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|Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.|
Effective CRM for Small Businesses
A growing number of companies of all sizes, looking to increase efficiency and sales productivity, are shifting from tracking sales and contacts with spreadsheets to adopting customer relationship management (CRM) platforms.
CRM software helps companies increase customer service, retention and sales by integrating common tools including customer and prospect contact data, order histories, calendars, projects, notes and other information into a single system.
By combining this data and making it accessible easily, companies can track every interaction with a customer or prospect, and schedule the next step in a sales process without having to enter a lot of information manually.
CRM tools let you track leads, projects, milestones and interactions. Many CRM tools also include dashboard features that generate reports in visual formats so company owners and managers can view sales results, opportunities and pending activity on a single screen.
These reports can provide important insights into customer behavior, and sharing information within a CRM platform provides a secure way to promote collaboration within, and between, your company’s sales and customer service teams.
CRM tools can also trigger automatic reminders at set points of the sales process, such as following up a call within a specific number of days.
The software can also generate emails automatically, such as when a meeting is scheduled with a prospect or when you want to follow up after a product is delivered or a service is completed.
Most CRM tools aimed at small and medium businesses are cloud-based, making it easy to create an account and enter information easily. Storing data in the cloud makes it convenient for team members to access and update information remotely, such as entering notes about a sales meeting into a mobile app immediately after the meeting ends.
Common uses for CRM platforms include:
Some tools also include inventory management and customer service tools to help tie in other aspects of your customer service and sales support.
CRM also provides the ability to tag and sort customers so you can track sales and opportunities by a variety of attributes, such as company size, location, referral source, and others. This allows to you run reports that help understand how your marketing efforts are performing and to identify future opportunities.
For instance, segmenting a customer list by various characteristics helps you plan your marketing efforts, and monitor the results, more effectively.
Some CRM platforms have features such as integrated mapping of clients or prospects to help make it easier to plan meetings, or to schedule deliveries or service calls.
Most CRM tools also offer integration with other common cloud applications, such as your email platform, accounting system, calendar or project management tool. Many also let you pull in updates from your customers’ and prospects’ social media feeds so you can review their latest posts or comments before contacting them.
If you’re thinking about a CRM tool, an important first step is thinking about the kinds of information you’re tracking and how you’re tracking that data. If you’re relying on more than one tool, having data from those tools on one screen will likely make your life a little easier.
Popular CRM choices for small businesses include Insightly, Zoho CRM, Salesforce, Nimble, and others.
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