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 person in a yellow sweater with a blue collar sits at a shared desk with a co-worker across from them while working on a monitor.

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 customer journey, from the moment a potential customer becomes aware of your brand to after they make a purchase and become a loyal, repeat customer.  

CRM industry leaders Monday and Salesforce predict that 2023 will see a tighter focus on customer retention and personalizing their experiences, more CRM processes powered by AI, and the use of mobile apps to access CRM data [1, 2]. With these trends in mind, you may find that customer relationship management is a rewarding career field for you to explore.

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 sales leads, and customizing messages to fit customers’ specific needs. When a business meets and exceeds customer expectations, customers are more likely to become loyal.

Take a quick peek at the Fundamentals of Lead Management in this video from the HubSpot Sales Representative professional certificate.

Lead management involves engaging and nurturing leads depending on their needs and goals.


CRM systems allow sales teams to monitor the sales pipeline and categorize leads to prioritize their marketing efforts and drive sales. The sales pipeline helps businesses or marketing teams visually track potential buyers as they progress through the purchasing process.

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 marketing 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


CRM systems can help customer service representatives resolve cases faster, enable customers to find solutions on their own, and automate service processes. These capabilities can save your business time and expense, while contributing to customer satisfaction.


CRM systems can create seamless ordering experiences, allow multiple payment methods and multiple channels, and expand your digital marketplace to third-party sellers.

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 [3]. 


How to get started with CRM 

Review your career goals and follow these steps to start your CRM journey:  

1. Explore CRM career paths.

Learning CRM can open up a variety of career opportunities. Roles you might come across in your research include:

A CRM consultant makes, on average, $141,708 in the US, and guides organizations on how to improve their customer experience with recommendations for new strategies, systems, and training [5]. 

A CRM administrator makes, on average, $74,637 in the US, and provides IT support so organizations get the most out of their CRM systems [6]. 

Other roles in which you might use a CRM include sales development representative, sales representative, and marketing manager.

*Salary data is taken from Glassdoor as of January 2023 and includes average base salary and additional pay such as bonuses and profit sharing.

2. 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:  

Read more: What Is a Salesforce Administrator? And How to Become One

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 or get a certification. Look for courses that cover the conceptual, strategic, and tactical aspects of CRM, including:  

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



Sales and CRM Overview

This course is the first of a series that aims to teach you the foundational skills in Salesforce that will prepare you for a variety of entry-level sales ...


(528 ratings)

28,392 already enrolled


Average time: 1 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

CRM, Sales Operations, Sales, Salesforce Sales Cloud, Salesforce

Read more: What Is a Salesforce Certification? Discover the Certifications Offered + How to Get One

3.  Research CRM tools.

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 tools. Explore a few options in the table below:

CRM systemCostFeatures
SalesforceStarts at $25/month after 30-day free trialSales automation, track customer activity, AI-powered data and workflows
MondayFree individual plan; $10/month basic planContact management, unlimited contacts, customizable pipelines, templates, use on iOS and Android apps
HubspotFree plan; $45/month starter planReporting dashboard, company insights, deal tracking, pipeline management
Freshsales CRMFree plan; $15/month growth planMultichannel engagement, AI-powered contact scoring, contact lifecycle stages, contact and account management
Zendesk SalesStarts at $20/month after free trialEmail integration, targeted prospect lists, customized email sequences, task sequences, automated workflows
Zoho CRMStarts at $14/month after free trialManage data across sales cycle stages, lead scoring, schedule calls and events, sales forecasting

Choose a CRM tool that matches your career goals, whether it's to grow your business or seek employment in CRM. Consider the following factors: 

  • How a CRM’s features correspond to your priority business processes  

  • Pricing options and free trial offers.

  • Learning curve 

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

  • The tools companies in your industry most use 

What do users think of CRM systems?

You may find it useful to find out what users think of CRM systems. G2.com is a helpful site for reading reviews of different software programs, including CRM, and seeing how they compare. For example, Salesforce, HubSpot, Freshsales, and Monday each score 4.3/5 or higher among users who submit their feedback to G2 [4].


3. Practice using CRM tools.

Once you've researched several CRM tools, select a few to practice using, especially if a free trial is available, before making a long-term investment. 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? 


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 ...


(541 ratings)

22,203 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

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.


(287 ratings)

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Average time: 6 month(s)

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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.


(660 ratings)

22,933 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.


(8 ratings)

2,490 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

Article sources


Monday. "The future of CRM: Key trends to watch in 2023, https://monday.com/blog/crm-and-sales/the-future-of-crm/." Accessed January 17, 2023.

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.

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