ADVICE

CRM is more than technology

Posted 2/3/14

The term “customer-relationship management” or CRM is a bit intimidating for many small-business owners. It tends to conjure up images of big-company processes and complicated technology. And many businesses mistakenly believe that CRM is a technology. It’s not. CRM is a way of doing business. And CRM software – Web-based platforms or desktop versions – is a tool that helps you manage customer relationships effectively.

Most businesses generate a steady flow of vital information about customers and prospects. Beyond simply names, addresses, phone numbers and emails, this includes valuable information on preferences, purchase history, social media participation, how they’ve interacted with your business in the past, and a wide range of other data.

Having a basic CRM solution in place can help you and others at your business stay in touch with prospects and customers more efficiently, qualify and nurture leads, and generate more sales.

Some sophisticated CRM solutions are intended more for large and mid-sized businesses. Salesforce is one example. But many other cloud-based solutions are geared toward smaller businesses, including Commence, Zoho CRM, Pipedrive, Contactually and InfusionSoft.

With these small-business-oriented CRM solutions – among others – you should be able to get up and running easily, even without prior CRM experience, and without extensive training.

According to Larry Caretsky, president of CRM provider Commence Corp., a CRM system can help you overcome these key challenges:

• Data consolidation. At many businesses, customer information exists in multiple places – or simply falls through the cracks. A good CRM solution gives you quick access to a full range of customer information on a single screen.

• Lead qualification. As all businesses know, there’s a vast difference between a lead and a qualified lead. The latter, however, can be difficult to define. A CRM can help you devise an effective way to quickly determine a qualified prospect from an unqualified one.

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