Small business owners face a potentially overwhelming range of information they need to organize and manage every day. Bills need to be entered and invoices sent out. Inventory must be tracked and orders shipped. From payroll to project management, small businesses have a lot on their plates when it comes to the information needed to run the business every day.
In the midst of that, one technology as much or more than all of the others can potentially change the course of the company’s growth over time: Customer Relationship Management, or CRM. Originally known as Sales Force Automation (SFA), these technologies are best known to most small business owners for their contact management capabilities. And yes, CRM does provide a digital ‘Rolodex’ for customer contact information.
But there’s much more that you can harness by using a CRM system in your small business. Here are five key benefits that CRM can deliver to supercharge your small business:
1. Understand Your Customers
The first clear benefit of CRM software is that it can give you a clear picture of your customers in ways that you’d struggle to achieve otherwise. For example, a business-class CRM system will allow you to add and maintain custom fields and properties to track specific information unique to your business. Do you serve both business and consumer customers? Let the CRM help track that.
Maybe your customers are distributed geographically — let the CRM help you see how they are distributed across the region you serve. Perhaps different customers display divergent preferences among your products and services. All of these represent powerful trends or points of information that can help you make better business decisions, and CRM makes it possible to explore these insights.
2. Track Your Prospects
After we get your customer relationships organized, it’s time to look at your prospects. These include phone inquiries, website visitors, in-person relationships, those stacks of business cards on your desk, and more. One common missed opportunity is in the past prospects your business has created proposals or quotes for, but who didn’t buy at the time. Perhaps that was a year or two ago — and maybe it’s time to reach out to them again? Past prospects as well as present ones are essential to track and communicate with proactively, and your CRM system can make it easy to achieve.
3. Leverage Your Partners
Partners are perhaps the least understood resource to the growth of small businesses. Partners include referral partners (those who can send business your way), contracting partners (those who can provide services that align with or expand what you offer), and strategic partners (those who can help you gain entry into new markets or build new directions for the business. The key is, these relationships are pure gold because partners are brand advocates you can work closely with to build your brand collectively and reach more prospects. Using your CRM to maintain and track your outreach to and engagement with partners can help regularly drive new business opportunities your way.
4. Market More Effectively
Today, cloud-based digital CRM systems can directly connect with or, in some cases, replace, the software you’d otherwise use to send marketing emails, update your website, maintain social media and more. By using a CRM solution that can connect with these other products — or by using one platform that serves both your CRM and marketing needs, you can gain enormous competitive advantages in your marketing. Tailor special offers to each of your customer types; send automated follow-up emails when people fill out a website form; share social media posts dynamically with your most actively engaged brand advocates.
5. Speed Up Your Sales Process
It’s interesting to consider that most sales organizations today look suspiciously similar to the ones that we might have seen twenty ago. Considering how much has changed — and how much harder it is today to reach and engage with your target prospects – it doesn’t make sense to run sales like it’s 1999.
Today’s CRM systems can give sales professionals a wide range of powerful tools to help speed up sales activities and steps to improve outcomes. Let your salespeople work on the leads that are most qualified based upon what a contact has viewed on your website. Empower your sales team with tools that enable them to quickly create and send fully formatted emails, quotes and proposals. Help them track sales opportunities or deal flow through your sales funnel effectively. Each of these and more can help truly change your sales activities for the better.
As we can see, CRM software is capable of delivering far greater value than ever before, and much of that value can have a profound impact on growing your small business today. Take the time to learn about the CRM tools and solutions that could best meet your business needs for now, and the future.