Almost every small business owner I’ve worked with starts out keeping track of prospects using a spreadsheet. They carefully choose and set up the columns. Then they add to it weekly, sometimes daily, listing all the people they’ve spoken to and a bit of information about what was discussed. They’ll even enter follow-up dates diligently, not only on the spreadsheet but also in their calendar. It works perfectly until …
… they get busy working with their first clients. Then the whole system falls apart. The notes they enter on the spreadsheet are less thorough, the follow-up date is either forgotten altogether or not entered in their calendar. Soon they are working with a document that isn’t reliable and is costing them money through lost opportunities.
The answer is simple. Invest in CRM software (Customer Relationship Management) the same day you start your business.
Why invest in CRM software? And how do you choose one?
Benefits and Features of CRMs
There are many benefits to CRM software. Here are the ones that are most important to me:
- When I enter a follow-up date, the system doesn’t only remind me when I open the software, it emails me with the prospect’s (or client’s) name, phone number and email address so no matter where I am, I can remain diligent about moving conversations and projects forward.
- It stores all of my email correspondence with a prospect or client in one place. It is such a time-waster to search my entire email archive looking for excerpts from email conversations. In my CRM, it is all in one place, easily available for reference at any time.
- I can track metrics, such as number of proposals, number of projects with one client, how long someone’s been a client, when I last spoke to them, how many prospects are on my cold, warm and hot lists, etc.
- It creates and stores documents, such as contracts and non-disclosure agreements, and allows me to send them out for electronic signatures. I can see when they’ve been opened and easily send reminders as deadlines approach.
- My CRM also sends invoices, allowing clients to pay me by credit card through PayPal. This makes “30-day payables” a thing of the past; I receive payments within days.
- I can easily share my CRM with other team members at no additional cost.
Simplicity is the most important attribute I look for in CRM software. I don’t need – or enjoy – a lot of bells and whistles. I want white space on the screen so I can quickly see what I need to do next. Several years ago I chose to start working with 17Hats, and while it isn’t perfect, it meets the majority of my needs and … makes and saves me money daily.
In working with clients, I’ve also been able to use several other systems: Hubspot, Pipedrive, Salesforce, Insightly and Highrise. They all deliver value through a unique combination of tools and functions.
All of them, including 17Hats, offer free trials. This is the best way to decide what’s right for you. Create some imaginary clients and prospects. Work with the CRMs that most appeal to you for a few days and get a feel for how the software will support you, not only tomorrow but three and five years from now. Changing your CRM is a major disruption to your business and important details are always lost in the transition. Take the time up front to “work” the CRM so you can make the best choice possible.
This article from FinancesOnline provides a wealth of detail on CRM software. It lists the top 25 CRMs, provides a full description, and gives each a rating out of 10 (17Hats scores an 8.5): https://crm.financesonline.com/
The bottom line is … your bottom line. If you stick with a spreadsheet, you are choosing to limit your ability to grow your business.
P.S. If you do check out 17Hats and decide it’s right for you, use this referral code gsknbzrdtv and get half off their normal pricing for two years.