Having worked with hundreds of companies in an effort to lower their sales costs and increase their sales volume, I wish to provide a little insight. In its most basic application, a CRM is merely a tool to manage your prospects and clients. I have seen companies spend Zero Dollars on a system all the way to spending hundreds of thousands. In both instances these firms have lost market share, sales productivity, their trained sales team, and nearly bankrupted their companies by either doing too little or too much.
Among the better known systems there are: Salesforce.com, Oracle, Microsoft CRM, and Act! However, this paper is not about promoting any particular CRM system.
Excel is not a CRM! Yes, you can put prospect and customer file into Excel. Unless this is merely a temporary parking of the data before you move it into a legitimate CRM expect a less than favorable conclusion to successfully running your company. How will you keep notes, know when to call a prospect back, create and mail a letter or send an email from Excel? How will you integrate this into your accounting and marketing departments? Using Excel is not the answer.
Then there is the other extreme. A software developer decides to make it a lifetime job with a well endowed company and sells the CEO on creating a customized CRM just for you. Several months and many thousands of dollars later the software still needs major fixes and the only person who can mend it is your now well entrenched software developer.
What can you do? Sit down with your computer consultant/vendor and tell them what you want to accomplish, and ask them what other things you should consider in implementing a CRM. Then buy something off the shelf (see above examples) that doesn’t need an army of software engineers to get up and running, to maintain, and update.
It is the CEO’s job to define the best sales process, keep the customer file secure, lower operating costs, and grow the firm. Let the CRM allow you to systematize your sales effort. For example, how frequently do your “A” prospects get called? If you leave it to your sales staff what will happen?
This is not a daunting task, but once the system is set up and managed it will pay you the rewards you should expect from a CRM.
Make it simple and logical to use,. If it is too difficult salespeople will not use it.
Management must manage the system. Make sure you can measure results.
Integrate where possible. Create and track invoices. Mail and follow up on correspondence.