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How to choose a CRM that'll help your small business thrive

  • Last Updated : June 12, 2023
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If you've heard that a CRM is indispensable for running a successful business, then you've heard right. However, not every CRM will work for every business. Depending on your industry and how much data you process on a daily basis, you can choose a CRM that's simpler or more complex. Most CRM software providers will give you both lightweight and full-blown features so you have a broader choice. In this post, we'll look at what a CRM is meant for and how to choose one that works best for your business.

What should a CRM do?

A CRM simplifies customer relationship management. In its essence, it helps sales people collect, store, and analyse customer information so they can take appropriate action. This includes identifying ideal contact times, evaluating customer satisfaction rates, and following up on  a customer's journey from awareness through purchase and beyond. Some key functionality of a CRM includes:

Lead management: Potential customers' information is gathered through the CRM to manage data both securely and in an organised manner. Rather than having this data in a spreadsheet where it's stored as raw data, a CRM can offer deeper analysis. If you're a farmer, and your lead is a local supermarket who might be interested in stocking your fresh raspberries, not only will you have their contact information, but you'll also know if and how they found your website, what they were looking for, who they spoke to on your support team, and how that interaction went. This gives your sales rep more context about each situation, and helps them initiate more personalised conversations.

Pipeline management: Every business has a different pipeline. In fact, you could even have a different pipeline for each type of customer. With a CRM, you can map these pipelines and track your lead's progress through each stage. For example, if you sell software to end users, your pipeline might include, awareness, demo, consideration, trial, and purchase. However, if you sell business software, your pipeline might be lengthier and involve more stages such as, awareness, evaluation, demo, trial, personal implementation, consideration, monthly purchase, post-sales nurturing, and annual purchase. Regardless of how your pipeline looks, mapping it out visually helps you track your progress more effectively.

Customer contacts: Similar to lead management, a CRM also holds all your customer data in a single place. This allows you to access the information from any device and place. You can also integrate your CRM with your other tools to simplify everyday work. For instance, if you connect your email and telephony systems with your CRM, you can automatically correspond with your customers from within your CRM. Not only can you read the emails you receive, but also set up follow-up email workflows. Some CRM software also allows you to connect social media accounts so you get notifications in CRM when someone mentions you on Facebook or tweets out a question. The system will save these contacts, so it can identify subsequent messages from the same person, and even analyse their sentiment towards your business.

Sales and marketing automation: A CRM not only empowers your sales team but also your marketing team. In the post-pandemic era, people's buying patterns have evolved, making it essential for sales and marketing teams to align and collaborate throughout a customer's purchasing decision. That's when a CRM can help. It allows the marketing team to keep a close eye on each progressing deal and its status so they can create relevant content and nurturing activities to help the sales team close that deal. This could mean creating comparison documents, white papers, hosting educational webinars, and designing relevant email campaigns. All necessary information will be stored in and automatically delivered through the CRM, and all results will be tracked so that the sales team is always aware of what's going on.

Deals database: Every day, sales reps handle various activities like upselling to existing customers, managing high-value accounts, following up on fresh leads, and pursuing current deals. A CRM gives all these data a home, while also providing a visual representation of your business activities. For example, it can serve as a central repository of all the deals that your sales team is working on and the status of each. You can move a deal through the pipeline and watch the progress every step of the way. It's an excellent source of truth for your sales manager and the team, while they assess individual and team performance.

Sure, but all that sounds like big business stuff. I'm much smaller. Do I really need a CRM?

A CRM benefits businesses of all sizes. Based on your industry, process, and requirements, you can choose and customise your CRM. If you're a freelance nail artist, you don't need comprehensive lead nurturing workflows. But you'll still get value from a customer database, clear pipelines, and unified communication channels.

If you have more than a handful of spreadsheets to manage your business data and you're struggling to cope with an overflow of information, then it's time to shop for a CRM. If you've ever missed an appointment (or money) because you couldn't keep up with what was happening in your business then it's time to adopt a specialised tool to do the job for you. Simply put, a CRM can help you regain control over your business.

Fine, but how do I choose a CRM?

There are two main things you should look for when choosing a CRM software: functionality and flexibility. These two aspects will change vastly based on your business model and requirements, so before you make a decision, make sure you know what you need.

Functionality

Evaluate the interface of the software. Check what features the tool comes with and which ones you need to pay additionally for. Most CRM tools have pre-built integrations with other third-party tools like email, social media, and support desk systems. Ideally, a CRM that speaks to your favourite tools is perfect because it'll then fit in with your processes more naturally.

Similarly, make sure the CRM tool offers basic features like lead management, customer sentiment analysis, pipeline management, and a decent report generator. These are essential functions of a CRM, and take time to try these out so you know know how steep the learning curve is.

Most importantly, research the CRM vendor and ensure that they are a reliable brand. Some vendors also charge for customer support, so ask about their after-sale policy beforehand. If your business requires NDAs or is bound by industry-specific legal regulations, make sure that the vendor is aware and can support you comply.

Flexibility

Business software should be able to adapt to your requirements. This means that it should be flexible enough for smaller businesses to use the basics and at the same time, for big businesses to expand the tool. To evaluate a CRM software's flexibility, look for these three things:

Smaller pricing plans - Your CRM should be affordable regardless of how small your business is. Ideally, they should offer options based on the number of users or employees you have and the features you use so you only pay for what you need.

Customisable modules - CRM is the backbone of your business data. That's why it should be completely integrated in to your processes so you can add or remove fields from records, edit modules, migrate data from spreadsheets or other systems, and modify UI text to personalise for your business.

Features you can delete - As we mentioned earlier, not all businesses need all features. You should be able to remove functionality you don't need so you can work with an uncluttered user interface.

We hope this post gives you an idea of why a CRM can serve your business, and how. Apart from streamlining your sales team's activities, a proper CRM can also offer other benefits like reducing stress, eliminating manual drudgery, improving data accuracy, and increasing customer response rates and overall business performance. Before you commit to a CRM software, however, we recommend asking a lot of questions and trying the software first to see how you and your team feel about it. This is an essential step in making sure you get the most out of your CRM.

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