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CRM Software for Small Business

CRM Software for Small Business

Small to medium sized businesses are looking to the new software to help them manage their customer base. From contact management to sales forecasts, new CRM software is providing organizational and analytical capabilities that help businesses bottom line. CRM software is known for on-site application hosting and for the high cost of in house administration. The cost was well out of the range of most small businesses. 


Today, new CRM software is offering a greater array of services and capabilities, many of which are customizable. New web-based CRM applications offer complete hosting and access via the web. The user only has to learn how to use the software and pay per user CRM pricing fees. 


CRM software packages provide three main services for customer relationship management: contact management, salesforce automation, and customer relationship management. Having all three of these functional capabilities allows sales teams and customer service representatives provide better service to their customers and clientele. 


Early software packages such as ACT, Outlook, and Maximizer helped people maintain customer contact information, schedule meetings, organize email, and record notes on customer related activities. The software and services available today allow sales teams to collect, organize and analyze sales data. Powerful database capabilities allow sales managers to drill down into sales data for accurate sales forecasts, and insight into customer behavior. Whatever sales people can research and collect, is recorded in the sales database. This provides deep insight into the customer's needs and business processes, allowing the CRM user to foresee and respond to customer related events such as buying cycles and recent purchases. 


Web Based CRM 


The use of web based CRM tools means company's are freed from having to purchase, install and maintain the software. Non web-based CRM applications require hosting services and technical staff capable of fulfilling all support requirements. The benefits of web based CRM software applications are worth noting: low cost as the base of users increases, ease of implementation as only the CRM software modules needed can be purchased and implemented; Internet connectivity and PDA/cell phone connectivity provides anytime anywhere access important for increasing the potential contributors; and minimal IT support staff are required. Proprietary and open source software are available for users, however there are considerations that need to be made before deciding on which is the best choice. 


Leading CRM software includes Goldmine CRM, Microsoft CRM, Salesforce CRM, Sagesugar CRM, and SalesLogix CRM. Salesforce is a complete web based solution however the others still have web access. Goldmine CRM, a thin client solution offers an easy to use interface and comes in four different varieties suitable for small business to corporate enterprise level implementation. 


CRM Training and Support 


To make the most of these CRM software packages, it is best to have a consulting firm conduct a design audit, install the software correctly, and provide training to your sales and customer service staff. Implementing the software correctly and learning how to maximize its value, means you're getting the full benefit of CRM software to help you improve your sales bottom line. 


With in-house CRM software programs, there is a need for technical staff capable of implementing the software and maintaining databases and the network for access whether via the office LAN or Internet. If you have an IT staff, they should be able to implement the software easily. However, there are always technical issues to be faced and that's why you'll want an experienced consultant to help you choose the right software for your needs and to be able to upgrade to newer versions as they are released. 


CRM software isn't something that should be left to learning by online demos and help files. Users need to feel they have a certain level of confidence in what they are using and that they're using it as it was designed to be. CRM seminars are helpful, but nothing can help your sales staff, customer service people, and other company staff better than professional trainers. If a capable sales and customer service team is critical to helping you maintain your customers and relationships with them, the cost of buying a CRM software system is a drop in the bucket. Aside from generating more sales and finding new sales leads, customers themselves will feel more confident in your organization, that you understand their needs and can anticipate issues before they're even aware of them. 


Your employees will be empowered by a CRM system. This is the power of technology working to help integrate your business activities and generate greater value from your staff's collective knowledge. Most big companies are using CRM systems, constantly looking for insight into customer behavior and new sales opportunities. Now with latest versions of software available, SMBs can leverage the same information tools to keep pace with their larger competitors. 


Find a good CRM consultant to help you assess your needs, find the right product and provide the right training and support services. The bonus for your bottom line in retaining customers and increasing sales makes it a smart investment. 

5 Tips On Choosing A CRM Solution 

CRM can be intimidating it actually refers to Customer Relationship Management which is essential to any online success. The internet has many packages and CRM solutions available. What you need to do is find a package that suits your needs. 


An ideal CRM solution for a small or large business whether online or offline is one that serves efficiently customer needs. The CRM must provide customers with the best service available. Before adopting CRM software you need to evaluate impartially factors like budget, user-base, company size and projected growth, and customer needs. The CRM solution must be compatible with your office systems and integrate back-office and third party applications. If your budget is not large consider a hosted CRM solution. 


According to experts it is best for you to create goals and have a requirements-driven approach. It is not important to have a CRM in place. What you need is a workable solution. A CRM system must create for you an in depth understanding of the preferences and buying habits of your customers. CRM must build and strengthen customer relations and improve product development and service delivery processes. Most important is your IT team and staff must receive CRM training and believe in its efficacy. 


Since most business websites online are not tech savvy it is important to: 


1. Determine specific business needs as far as CRM is concerned. Research on what customers seek and how their needs can be met. The CRM solution needs would be based on this. 


2. Find out how a CRM works and how the system will apply to your business. 


3. Determine whether your business needs an on demand solution based online or just a run-on-windows application. 


4. Search on the net for CRM solution providers who have handled business similar to yours. 


5. Outline your needs and ask for a quote along with suggestions on the proposed system. Use the help of a CRM expert to evaluate the proposals. Make a comparison of price and services offered. 


Always insist on trying the CRM solution out. Most CRM vendors offer an evaluation copy of the software which is to be installed and used for 3-6 months to test the suitability. The test will establish: 


o Functionality of software. 

o Technical ease of management within your company. 

o Adaptability of system to your business. 

o Efficacy of the system within the organization. 


An efficient CRM solution must escalate business efficacy as the customer will get immediate attention due to the CRM solution. A CRM solution will not just save time but enable the company to offer personalized service of a high standard. The CRM software will maintain records, help you plan marketing campaigns, and increase profitable through increased customer base and satisfaction. 

Customer Relationship Management - So What is CRM Anyway? 
In recent years, the term 'Customer Relationship Management' or 'CRM' has been pitched around most areas of business. But what is CRM? What does CRM actually mean? More importantly, what can CRM do for businesses? 
In a nutshell, CRM is a way of improving business efficiency. It's about building and strengthening customer relationships to keep them coming back, while helping you gain new customers. CRM systems streamline internal business processes and by effectively integrating your marketing, sales and customer service functions, a good CRM system makes it easier for everyone inside your company to work together and share critical information. It doesn't matter if your company has two, ten, or five-hundred customer facing staff, modern CRM systems bring significant benefits throughout a business, whatever its size. 
One of the most significant advantages of CRM systems is easy access to comprehensive customer information and contact history. Most companies know their businesses inside out. However, data is often stored all over the company. There's information in spreadsheets, different databases, on laptops, in email directories, on paper, in different people's heads. 
Professionally implemented Customer Relationship Management systems bring all this information together. They have features and tools which save a massive amount of time and effort. They'll help you boost your sales opportunities, run more sophisticated marketing campaigns, improve your sales forecasting and lead management and greatly enhance your customer service. And that's just the start. In some areas, CRM systems have given businesses a deep understanding of what drives their customers, services and products. In other words, if a new CRM system is implemented properly, it can transform a company throughout. 
Here's a practical example. You answer the phone to a customer who usually deals with your colleague. But rather than asking if they can hold while you search for their information or ask them if they mind a call back, you instantly know all the details of every interaction they've had with your company. You know they've had three phone calls in the last month. You can look at a summary of each conversation, and if necessary look at the full details. Similarly you can see all of the contact they've had from your staff via email, and their response. You know which of your products they've bought in the past, and how much they've spent. You know they've needed your support service. You know what marketing material they've received. You know there's a significant sales opportunity due in six weeks time with a 70% chance of success. You know that last month they did 10% more business with you than in the same month last year. You know the position of the person in the company, their role in decision making and how they first found out about you. You know this customer sometimes cares more about delivery times than price. Straight away, you start talking to them knowledgeably with the familiarity of a long-term acquaintance. 
Well, that's how it should work anyway. 
Does CRM bring benefits to every business? No, not always. CRM systems deliver, but only if they're deployed and used correctly. Unfortunately, it doesn't take much searching to find stories of high costs and broken promises. 
To bring real benefits to a company, a new CRM system needs a carefully planned, realistic, integrated and well-managed approach. Because CRM systems impact many areas of a company, a successful CRM project needs a broad range of skills and experience. Areas such as business process analysis, effective change management and developing an appropriate training strategy can be just as important as choosing the right software and getting it running on your system. However, the returns for a professionally implemented system configured to suit your company and business needs can be outstanding. 
In the past, many CRM systems were either developed in-house, or were based on expensive and complex software packages aimed at companies with literally hundreds of system users. 
The market has changed dramatically in the past few years. Now, there are a variety of affordable, powerful CRM software packages available for small and medium enterprises. Each one has its own features and characteristics and can be configured to meet specific business needs. Popular, proven CRM software for smaller and medium sized companies includes Sage CRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Sage SalesLogix and the FrontRange GoldMine suite of products, These are distributed through qualified or approved business partners. 
Choosing an appropriate CRM business partner is as important as choosing the right software. CRM software provider are usually resellers who add value to the basic package. They range from resellers tied to one supplier, companies who are supply CRM systems in addition to other services such as ERP systems, to independent CRM specialists. Just like choosing a supplier for any other business investment, make sure you look at several and take the decision seriously: it should be a long-term relationship in itself. Your CRM provider should understand your business and have most, if not all of the range of skills and experience mentioned previously to help you get the maximum return on investment from your CRM project 
So what is CRM? It's a combination of business strategy, software and business processes which, if implemented correctly, will bring significant, tangible benefits to your company. 


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