By Athenee Mastrangelo
Your clients are your number one priority, right? So how are you managing their information for them? Do you have all their information stuffed in a shoebox, or do you have an effective CRM (Contact Relationship Management) system? Or are you somewhere in between?
Choosing the right CRM system can make your business; choosing the wrong one can break it. However, finding the right system is not an easy task. It’s also a personal task: Just because Mike next door is happy and successful with his CRM system does not mean it’s the right system for you. Every person, every business, and every situation is unique.
Five Key Areas
Scenario 1: Kevin wanted only the top of the line for his team and chose one of the more expensive CRM systems. Unfortunately, it was too complicated and time-consuming, so in the end his team never used it.
Scenario 2: Becky started out with a free CRM system but had to start buying upgrades to get the necessary options. She ended up paying more than what she would have for the average system, but she got less in return for her investment.
Rather than making these same mistakes, assess your situation. Before you invest your time, money, and energy into a new CRM system, make sure you consider these five key areas.
- Contact Management: For starters, you know you need to store and manage information about all the people in your life (clients, colleagues, leads, and vendors), but what do you need to save (aside from the obvious – name, address, phone numbers, emails, etc.)?
- Do you want to store family information, such as spouse’s, children’s, and pet’s names, birthdays, and stories?
- Are you a visual person? Do you want to be able to store a business card image or logo? What about pictures?
- Do you want to be able to organize your contacts into groups? (Hint: Yes!)
- Your Relationship: Now that you’ve decided on the type of information, what about your relationship with each person? Is this important to you? If so, what data you want to store and manage?
- Do you plan to list all phone calls and take notes of important things discussed?
- Will you keep a record of topics covered and discussed during meetings and presentations?
- Are you going to save any email correspondence? (If email is an important part of your business, you’ll definitely want to look at a CRM system that syncs with email.)
- Projects, Tasks, and Events: Some CRM systems have their own calendar, and others can integrate with your calendar system, making it easy to share events, projects, and tasks with other people on your team. If it is helpful to sync your tasks and events with your contact system, this is definitely worth checking into.
With some CRM systems you can even automate many of your assignments and tasks; this is a great time saver. For example:
Let’s assign a task to Jane, asking her to call a new lead. That task will have all the details and instructions for that call; it will include what to say and what questions to ask. For instance: “Is the lead interested?” If Jane answers, “Yes,” the CRM automatically creates a personalized email to that lead, thanking the person for his or her time. It also creates a follow-up task for Jane to drop by the lead’s office with a welcome basket.
- Your Sales Cycle: Here is where you can be as simple or as detailed as you want. Some things to think about are:
- Do you need to keep track of your sales cycle with each client?
- If you sell products, do you require a system for keeping track of your inventory?
- Do you need an online shopping cart?
- Do you want to be able to invoice clients directly from your CRM tool?
- Your Team: How many people are on your team? Is it just you, do you have only a few people, or is there a big team? Size does matter when looking for the right system.
- When working with a team, do you want to keep track of who is working on what?
- Do you need a social network site for your team (something that works like Twitter and Facebook, but is exclusive to your team)?
- Will all your team members use the same operating system? (Hint: Consider using a cloud-based system so this won’t be an issue.)
- Would it be worth looking into a time-tracking system, even if it is just for you?
- Where does everyone work? At the office? From home? Or are some team members mostly on the road?
Important to Check Out
Now that you have a better idea about what you need, evaluate potential CRM systems in light of the following factors:
- Accessibility: With today’s technology, consider looking into a cloud solution. You’ll have access to your important information no matter where you are. All you need is a computer, iPad, iPhone, or any other smartphone.
- Security and Backup: Will your information be secure, and is there continuous backup?
- Pricing: Know your budget, and remember that more expensive does not necessarily mean better (for you).
- Export strategy: If you do decide to leave, you want to be able to easily take your information with you.
- User-friendly: Is the CRM easy to use, and is there a good support system?
- Reviews: Do you like what you are reading about the solution you are considering?
- Customizable: Are you able to customize your dashboard, fields, and reports?
- Integration: Does the CRM play well with other systems, such as email, calendar, scanners, invoicing, online forms, etc.?
- Social Media: Some CRM systems let you sync your contacts with social media sites, so you’ll always have the latest news and information.
Athenée Mastrangelo helps busy professionals use technology to stay organized, productive, and connected. She is available for workshops, online training, and individual consultations.
[From Connection Magazine – September 2012]