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

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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 a CRM?

CRM stands for customer relationship management and refers to the combination of strategies and technologies businesses use to optimize customer engagement and use data best. Overall, customer relationship management combines sales, marketing, and service under one system 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.

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 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 primary purpose behind a CRM system such as Salesforce or Freshsales 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. A good customer experience can help gain customer loyalty.

Pay attention to the Fundamentals of Lead Management in this video from the HubSpot Sales Representative Professional Certificate.


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.


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 precisely when needed to make empowered buying decisions. 


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 and 2020, according to findings from Statista [3]. 

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 improving 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 

  • Working in a customer support or help desk role 

  • Taking on a sales rep or sales development rep job 

2. Take a CRM course.

One of the most direct ways to get to know CRM as a career field, set of strategies, and a 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

  • Segmenting customers to personalize their experiences 

3. Research CRM tools. 

Once you have some working knowledge of CRM and what it can enable for your career, learning how to use common CRM software tools is a good idea. Explore a few options in the table below:

CRM systemCost (USD)Features
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 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 

  • The 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].


4. 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 are completed without having to be executed 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 period, what improvements could you make to email subject lines to encourage more clicks from subscribers? 

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.

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 April 18, 2024.

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