Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs aren’t only the future of business; they’re the present. And they aren’t just for Fortune 500 companies anymore either. Like with most technology, competition, economies of scale, and innovation have driven costs down significantly. Now, you can even get a basic version of a CRM program for free. Without a doubt, acquiring and implementing a CRM program is my #1 recommendation for businesses of all kinds looking to grow and increase revenue.
Whether you’re an independent freelancer, a sales mercenary who is compensated by getting to “eat what you kill,” or a large and complex company, there is a CRM program out there for you. Regardless of your budget (or even a lack thereof), you can customize the level of sophistication of your CRM program as they all have various subscription levels. Most integrate with your email provider of choice and have a mobile app too. Additionally there are an incredible amount of third-party add-ons you can incorporate depending on how robust your operations processes are.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like building a CRM program is a cheap and easy task, far from it in fact. So keep in mind when considering which CRM program is best for you that the cost typically exceeds that of the user license fee. They require a significant amount of time and commitment, especially in the beginning when you’re just getting started. Don’t let that deter you however, as the ROI (while seemingly intangible at first) will more than make up for it, assuming it’s implemented correctly. In fact, the average ROI of a CRM system is $5.60 for every $1 spent.
CRM systems allow you to track and store vast amounts of data about your customers and prospects. The more data you have about your sales cycle that is accurate and relevant, the more deeply you can analyze that information to gain insight that will not only help increase revenue, but ultimately help you improve:
- Close rates,
- Customer service and retention,
- Length of sales cycle, and
- Forecasting efforts and projections.
Just as important, CRMs also help you automate your sales process. The more automated your sales cycle and follow up efforts can be, the greater volume of deals your business will be able to close as opportunities will be less likely to slip between the cracks.
By now you are probably either thrilled by the amazing potential a CRM program can provide, or perhaps you’re overwhelmed by the thought of endless amounts of data. If you’re like me and skew towards the former, below is a list of the necessary things to consider before rushing into it, along with some things to keep in mind after you’re fully operational.
- Conduct an “audit” of existing processes and database.
- Clean up your existing data to avoid the dreaded trap of “garbage in/garbage out.”
- Code your database to more easily identify priority contacts, “ABC”.
- Perform a sales cycle analysis, what are the typical steps involved and the time frame?
- Customize CRM pages, fields, and layouts with your appropriate specifications.
- Training of users/administrators.
- Import your database and start beta testing.
- Integrate with your existing systems, i.e. email, QuickBooks, etc.
- Reporting and sales forecasting.
- Ongoing maintenance, monitoring, updates, and improvements.
While implementing a CRM program can be relatively time‐consuming and expensive, if you do it right, the benefit to your business is invaluable. Don’t dismiss CRMs and cloud‐computing as trends that will soon go away, otherwise your competition may have already long passed you by the time you’re ready to get on board. With just over a month left in 2014, now is the perfect time to start planning and conduct your due diligence to start 2015 with yet another resolution.