One of the many challenges facing small businesses is keeping track of their customers, prospects, and vendors. In this economy, customers are spending less and taking longer to make buying decisions. Today’s CRM solutions allow you to keep track of all your critical relationships, especially your sales leads, ensuring you get maximum sales revenue.
Many businesses also find themselves unable to grow solely by referrals alone. Some are now marketing for the first time and wondering where to get new leads and who to address their marketing efforts towards. Remember, leads can come from a number of different sources including current customers, past customers, referral partners, vendors, tradeshows, seminars, website searches, etc. – as well as purchased lists.
Your existing contacts and relationships are an obvious first place to start but getting them all collected and stored in a central location can be quite a difficult challenge. This is where a simple CRM database can help out. It could be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet or (even better) an online, database-driven tool like SalesForce.com. These types of database CRM tools have now progressed to the point where they are cost-effective and easy to use for smaller businesses. Check out a few of the on-demand, SaaS (software as a service) solutions that charge a reasonable ‘per-user’ monthly subscription.
- Salesforce.com – the big player in the industry with many partners
- Sugar CRM – a popular ‘open source’ provider with good features
- Zoho CRM – inexpensive CRM (plus other small biz apps)
- Free CRM – yes it’s free but is pretty basic and includes ads
For a reasonable fee and no long term contract, you can keep all you contact information in one location, safely backed-up and online, where you can access it anytime and from anywhere using a simple web browser. Now you just need to categorize your leads and contacts (i.e. where they came from, what their interest is, what the next steps are, etc.). Obviously if your database is large, you’ll want to concentrate on short-term business opportunities first without getting completely bogged down in data entry and updating.
So what should you expect to achieve by implementing a centralized, database-driven CRM system? Well if you do it correctly you should have;
- A permanent, centralized (and safe) storage of of all customer data and transactions.
- Improved business ‘relationship’ with your customers.
- A bigger pool of prospects to market to.
- Better visibility and control over marketing and sales effectiveness.
- More insight into new opportunities and sales forecasting.
- Fewer leads that don’t get followed up on.
- More qualified leads being passed along to your sales team.
For more information visit some of these sites:
And they’re certainly are some real issues to address when implementing any CRM system. Here’s a great post that summarizes things to expect:
– Steve (www.SPMsolutions.NET)