Friday, February 20, 2015

How to Pick Contact Management Software For a Small Business

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Mattias Putnam for PieSync
writes:  Picking a contact management solution or CRM for a small business doesn’t have to be hard. In this post, you’ll learn how to approach the problem in a sensible way, how to avoid the common pitfalls and which questions you need to ask yourself before you start looking into the options. 
 
The other day I was talking with some people about the best way for small businesses to approach contact management systems, and we agreed that the process of getting a contact management software solution is much like buying a new car.

How Getting a CRM Is Like Buying a Car

When you set out to buy a car, you have requirements, an idea of what you like and your budget enters into it too. You wouldn’t buy a huge SUV if you live on your own in the center of town and just need a car to visit friends and go on weekendtrips to the country. Neither would you consider buying a Mini if you are the proud mum of 4 children and 2 Golden Retrievers.

The same goes for contact management systems. Or at least, it should.
As you will have guessed, I am looking at this from a purely functional and rational point of view here. Some of my dearest friends drive around in cars that are completely unsuited to their needs, but driving an old-timer or a red-hot sports car is something you do out of love, not rationality.

Are Business Decisions Based on Rational Thought?

In business, one would expect the decision for a business tool to be made on rational grounds, but often it’s not.

Come to think of it, I actually know quite a few people in Sales and Marketing who approach CRMs in an emotional way. I hear them say “Let’s get Salesforce, it’s the best!”. Mind you, these people know, in their hearts, that paying a hefty fee for a CRM that is powerful, but has a steep learning curve, won’t magically supply them with a healthy and full sales funnel all by itself.

Probably they also know that Salesforce is way too powerful just to use it to share a contact list between co-workers and partners.

But still they feel attracted to the market leaders. I can understand that, there’s a certain something about buying what is considered ‘best of breed’. A glow of potential, a feeling of belonging to a tech-savvy group.

Let it go, let it go

Like in that song from Frozen, you’ve got to let those feelings go.
Not all of them though, as emotions and intuition will play a large part in how you interact with your CRM.

Your contact management tool is going to be your buddy at work, you’ve got to make sure the two of you get along. You have to like the look and feel. Trust it. Feel comfortable using it. Know where to turn if something breaks. Yes, much like with a car. And just like there are small cars that give you a luxurious feeling or large cars that you can still use in a city, there are CRMs to cater for every need. Finding the right one is all you have to do. When you find it, you’ll glow inside. Doing your research, defining your needs and then getting the tool that’s just right for you,… well, that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Should We Continue Without a CRM?

On the flip side, not investigating the possibility of a system to help you manage your contact list, isn’t the way to go either. Using nothing might be the cheapest option but, at a certain point the cost of a system doesn’t weigh up against the stress involved in the endless carrousel of Excel sheets and poorly managed shared contact lists.
Taking this back to the cars: I also know quite a few people living in the center of town who vehemently refuse the mere thought of buying a car.

They cycle, they walk, they hop on trains and hitch rides with friends. It’s good and healthy, but not always easy. Especially when your family expands, or your health isn’t too good, it can become a drag. Some of my friends hang in there, and I cheer for them. In the same way I applaud people who manage their contacts without a system. They do a quick search of their inbox when in need of somebody’s number, as most people will have it in their signature. Or they turn to LinkedIn. Less hassle inputting everything, more time spent interacting with the people behind the contact information.
Just like some of my no-car pals have started exploring shared cars systems when an outing to the country turned into a drenched trek from bus stop to railway station, I see people in small and medium-sized businesses decide to look into some sort of contact management tool when it simply isn’t fun anymore to stay on top of their contact database without one.
Now comes the cheapskate part. If you really look into what you actually need, you’ll find yourself spending a lot less money. You can then invest this money in other areas of your business. Like buying some plants, so that you can grow your contact database and some flowers on your windowsill at the same time. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

3 Steps That Will Lead You To Your Perfect CRM

The internet can be like a slick car salesman. Make sure you’re in charge! The key to feeling empowered before you approach vendors comes in 3 simple questions:

1. Ask Yourself: Why Do We Need a CRM?

Ask yourself and your team the most important question first: what do we want to achieve by getting a contact management solution?
Do you mainly want to:
  • manage a large set of contacts
  • share contact information with a (remote) team
  • keep contact information up to date when it is stored in different places?
Or do you have broader requirements:
  • follow up on your sales leads
  • sales funnel management
  • invoicing
  • task management
  • managing price quotes
  • bids tracking
  • integration with landing pages and forms
  • time management
There are systems out there that offer these things and more, in various combinations.
Where you could go wrong is when you start looking at what vendors offer, before you decide on what you want to achieve. If you start by taking a deep dive into vendors’ websites, you’ll end up reverse engineering their offers to your needs. This would be like buying a car with a huge trunk because the sales rep painted you a pretty picture of packing it with all you need for endless holiday fun – except you mostly travel by airplane.
The internet can be like a big candy shop sometimes. You set out to buy a CRM for your 5-people PR-agency. All you want is a way to share a list of press contacts and potential customers with your team. Several months, 17 unproductive meetings and a slap on the wrist from Accounting later, you are stuck with the Unruly Mammoth Beast of Overpriced and Underused CRM. All because on the vendor’s website, all those features really looked like something you needed…

2. Write Down What You Want To Achieve With Your CRM

Leverage the power of the written word. Put a document together with your team, so that you are all on the same page. This can be in a few short bullet points or in long form, where you write the story of how you and your team want to work with your contacts in an ideal way. Keep this document near you when researching, you might even want to print it out and keep it next to you when you are searching for a CRM.

3. Google Your Heart Out - But Remember What You Are Looking For

Sometimes, when you start looking around, you will find what you need immediately. Go for it.

Sometimes, you will find a solution that offers much more than you need. Resist the urge to start wanting those features, because you think “it would be so great if we could do that too”. Why should you resist? If it is something that you’re not doing now, it is going to require extra work to start doing that. Remember, your reason to buy a CRM in the first place was to make your workday lighter, not to add more to your plate. Remember:
  • You can always change to a more comprehensive solution later. Most contact management tools for SMEs don’t require a long commitment, and if you make sure that you can easily export your data, there’s no reason not to make a switch when your needs grow.
  • Tools are in constant evolution too, perhaps the more basic tool you buy now, will add functionalities later on, in line with your changing requirements.
What if many solutions look really similar?
  • contact the vendor, talk to a sales rep, and check your list of requirements with him or her
  • read product reviews, ask peers what system they use
  • compare prices, and really focus on getting the features you need
  • ultimately, choose the software that you consider best, and stick to your decision. Indecisiveness just ends up costing everyone involved a lot of time, and money too.

11 CRMs To Start Investigating your Options

These are a few contact management tools out there that deserve your attention if you’re looking for contact management software for a small or mid-size company. The CRMs that currently integrate with PieSync, and let you do a full, bi-directional sync between the CRM and your Google apps, are marked with an asterisk.

Insightly: a contact management, opportunity & pipeline management as well as task management solution for small businesses, Insightly is used by over 650,000 people worldwide.

Streak: a CRM that runs entirely from within your Gmail inbox, Streak can be used in sales, product development, deal flow, fundraising, support and hiring. Plus it’s used by Uber.
Highrise*: a flexible contact management tool, Highrise lets you share contacts with your team, track tasks, set reminders and manage communication. It’s made by a great team with a vision.

One Page CRM*: designed as a sales CRM for small businesses, One Page gathers all your contacts and sales information in one place, with a bullet-proof sales leads follow-up system.

Capsule CRM*: an easy online CRM, Capsule lets you manage contacts, leads, customers, vendors and more. It lets you track bids, deals, proposals, and it links emails back to contacts.

Bitrix24: a full-blown collaboration suite, Bitrix 24 combines a CRM with a social network, tasks and projects, group chat, videoconferencing, online documents, calendars, email, telephony and more.

Podio*: more than a contact management tool, Podio allows you to organize and connect everything you work with. Useful to keep an overview of projects, customers and more.

Pipedrive*: a visual sales CRM for small teams, Pipedrive focusses on your sales pipeline and forecasting. It’s easy to set up and requires no training.

Contact Me: a straightforward tool to easily manage all of your business contacts, Contact Me also tracks your tasks with a to-do list and calendar.

Really Simple Systems: combining sales, marketing and customer service & support, Really Simple Systems also includes a fully integrated email marketing solution.

Nimble*: focusing on the importance of social relationships, Nimble manages your contacts, activities & calendar, information from social channels, emails & messages and deals.
* combine these tools with PieSync, and sync the CRM with any other cloud application such as Google contacts or Mailchimp.

Your favorite CRM isn’t here? Add it in the comments, with a short description of what you like about it.

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