Salespeople in larger companies are familiar with the benefits of customer relationship management (CRM) systems. But CRMs are just as beneficial for small business. I encourage all small biz owners to check some out. You can try many of them out for free; what could be better than that?
Some CRMs are offered as Web-based (hosted) systems, which typically require a monthly subscription. Others are sold as computer/LAN-based systems, requiring a single purchase. There are advantages and disadvantages for either system; however, subscription-based systems are often easier to update, allowing you to stay with a system as your business grows.
How CRM Systems Enable Small Business Success
The SBA tells us there are 23 million small businesses like yours in the United States. With over 317 million potential U.S. consumers, small businesses have to work pretty hard to serve so many people (who are connected with brands digitally and offline). CRM systems enable small businesses to manage sales leads from acquisition to sale without having to manually enter and update every record or independently review each account daily.
Do you want something that’s simple? Lean CRM systems offer similar functionality to systems used by some of the biggest brands on the planet, which allows you to manage sales just like larger competitors and compete for sales effectively.
CRM Free Trials
Most CRM services offer a free trial period, so potential subscribers can “test drive” their systems. You can usually try one out for a periods of 5 to 30 days. During the trial period, you can often can access some – but not all – of the features available within the CRM system, although some do provide full use during the trial period. You can usually enter records, access menus, run reports and, sometimes, integrate third-party apps.
What to Look For During Free Trial Periods
So, you’re interested in a CRM that will would work for your small business. What do you look for? Which features would be most beneficial to you? Well, the answer is going to be the features that enable your salespeople or salesperson or maybe even you to manage which contacts to pursue immediately, which ones may need a little time, and which ones to call when there aren’t any in the first two categories.
When you’re testing CRM systems during free trial periods, sure, you want to be able to test every feature available. But there are some key attributes you should try out:
- Easy data entry: the system must provide a simple contact entry work flow.
- Efficient, intuitive navigation: you want to be able to move freely with minimal navigation paths
- Reporting & communication: you want to be able to run detailed reports with a few keystrokes and share comments and information quickly with employees.
- File storage: is there adequate data storage for current, and future, records? And can you easily upload documents and other files?
- API integration: your system should blend with third-party apps and marketing automation platforms.
Efficient CRM Systems for Small Businesses
Here are three fantastic Web-based CRMs that are perfect for small companies:
The Stride CRM was “created with the average person in mind, not just the salesperson.” The dashboard is simply designed yet effectively displays critical information. The interface opens with a view of your sales pipeline (called the Deal Overview), allowing users to immediately know the status of “deals” for each salesperson.
Capabilities: Users can view pipeline flow, organize and search using tags, view metrics, store files, assign and manage tasks, interact through mobile devices, receive notifications, and export data to MS Excel.
- Drag-N-drop document storage
- Deal overviews
- Tagging & filters
- Real-time collaboration
- Pipeline forecasting
- Metrics (pipeline value, time spent, deals won or lost)
- Integration with MailChimp, Evernote and more using Zapier
Cost (subscriptions billed annually):
- Freelancer: $19/month
- Studio: $29/month
- Agency: $79/month
salesnexus combines a CRM platform with email marketing and lead generation functions that allow users to create marketing campaigns (though limited) and track accounts through the sales pipeline. The tabbed interface displays several functional areas, including the main dashboard and email campaign menu.
Capabilities: Users can view pipeline stages, create email campaigns, merge lead searches into automated campaigns, view analytics, and receive follow up contact notifications. Small business subscriptions are limited to 10K contacts.
- Email templates
- Call logging
- Pipeline analytics
- Mail merge
- Contact merge
- Task scheduler
- Interactive training modules
- New leads import using LeadFerret
Cost (subscriptions billed monthly and includes 500 new LeadFerret leads):
- Small Business: $55/month
- Professional: $65/month
- Complete: $75/month
Like the Stride app, CapsuleCRM is a simple interface that allows users to easily see where accounts are in the pipeline and manage contact activities with just a few clicks. The system enables mobile integration with iPhone, Android and Blackberry devices. The developers claim users can “get started in minutes” and is “simple and intuitive to use.”
Capabilities: Users can manage relationships, track bids and deals, link emails, assign to-dos and calendar items and customize fields. CapsuleCRM works with integration platforms, third-party dashboards, email marketing apps, help desk platforms and business function systems.
- Complete contact views
- Pipeline forecasting
- Account tags
- Contact history
- Calendar & task manager
- Field customizer
Cost (subscriptions billed monthly with no lock-in)
- Professional: $12/month per user
Life Without a CRM
Small businesses are competing in a landscape that moves at hyperspeed. Every minute counts when it comes to establishing and maintaining customer relationships. Without a CRM system, salespeople operate by “feel” and sales leads can get lost or ignored without a connection. CRM systems enable small business owners and employees to understand where things stand, without having to waste time organizing and searching databases manually.
Small businesses that don’t use a CRM must devote time to sales activities which can otherwise be automated. CRMs improve communication internally and externally, and the low cost and ease of implementation of the systems mentioned above should enable small businesses with one employee or thirty to manage their sales activities efficiently and effectively.
Do you use a CRM to automate any parts of your sales process? What’s your go-to service?