CRM (Customer Relationship Management) & Sales Management

How to Grow and Run Your Business on Cloud Systems Working Together Virtually - Cloud & Mobile
16 minutes
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Customer relationship management or CRM is certainly one of the more popular sectors for cloud based solutions. There was plenty of desktop CRM before that. But really the connectivity of records and the instantaneous information transfer between people seemed to make it really catch fire and go, don't necessarily have to fight with databases in integration at some of the challenges we did in the earlier generation. I've been involved in everything from multimillion dollar failures to 10 bucks a month. Wow, couldn't run without it. In CRM, I've got a few conclusions about things that work and don't work in a really generic people and process sense.

And I've got a few thoughts and a few experiences about solutions to at least look at. There are probably hundreds of CRM and Salesforce automation type systems that are cloud based and virtual, and I'm sure a lot of them are wonderful, but I haven't touched. So take this with a grain of salt sample set of only so many. What are you basically trying to accomplish with customer relationship management? On? Here's you, green guy, and your cloud of devices and what your business needs to know over time, is who you've touched, what conversations you've had.

That includes both people who might become customers, your prospects, and the people who are your customers, what have you done with them over time? We don't need that arrow there. And how do you start knowing what they need and what the connections are between them? How do you know these two guys work at the same company if you're not keeping methodical track of it? It's probably simple. At a one person level.

I'm guessing a lot of businesses start out doing CRM esque things in in a notebook Or with a spreadsheet or with a homegrown database. All of those are perfectly fine things. They don't scale very well very well, to multiple people. I suspect the other most common pseudo CRM solution to keep track of customers and prospects is the old email inbox. I have fought with many, many, many sales guys over the years, who say I keep it all in my head. I keep it all in Outlook, Outlook, I keep it all in folders in my email system, it may work well for them.

But if they win the lottery, if they leave the company, if you grow and you're going to hire more people, that's not a spine knowledge base that can really pass across the company and it's not structurally built, to let your company your business, know who you're dealing with what you've done for them what else they need, so that you can methodically grow on that platform. So CRM systems in a broad and generic sense, seemed to start seemed to start taking on some momentum in the IT world. As we started making communications more digital. It was one thing to log, the phone calls you made into an earlier generation desktop system and act or AC T or something like that. But it was up to you to sit the screen and do the data entry. Conversely, as a lot of business communications started shifting to Outlook.

He started saying, Wait a minute, what if we log those conversations? What if every email to customer Fred audit automatically went or got copied into the customer Fred file? We had some monstrous systems that really were trying to get sales folks to continue to use Outlook and to capture all the value as they went along. worked okay. wasn't great on as well. Based early generation web based stuff started coming in where it was, gee, you can just fill out this form in the browser.

The one that jumps prominently to mind for me is Sugar CRM, which is, which is a very cool, very capable platform. If you're somewhat somewhat on the technical side, Sugar CRM is one to take a look at. The base model is open source, think of it is June love for CRM. But it was all filled in the forms on the web. So if your sales guys were willing to fill in forms, or if the people answering the phones were willing to fill in forms, great if they didn't, it was really difficult to know that, um, aside from that basic keep track of conversations. The other critical question about CRM systems is really how do they adapt to your needs, and there's a really difficult tension there.

A company that makes a CRM system is trying to design the best ways Doing CRM stuff, you're trying to adapt them to your business particulars and your needs and your products and your data and your communication flow. And it's difficult to reconcile those two things. If you have to customize it so much as much generic advice, if you have to customize it so much that you start using the word database and talking about a database programmer, slap on the brakes, and go reevaluate. You shouldn't be doing stuff down at a database level. If you're a relatively small company, it's too expensive. To do that, in the long run, there's probably a more capable solution that doesn't involve SQL queries that can adapt to your business somewhere out on the market.

So it's about keeping track of your conversations and connections at the at the broadest, most generic level. Let me talk about some of the potential solutions to consider. Certainly the big dog in this space. One of the Grand daddies in cloud computing you Is Salesforce remarkable company. Salesforce is not just one product, it's many products. It's an entire ecosystem or set of ecosystems.

There's their their basic sales management that has been in place for a long time, they sort of started this whole, no hardware, no software, as you can see on their website. Not only has that has that solution started getting sort of multi tiered and I know companies with five employees that use Salesforce. I know companies with 12,000 employees, they use Salesforce, it's really pretty remarkable. So if you're very sales centric, for short, take a look at Salesforce licensing model. Last time I worked with it for a client was perceived based. So you may be a little bit Wolf, about the price tag, no question.

It can get expensive. It's even more expensive not to know what Salesforce enables you to know. So it's It's one that you should evaluate a couple others I'd suggest kicking the tires on on capsule CRM we use for, for one function, it's kind of the opposite end of the scale from, from Salesforce. It's incredibly credibly simple, very web based, although there are good mobile clients as well, if you're just starting, and you're saying I don't have time for all this overhead, but the three of us are not coordinating Well, I would take a serious look at capsule. The other one I liked a lot, almost adopted decided not to for reasons of integration that I'll touch in touch on in the section about integration was based CRM, I think their user interface is very, very, very good, particularly mobile and tablet user interface. And I think that's the one we'd use if I had an easier time making other systems talk to it in and out capsule kind of one on that basis.

For us, where we were with the things we were trying to tie together, so base capsule, very good, call it entry level if you want. But all of these are astonishingly capable used to have to pay millions for this kind of capability on to others to pay to know about I've probably mentioned high rise, which is the contact management CRM esque solution from the guys at 37. Signals who make Basecamp Basecamp project project management system, we use high rise for a while. The virtue was the email integration was really pretty darn good. All I had to convince people to do was get used to blind carbon copy, BCC, outgoing email to a high rise address and it took care of sort of integrating that and saying, nope, all of these things are about Fred the customer. on to that part of the ease of use was good.

He was a bit webform centric and we felt we were using using it as much as we thought. So we started looking for other solutions. I think the guys that 37 signals have come a long way in their mobile interfaces since we made that decision. So don't rule out taking a good look at high rise on last one in the sort of CRM solutions to mention, I've touched on Zoho before, as I said, that may be one of the few cloud based companies that can handle just darn near everything a small business wants to do. I don't know their CRM system. I haven't used it.

I've used lots of other Zoho pieces over the years. I'm always very effective. Never particularly pretty. That's my Frank evaluation, personal evaluation. I suspect they make their CRM free because if you run on their CRM, it's going to be hard not to start considering other aspects of their ecosystem and Zoho handles have ridiculous, ridiculous range of functions. So don't be Don't leave out taking a look at Ed's Zoho 7 million users are gonna look at this bug tracking campaigns, CRM invoicing, help desk and it goes on and on and on.

It's really, it's really quite a thing. And that's just their business apps. Last but not least, I mentioned podio. I said, that's the platform that we really started adopting more and more doing more and more with, here's a podio podio workspace, a fake temporary podio workspace that I set up. And what I wanted to show you about podio. I mentioned in the section on collaboration tools, the app system within podio podio makes it pretty darn good CRM system.

I'm gonna install a set of interlocking CRM apps in that workspace. And interestingly enough, at least at this point, videos, produce history, all that stuff's free. So now I've got a company's app for company records, and I can put in what's the name of the company, and who on the team is dealing with it. I'm the only guy on this team right now phone number, etc, etc. That actually looks up and relates to the client's app, who are the people within that company that we're dealing with. And vice versa, the client app looks up a company.

So if I said, I'm going to put a guy named Fred in here, it say, what company does Fred work up work at? And it would be looking at the companies there. And you keep track of your meetings, and you keep track of your sales opportunities, and you keep track of the projects that you're doing with companies, and on and on and surveys and inquiries and help desk very capable. That's the K curtness associates app, one of the associates at PAX within podio. I suspect these guys that correctness will start doing commercial pay for it absent podio but for right now, this set of functions instead of apps that are built on podio are something you can add to podio for free. So the virtue of using podio as a CRM system is that getting beyond email integration or direct data entry on the web is is a little more open and customization of fields or even the addition of other apps.

In podio, you can do yourself, you don't need an IT guy to do it. We have an app that we built that keeps track of customization, video content. And integrating that with the company records in that workspace was just a matter of adding a field and saying, use this field to go look up people from the company record. So when we're saying no, this is from Smith and Associates, we're actually linking to the Smith and Associates record, not creating a duplicate separate record in that tracking app. So we're able to continue to expand our own CRM as functions. For that business with podio, it's definitely one to consider for CRM functions.

As I said generically about cloud apps, you want to evaluate a bunch of stuff consistently. You know, who's the company? How well funded? Are they? How many customers they have? Are they going to stay in business?

You're making a very big bet on a CRM system. So don't fail to look at that. Beyond that web interface, I'm basically assuming check. Of course, they've got a web interface. What's their mobile story? And how robust is it?

Does it work on the platforms you use? Does it have a Do they have a mobile app? Do they have a separate tablet app? Very good question to ask, do they have an API an application programming interface with CRM, or sales or even marketing apps? That's a very, very critical thing. If it's an island that you can only get to through fields on a web browser, you will probably end up outgrowing it.

So don't fail the look at the API. And that may be a case where you want to get someone who's super technical if you're not to help you make a bit of an evaluation, do look at the section on integration of cloud apps, I'll tell you what we're doing and how much it's benefiting us suggest some other avenues to go down that road. But for CRM and Salesforce stuff, integration and the ability to get data into for sure, and even out of CRM system matters a lot. Last but not least, the ownership of data, you need to be able to export and you need to be able to get that stuff out of there, hopefully in a way that makes sense. Beyond that one system. A friend of mine runs a business that's grown like a rocket.

She's running the whole business on, essentially a desktop, previous generation, Salesforce and CRM system. It really doesn't suit her needs. But she's so embedded in it. She's got so much data intact. tangled in it, that she really doesn't have a choice. But to keep using that system, it's probably holding her business back.

But it's kind of it's kind of got her by the hair, and she can't disentangle ourselves from it. She couldn't spend the money it would take to get someone to rewrite it from scratch. So think about this choice long and hard. The more you grow, the more successful you get, the more the capabilities or extensibility of your CRM platform is going to matter to your business on Sugar CRM. As I said, if you're a little on the technical side, has some real merits its extensibility. And flexibility was one of the things that I quite liked about it when I was using it at a previous company.

Hundreds and hundreds of probably of CRM apps that I haven't touched on out there, there's probably some killer solutions. Don't spend all your time in analysis paralysis to look at some of the main streams do look at API's to Look at Mobile, to look at that checklist of things that I mentioned in relation to cloud apps. And don't skip it. Don't do it in Excel. Don't do it in your inbox. If you start succeeding, you'll be able to scale if you've got a methodical, consistent view of the people that you're doing business with.

So don't skip CRM, even though it feels like a whole lot of work. Have fun.

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