Customer relationship management software, CRM software, sales force automation software, leads management software, contact management software, channel management software. Many names, many vendors but bottom line these tools should help you organize your sales operation so you miss fewer sales opportunities and close more deals – without driving you to the vendor’s help desk.
We put together this high-level guide to the features of CRM software to get you started:
CRM software companies typically offer free trials and basic packages for under $35 per user per month. Some vendors offer month-to-month, some will only sign for annual contracts. CRM giant Salesforce.com starts at a $25 price point. Insightly lets you run up to three users for free. SugarCRM is a low-cost alternative favored by many small businesses; it’s “open source” CRM but you may need to hire a developer to set it up for you.
Installing CRM software shouldn’t be a big issue as the norm now is running in “the cloud”, in other words, it lives online and your data is hosted by the vendor. You should be able to easily import your existing contact lists (well, not the one with all the business cards dropped in the fish bowl). Batchbook lets you drag a spreadsheet of contacts or your collection of vCards from Outlook into the application.
Your CRM application should play well with your existing suite of office applications like Microsoft Office (Microsoft Dynamics CRM of course does that ) or Google Apps (a specialty of Zoho CRM).
The guts of your CRM system should be a database of leads and clients that you can navigate with ease because it’s organized the way you think of your business. You should be able to readily tag client records and organize them into lists. The client profile pages should display histories of every contact and purchase, attached copies of contracts, and a function that allows sales people to share notes about the client. (See some typical customer database pages in screenshots from OnContact or this video from SugarCRM).
You can also look to business contact management systems to simplify and automate your email marketing. Infusionsoft lets you compose emails in the tool, send personalized messages and automated followups timed to the sales cycle.
Sales prospecting has moved into social media, and your CRM solution should too. Many of these packages display data from LinkedIn profiles. Social CRM specialist Nimble also pulls in client conversations from Facebook and Twitter.
Lead Generation, Amped Up
Admittedly, so far CRM software may sound like a fancy address book. But it also brings a promise to kick your sales up to a whole other level by making the sales cycle something you can visualize and act on. In Salesforce.com, Zoho CRM and other packages, you define the stages of your sales process, rank your prospects on the likelihood of making sales, and track leads through the process, giving your sales force a handle on when and where to focus.
For more options, see these CRM software lists, ratings and reviews from Reviews.com, Business.com, CIO and VentureBeat.