Customer Relationship Management Tools

Be under no illusion – having a decent customer relationship management (CRM) tool for your business is a necessity. I’ve seen more cases than I could ever imagine where a business has a stack of business cards, or at best they’ve hired someone to enter them into a spreadsheet. Some of the more elaborate (and I will use that term loosely) spreadsheet users may even have a “notes column” they keep up to date (or not). 

That approach will get you nowhere fast, and certainly cannot scale. 

A stack of business cards or a spreadsheet just won’t give you the insights you need to effectively run your business. 

Consider these questions: 

  • How long did it take to close a deal?
  • What’s your average deal size? Is it changing? What are the trends?
  • What does your pipeline look like? Does your funnel have good distribution?
  • How is your best rep performing? How about your worst?
  • What does your revenue forecast look like?
  • What does your revenue mix look like?
  • What vertical markets are suffering? Which ones are doing well?
  • Do you have a record of all the communications associated to the account?
  • What happens when the key contact you’ve been dealing with leaves the company you’ve been targeting?

If your business is in its early stages, it is the perfect time to establish the foundation of having good intelligence around people who buy your stuff. Or of people who are considering buying your stuff.

And if your business has a few sales reps, it is imperative that they use a CRM to keep their prospective customer journey information up to date, as well as the dollars associated with the opportunity they’re selling into. Without it, how do you know what your revenue forecast is?  

I’ve known companies where the head of sales held back reps’ commission payments if the opportunity they sold wasn’t in the CRM system. In other cases, sales execs don’t enforce CRM use with their reps; this approach is short sighted. I get it; sales reps do not want to be spending their time with administrative duties like entering information into a CRM, but CRMs don’t have to be big and clunky and cumbersome.  The key is choose a tool that can scale with your business, beyond the number of licenses you want for your sales reps.

Implementing a new tool like a CRM is essentially “Change Management 101”. If you force it down reps’ throats, no one will embrace it. On the other hand, the “build it and they will come” mentality – which assumes everyone will leap to start using the new tool – is naïve and won’t work either. The best method is to communicate the change to your reps, why the company is doing it, and their important role in it. Then invite them to ask questions and try the CRM out. Along the way, it is in your best interests to understand and manage potential resistance, as well as to find change advocates, who will champion the change among their peers.  

In closing, there are an infinite number of CRM systems from which to choose. Do your research; understand what your company needs. Understand how the tool can help you today, and in the future. But remember – CRMs are only as good as the information put in to them. Signing up for one is the easy part…getting reliable information on a consistent basis is the challenge.

But it’s worth it; without these insights you are operating your business with blinders on.