Yet before you run out to buy one, you need to know why you need a CRM, how to go about evaluating one and what to do when you get one.
Why A CRM?
Using a Rolodex to manage your business contacts and customers is not feasible in today’s business world. Your customers have more ways to be contacted than just mail, phone, email, or in person. Your customers are on a myriad of different social media sites and each is a different point of contact. Your email client, your electronic address book, or a spreadsheet are not enough to help you stay on task, contact customers, and close sales. The information overload is simply too much.
For small businesses, that’s where a CRM comes in. A CRM should essentially be a repository of all your customer information, tasks associated with servicing your customers, and a history of their transactions. And all of that information should be readily available at a click of the mouse or a mere keystroke away. This is something that every business must have to be in business, which is why a CRM can help you use your most valuable asset: time.
Yet there’s more than just the basic database of your customers. A CRM is really an intelligence tool for your business. When a CRM is used properly, it can provide valuable insights into why certain purchases are made, the health of your sales process, and why you lost customers. It’s a tool that can help you profile ideal customers, see connections and target influencers. And it’s something that can help you forecast your sales and focus your energy on successfully closing deals.
Selecting A CRM
This is the $65 billion question.
Before you even look at a CRM, you need to intimately know your business. What is your sales cycle? How long is your sales cycle? How do you obtain leads? Where are your clients located, both physically and virtually? How technically savvy is your sales team and the rest of your business? What do you want to automate and why? Where do you need to have access to your data? What are you going to do with the data once you have it? Answering those questions and more will help you choose a CRM.
Once you’ve figured out your business processes, the next step is to figure out how much flexibility and integration you want in a CRM. A tool that cannot communicate with other systems in your business can create communication problems and more work. On the other hand, a tool that can integrate with many different programs means you need someone who can administer and configure the system. It also means that errors can quickly get repeated before getting caught. The way to figure out which is right for you business — “out of the box” or configurable CRM — is to think about your needs five years from now. A CRM is an investment, should it shouldn’t just be compatible with your business now–it should also be a tool that grows with your company as it develops.
As you examine your options, don’t hesitate to test the CRMs you’re considering. The individuals in your business who are going to use the CRM should be part of the test drive. Put it through scenarios that are real to your business with your best and worst sales people when it comes to data entry. They’ll give you a picture of what to expect from your sales team when you roll out the system that you’re going to choose. And as they work with each CRM, look for key feedback on areas like usability and system insights.
How To Use A CRM
Build out your CRM with your data and business processes. Even though you test drove it during the selection process, most demo accounts offer limited functionality. You now own the full system and you need to test it again. You are marrying your business and the system together, so you want to make sure everything works as it should.
Once the CRM is loaded and running, select a small team to start using it in a live setting before you implement a complete roll-out to your business. This team’s goal is to use the system in support of their day to day tasks. Ideally, they’ll break it, which will give you valuable insight into what needs to change before a full roll out. You want your most candid sales representatives on this team so you can ensure you’re getting the sort of honest feedback that will help make this CRM a success.
The key to a successful CRM implementation is training and use. You want the CRM to support your sales team by providing valuable data about and insights into your customers. You don’t want it to be hurdle the sales people avoid because they feel it is a mundane task. The key to getting your sales team to use it is to train them and show them the insights they can learn from the system by testing assumptions. This has to be done on a consistent basis so that the use of the CRM becomes second nature and an integral part of your company’s business cycle.
As you investigate your options and prepare for implementation, remember that a CRM system is a tool. What you put into it is what you will get out of it. A CRM keeps you in contact with your customers, records their history of doing business with you and can help you create deeper relationships with them. As a small business owner, the right CRM can take you and your team to the next level of growth. So what are you waiting for?
Erroin A. Martin is a Business Advocate with the Von Gehr Consulting Group, LLC, a business coaching and consultancy provider for business owners, executives, and entrepreneurs. He has over 17 years experience working with various levels of leadership across six continents. He has led diverse teams in sales, marketing, corporate businesses, start-ups, and in the Army. He currently coaches business leaders and physicians in the tools needed to plan for their success.
When Erroin is not challenging executives to break out of their comfort zones, you can find him brewing beer for the next Samuel Adams® home brewing contest, working with his three Kooikerhondje dogs in search and rescue, or playing soccer.