Bring on the CRM

Customer Relationship Management (more commonly known as crm) has been a major corporate buzzword for some time now. In a nutshell, CRM aims to give you an organized, methodical way to track all of your sales leads. Ideally, fewer leads fall through the cracks, your sales team closes a higher percentage, and management gets better visibility into what is going on in the business.

One of the dark secrets of CRM is that many implementations fail– you’ll see estimates from 30% to 75% bandied about. I believe one of the biggest reasons for this is that CRM is often sold as a sort of turnkey software package, as opposed to a complete process which needs to impact how the company approaches its day-to-day operations. People don’t like change, that’s a basic fact, and developing good CRM requires change, unless your sales process is so great that it doesn’t have any room for improvement. But if that were the case, you probably wouldn’t be reading my blog, would you?

CRM can cost an awful lot of money, easily running into tens of thousands of dollars (if not millions) at many mid-size and larger companies. So how about CRM for the small business? Are you limited to living with Microsoft ACT?

No, there are options out there. A very brief google survey brings up 2 which I’d mention. The better known is Salesforce.com, which is the Big Daddy of CRM, and well known for their web-based programs which don’t require you to install software. That’s attractive. However, Salesforce is expensive, with big up-front payments. You may also have trouble getting them to call you back and respond to your inquiry. It took them a few months to get back to one company I worked for, at which point we’d already gone with another vendor.

As a contrast, look at someone like AIM promote. I haven’t ever used the software, but a few things about it are attractive. It’s got all of the typical crm lead-management basics. Most importantly, there is no upfront setup fee. That’s important, because it lets you try out the offer to see if it works for your business. Any time you can limit your front-end risk, I think that’s a good move.

Whatever you do, don’t go into a CRM implementation effort expecting to have one program or website turn your company around. It’s important to analyze your sales process first to look for the gaps and the problems (as well as the things you do well), and then make sure that any program you use can help you address the problems and preserve the strengths. You might also need a big club to counter the change resistance in your organization. But if it’s done right, the impact can be great.

A quick example of great CRM– a few years ago I was browsing the InfoUSA website. They ar a mailing list broker where you can search certain demographics or company profiles and then buy a list of company names, addresses and contacts for direct marketing. In any case, I set up an account and did a search for something, checked it out for a few minutes, and then moved on to another task. Rrrrrring. My phone rang. I picked up… “Hi, this is John from InfoUSA, I noticed you were browsing our site, and wondered if I could help you find anything.” Fastest response time I’ve ever encountered, I’m still amazed at how they could respond so quickly. The answer: world class CRM.

This post sponsored by aim promote.

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