The Basics of CRM

What is a CRM and Why do I Need One?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management.  This is an online system of organization that covers multiple areas of business management in one spot. For instance, a good CRM will:

  • Streamline your sales funnel
  • Maintain your customer list
  • Keep the history of all customer interactions
  • Give you a forecast for your sales
  • Help you compete against bigger companies
  • Track your events
  • Keep your client files organized

Each one of those tasks above, when done separately and by hand, can only be accomplished by individual employees with education or special knowledge to analyze and manage the task accurately and well.

How to know when you NEED a CRM

You may be thinking, “All of that sounds really nice, but I’m not sure I really need such a hefty tool to manage my business right now.”  Okay, and that’s fair.  But how will you know when it’s time to start looking for one?  Let’s go over a few signs to keep in mind so you recognize the point at which your company has officially grown to a capacity where these compiled tools will assist you effectively before you start wasting your own time to accomplish it by yourself or with multiple employees.

1. You have multiple sources to keep customer information.

If you’re keeping customer and order information in more than one location, that alone is reason enough to find a good CRM system that will bring all your sales, marketing, and service information together.  This would allow you to access, track, analyze, and sort all your customer data instantly.

2. You can’t see customer interactions as a whole.

When your sales team or other employees are interacting with your customers and making notes separately, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of successes or even keep them accountable when you don’t have a birds-eye view.

3. You find making reports tedious.

Making reports analyzing your business processes can be a painful task if that isn’t your forte.  And if you’re unable to do this easily, you won’t be generating these analytics as frequently as you need in order to assess your business’s growth accurately.

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4. You lose track of valuable customer tracking data.

If you find you’re unsure where your employees have left off on customer interactions and whether you’re meant to follow-up on something or if it has already been done, a CRM tool can streamline these vital details.  No customer likes feeling as though they’re an after-thought or the victim of a disorganized company.

5. You can’t stay in touch easily when out of the office.

When you or one of your employees is meeting with clients outside the office, they need to have easy access to the same resources and information they have back at the office.  Finding a way to streamline all the handwritten notes and bring together everyone’s information in one spot would be a valuable tool.

6. You are sending out one-size-fits-all messages.

Obviously, not all customers are created the same.  It would be a mistake to send every person on your email list the exact same offers and messages.  Targeting each group with tailor-made communications will immediately raise the level of positive responses.

7. You are unprepared for when your company grows.

Most business owners want their company to grow.  Organic growth is great, but what if you had a big boom?  Transitioning to a new tracking system now will help you ease into the demand that is sure to come and take out the stress of fast growth since the process is already in place.

  Looking at all the resources you would need to fill without a CRM, imagine how much money would leave your account simply paying for all this work and expertise if you had to hire employees to fulfill each of those jobs. Finding a tool to manage all of that together with a minimum of effort and time on your part would be a gem of a time-and-energy saver leaving you to focus on developing strategies to grow your business.

How to choose a CRM

We’ve already looked at the signs to know when you need a CRM to help your business grow, but now it’s knowing which tool would work best for your needs.  There are many different platforms to pick from and each one offers slightly different benefits.  Here are the main things to examine BEFORE you choose:

  • What is your company’s current situation?  List out your needs and wants as you determine how you envision your company in the future.
  • Thoroughly research CRM systems and examine all the features.
  • Prioritize your needs/wants list to TOP THREE must-haves.
  • Request a demo from the top 3 CRM platforms and allow your employees to try it out and see its effectiveness and how it will impact their jobs.
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Sometimes it is just getting started that causes the most difficulty, especially if your company is still on the smaller end and you’re preparing for your growth spurt.  Here are questions to ask yourself as you begin to find the CRM will work and grow best with your company:

  1. What things in my business are running inefficiently and what do I want most to improve?
  2. What processes do we currently lack in terms of operation and workflow?
  3. Which people in my company would be using CRM?
  4. What software would we want to be integrated with the CRM system we choose?
  5. What is my budget?

5 things to keep in mind

First, remember that whatever CRM you choose needs to be able to grow with you and you just may need to reassess in the future and choose another one.

Second, it is extremely important to know what features and type of functionality you require.  It won’t matter how much (or how little) you spend if it’s too basic, too inflexible, or too difficult and complicated.

Third, make sure that what you choose must integrate with ALL the other software you already have (unless you want to completely overhaul your system).  This is meant to streamline your processes, not complicate.

Fourth, ask for a demonstration, free trial (yes, it’s allowed) and even some training once you’ve determined which CRM would best fit with your company’s needs.  Find a CRM that has successfully worked with an industry and business model like yours.

Fifth, your opinion on how easy the platform is to use matters.  If you find it uncomfortable or too slow, maybe choose a different CRM that feels more user-friendly and intuitive.

Our goal here at Sparrow is to provide you with the tools you need to succeed as a small business owner. There are two CRM platforms we suggest you look into first: Hubspot and Jobber.

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