There is a vast array of customer relationship management (CRM) software solutions small businesses can choose from, but more isn't necessarily always better. Sometimes, too, small businesses get caught up in the search for a CRM that offers all the bells and whistles so they can "compete with the big guys" or automate areas of their business. However, overly complex software can hamper successful installation of a CRM solution because if CRM software is too complex or difficult to use, you (and your team) won't use it. And if you don't regularly use your CRM, you won't reap the benefits of owning the software.
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Reasons why CRMs fail
The most common blockades to CRM success are:
- Poor rates of employee use. Employees may feel that your CRM doesn't integrate well with your other systems and thus neglect to use it.
- Poor implementation. You can't install a CRM and expect to start using it. Proper implementation is a long-term process. Full-on employee use should start after you've dotted every i and crossed every t.
- No training. CRMs are incredibly complex, and introducing them to your team without proper training is like asking someone who doesn't know how to swim to jump into a lake. That person can always choose to stay ashore, and some of your team members might do the same.
- Ill-fitting software. An abundance of CRMs exist, and a competitive market means there's the potential that some solutions won't meet your needs. To ensure successful implementation and long-term use of a CRM, carefully assess your needs, and thoroughly research CRMs. [Check out our recommendations of the best CRM software.]
- Poor employee feedback. A good CRM enables employers and team leaders to customize the platform to meet everyone's needs. However, if you don't incorporate these needs into your tweaks, your CRM is doomed to dissatisfy your team and thus fail.
How to set up your CRM for success
Follow these eight steps to achieve CRM success.
1. Consider the features you need in a CRM.
In addition to your company's specific needs, a good CRM has these features:
- Scalability. Scalability is a big factor when choosing a CRM. You want a CRM that you won't outgrow in a short period but that will grow with your company.
- Ease of use. User-friendliness should be a top priority in a CRM. While you (or the CRM provider) will provide the proper training to your staff, you want CRM software that is easy to use once training is complete.
- Customer service. Customer service is another consideration in a CRM. Will the vendor provide support if your or your staff encounter issues? What support options are available during business hours?
- Data entry and accuracy. Poor setup, ineffective training, overly complex tools and lack of managerial oversight can all lead to inadequate or incorrect data entry, which quickly results in fewer users engaging with the software. Without consistent (and correct) data entry and user engagement, you are left with outdated reports and unreliable account histories. Without accurate data, your CRM system is running on empty.
- Simple solutions. Unfortunately, the goals of CRM companies often conflict with those of small businesses. Truth be told, CRM providers get more "bang for their buck" with large organizations as clients that will utilize their staggering slew of features. This doesn't mean the right CRM for your small business isn't out there; it just means that it is all the more important to work with a CRM provider that offers the simple software solutions you need and will ultimately use.
2. Manage your leads.
As its name suggests, a CRM helps your team manage its relationships with your customers. This function extends to not only current customers, but potential new ones. Your CRM is your "hub" for storing information you obtain about your leads' buying habits, needs and interests. With this information, your team can form stronger strategies for turning these leads into first-time buyers.
3. Prioritize data.
Your CRM can store data about how your current customers feel about your products and what your prospects might need to become customers. With this data, you can tailor your offerings to meet customers' needs and drive sales. Without this data, though, you don't have a foundation for proactive sales planning, and any good salesperson knows that reactive practices are not a way to close deals.
4. Set up your CRM dashboard.
CRM dashboards offer a quick snapshot of your sales pipeline and immediate tasks that need to be completed to move leads through it. A good CRM proactively identifies sales opportunities and makes acting on those opportunities easy and straightforward.
5. Get buy-in.
Due to the complexity of CRMs, it is paramount that you get executive buy-in. Of course, this is a non-issue if you own your business, but if you're the head of sales and you're looking to persuade your CEO to invest in CRM software, you might be surprised how much resistance you encounter. Getting a trial run approved isn't the hard part – for CRM success, you truly need your CEO's full backing. And speaking of trial runs …
6. Always test it.
Most CRMs offer a free trial. During the demo and free trial, pay close attention to the features and tools that will matter most after you've settled into the driver's seat. How's the workflow on everyday tasks? Do you like the look and feel of the system?
Remember, you're making a big investment that will require quite a bit of front-end effort. Can you imagine working with this system every day for five years or more? Take your time, and be thorough. Many CRM companies will extend your trial if you ask.
7. Try out the customer service.
Once you've narrowed your choice of CRMs to two or three, contact each provider and request a demo of the solution. A demo allows you to work with a customer service rep, which is a window into your potential future with that company.
This interaction may show you how well the rep understands your company and its CRM needs. Ask the rep what they will do to effectively translate your current sales and marketing efforts into the software. Probe into what kind of help you and your team will get during implementation.
The relationship with the CRM's customer service team will be much more important than the one with your sales rep, so determine whether the customer support is a good fit before you sign the contract.
8. Involve your team.
User adoption is ultimately about the user experience. If your team members don't like using the CRM, they won't. Don't wait until you've purchased the CRM system to find out that everyone on your team hates it.
Choose a representative or two from every department who will use the software, and include each representative in the trial and demo sessions. Give them an opportunity to explore what daily tasks would be like in the system. Do they find it easy to use? Does it meet the specific needs of their respective departments? If not, keep looking.
Although many CRMs come with bells and whistles that are far beyond the basic needs of small businesses, there are many CRM options that can help you maintain and expand your customer relationships.
With greater awareness of your needs (and how these systems can help you best meet them), you can create a smooth path to a successful CRM implementation.