What Exactly Can a CRM Do for a Small Business?

A good friend of mine — an expert in the field of CRM — is always telling me how CRM adoption is very low among small businesses. My response? Duh! Of course it is. Oh, I am not making fun of my friend. He’s exactly right. Adoption is pretty low. I agree with him.

The problem is, most small business people have no clue what a CRM can do for them. If we don’t understand what something can do, why would we bother with it?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and it refers to a software tool that helps you find, catch and keep customers. And do it easily and effectively.

A lot of small business people see CRM as a tool for large businesses. But I’m here to tell you, a CRM can be essential in small businesses too. Forget all the lingo about conversions and lead scoring. After all, you may have grown your business this far without knowing what those things are.

Why CRM is Important

Instead, simply think about your goals and what you want to achieve when it comes to sales. And think about what’s painful today in your sales process and what would help fix it. Here are three ways a CRM can help operate your business.

1. Helps Scale Your Sales and Marketing

As you grow, you are going to need a way to bring in more sales, and keep track of where in the process each sales prospect or deal stands. Up to now, it might have been enough to manage this through email, spreadsheets and calendars — and human memory.

But once you start growing, it’s going to be a pain to keep from being buried in emails. Manually updating spreadsheets and calendars will take more and more time. And it’s going to hurt you in the pocketbook if you lose out on a hot prospect because someone forgot about a lead and it fell through the cracks.

All of these things can derail your growth. They force you to pull resources off of other activities to go back and fix screw ups. Or you have to go generate new leads because you didn’t capitalize on the ones you already spent time and money generating.

Trust me, it’s happened in my business. But here’s where CRM comes to the rescue.

Simply put, CRM software helps you manage the sales process from generating a sales lead all the way through to closing a deal — more reliably.

2. Helps Eliminate Drudgery and Repetitive Labor

If you’ve ever wished you could get more done in your business, you probably need some automation. Automation is what helps you when you and your team just don’t have enough hours in a day.

Here’s where a CRM is like hiring another employee. A good CRM can help you do things automatically by setting up simple rules for when to send out standard emails, or remind you or a sales person to follow up, or simply avoid repetitive manual data entry.

In fact, a CRM can be better than hiring a new employee. It’s a lot less expensive. And it can free up and empower your existing employees, so they can pursue higher level contributions. They’ll like that.

3. Helps Your Small Business Get Paid Promptly

I have a confession to make. Early on in my company’s existence, there were two projects my company never got paid for.

How did it happen? All too easily as it turns out. Due to an internal communications snafu, we simply never invoiced.

Yes, you read that right. We made the sale. We did the work. We never sent an invoice out.

By the time we discovered our error (in one case, over 18 months later!), two things had happened. In the first situation, the customer went under, sold its assets and the buyer wasn’t responsible for the prior owner’s bills — especially when I had never submitted an invoice before the sale. In the other situation, I was too embarrassed to send the invoice late.

So we never got paid.

As I’ve come to learn over the years, my situation isn’t uncommon. When I confessed my failing, other business owners quietly told me that they too had similar stories.

Of course, all of this could have been avoided with a clear process determining when to invoice, and checks and balances such as reports to tell us what was outstanding. But when you try to run a business through email, you don’t have any of that.

Now, most CRM applications don’t handle the invoicing needs of a small business directly. But CRM applications tightly integrated with an invoice solution can streamline the process significantly. And prevent snafus.

And that helps you get paid promptly!

Why You Should Use a CRM System

None of us want disorganization and lost sales. None of us want to be wasting time on manual work if a machine can do it. And none of us want to work for free and not get paid.

A CRM can help solve all three of these challenges.  In conclusion, that’s why CRM is important for a small business.

One last point: don’t make the mistake of trying to do too much at once with a CRM. Start small and master a few features at first. It’s good to get a CRM that enables you to turn modules on one by one and implement them as you go.

Next Steps

1. Determine your pain points.  Look at your current sales process, end to end. See what is causing problems or what needs the most work.

2. Identify possible CRM software choices. Start by visiting CRM software review sites such as G2Crowd, Capterra or Small Business Trends. Or simply try Zoho CRM.

3. Test through free trials.  Pick no more than three CRM tools to consider. Then do a free trial of each (one at a time) to see which best meets your needs.

Photo via Shutterstock

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