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.
It can feel tough, if you feel like a small start up business, to decide on a CRM system. I always thought I didn't need one.
However, now I look back, I did! CRM systems need to have a few essential things, in my mind:
1. A client management / task follower - a way to share notes on when you last spoke, what they said, when to follow up etc. This is so if anyone ever logs in (as well as you!) you can remember little parts in reference to your next touch of contact.
There are several which share reminders, so you can add a diarised date of when to call back or email. These are helpful.
2. I think the ability to hold more data than just their name and address. Many are now SCRM systems - they integrate the contact's social media platforms and then monitor the ones they are most active on, so you can then know where to contact them most efficiently.
3. If you can use one that either auto-syncs or has the ability to send regular enewsletters this will be fantastic. For example, Nimble has the ability to sync with Mailchimp, whereas Dotmailer is a mailing system that you can use as an excellent CRM.
I also know a business who has their own CRM system which is fantastic, they create them for customers just like us at a very low price, but the sytem means you can log in, track and engage with potential, current and past clients with ease.
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! :)
List your current problems related to CRM.
Which problems cannot be resolved so far?
And which unresolved problems (include those under unproductive interim solutions) will impact your profit/ cash flow/ morale/ image ...?
These are real painful problems required solutions.
Will the new CRM addresses your real pains and not creating new issues and challenges?
If yes, you may consider to look for the CRM.
Depend your investment approach.
For an organisation that first time using application to work on CRM, I prefer incremental investment from a standard CRM (with capable to scale up and customise).
This approach allows you to implement the application almost immediately and rather low cost (recommend cloud version). You can trial and test and refine your organisation's processes, this allow you to feel how the CRM and gave you better understanding whether you want to invest further.
What are your needs and how do you plan to use it? There are several websites that compare various CRM products?
I would list how you are contacting prospects and how you are staying in touch with them now and how you would like to do it in the future. Pick a couple products to try as many have free trial.
It is best to start slow with something less complex. That said, the low end products are ACT!, Constant Contact, MailChimp, Aweber and GetResponse. Middle of the road are SalesNexxus, HatchBuck, SendLane and at the top end you have InfusionSoft, OntraPort and Sctive Campaign. There are many others as well, but these are the ones that I am familiar with. For start-ups and small businesses, those at the top end have much more than you will probably use and require help getting set up correctly.
But, again, it goes back to what you really want to accomplish.
Depending on your IT background you need to decide hosted vs on premise. In most cases hosted is a better solution but adds costs.
Many on premise solutions are Open Source. There you need to evaluate what suits you best. You pay for service, regardless unless you can do this on your own.
After you have determined what your budget is, go out and look what are your must have and can have. Some systems even include an accounting system.
In essence there is Accounts, Contacts, Leads, Opportunities, Quotes, Calendar, Cases, Documents, Emails, Campaigns, Calls, Meetings, Tasks, Notes, Products, Product Categories, Contracts, Report Generator, Mobile, Outlook Integration, Workflow, Projects, Invoices, Events, Maps, Thunderbird plugin, Portal.
The list may not even be all to cover yet. You need to mark down with your team what you are really looking for. To say this CRM or that one is the best may not be the path to happiness. After all, you need to invest time and effort to make a system work for you.
PS: I am looking too :)
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.
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.
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/
http://crmpro.com/ is a nice easy one to get started with. Check out the basic version for free.
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
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.
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.
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 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.