What Is a CRM? And How Does it Help Businesses?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Discover CRM systems and the capabilities they have to help your business grow.

[Featured Image]:  A woman in a yellow sweater sits in front of her desktop in her office.

What is CRM?

CRM stands for customer relationship management and refers to the combination of strategies and technologies businesses use to optimize customer engagement and make the best use of data. Overall, customer relationship management combines sales, marketing, and service under one system and/or strategy so that teams can align their efforts to meet their organization’s goals. 

A strong CRM strategy accounts for all stages of the buyer’s journey, from when a potential customer becomes aware of your brand to after they make a purchase and become a loyal, repeat customer.  

Keep reading to discover how CRM systems work, which ones are the most common, and how to get started in CRM. 

What is a CRM system and what can it do? 

The main purpose behind a CRM system such as Salesforce or Hubspot is to use data and automation to achieve company revenue goals. Let’s explore some typical CRM system capabilities. 

Customer experience 

Settings and features within CRM systems can improve customer experience in several ways, including automating replies to support requests, signaling when to follow up with cold and warm leads, and customizing messages to fit customers’ specific needs. 


CRM systems allow sales teams to monitor the sales pipeline and categorize leads to prioritize their outreach efforts and drive sales.  

Read more: What Is a Sales Pipeline and How Do You Build a Successful One? 


CRM systems can streamline audience targeting to help reach niche audiences during a campaign or message customers at various stages in the buyer’s journey. That way, audiences get the content they need exactly when they need it so they can make empowered buying decisions. 

Read more: What Is a Niche Market? And How To Reach One

Collaboration across teams

When data is widely accessible, teams have more opportunities for impactful collaborations and cross-functional work.   

Did you know? Global revenue from CRM systems increased from $13.93 billion to $69 billion between 2010-2020, according to findings from Statista [1]. 


How to get started with CRM 

Learning CRM can open up a variety of career opportunities in roles such as: 

  • CRM consultant. Guides organizations on how to improve their customer experience with recommendations for new strategies, systems, and training. 

  • CRM administrator. Provides IT support so organizations get the most out of their CRM systems. 

Review your career goals and follow these steps to get started. 

1. Gain relevant experience. 

Experience in sales, marketing, or customer service roles can build skills that transfer to CRM roles and use CRM tools. Here are examples:  

  • Starting your own business, building a customer base, and offering an engaging customer experience 

2. Take a CRM course.

One of the most direct ways to get to know CRM as a career field, set of strategies, and fleet of technologies is to take a course. Look for courses that cover the conceptual, strategic, and tactical aspects of CRM, including:  

  • Articulating business goals

  • Designing and delivering content that engages customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey

3. Practice using a CRM tool. 

Once you have some working knowledge of CRM and what it can enable for your career, it’s a good idea to learn how to use common CRM software.

Popular CRM systems include: 

Choose a CRM tool matching your career goals, whether to grow your business or seek employment in CRM. Consider the following factors: 

  • How a CRM’s features can help you grow your business 

  • Pricing options 

  • Learning curve 

  • Time it will take to import data and set up automation

  • The tools companies in your industry most use 


guided project

Introduction to CRM with HubSpot

In this project, we will develop and utilize a CRM in HubSpot and learn how to utilize our CRM to better grow and manage our business. HubSpot is a ...


(469 ratings)

16,609 already enrolled


Average time: 1 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Data Management, Marketing, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Customer Service, Sales Operations

Some of the tasks you’ll want to practice include: 

Importing data

Data might entail information about customers, sales, and marketing channel activity. You may be able to use actual data from your own business or simulate it with made-up information for learning purposes. 

Setting up automations

Automations help ensure important tasks get done without having to execute them manually. Practice automating email sequences to prospective and current customers and delivering freemium content to new subscribers. 

Monitoring results

Select a few metrics to measure for practice, such as email opens, social media mentions, and conversion rate, and set a date for checking in and deciding how to respond to the results. For example, if the email open rate is lower than you anticipated for a given time period, what improvements could you make to email subject lines to encourage more clicks from subscribers? 

Read more: What Is Email Marketing? And How to Do It

Discover CRM with Coursera. 

Online courses can be a great way to build CRM knowledge and skills and discover career opportunities. Check out these options from industry leaders, Salesforce and Hubspot. 


professional certificate

Salesforce Sales Development Representative

Unlock your potential in tech sales. Build job-ready skills for an in-demand career as an entry-level Sales Development Representative (SDR). No degree or prior experience required.


(216 ratings)

18,602 already enrolled


Average time: 6 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Sales Development, interviewing, Sales, Time management, Cold Calling, teamwork, Personal Advertisement, Audience, Personal Branding, Resume writing, cold emailing, objection handling, Prospecting, video prospecting, sales engagement, Customer Relationship Management Software, empathy, Proactivity, Creative Problem Solving, Coachability, Communication


professional certificate

Salesforce Sales Operations

Launch Your Career in Salesforce. Learn the foundational skills in Salesforce needed to start a new career.


(433 ratings)

15,063 already enrolled


Average time: 4 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

CRM, Sales Operations, Salesforce Lightning, Sales, Salesforce, Salesforce Sales Cloud, Lead Management, Opportunity Management, Reports and Dashboards, Customer Success


professional certificate

HubSpot Sales Representative

Launch your career in inbound sales. Go from beginner to job ready in about 5 months and earn a Professional Certificate from HubSpot. No experience needed to get started.

1,271 already enrolled


Average time: 6 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Lead Management, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Sales Process Engineering, Inbound Sales, Sales Enablement, Content Creation, Customer Success, Sales, Outreach Sequence, Social Selling, Customer Experience, Inside Sales, Sales Presentation, Data Analysis, Data Management, Data Visualization (DataViz), Sales Team Management, Onboarding

Related articles 

Article sources

  1. Statista. “Customer relationship management (CRM) software revenue worldwide from 2010 to 2020, https://www.statista.com/statistics/294537/customer-relationship-management-crm-software-revenue-worldwid/.” Accessed July 25, 2022. 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

Learn without limits