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If you’re running a startup or an evolving business, you might feel overwhelmed once you have too much customer data. Managing it is a must if you want to do effective sales outreach.

Here is what you should know: You don’t need to have been in business for long before data becomes overwhelming. Without a system, keeping track of it can become an a literal headache.

As sales consultants, we have witnessed the struggle to stay on top of leads. When the “database” is haphazardly thrown together on Google Sheets, to call it messy is putting it mildly. What can erupt after a few misentries, missorts, and accidental multiple field deletions is chaos.

Let’s not get started on notes, attachments, documents, and to-dos for each record. Things start falling between the cracks. 

The result is often poor employee performance and poor customer experience.

Preparing For Telemarketing Campaigns

As leadership, all of the above can ruin the chance for you to achieve your goals.

Enter the CRM to save the day.

And, what exactly is a CRM? 

CRM is an acronym for “Customer Relationship Management” and refers to a database. This database is software that converts all that information into electronic, actionable format.

By housing your customer information in a CRM, you can access your information on command and automate some of your sales and customer service processes. From a strategic point of view you’be able to track your team productivity and attainment. This will help you to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

A CRM Success Story

Should a small business have a CRM?
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A few years ago, we were hired to help a manufacturing company refine its sales and marketing processes. The first thing that we noticed when walking into their office for the first time was their circa 1990 filing system.

To access customer files, you would have to get up and hunt for them around the office. There were huge binders with customer records organized by segment and alphabetical order. Inside each binder were printed out pages of emails, invoices, and other documents that were grouped and stuffed into sheet protectors. 

More often than not, misfiled documents were hard to find when you needed them. Sometimes, necessary paperwork vanished altogether, and if it ever surfaced, it felt like nothing short of a miracle. 

Besides the record-keeping debacle, sales goals and activities weren’t written down or tracked by any means.

The business owner was frustrated at the lack of sales progress; it was evident that his reps were spending too much time chasing paper, but not in the right way. 

There were two obvious solutions: 

  1. Establish goals and track them automatically.
  2. Convert and organize all customer records to a digital format where they could be stored and managed.

Taking action on these solutions allowed us to define and track success. We eliminated time-wasting file scavenger hunts and were able to attend to taking care of customers and growing the business. 

Picking A CRM For Your Outreach

CRMs for small business
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Finding a CRM that “fits” on paper can be easy. But you must have the right expectations.

Do your research, but avoid overthinking. Finding a CRM that has everything sales teams wish for is hard, no matter the budget. Most systems will need tweaking to fit your needs. Luckily, most CRMs are customizable. Depending on the level of customization required, you may need support from a programmer.

Focus on the points that matter most to you:

Pricing – Figure out your budget, then determine what systems are available in that price range.

Functions – What features do the systems available in that price range provide you?

Can you build multiple pipelines? Can you sync it with your email or make phone calls through it?

Decide which functions you need and pick the CRM that delivers on your top priorities.

Customization – Is there a CRM that specifically caters to your industry or line of work? 

Systems that cater to specific industries with specialized workflows tend to be on the pricier side. Still, you may be able to find a budget-friendly solution that is intended specifically for your kind of business.

More good news is that if not, you’ll likely be able to find a cost-effective generic solution since so many systems available on the market today are highly customizable.

Integration – Can your CRM integrate with the tools you regularly use to interact with your customers? If so, this will be a plus.

User-Friendliness – Your CRM will guide your team through your sales operations. It should be intuitive and easy for everyone jump into.

Note whether your CRM system has an FAQs section or a video library that’s particularly helpful. If you see an easy way to chat with or call support when you can’t figure out an issue on your own, that’s even better.

A CRM Is Not A Foolproof Tool

How to implement a CRM for small business.
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An important tip is that a CRM is a tool, not a miracle worker. That’s to say that the success you derive from adding one to your process largely depends on you.

If a CRM seems easy enough for you to figure out without watching the tutorials or having a few post-onboarding demos, watch them and attend the demos anyway. I promise you will learn something. If you don’t use it properly, you may end up almost as frustrated as when you were drowning in sticky notes, contracts, and memos.

Because of this, I also suggest that once you have a CRM, take special care to fill in all critical fields and take adequate notes. You also want to be sure the CRM is easy to navigate later on down the road.

You may end up trying out a few CRMs before finding the one that’s the best fit for you. Switching CRMs can be somewhat of a manual process. If you ever need to do so, it can be tricky to cleanly transfer your data from one system to another.

When Will Your Business Need A CRM?

Even when our business was very young, we maintained a CRM to keep track of things. Using a calendar or spreadsheet alone never seemed to be enough. Being disorganized has never proven itself to be a worthy trade-off for potential savings in dollars.

Over the years and spanning a variety of projects, we’ve used all kinds of CRMs. There’s Zendesk, Salesforce, Salesmate, Zoho and Freshteams, Bitrix, Agile, HubSpot, PhoneBurner, and proprietary systems. When our clients aren’t ready for a CRM, we build customized Excel databases that allow us to keep all their sales data in order.

Whatever system you choose, You need to weigh your options if you want to find a CRM that you love. Understanding this, we are happy to make recommendations to our clients when selecting a CRM. We are also open to working in whichever one they choose.

Ultimately, we don’t mean to point you in any specific direction. It may help to see a detailed list of suggestions or side-by-side product comparisons. Websites like pcmag.com provide comprehensive insight into software and may be a good place to start.

Do you have any questions about whether a CRM could help your business? What experiences have you had while shopping for, or implementing one?

Let us know if you have any questions or ideas about CRMs for your business development outreach.

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