In my experience, the biggest mindset difference between small companies’ demand generation efforts and big companies’ comes down adopting customer relationship management software, CRM. It’s the first thing big companies buy and often not even considered by small companies. So, small companies, let me tell you what the big companies do with a CRM that you should be doing.
First of all, you need a CRM system. Here’s why: what you really need is a systematic way of managing your contacts and monitoring the future of your business. A decent CRM system will not only facilitate these activities but also guide you in developing best practices. Most importantly, CRM software will keep your entire organization up-to-date and in synch with each and every contact. Thus, CRM software is essential for adopting these processes.
Storing your potential customers in Outlook or in a spreadsheet or even some online database is not sufficient, not to mention, risky. Plus, these systems don’t really facilitate the processes you want to establish. Let’s talk specifics.
Most Important Functions of a CRM
In a nutshell, you are trying to fill your database with complete profile information on potential clients and monitor their position in the sales cycle. Doing all this requires these tasks, at a minimum:
- storing contact and profile information
- logging communications and activities with those contacts
- tracking contacts through the different stages of your buying cycle
- targeting the amount and close date of potential opportunities
- reporting on your sales pipeline, particularly forecasting and your conversion performance
There are many additional things you can do with a decent CRM tool like produce quotes & invoices, send templated emails, log products purchased and handle customer support cases. You don’t need to use all of the features of a CRM tool on day 1 – it’s fine to work your way up. However, I strongly encourage companies to use a CRM tool the way it was designed to be used. As much as you think your business is unique and requires a customized tool, don’t over-think this and either make it too difficult to use or take too long to start using it.
When it comes to choosing a CRM tool, I have my personal preferences based on my experience. Salesforce.com is one of the best in the world because it has a tremendous amount of flexibility, a ton of good add-on applications and some forward-thinking features. Wolfgang Career Coaching uses Zoho CRM because of its affordability, ease of use with Google apps and straight-forward interfaces. I’ve heard good things about Sugar CRM, Microsoft Dynamics, and highrise. For some other opinions and products check out zdnet.com on the best CRM suite.
If you are serious about your business then invest in a CRM tool. CRM tools all do a standard number of things – embrace them as part of your new process. Start slow and make sure your entire organization adopts each process as you evolve. Remember, your database may be the most important asset your business has!