What should I look for in a CRM platform?
I keep getting calls and emails from companies looking to sell me their CRM platform. I am still growing my customer base. I don't know much about CRM platforms and think I am doing fine without one. That said, maybe getting set up now would help in the long run. At what point should I use a CRM tool and then what should I look for as a smaller business? I don't have a separate sales team. There are just three of us who basically do everything. I could see some value in knowing when to follow up with customers or finding more opportunities to cross-sell. Thanks for your help.
There are some good and inexpensive as well as open source CRM systems.
Often, CRM systems have an excessive number of complicated features, that make using the CRM less productive. A very easy to use CRM system, with many features is : http://codecanyon.net/item/ultimate-client-manager-crm-pro-edition/2621629?ref=NexWeb
This one is written in PHP, is easy to setup and costs only $63 bucks.
Having been using CRMs and finally now marketing CRMs, I find the typical struggles of small businesses adopting to be: (1) high admin overhead (2) no pay-off in terms of real time saved, increase in sales.
My advice will be to look out for:
1) Usability & Low Admin Overhead
Make sure you are comfortable with the user interface. It's very difficult to change work habits, especially so if you are trying to get adoption company wide. All levels of staff admin, sales and marketing, should have a go at it. Ask for a demo.
Ultimately, benefits MUST OUTWEIGH the "extra" work.
Some points I'll be looking out for:
Sales Reps tend to be on the move. Would be quite important in my view to have some form of easy mobile access. The CRM should also be an enabler for sales reps to close sales better, follow up easier, so that sales will use the software.
Many of your staff may not be very tech-savvy. So the admin interface should be simple enough even for a high-school grad to operate.
2) Essential Features You need to meet Business Objectives
"I could see some value in knowing when to follow up with customers or finding more opportunities to cross-sell."
Listing out a more specific list of requirements will help you choose the right system.
Here's a site you can download a checklist for reference: https://selecthub.com/customer-relationship-management/crm-features-functionality-list/
Modern CRMs usually integrate with Marketing Automation to deliver automation, using behavior triggers to sell better. Check out my post on Marketing Automation CRM: http://www.mosaichub.com/answers/question/what-is-the-best-marketing-automation-software-for#48880
3) Ease of Migration or Scaling Up & Integrations
I agree with @JC Quek's comments about incremental scaling (number of users and number of contacts). A pay-as-you-scale model will be important for a small biz. In case it does not work out, it should also be easy to export the data out to another system.
My experience also tells me an Open API is essential nowadays, as you would need to integrate various software parts to avoid manual double entry of customer data. For example: Help Desk software like ZenDesk, Calendar software like Timetrade, ScheduleOnce or AppointmentCore, EventRegistration software like Eventspresso.
It would be a criteria for me personally that a vibrant marketplace exists for the software, and it should be listed in Zapier for quick DIY Integrations.
Disclaimer: I'm a Certified Infusionsoft Partner and a Duct Tape Marketing Consultant. Comments posted are my own opinions. For Information about Contact Management Features click: http://empathi-solutions.com/infusionsoft-crm-features/getting-organized-infusionsoft-crm/
There are lots of CRM options as you know. Salesforce being the best known, however probably not the best for a SMB with 3 employees just starting out. It has huge flexibility which translates to lots of time configuring to achieve optimum effect. I would suggest just starting out with zoho.com, Insightly.com, or Highrise.com. This are inexpensive to start, then can grow, work with Google apps if necessary for further automation, and are cloud based making sure you have backups.
The biggest thing is to think through what you want to get from reports before you set it up. Like painting the room the real success is all in the prep time. Think what you want to count, see, communicate, and work with customers. Do not get OCD on this effort, just think it through and set priorities. Then, select one and make it happen. A good CRM is a major application for growing success with sales and marketing.
One more thing, these article in Forbes is a good review of several applications. Don't get caught up in the title. Good luck. http://www.forbes.com/sites/quickerbettertech/2013/07/01/11-terrible-crm-systems-for-your-company/
You should look for either something to match your sales funnel/pipe/process that improves your effectiveness or something that models a sales funnel that makes sense for your market and organization.
A CRM system can be incredibly valuable to you, especially as a small business.
A good CRM will not only give you insight into sales and pipeline, but it will also enable you to run reports and analytics on your data (both customers, prospective customers, lost customers, sales performance, contracts, ect) and can also free you/your team up from doing things manually. You will immediately benefit from collaboration with your team no matter whether their in the office or on their cell phone boarding a flight, and having all your data at your fingertips.
The system will track all the important data between your customers and you/your team. You can see when, what and by whom! This is so important as a small business...think about how important everyone is on your team, and how hard it would be to lose them. Now imagine losing them, AND having to pick up months/years of pieces spread out in someone else's email, notepad or call log...CRM allows your to trust your team, you don't have to micromanage, but in the end you'll still have visibility to the history of everything - whether you need it or not.
Finally, you can - in the future - scale your system to integrate with marketing automation, service, online community, partner selling/collaboration, website, data warehousing, business intelligence tools, ect. So I'd say the sooner you can begin using a CRM, the better. This way, in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years from now you can see your growth, forecast the future, and make data-driven decisions. You'll also enjoy seeing all the calls/emails you made to a customer over the years, without having to search and filter your call, email and calendar system (and others).
I like salesforce.com. It's the most popular, you pay by seat which is good for you with only a few users, and Salesforce upgrades itself 3 times a year (for everybody, not just for enterprise). Here's a link http://www.salesforce.com/small-business-solutions/.
Either way, get demos from all the platforms you're considering! Ask questions, by picky - it's YOUR business! :)
I have used most of the major products and the best value for a start up is Zoho, they offer a free version that is feature laden providing everything you need for contact and/ or customer relationship management.
Hi Barbara - It is very crucial decision for any small/medium business to adapt a CRM that can boost the sales and help in cross /up sells to existing customers. You may start with tools like Bitirx (https://www.bitrix24.com) which is effective and free upto 12 employees. There are couple of other features out of box which you may like to adapt like social network, documents, chat etc. there are best practices guide that can help you implement as per you business requirement. Once you feel it is part of your culture and promoting your sales, you can invest in sales team with set targets that can be managed by a CRM. Hope this helps.
Great question Barbara!
For a small team, CRM is more about just having everything in one place and allowing each of you to access what's going on with any given customer at any given time without having to be copied on every email or hear the entire story of every meeting.
You may want to have a forecast of future sales, which most CRMs can do easily.
You may want to keep in touch with past leads or existing customers - CRMs can easily remind you to call customers at the right time or nurture them automatically with emails.
Choosing a CRM should not be about CRM features but, about your business and and the processes that are most important to your company. Choose a CRM that fits those processes.
Here's a video that may provide some perspective - http://www.salesnexus.com/enable-sales.html
And here's a blog post on 5 things to watchout for - http://www.salesnexus.com/blog/5-red-flags-when-buying-a-crm
Insightly is a good solution if you are just starting out. You can get an account for Free (for 2 users). It's really easy to use, it integrates with other SaaS (Software as a Services) platforms. You can convert Leads to Opportunities to Projects with ease.
I also use Sidekick as a plugin with my Gmail account . Sidekick gives you great insight as to conversion (you can see if/when a client opens your email). It's been recently integrated with Hubspot CRM which offers a lot of features - so I may migrate completely over to that platform.