Relationship Management: Get to Know Your Customers (CRM)

We all know those businesses that treat your relationship with them as nothing but transactional… And of course, some are even worse.

A few years ago, I went on my first-ever ski trip. Since I’d never skied before, I went to a well-known store a few weeks ahead of the trip to rent equipment. The rep gave me time to try out different boots, explained ski sizes, and let me pick the equipment I needed.

When I finished, he wrote down the equipment I had picked out on a sticky note and put it next to the register, telling me I needed to come back the next day to pay for it.

Of course, when I came back, I was welcomed by a different rep. (You can tell where this is going.)

And his exceedingly friendly response: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. We don’t schedule renting; just come back the day of your trip to pick up some skis.”

But that made no sense—what if my size isn’t available then? And why was I told differently yesterday? This rep had no answers for me. He hadn’t seen the sticky note. He didn’t apologize for the confusion, he didn’t care I was now out of skis, and so I left.

And I never went back.

Instead, I found a small, family-run operation that not only scheduled equipment rental ahead of time—they also kept my sizes and preferences on their records. Every year since, I just call them a few weeks ahead of my ski trip, and they prepare the exact skis I rented the year before.

I will gladly give them my money every year because they care about me. That’s why relationship management is essential for product businesses, service providers, and every business in between.

And now, here’s everything you need to know to master relationship management with your customers too.

What is Relationship Management? 

Relationship management is a process that businesses lean on to start, nourish, and deepen a relationship with their customers. The goal? Offer a fantastic customer experience, boost customer loyalty, bring more sales, and run a business that can sustain itself for many years to come.

When you embed relationship management into everything you do, it becomes easier to promote your business. It makes selling exciting because you know you’ve done everything in your power to get a new happy customer at the end of an interaction.

And, of course, that pre-established relationship helps you smooth out the support process when there’s an issue.

Let’s go over more benefits of relationship management:

  • Strong relationships bring strong revenue: Customer-centric brands report 60 percent higher profits compared to those who don’t focus on customer experience. Building positive relationships with your customers is the lifeblood of a profitable business.
  • Customer loyalty as the biggest win: A whopping 81 percent of customers say that a positive customer experience makes it more likely they’ll buy again. Winning the same customer again (and again) is the ultimate flex.
  • Happy customers are your best promoters: Did you know 72 percent of customers will share a positive experience with six or more people? Imagine you have 200 customers: Around 144 of them might tell 864 people about your business. Customer satisfaction is a precious marketing avenue.
  • Smooth management of business and client relationships: Keeping all your customer data in one place (like a CRM) means you’re always equipped to handle anything that comes your way. Customer issues, potential partnerships, expansion opportunities—there’s massive power in having all the info you need to make the right decisions for your business.

What is Relationship Management - CRM Process

Without relationship management, however, you’re risking:

  • Missed opportunities to sell because you didn’t know enough about the customer to pitch the right product or focus on the points they care about.
  • High customer churn because your customers feel misunderstood or not taken care of.
  • Upset customers, aka the step that often takes place right before a customer churns and creates huge pressure for customer support reps.
  • Negative reviews and bad press due to 62 percent of customers sharing their bad experiences with others.

If we translated running a successful business to cooking a meal, your products would be the ingredients, and your marketing and sales process would be the pots and pans you’d use to cook them. In this scenario, relationship management is the heat you need to turn those ingredients into a meal—in other words, to turn your products, marketing, and sales into a thriving business.

The Customer Relationship Management Process: 5 Steps to Success

There are five parts to managing customer relationships. Each of them informs and impacts the next one:

1. Get On Your Ideal Customers’ Radar

Brand awareness is where your customer relationship starts. At this stage, you won’t know much about your potential customer, but they’re definitely looking to get to know you and how you can fit into their life.

Why? Because they’ve found you:

  • Through a social media post or a marketing campaign
  • Thanks to a recommendation from a friend
  • In a press mention or a review by their favorite influencer

In other words, they’ve heard about you and kept listening because it seems like you match their needs. Your marketing efforts or other people’s recommendations resonated with them. They crave a solution to a problem, an improvement of their life or work, a product or service they can trust every single time they buy it.

The longer you invest in brand awareness, the more you’ll learn about what hits the spot for your target audience, from content formats and types to the topics and questions you cover. And as they start responding through social media comments or direct messages, you get to learn about your ideal customer and their needs every single day.

Take this example from Pashion Footwear, a brand of convertible heels, that leans into the product demo style of content. These posts always do well and kick off dozens of new conversations with potential customers:
The Customer Relationship Management Process - Get on Your Ideal Customer Radar

Source: Instagram

2. Attract Leads with Real Potential

The next step in customer relationship management is turning those initial interactions with you into deeper engagement—or turning a reader, viewer, or website visitor into a lead.

You might also know this as lead generation, a marketing strategy that offers a valuable resource for free—a lead magnet—in exchange for contact details, like an email address. It represents a more intense commitment than a social media comment or a website visit.

For you, it brings two huge benefits:

  • You get direct access to the person through their email address, which makes it easier to start a one-on-one conversation.
  • You can learn about your target customer thanks to form fields they fill in when signing up, like their age, interests, job roles, and more.

Lead magnets can range from a discount code or a giveaway to a free ebook, a product demo, or a checklist. There are dozens of lead magnet options for almost every industry.

Here’s just one of many free downloads Close offers in exchange for an email address:

The Customer Relationship Management Process - Attract Leads with Real Potential

Source: Close

When someone becomes your lead, it’s worth tracking how their relationship with you progresses. What different resources have they downloaded? Have they replied to any of your follow-up emails after they signed up? If so, what did they say?

Those details are golden and worth keeping track of.

3. Convert Leads into Happy Customers

The more you learn about your lead, the better prepared you’ll be to say the right thing at the right time to turn them into a customer.

“But how can I be sure this will work for us?”

When talking to a potential customer, this question might pop up. Depending on your industry and the type of customers that buy from you, it may come up a lot. And the power of relationship management really shines when it comes to answering that question.

For one lead, the answer might be something like this:

“You’ve mentioned you already tried using [solution 1], but it missed [feature 1] and [feature 2]. And when you tried [solution 2], it was a good fit, but it was over your budget. [Our solution] will give you both of the features you were missing, and at a price point that definitely matches what you’re willing to spend. Our customer [customer name] made that exact switch, and the results were even better than their initial expectation.”

For another lead, your approach might be totally different—the key is in customizing your response (and every conversation) based on what you know about them.

Good relationships are about actively listening to what the other person is saying. Lean on relationship management to make your leads feel seen, heard, and understood—and sales will follow.

4. Get a Second Purchase, Then a Third… And More

It’s too easy to think your customer relationships start when someone first hears about you, and end when they become your customer. You won them over—what else is there to do?

As it turns out, a lot.

The Customer Relationship Management Process - Get More Purchases

Data from revealed there’s a 27 percent chance a customer will consider buying from you again after one purchase. But after a second and third purchase, the chances they’ll make another purchase increase to 49 percent and 62 percent, respectively.

Customer retention is what makes a business sustainable. Instead of selling your products from scratch every time, you have a base of people who already know your brand, your products, and what they can achieve by buying from you.

With a customer relationship management process in place, you can:

  • Send personalized, timed emails based on previous purchases to promote your other relevant products.
  • Share reviews from customers of similar profile, needs, and interests to the person you’re selling to.
  • Offer special promotions to current customers that aren’t available publicly, like discounts, free shipping, extended trials, and more.

5. Turn Customers into Your Top Promoters

You’ve converted casual viewers into leads, leads into customers, and one-time customers into repeat buyers.

Finally, your loyal customers can turn into a marketing channel in and of itself. As many as 88 percent of people trust recommendations from people they know—more than any marketing message, campaign, or channel. Customer loyalty breeds referrals.

That means that investing your time and effort into one customer relationship can create, say, three new ones by the time they reach this stage. Each of them is another opportunity to do the same once they reach this stage.

The Customer Relationship Management Process - Turn Customers Into Your Top Promoters

In other words, this fifth stage leads right into the first stage again, completing your relationship management process circle.

How a CRM Tool Can Improve Relationship Management

One of the best, most streamlined ways to manage your relationships is with a CRM tool. But what is a CRM?

CRM stands for customer relationship management, and it’s a software product you can use to track customer interactions, contact details, purchases, and preferences. It’s the alternative to trying to remember everything or DIY-ing your own system to track customer information. (No more sticky notes next to the register.)

Here’s what you can do with a CRM software to improve customer relationships:

Store and Manage Customer Data 

Everything your customers share about themselves with you has the potential to be useful in your conversations with them in the future.

The tough part is finding the right piece of info right where you need it. Was it in one of the emails you exchanged? Did they say it on a phone call? Did you make a note of it on your phone or your notebook?

A CRM smooths out this process because the answer is always the same—you’ll find these details in the CRM profile of that customer.

How a CRM Tool Can Improve Relationship Management

Customer information you can track in your CRM includes:

  • Lead magnet or campaign they found you through
  • Location and language
  • Contact information and communication preferences
  • Competitors they used previously, and thoughts about them
  • Details about a pain point they’ve experienced
  • Birthday or other key dates

No more awkward silences on the phone while you turn your notebook to the right page; you’ll find everything you need to delight your customer in just a few clicks.

Build Automated Sequences to Engage Customers 

Want some great news? How about this: you don’t need to manage every single customer touchpoint manually. Building and nurturing great customer relationships doesn’t have to depend on your real-time activities.

That’s possible thanks to sales and marketing automation, a strategy that streamlines and automates parts of the sales cycle so you don’t have to spend time doing them manually.

The foundation of it is automated sequences. They use triggers, rules, and actions to run a specific action when defined conditions are met, like sending a follow-up email if you haven’t heard back from a lead for two days.

In Close, you’d do this with Workflows. Here’s how it looks:

How a CRM Tool Can Improve Relationship Management - Build Automated Workflows with Close

Check out some automation ideas a CRM could help you implement in your business:

  • Follow-up messages that tackle common objections or send relevant resources, based on the number of conversations you’ve had with a lead
  • Lead nurturing with guides and practical tips based on the lead magnet they downloaded
  • Checking in on a customer that might churn soon

Improve Customer Support 

Imagine knowing your current customers so well that when they reach out to you for help with an issue, you can say something like this after you solve their problem:

“Also, last time we spoke, you mentioned you were struggling with [pain point], and I recommended [advice/solution]. How has that been going for you since then?”

This is such an easy thing to do—it takes you 15 seconds to find a piece of information that enables you to say that—but the customer might remember this for months or years to come. 

Heck, there’s a chance they forgot about that other issue since, but you remembered and cared enough to ask.

A CRM lets you nurture and manage relationships with new customers long after they’ve made that first purchase—even when they run into an issue. Because customer issues will come up, you can never erase the need for customer support completely—but a CRM can make it infinitely easier and more impactful.

Uncover Cross-Selling or Upselling Opportunities 

Cross-selling and upselling are fantastic ways to increase customer lifetime value. Here’s the key difference between them:

Cross-selling focuses on selling two complementary products to the customer, like offering a waterproofing spray to a customer who just picked up a pair of trail running shoes.

Upselling, however, is about offering an upgraded version of what the customer intended to buy in the first place—in the shoe example, that would be a more premium, durable pair to the one the customer chose.

CRM data is the ultimate way to find relevant opportunities to upsell or cross-sell to a customer. 

If you keep throwing random product or feature suggestions at your customers, they’ll be mildly annoyed at best, and frustrated at worst. But if you notice a pattern in their previous purchases, a theme to their customer support queries, or unfulfilled needs, cross-selling or upselling may sweep them off their feet.

“You must have read my mind!” or “That’s exactly what I was looking for!” is music to any business person’s ears, and managing your customers with a CRM will ensure you hear it often.

Better Understand Customer Needs

Your CRM will give you the power to zoom in and out of your sales conversations and customer interactions to see:

  • The questions people ask during the sales process
  • The issues they have when they contact customer support
  • Products they’ve bought, returned, upgraded, downgraded, etc.
  • Products that are growing or shrinking in popularity
  • Messaging, content, and lead magnets that resonated the most

You’ll get a deeper understanding of what exactly leads to your customer success—which marketing approaches and product combinations work for which types of customers.

Pro tip: With Call Assistant in Close, you can easily analyze what prospects and customers are saying about your product—without even taking notes! Close will automatically transcribe new calls, and even give you an AI summary of what was discussed. Then, you can search those transcripts and find exactly the information you need. A win-win for customer relationship management!



With that intel, you can work on improving your marketing and lead generation campaigns and better prepare for interactions at every stage of the customer journey.

Convert More Leads

Finally, a CRM covers a lot more than managing your current customers. It also empowers your sales team to be productive and spend most of their time on selling, not on admin tasks.

Sales reps can run their entire workday from a CRM, which includes:

  • Phone calls, emails, SMS, and video calls in one place
  • Sales notes to keep track of every conversation and interaction they have with a potential customer
  • Automated workflows that remove manual tasks from salespeople’s plates
  • Visual overview of the sales pipeline for easy tracking, forecasting, and reporting
  • Details they need to jump on the leads that are most likely to close

How a CRM Tool Can Improve Relationship Management - Convert More Leads with Close Communication Features

Happy customers come from sales conversations in which they felt you truly understood their needs—a CRM lets you give them exactly that.

Customer Relationship Management Tools to Up Your Game

There are different ways you can manage your customer relationships, each of which offers a range of apps and tools to implement it.

Here are some of the options you might consider:

  • Dedicated CRM system: A CRM tool gives you a relationship management solution you can use right out of the box. If your first thought was something like Salesforce and it felt overwhelming, don’t fret: flexible CRM software like Close is intuitive and has virtually no learning curve, so you can start managing your relationships right away.

Customer Relationship Management Tools to Up Your Game - Close Pipeline View on Mobile
  • Spreadsheet: A basic, simple, and customizable option is a Google Sheets CRM. If you know your way around a spreadsheet, you’ll have a relatively easy time setting it up.

  • Project management tool: You can use a project management tool like Airtable, Clickup, or to build a CRM; these solutions even offer CRM-specific templates in their template libraries. You’ll miss out on some sales-specific features, as these tools cover dozens of use cases, but it’s worth exploring.

Customer Relationship Management Tools to Up Your Game - Project Management Tool.

Source: Airtable

  • Kanban board: Kanban board tools like Trello can give you a quick insight into your sales pipeline, the status of each customer, and a space to add notes about each.

Customer Relationship Management Tools to Up Your Game - Project Management Tool (Trello Example)

Source: Trello

  • No-code building tool: Ever worked with a workspace like Notion? You can use it to build a CRM database and then use different filters and views to customize it to your liking. Notion is super powerful when you’re familiar with it, and a bit overwhelming when you’re not.

Customer Relationship Management Tools to Up Your Game - Project Management Tool (Notion Example)

Source: Notion

Of course, every business is different—not all of these options will be the right one for you. A Kanban board might be too simple, and an option like a DIY CRM in Notion may be too complex to execute. On the other hand, a dedicated CRM might be more than what you need right now.

Our advice? Pick one option from the list based on your needs right now and jump straight in. (If you’re not sure where to start, download our free spreadsheet CRM template.) Give it a few weeks to see how it feels so you can improve that option, or choose a different one.

And a bonus tip: whatever you choose, go with a cloud-based version rather than something that lives on a desktop computer. This will ensure everyone always has access to an up-to-date version of your CRM, no matter the device they’re on.

Improve Your Customer Relationship Management With the Right Skills

You want a customer base of people who are happy to buy from you and recommend you to others. If that weren’t true, you wouldn’t have made it this far.

Hitting that goal relies on sharpening your relationship management skills:

  • Active listening to your potential and current customers to understand their needs
  • Interpersonal communication that creates personal connections with leads and customers
  • Problem-solving that lets you unpack customer challenges and match them to the right solutions
  • Leaning on a tool to track interactions, purchases, milestones, and interests

A CRM platform like Close can be the core of your relationship management—a tool that supports every customer conversation you’ll have. Take a closer look at Close with this demo and sign up for the free 14-day trial.

This way, instead of having to remember the tiniest details, you can leave that to Close and focus on what matters most: your customers.

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