You might turn to your parents or friends for advice on buying your first car. Your doctor can clear up any confusion about trying a new diet or fitness regime. When small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners start looking around for a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, on the other hand, there might not be any obvious expertise to draw upon.
A few years ago, some SMBs might have put off investing in a CRM system for the first few years, assuming they needed to reach a certain growth milestone before they would see any benefits. Today, however, the most successful SMBs adopt CRM as early as possible, because the more data they gather -- even if it’s just that first customer -- the better they’ll be able to ramp up sales over the long term.
The other reason CRM has become even more appealing to entrepreneurs is the relatively easy way in which they can access the technology. Instead of a cumbersome process of installing it on their own servers, cloud-based CRM such as Sales Cloud gives them on-demand access to technology that was once limited to larger organizations. Plus, the increased digitization of almost everything means there is a lot more data to be gathered at every point in the customer journey, so SMBs know they’ll be getting a lot of use of CRM right from the start.
That said, purchasing a CRM platform requires doing some thoughtful research to ensure you have a solid return on investment (ROI) plan. Unless they’ve already used such tools in previous roles, however, the average SMB owner might not be sure what to look for in a particular provider or solution.
This list will offer a jumping-off point of things to bring up in those initial conversations with other members of your team, or even as a series of self-reflections. Feel free to add your own ideas as you go along.
Map out the steps that take your business from discovering a lead, confirming they’re a viable prospect, making contact, pitching, developing a quote or formal proposal and finally closing a deal.
Put an estimated time against each of these steps, and think about any existing tools that are used. Are you tracking leads in spreadsheets? Reminding yourself or a team member to send a proposal using Post-it® Notes? Having a strong sense of your existing sales processes will make it easier to learn how CRM can transform processes for the better.
Some SMBs get mired in paperwork that makes it difficult to get revenue in the door. Others lose track of key customer information that forces them to ask for the same details the next time a returning client wants to make a purchase. Then there are the SMBs that simply aren’t reaching their quota, whether it’s set by the month or the quarter.
CRM can address all of these issues, but depending on what’s a priority, you may look at feature sets within a product like Sales Cloud differently. You’ll realize how to effectively train yourself and the team. Hopefully you’ll also start to see the bigger picture -- note we said “Business Objectives,” not just “Sales Objectives.” The most successful CRM users tend to find that technology improves communication and collaboration across multiple departments, making the entire company better able to reach its goals.
SMBs may have already brought on a range of other applications before they started searching for a CRM. This could include a vast number of technologies to assist with marketing activities, for example, or the tools that are used to meet the firm’s customer service needs. In some cases there will be HR systems that need to get input on sales performance to handle things like bonuses and commissions.
CRM should not only integrate with these and other applications. It should be able to share data in such a way that the other tools work even better. In other words, a CRM project should create an IT environment where everyone feels on the same page in terms of the information they use to do their jobs every day.
You know those fun mobile games you play on your smartphone, or the apps you use to do everything from online banking to booking vacations? They tend to be so easy to use that we almost look forward to clicking on the button that launches them. Adopting CRM as an SMB should be no different.
Pay close attention to the user experience, and make sure you understand ways the interface or other elements could make you and your team feel more confident, empowered and productive than ever before. CRM should feel like a natural extension of your current ways of working.
SMBs don’t always stay SMBs. Some will become larger entities, while others will scale in terms of the number of products or services they offer. That means your CRM usage needs to scale and grow in parallel with your company’s success.
Think about how your use of CRM might become even stronger with the addition of marketing automation such as Marketing Cloud, for example. Or think about what might happen as you not only use CRM in the office but as a mobile app that allows you to close more deals on the road. Now that CRM like Sales Cloud has artificial intelligence features like Salesforce Einstein, meanwhile, explore how will that influence your ability to see what’s coming in terms of opportunities, and the speed at which you hit your next growth spurt.
Answering these questions may not be the end of your research process, but they’re almost certain to put your CRM project on the best possible footing. And as the most successful SMBs know, once you get used to working with CRM like Sales Cloud, there’s no going back.