Software I Can’t Live Without – Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Sales Funnel
Sales funnel. Picture cc Aaron Ross via Flickr

I believe that no matter what size of business you are, a CRM system is vital for growing and managing your business. Of course, CRM is not just about technology. It is a strategy to learn more about customers’ needs and behaviours in order to develop stronger relationships with them. CRM is the way businesses manage their relationships with leads, prospects and customers.

By implementing systems and processes such as a CRM system, you will have information to hand that will enable you to make better business decisions.

You will never change the fact that people buy from people; a CRM system is an enhancement, not an alternative to great customer relationships.

Benefits of a CRM system

  • Increased sales by understanding trends and needs better
  • Identifying needs more effectively
  • By understanding customers better you can cross-sell other products
  • More effective and better targeted marketing communications aimed specifically at customer needs
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction and retention
  • Increased value from your existing customers
  • Reduction in costs associated with supporting and servicing customers
  • Increase your overall efficiency
  • Reduction in total cost of sales

Think big, start small

It may sound overwhelming to implement a CRM system. My advice is to think big, start small, and then when you have the confidence, build-in other processes fairly quickly to maintain momentum.

Define your CRM requirements and objectives

  • Define what you want the system to achieve and deliver for your business.
  • What are your company’s overall business objectives, who will be using it, what kind of functionality do you and they need now and in the future?
  • Consider who would be a part of your CRM selection team and include people from a variety of departments and roles. Please do choose people that will be your champions.
  • How you will use the software? If it is cloud based you will be able to access it from anywhere at any time and there will not be a need for any new hardware.
  • What other systems does this need to integrate with? Email marketing and accounts are two obvious answers.

Undertake research of potential suppliers

This step requires some leg work to create your list of potential business partners. Armed with your list of needs and wants, search the internet looking at potential suppliers system reviews and ask others who they chose and why. All feedback is good feedback.

Following on from the initial telephone conversation and response back from your list of needs and wants, it’s time to whittle your list down to the final three. I try to see the top five systems for myself via remote demonstration services before I make my final three list.

Review and compare how each of the systems work. Try to map out your processes and don’t just think that because their system can’t work your process it’s not worth considering. Your processes may just be rubbish – in my experience that’s often the case.

Ask your potential supplier to show you how various processes could work and look at how creative they are at solving your problems. Sometimes these demonstrations can really get us questioning our business processes.

Once the demonstrations are over, evaluate and consider your findings. Address each of them with the supplier and other users if relevant.

Once you have everything addressed it’s time to get buy-in and consensus. No matter what size of organisation you are everyone needs to know that the system will fulfil their needs. If you are a small business that outsources activities this includes the people who will be using the CRM on your behalf. It is important that everyone knows WIIFM (what’s in it for me).

Budget and value for money

Remember that cost is not just the price of the system; you need to be looking at the ongoing support and customer service.  You may pay a bit more for your system but you will be getting peace of mind. Before you part with your money, sleep on it and buy the system that meets and exceeds your needs and offers the best overall value.

Which software?

Wow, how long is a piece of string? Over the years I have used many and have always really thought about how I will use it now and for the future, what my objectives are, how easy it is to implement and use, what it integrates, support and value for money.

Capsule CRM is the software that I use as it fits with my requirements. It provides me with a cost-effective, easy to use and manage system, and the support is excellent. When I needed to integrate it with my Google Apps, I sent one email and it was done the next day.

Other systems worth looking at for startups and small operations include ZohoCRM, which is free for up to 3 users, and Nimble, which integrates beautifully with social media. Salesforce is the market leader for SME’s but, as you expand and with add-ons, it can quickly become very expensive.

Now that you have it, what next?

Every customer relationship begins as a lead. Leads must be nurtured under the right conditions to grow. Which means creating simple processes that allow you stay on top of your leads, prospects and customers.

Use it every day

This goes without saying: use it or you will lose it. I open my CRM first thing every day to see what I need to be doing, and when I have an interaction I record it.

When was the last time you were pleasantly surprised by how well the person on the other end of the phone knew you and remembered something about your holiday or your birthday? They were probably using a CRM system.

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