunity to personalize your prospecting efforts. Business2Community reports 60 percent of buyers with a strong connection to a company choose that business over its competitors, even if it doesn't offer the lowest price. Social media gives you a solid starting point to begin that relationship with a potential customer.

Lead Scoring

Do you spend a lot of time on unqualified leads? You have a sales quota to meet, so your company achieves its revenue goals. Lead scoring looks at your prospect data and rates the leads based on the possibility of a sale. You get to make the best use of your time by targeting customers at the end of their buyer’s journey.

Better Data Accuracy

Data quality influences your sales productivity in several significant ways. Duplicated leads put you in a position where a prospect gets contacted by multiple sales staff. They get frustrated by repeated contact. If they do end up buying, you face a complicated attribution situation. Human error in data entry may result in incorrect or incomplete contact information. Ringlead reports 44 percent of customer data contains problems, which leads to lower productivity for the sales team. Modern CRMs automate data population, deduplicate entries and streamline the database auditing process.

Audience Segmentation through Data Integration

Marketing, customer support, accounting and other departments have data useful for your sales efforts, but this information often exists behind a silo. The sales department doesn't have complete prospect information, which makes them miss the mark on potential opportunities. New CRM applications support integration throughout the organization. The customer data helps you better segment your audience, so you can customize your sales messages and presentations for their needs. Protocol 80 reports that sales departments using segmentation effectively increase their chances for a win by 48 percent.

Automated Lead Nurturing

You spend a lot of time developing relationships with your prospects and sending them content designed to move them closer to a purchase. Modern CRM solutions automate this process by looking at your prospect data and selecting the right lead nurturing material. You don't have to worry about being at your computer when they reach critical decision points, as the CRM automatically detects this and delivers the content. You get more time to explore opportunities requiring the human touch, giving demos and closing the sale.

New CRM applications innovate your sales techniques and help you improve your lead generation efforts. Whether you want to get more leads or improve the quality of your current prospects, these features will give you a substantial competitive advantage.

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