Small Business Owners guide to simple and intuitive CRM software 2017 2017-08-31T16:39:56+00:00

Small Business Owners Guide to simple and intuitive CRM – 2017


Sources say that every 6 out of 10 small businesses, do not use track their customer relationship at all. A significant portion of the rest maintain basic spreadsheets with basic customer information which unfortunately do not carry much business value. So, if you have decided to advance to a proper customer relationship management solution (even in the simplest form), you have just made your small business more competitive than a vast majority of similar businesses. Finding a right CRM software can be a daunting task for many. This article serves as guide to simply this. Let us look at prevailing solutions from perspective of small business owners and how they compare against each other.

Less than half of small businesses use CRM

Source : SmartCompany 2014 Small Business Technology Survey 

How do top CRMs compare as far as small businesses are concerned?

The chart below lists out the top software in this segment and how they compare vis-à-vis the relevant parameters.

 Parameters Salesforce SugarCRM SuiteCRM Zoho CRM HubSpot CRM Insightly GoldMine VTiger
Unique Selling Proposition Leaders in Cloud based CRM. Serves entire range of customers from small businesses to enterprise customers. Started as open source alternate to Salesforce. Recently named as leaders in small and Mid-Segment in G2 Crowd. Truly open source CRM featuring advanced features like Workflows. Scale-able software offering a free base solution. Has many chargeable add-ons to base which could be added on À la carte basis. Comes from leaders in Inbound Marketing and is a natural choice if you are using their marketing automation. Free up to 2 users comes with a strong project management feature. Specially suited for companies looking at comprehensive on-premise solution. It offers a complete CRM for sales, marketing and after sales need. It also offers a customer self-service portal.
Pricing Starting $12 / User / Month. Enterprise edition costs $150 / User / Month. Starting $40 / User / Month. Enterprise edition costs $150 / User / Month. No Cost. Install and get started Free up to 10 users for limited edition. Enterprise edition costs $50 / User/ Month. CRM is free but Hubspot account costs starting $300 / Month. Free up to 2 users. Basic plan costs $12 / User / Month. $26 Per user / Month. Starting $10 / User / Month. An ultimate CRM would cost $30 / user / Month.
Sales Force Automation Yes Yes Yes Yes Basic Yes Yes Yes
After Sales Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Additional Costs Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Additional Costs Description Salesforce has limits on storage mobile access and API calls. Exceeding these may cost you No additional cost for on premise. A small business would rarely exceed the 15 GB storage limit. But if you need so then it is charged No. You just need to have a hosting just like how you would host your website. In most cases same hosting may work Each premium feature comes at a per user / per month cost. All of them are however worth investing in Though CRM is advertised as free, the hub spot account costs. However if you are already on Hubspot then why not avail of this free CRM? There is a limit on number of records you can have. The free plan has limit as 2,500. The limit increases until enterprise plan where there are no such limits. For on premise edition you need a solid server and and IT administration No
Ease of finding a Developer  Very Easy Very Easy Very Easy Easy Easy Easy Easy Very Easy
Customization Cost  Moderate to High Moderate  Moderate Moderate High Moderate Moderate – High Moderate

Top reasons why do small businesses go for CRM

Million dollar question, isn’t it? The fact is there is no single reason. Therefore, the more you think at this stage, the easier it would be to track the success of your CRM initiative. I can give some insight into what others have achieved by implementing such an application. I would call them KPIs (key performance indicators). You can judge the business impact CRM has made by putting up scores on these dimensions.

Increase in Customer acquisition rate

Customer Acquisition RateAt what rate are you acquiring new customers? I cannot give a baseline of what that number should be like. B2B businesses which are low volume but high value may have a lesser number acquisition rate than a B2C business which sell to retail customer. Irrespective of what your business model is, a CRM can help you find what your customer acquisition rate is and increase the same from what it is now.

Average customer service resolution time

Faster Resolution timesIt’s not enough to respond to the customer. You must also solve their issue and get it acknowledged from the customer. A CRM helps you manage the entire cycle of customer support request. Whereas response time is the first contact, resolution time is actual resolution and confirmation  from the customer. Taking the sign off from customer ensures actual case resolution and it also one the best practices.

Faster Sales Closure

Faster Closure of SalesCustomers would like to give them a quote and move along fast. This doesn’t mean that you must not have checks and validations in place. A CRM helps you to automatically generate margins, initiate necessary approvals and respond to the customer in a quickest possible manner.

Better customer support leading to reduced Customer attrition

Customer Attrition RateHappy customers abandon you rarely. If you can keep them engaged and let them know why they should stick around with you and make them feel happy, attrition must reduce. CRM helps you manage customer issues in a far better manner. Would you be happy to hear from support personnel of your cable provider within minutes of raising your internet issue?

Time  to reach out to a new prospect

Quicker contact with leadsAgility is the key word when it comes to small business closing a deal. Research show that the faster you reach a customer, the higher are your chances of winning the deal. So how fast can your sales representative get to the customer on an average? If you have a web to lead and workflows in place, you can reach customers faster and hence increase your sales.

Accurate insight into Pipeline

Forecast accuracy icon

Understanding how  your funnel looks like at any point of time, itself is an incentive enough to implement a CRM. Focusing on deals which are near closure, or chalking out plans on the most promising ones may do immediate good. On other other hand understanding why you lost deals in the last 3 months, may for example help you analyze and fine tune your products offerings and allign prices to meet your customers need.

Typically What CRM Features does a small company use


CRM has many jargons attached to it. Let us demystify and look at the features which you are more likely to us when you sign up for a CRM being a small business. When you start, you would be at a basic level of CRM usage and as you evolve you would start getting into complex stuff. There is no hard and fast rule for this, however, I recommend, starting slow and then adding on more features as you get the returns and see value in it.

You would need all your customers imported as contacts. If you are into B2B sales, you would need to have companies organized as Accounts. This forms the base for future reference. You can have new contacts being created into CRM via web inquiries or phone calls. Any follow-ups being done with the customer, would get recorded into the application detailing the 360 degree history of what has happened with him / her.

Getting new leads from website is great, but how do you act ionize it by having it flow to your CRM application and assigning it to a sales rep? This is called web to lead. Usually this is the first integration any small business look for when implementing CRM software. Think about how you would want the assignment of a lead. Usually strategies followed are round robin basis, territory wise or to the owner who can reassign based on manual decision.

Once you have a qualified lead, it is an opportunity for you to sell. Opportunity moves through its own life-cycle from being quote submitted to Quote Review by customer, Price negotiation to being closed won.  It also utterly important to understand the reason behind lost sales.  So, essentially all process culminating in Sales Order creation lies within CRM. Usually you would have your orders within an ERP system. Some companies can however also customize their CRM application to also cater to Order process.

You customers might have problems and look for your help. Some companies may also have warranties and service contracts. This feature of software helps you in registering their problems and assigning it to a service staff who could then address the same and customer can confirm the closure of their issue.

Outlook is one the most popular email client and invariably all sales rep want their contact and calendar details to sync up automatically with it. This makes their lives much simpler.

Advance CRM features you can use as you Progress


As you progress with using your CRM software, you may come across these items for making it work harder. Leveraging these advance concepts not only drive business but also dissociates it with manual effort. Automation and integration are the keys during this phase.

If you have a routine task which is being manually checked or done, but is repetitive in nature, workflows can have it automated for you. Example of workflows are listed below. If a salesperson creates an opportunity where price offered is discounted by more than 20% of list price, it must be approved by some one senior. If an opportunity is created totaling more than $ 100,000, then it would send an email to senior members of sales team.

If you are using MailChimp, Act-On or HubSpot it would make sense to integrate your CRM application with it so that you can get new leads into the system and can generate more returns on marketing expenses.

CRM is everything before ordering and after customer has received their product or service. Ordering, delivery and invoicing are part of enterprise resource planning. As you would guess, you may want your closed won opportunities to get downloaded into ERP as orders. There could be more integration points like prices, inventory and master data, but I will save it for some other time.

Many businesses run on accounting software like QuickBooks, JBilling and Xero. Sometimes it is important that sales reps are aware of pending payments so that they can chase it up with the customers. Primarily this happens since the sales rep are the front face for the customers. This can happen only when accounting solution is integrated with CRM application.

You can have customers doing stuff too. Self-service portal enables customer to login and see the status of their issues. They can also see their open items and make payment. Moreover, they can update their information.

Salesforce recently launched Einstein, an AI based feature which helps you predict opportunity outcome using algorithms. SugarCRM also launched Hint. AI goes into learning mode and gets better with time. Although not many companies are using the above solution, I can foresee that it will be popular in the coming times.

Once you reach out to different geographies and have multiple product lines, you can divide the market into territories so that sales operations can be efficiently managed by the sales team.

If you want to take your customer service to a different level, you can design a call center to receive and make calls. Providers such as Twilio, Asterisk etc are ideal for integrating with CRM for this purpose.

Small Business FAQs


These are some questions that small businesses have prior to CRM implementation. This can help you get quick answers to some of your queries.

Small companies are short of resources and time is one of them. Simple CRMs need less training. Also, considering that these organization have comparatively higher employee attrition, this could lead to a lot of time and effort savings without compromising on goal to keep customer happy. Apart from this, simplified solution means less manual error and less supervision.

I have always felt that instead of having dedicate staff and server for on premise applications, its best to let IT companies do that. Thus, I would recommend a hosted solution with managed services to maintain your applications. It also has other advantages like up-time and ease of integration with other applications.

Many CRMs have drag and drop functionality which makes it easy add a new field and do some basic stuff. However, you must think through before making customization. Its best to involve a CRM consulting company from the start for maximizing your business gain in long term.

There are many things you must keep in mind. However, the foremost is that all development must be justified in the sense that they must contribute to one of the KPIs we discussed earlier. It’s good to list business requirements, brainstorm various alternatives and then take up development. It is also good to understand what development methodology is followed and how it eliminates risks and ensures quality. It might be a good idea to understand how your competitors have defined their processes so that you can go a notch above them.

I usually come across this question and I totally agree that a clear majority of features are common across various CRMs. Still many companies can extract more out of their investment than others. The reason for this is simply because they have a clear customer relationship strategy in place. You need to make your people more oriented to customer and keep them happy by quickly acting on them before your competitor does. Hence how quickly do you resolve customers issue? Or how quickly does your sales rep reach to a new prospect. Thus, CRM is more to do than just the software aspect of it.

Another reason is that some organization spend on customizing the application, automating processes using workflows and building checks and balances which help them become more efficient.

Yes, you can. However, I would generally not recommend reinventing the wheel. It only makes sense if your business model is altogether different and it operates in a niche which standard CRMs do not cater to. I would advise to adopt a CRM and tailor it to fit your needs instead of building an application from scratch.

Other great CRM Solutions

Let us look at other great CRM solutions which are present in the market.

It’s a comprehensive suite consisting of Sales, After Sales and Marketing and is .NET based.

This is a cloud based CRM from SAP which runs on HANA Cloud platform and uses Fiori for front end. The solution is subscription based and SAP ERP is not a pre-requisite for using this platform.

After acquisition of Seibel, Oracle is one of the dominant players in this segment. Oracle on Demand has all the needed features required for an enterprise.

If you are primarily looking at service aspect, this is the platform which is enterprise grade cloud platform which can serve your needs. It has all the required features of managing Service levels agreements and any detailed reporting you may require.

This is another great solution if you are looking at service aspect. It has popular chat integration, ticketing solution as well knowledge base features which makes it a great product in this domain.