If you are a business professional, then you’ve heard the acronym CRM. Everyone knows it stands for Customer Relationship Management. Everyone is aware that it represents software that is used to store information about customers. Their addresses, phone number(s), email addresses, and perhaps some background information including how the customer was met and what they are interested in buying. If you have a great sales team then your CRM even includes details about the customers personal life like their spouse’s name, their favorite vacation spot or if they enjoy any particular sports.

However, let’s not forget what “Customer Relationship Management” truly means. It means, build and maintain outstanding personal relationships with your customers. Get to know them. Know them personally and build confidence and trust in your relationship. When they feel pain, feel the pain with them. When they feel rushed, feel rushed with them.

The concept of a CRM as software is to host a database to store as much information about your customers (and prospects) as you can. Using the central database of knowledge, everyone is capable of getting up-to-speed about customers quickly when needed. Perhaps an important sales team member leaves the group. If they leave behind great notes in the CRM, then other team members can quickly pick up the slack and keep the ball moving with the absent person’s roster of customers and/or accounts.

But I have a mild frustration with the acronym “CRM”. Not the acronym itself, but how the software has reshaped what it stands for. CRM stands for “Customer Relationship Management” and in the business world the concept of CRM is referenced often. “Make sure you add those notes to the CRM after your meeting” and “Oh, I didn’t see information about that in the CRM… are you sure it’s true about the customer?”

However, the act of Customer Relationship Management is not software. It’s not a tool to keep tabs on your customers. It’s not a database full of potential leads for new services or products. It’s not a pool of potential money. Stop thinking about it in that manner.

Customer Relationship Management is a professional lifestyle. It’s a principle that the best business people live by. In fact, I’d go so far to say that for the best professional sales team members… actually anyone that engages with customers… customer relationship management is a natural tendency to care about the well being of a fellow human. It’s the desire to get to know that individual. Not simply knowing what the individual needs to buy, or what kind of services they are looking to contract. Instead, it’s knowing what success looks like to that person.

What do they need to accomplish to be promoted within their organization?

What do they need to do to win positive support from their board?

Whatever the case may be, Customer Relationship Management is knowing what you can do to help your contact “win” at these things. You just happen to save that information into a software platform referred too as a “CRM”.

Confusing the two is dangerous

Confusing the two is dangerous. Especially in today’s marketplace where authenticity and honesty are what make a “great” sales leader stand out. If you are a sales team member, a product manager or an executive and you approach your customers as “pools of money”, they will sense it. It creates a barrier in your relationship. It makes them question your motives. However, if you sincerely care about the person’s situation and you do what you can to help solve their business challenges, trust will form and you will be on the road to having a customer for life.

I’m not recommending that you fake it, either. Please don’t fake authenticity. Just spend more time seeing the world from the other person’s perspective. Help them solve the problems that surround them. They will appreciate it and it’ll pay off for you.