When asked by the International Trade Council to write on the topic of “Why small businesses should use a CRM” I gladly accepted. After all, it’s a good opportunity for me to share some of what I’ve learned in my 20+ years as both a small business owner and as someone who works in the CRM business.
So, who am I? Well, I’ve been involved in all aspects of CRM software delivery (from training to support, consulting, development, and implementation) since before CRM was called CRM, when the World Wide Web was still in its infancy. A lot has been said and written about CRM since those days. Despite all the talk, many small businesses owners still don’t fully understand the value of CRM software. That’s why I wrote this post.
Throughout the years, I’ve read and created more PowerPoint’s and white papers on “How to Succeed with CRM” than I care to remember. It goes without saying that I think businesses of all sizes should use a CRM system. The real question is, why don’t they? And why do so many continue to fail to get the results they desired?
It is with these thoughts that I began writing on the benefits of using CRM software.
Begin with the End in Mind
Think forward to a time when you may be ready to sell your business. Will you have one cohesive and comprehensive set of records on all the companies that you have interacted with over the years? Will you be able to demonstrate to potential owners not just who your customers are but all the leads and opportunities that your business is working toward? We never work solely with our customers. A CRM software can provide a listing of all business relationships and their involvement with your company over the years, building a value proposition for your selling price.
Outlook Isn’t Enough
By using Outlook you can keep the lines of communication open with the important customers and partners in your network, it is easy to use and available from all devices so why bother with the extra expense and complexity of a CRM software? Well, Outlook is good at keeping track of current matters but after years and years of use it will become impossible to obtain a centralized list of any kind. If your business has more people than just you, Outlook will not adequately store, manage or present the information you need to grow to the next level or sell your business.
“Structure” is What Kills CRM Success
What is it about “structure” that kills CRM success? It all comes down to human psychology. Accounting software is structured because in order to manage accounting principles it has to be. But accountants and bookkeepers use it. They can handle the structure because it’s how they think.
Sales and customer management is a fluid experience, it’s varied and without structure. To gain anything from a CRM software, one must take on this “structured” approach. People in sales get results due to their ability to direct a free flowing exchange of communication with customers and prospects. So, in a way, CRM software is opposed to what sales people naturally do.
Because sales oriented people struggle with anything too structured, they often see the CRM as “more work” and will resist the structure of it. What to do to combat this dilemma? Follow these simple yet extraordinarily important steps:
- Start small. Take one idea/process/need and focus on getting that one succeeding before embarking on other implementation ideas. For example, you might set about to have one central Customer/Contact/Lead/Prospect list.
- Provide training. There used to be a time when users would readily sign up for three days of training for a new software package. Today it usually isn’t even included in the budget. Usually, users do not easily adapt to changes in their process, providing training on why and how best to achieve the result will pay back the training investment 100 fold.
- Make it Operational. Find a way to incorporate an “operational” component to every possible new function. In the example of the Central Contact list, this can be tied to outbound customer bulletins or other outbound efforts.
- Take your Time. Results should be expected in months or years, not in days or weeks. Like all changes, it will take time. If your expectations are too high, then the project may be deemed a failure when in fact it has never had a chance to get off the ground.
- Assign a CRM Mama. Someone within your company should have a sense of ownership over the success of the CRM project. This person will be trained to administer, train and support the rest of the users. They will keep an eye out for potential pitfalls and have the ability to redirect the process to a successful outcome should problems arise.
- Don’t Blame the Software. All CRM software have similar functions and features. The choice you make will probably have more to do with factors other than the software itself. If you do not see results, avoid blaming the software until you’ve gone through the steps above first.
We’ve only just scratched the surface of the value that a CRM software can bring to small, medium and large businesses alike. If you have any further questions for me about CRM, or comments about this post, feel free to reach out to me through our Contact page or on LinkedIn.