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The 5 things that make 'The Best CRM for Small Business'

When searching on the term ‘Best CRM for Small business” you will see 13 million entries on Google.  These entries are obviously not all from companies that supply CRM software, a lot of them are created by so called analysts and on-line listing companies that have created reports that they think help people to choose.

The companies that pay the most to be on these lists are positioned as “The best” even if their products and services do nothing to assist the smaller business to survive and prosper.

So, it set me thinking…If I was looking for the best, what would I be looking for?

These are the 5 things I would want.  Not much else to be honest.

CRM that works with my existing email account.

I get far too many emails, but let’s face it, email is the way that people in business communicate. They have done for years and I can’t see it changing.  So the CRM system I choose is going to need to be agnostic to the email that feeds into it.  I want it to work seamlessly with my own email and I don’t want to have to remember to save emails into files into CRM systems.  I know I should be able to do that, but I forget.  So, something that does the thinking for me would be “Best” in my World.

Sales is the base, but not all contacts are customers

I have my existing contacts on my mobile phone, on my email and in a spreadsheet.  Now I know I must put them into a CRM, but not all of them are “Sales” contacts. Ideally, I would like to upload them in one go, but most CRM’s I look at, don’t enable me to select a group for my contacts, so they all go into one place and then I should sort them out. That’s not “Best” for me.  Going back to point one above, my favourite way to keep in contact with my customers and prospects is via email. But if I use an email campaign tool, I need to have my contacts grouped properly.  It’s this alone (and the time this all takes) that is stopping me even getting on with the move to the “Best CRM”

To look after my customers, I need an Account management capability

Now I know I think my products and services are the best.  But there are plenty of other companies that want to steal my customers away.  They are not just planning to call my main contact, they will nibble away at every contact in the client account until they find a way in.  My job is to pay close attention to ALL contacts in my client’s business and be aware of all the personalities and politics at play.  Truth is I have often won business when I certainly wasn’t the cheapest and some would argue, my competitors had a better offer. But I do it by managing the account properly. I need to be aware of the relationships and influences between departments and people and I need to remember who reports to whom.  If I had just one client, this would be easy.  Some would say if I had a better memory it should be easy.  But I need a tool to do it properly. That’s why this function is a must to me in my “Best in the World”.

Not too simple, not too complicated

Over the last 3 years or so, I must have tried at least ten different CRM systems.  Some of them looked really good on the website but were a massive let-down when I came to use them.  A triumph of style over substance you might say. I even purchased one or two as the trials looked OK and I took a bit of a gamble.  But, it doesn’t take long to find out that there are a lot of simple systems out there and they just become another spreadsheet for me to fill out.  They just don’t seem to save me one bit of time. If anything, they eat time and become a white elephant.  Once I even decided to bite the bullet and buy the World’s best-selling CRM, even though it cost 5 times more than most of the cheaper alternatives.  But when it takes 15 minutes to do something that should take 5 and when the screen is constantly full of “useful features” that I would never use, I just couldn’t get on with it.  I suppose if I had a massive sales team and needed all sorts of integrated systems for e-commerce and reporting, then it might have been OK.  But, most of the time I felt like an Agoraphobic with a brand-new Bentley on the drive.

Soup to Nuts

Like most people that own their own business I am a bit of a Salesman. I don’t mind admitting it.  I learned to sell over many years and the one thing I do know is that a sale is not an EVENT.  A sale is part of a process.  Bad sales people focus too hard on the EVENT and have never given any time to ensuring the PROCESS of selling is correct.  Anyone that goes to posh restaurants will tell you that the meal experience lasts from “Soup to Nuts” and so does a proper sales process.  I would guess that only very poor sale-people would not appreciate this. Even an average salesman would know this to be true.  So, (with this in mind), who the hell makes these “CRM Systems” that are just contact management or lead management tools.  What possible use can that be to anyone that owns the business?  If you own the business, you are responsible for every step of the sales process from marketing and lead generation, through leads, quotes, orders and invoices.  Guess what! That’s not even enough. I still need detailed reports telling me where my pipeline is at and full bonding with my accounts, so I can see when payments have been made.  The “Best CRM for Small Business” must enable me to manage the whole business and every document I produce or receive needs to be attached in the right place at the right time.  All of this can’t be so hard, can it?


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