A CRM system tracks all aspects of client information, prospective sales, actual sales, marketing campaigns, the "sales funnel" for all sales representatives, and much more. Just as a technician lives inside the service board, your sales rep lives inside the CRM.
With modern APIs and the trend toward massive integration, CRM options have exploded. First, every good PSA has a CRM module built in. Second, there's been an explosion of low-end CRM tools such as SugarCRM and high-end tools such as Infusionsoft (see www.sugarcrm.com and www.infusionsoft.com, respectively).
My favorite tools for integrating with everything in sight is Results Software (www.results-software.com). Results actually performs a two-way integration with each of your other tools. So if you change an address in Outlook, it will change that address in QuickBooks.
As with the quoting software, you need to have enough volume to make a CRM purchase worthwhile. And like a quoting tool, once you start looking, you want to find one that integrates as fully as possible with all the other tools you've invested in.
- Contacts, clients, prospects
- Sales tracking
- Automated marketing
- Integration with Office, Outlook, social media
- Dashboards and reports
CRM used to mean primarily a system for keeping track of how you contacted people in your "prospect" database. ACT! made its name keeping track of this information. But modern CRMs are much more than that.
Today your CRM can be used to keep track of marketing campaigns. You can see how many pieces of mail, and which pieces, were sent to a prospect. You can send your newsletters through the CRM system.
In some systems, you can manage you social media presence, and actually schedule your postings on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media from inside your CRM.
Choosing a CRM
Assuming you have a PSA, using the CRM module inside your PSA is probably the best place to start. Get used to tracking your activity. See what it means to track a prospect and an opportunity. Determine some best practices within your company regarding the CRM.
As a built-in tool, the CRM module inside your PSA will be good. But it might not be great for your company and your sales force. You need to look your entire sales process and find a tool that works with the process you have - or the process you want to build.
In one sense, a CRM will be a lot like a PSA: You will probably not use many of the features. So the best place to start is a thorough examination of how you want to market your business and make sales. Will you be using social media? Google ads? Email? Postal mail? Telephone calls? And so forth.
If you are very happy with your PSA, your financial package, and your quoting tool, then first verify that any CRM you consider will integrate fully with those tools. Then consider how you have been marketing and how you plan to be marketing. Your CRM should excel at all of those activities.
The biggest danger with a dedicated CRM (as opposed to using the one built into your PSA) is that both you and your sales people need to open it! Here's what I mean.
Obviously, the marketing people need to use the CRM to get your message out and get the opportunities knocking on your door. Then the sales people need to use the CRM to track their calls, contacts, and proposals.
But you - the owner or sales manager - also need to log into the CRM. If you are not tracking your marketing people and your sales people, then they will figure it out right away. I personally hate managing sales people. I don't want to talk to them about their targets or their progress. I feel like a parent telling the kids to clean up their room.
But it's the nature of sales people that they need to be managed. Very few sales people are awesomely successful without management. That means someone has to log into the CRM dashboard and talk to them about the number of calls made, the number of appointments set, the number of proposals presented, the number of signed sales, etc.
If you (or your sales manager) won't log into the CRM and track activity, then don't waste your money on a stand-alone CRM.
When you truly outgrow the CRM that ships with your PSA, then you need to make the commitment to log into a separate tool and run reports on a regular basis. Unfortunately, there are some activities you cannot delegate. Tracking sales and marketing activity can only assigned to the owner or the sales manager, if there is one.
So the bottom line is: Use your built-in CRM until you know it and use it thoroughly. If you need something "more" than that, choose a CRM that fully integrates with your other tools. And then commit yourself to logging in and making those sales happen!