This guide is for small business owners interested in using CRM software to organize their client information, close more sales, and better serve their existing clients. We’ll cover what a CRM package is, it’s basic features and functions, and how to know if using CRM software will benefit your business.
Before we dive into the details on this topic, we also suggest you check out Insightly, our recommended small business CRM. Insightly is an inexpensive, easy to use, contact and task management system. Visit Insightly to learn more.
Table Of Contents
What Is CRM Software?
Short for customer relationship management, CRM software is a collection of tools to help organize your interaction with clients.
CRM software allows you to build a custom database of client information, which you and your employees update as you find leads, negotiate offers, land sales and handle customer service. Having all your client information stored in one place helps individuals keep organized and be more productive, makes collaboration easier and gives management insight into individual employee and overall business performance.
CRM Software Homepage
Is CRM Software Right For Your Business?
Are you currently self employed and using a web of spreadsheets, address books, email inboxes and calendars to manage your customer information? Has this way of organizing things started to get out of hand? A CRM system can centralize this information for you and help you be more productive.
Do you have other employees besides yourself who interact with clients, and want a better way to coordinate and supervise activity? CRM software can help you with this as well.
A CRM system can also help you keep on top of your organization giving you insights into employee productivity, help you forecast sales, decide which marketing programs are working and more.
Why You May Not Want A CRM
There are 2 major costs to using a CRM package:
- The monetary costs. A good CRM software will run you anywhere between $10 and $150 a month per employee.
- It takes time to get the CRM software setup and train your employees to use it. You also have to say on top of people to make sure they are using the CRM correctly.
Looking for CRM Software? We Recommend Insightly.
Why Use A CRM?
There are three reasons why businesses have embraced CRM software. First off, it lets you store information on a more accurate and consistent basis. In other words, it offers higher integrity of data. Not only do you have a standardized way of entering customer and sales information, but it keeps it in one place. If an employee leaves your company, the data is still there and organized and accessible to you.
Also, by recording all your customer information on a single platform, you get real data instead of anecdotal reports. By keeping a log of daily tasks, sales and customer satisfaction, you can track the actual progress of your company, as well as the progress of individual employees.
This leads us to the third reason – with real data you can track the effectiveness of marketing strategies. How many customers are using a coupon you distributed? Or, how many were referred by your ad? With real customer data you can figure out exactly what’s working and what isn’t. This can also be applied to your sales tactics, as you can figure out which pitch is the most effective.
Can CRM Software Help a One Person Company?
Maybe. The advantages of CRM software tend to be greater the more people you add to the system. However, a self employed business owner still get’s the task management benefits as well as the benefits of keeping information standardized and in one place.
Some CRM companies, including our recommended option Insightly, offer limited capability free versions of their software for self employed individuals. If you would like to try Insightly for free you can do so here.
Keep it Simple: Why Many CRM Rollouts Fail
In order to leverage the power that CRM software offers, people have to use it. It’s a very simple, but often overlooked fact. Business owners or managers sometimes focus too much on the advanced features and neglect the basics. This over complicates things for their employees, and makes it less likely that they are going to use the software at all.
If no one uses the CRM software, then the advanced features don’t matter. Focus on getting the basics right and you will be well ahead of most small businesses.
CRM Software Basics
An understanding of the basics of how CRM works will put everything we have said above into context. Here’s what you need to know.
While they may have different names, depending on the CRM software you choose, the 4 main building blocks are:
- Contacts – Current or potential customers if you are a B2C business, or individuals at a particular firm you are trying to sell if you are a B2B business.
- Organizations – For B2B businesses to keep track of the companies they are selling into, and the individual contacts they have at that company. If you are a B2C business you will probably not use this function.
- Opportunities – Used to track potential sales and keep a record of past sales.
- Tasks – Make note of any interaction (phone call, writing a proposal, sending an email etc) you have with your contacts and schedule tasks for the future.
The real strength of CRM software, however, is the interconnection of the four. For example, when you search an individual’s name, you’ll find their associated organization, sales opportunities (past and present), a log of all conversations you’ve had with them, and the tasks you have scheduled for them in the future.
Every level of the organization can benefit from the implementation of CRM software, so it helps to think of things in that way. The rest of this guide is divided up into the benefits that you can expect at the individual, team, and management levels when rolling out a CRM package.
CRM Software on the Individual Level
If you are like most non CRM users, you probably have your customer information scattered across a variety of different applications including email, address books (both online and offline), and spreadsheets.
A CRM software gets all your client information, including contact info, notes on past discussions, and reminders to follow up into one central place. It basically works like an advanced address book and task manager. Just like an address book, you enter in all the contact information you have for a client. Most CRM’s will also allow you to add custom fields if there is information outside of general contact information that you want to input.
Insightly CRM Contact Page
You can create tasks (like appointments or sales calls) and link them to the individuals involved. Afterwards, you can add notes on what was discussed and, if need be, set a reminder to follow up.
Most CRM software will also let you track potential and closed sales. Each time a client expresses interest in your product, you can create a new opportunity and link it to the contact. Within that opportunity, you add notes, create tasks and set a probability of closing the deal. This helps you build a pipeline and estimate your sales earnings.
If used properly, you’ll soon have a vast web of information that’s easy to sort through. Many CRM applications have a dashboard or homepage that shows you upcoming tasks for the day or week. Click them and you’ll see any notes you wrote about the task, as well as information on the individual client, their company and any past interactions you’ve had with them.
CRM Software On The Team Level
All these benefits – storing customer information, setting tasks, tracking past interactions and sales opportunities – compound themselves when you have multiple employees using the same CRM software.
Each employee at your business can have their own account with personalized tasks and opportunities. However, as they add client and sale information, it will go to a singular database. (As an administrator you can view who enters what and set restrictions on what employees can access, but we’ll describe this more later.)
Let’s take the example of somebody calling with a customer service issue. As long as that client info has been updated, you can immediately pull it up and find out who they spoke with, what they talked about, what products the client has purchased and so on. You might then forward them to the employee they spoke with last. Or, having the information in hand, you might tackle it yourself.
Insightly Task Description
If you work in a team, CRM software can be a great way to stay organized and build on each other’s work. But note that it’s only as strong as the data that’s entered. If employees neglect to use the software regularly, the data won’t have any use. This is why it’s extremely important to choose the right software: You want something that has all the right features AND is simple and intuitive enough to actually be used. You can check our comparison guide to find out which platform is right for you.
Management / Reporting Level
If you do oversee a group of employees, CRM software offers you tools to manage their work, track their progress and estimate earnings. Through the software, you can divide employees into teams with different levels of access. This is especially helpful for sales teams as you can draw clear boundaries for sales territories. Then, when a task arises, you can assign it to an employee or team and follow the progress from your dashboard.
Often managers are flying blind to the productivity and effectiveness of their staff. Assuming your employees stick to the software and enter data properly, however, you’ll have quick access to the following insight, on the individual, team and company-wide level:
- Productivity– Who is finishing their tasks? In what amount of time and with what results?
- Effectiveness – Who is the best at serving clients and/or closing deals?
- Pipeline – What’s the probability of closing each sale? And thus, what earnings can you forecast for the company?
Depending on the information you and your team enter into the CRM you could also track things such as software bugs, client satisfaction, and more.
Want to manage 1000's of leads, save time, and get organized? Click Here to get our FREE CRM guide and find out how.
CRM software has numerous benefits that you can take advantage of on multiple levels. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the software is only as strong as the data that’s entered. If your employees aren’t motivated to use it, or if they find it too confusing, the software won’t do you much use. Stick with a platform that handles basic functions reliably and intuitively. And if you need help, check out our CRM software guide to compare top brands.
Looking for CRM Software? We Recommend Insightly.