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CRM – Critical For A Small Business

August 9, 2012 2 comments

Sales is a very complex process involving relationships between multiple parties to achieve one goal…the sale.  You have to manage the needs of the client with the needs of your firm and always balancing that with the actual capabilities of what you can provide.  It is an ever-changing, dynamic evolution and it is very easy to suddenly realize it has gotten away from you.  At the very least, you need to have a CRM, (Customer Relationship Management), software package you can rely on.

In every case, the CRM will never provide you with all the functionality you desire.  However, it doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.  The free models available on the net are quite good.  FreeCRM is a web-based solution.  Being a web-based program it can be accessed by up to 50 users just by opening a browser.  It offers a variety of upgrades from the base model but if you are just starting to explore CRM solutions then the free version is a good place for you to begin. The upgrades relate mostly to support availability, the capability to sync with Outlook and your devices and storage.  However, since it only provides 10MB of storage you may find the need to upgrade in short order.

Sugar CRM is another free crm that is worth taking the time to learn about.  Unlike the web-based FreeCRM, Sugar CRM also gives you the option of storing it on your server.  However, it is much more customizable than FreeCRM.  You will require the help of a programmer with PhP capability to do so but once you have the finished product you won’t be disappointed.  Of course, you can always go with the available modules provided by Sugar.  Upgrading is more expensive than with FreeCRM but it is a more robust system.

There are other systems, of course, and the functionality of the programs expand to include marketing, order processing and forecasting just to name a few.  You can, with some research, find the crm package that best fits your business model.  However, ultimately, it is only as good as the information you put in it.

If you’re a small business or even a one-person shop, CRM will help organize your work and make it seem as if you have more than one employee.  If you have a multi-person sales team, CRM gives you the ability to run your team more efficiently and truly understand the relationships established with your clients and prospects.

The use of the crm has to become an organic aspect of your business and used 100% for what it is intended.  CRM is not just software…it is a process adopted by EVERYONE in the company.  Every employee must understand the significance of the system and why it should be kept up to date.  How do you plan on interacting with your clients and prospects?  Are these the reports to base the health of the firm on?

I will be the first to admit this is a very bird’s-eye view of the process and you will need to do plenty of research so is a waste of all your efforts and time.  Properly vetted, a solid CRM package can help elevate your firm to a level you never thought possible.

Should You Be a Business Owner?


This is a heavy title for a blog but, then again, I truly feel it is a mandatory question you should ask yourself before venturing out on your own.  There is a romantic vision of owning your own business.  “Forget the Man…I can keep the margin and create my own empire.”  “I will never treat my employees the same way I have been treated.  I will build loyalty by taking care of my workers the way I have always wanted to be treated myself.”  “I will be honest with my customers and they will love me for it.”

This is good as everyone starting a new business should have a passion and a vision.  However, it won’t go anywhere if you can’t sell it.  Danny Brown of Small Business Newz asks most of the main questions but I feel he left out a crucial one…Can I sell It?

I have seen plenty of new businesses have a great model and plan, a lot of passion what they do, but crashed because of a lack of knowledge as to how to find active customers.  A good business plan will help you identify your customer base, as well as the competition.  Do you, though, have what it takes to reach out to the prospects, introduce yourself and sell to them?  It takes experience to do it right but it requires courage to get started.  Wikipedia defines courage as Bravery, Perseverance, Honesty and Zest.  Do you have the guts to make yourself vulnerable and deal with rejection every single day?  Do you have the stamina to take “NO” over and over and still learn from it so that your sales procedures adapt and grow over time?

It sounds brutal, doesn’t it?  I didn’t initially mean for this tone to develop but as I thought about it more and more I realized this is may be the only way to get this particular message across.   Starting a business is not something to be taken lightly and serious considerations should be taken into account.

In this world of political correctness, everyone gets to play and no one is left off the team.  Regardless of skill level, everyone gets a chance to get up to the plate and take a few swings.  I agree there are times when PC has its place…but not in the decision-making process of debating whether or not you should start a new business.  Just because you want to play in this arena doesn’t mean you should.

If you are starting your own business then you have to be brutally honest with yourself.  Do I have a Good Business Plan?  Do I have a passion for what I want to do?  Do I have the courage and drive to sell?  Not to ask these questions is dooming your business to certain failure.

A Lesson in Prospecting For Sales

April 12, 2011 2 comments

Fear can come in many varieties.  There is the fear of swimming over your head.  There is the fear of rejection.  There is the fear of unfamiliarity.  There is the fear of asking.  There are many other fears and too many to mention but the one thing they all have in common is they are all valid, legitimate excuses to keep you from what you need to do.  Like my father tells me, though, “Fear is acceptable.  Letting Fear keep you from accomplishing your goals is not.”  Cold calling/prospecting wraps all of these fears into a tight little ball of ice that sits in your stomach and sometimes can even make your finger shake as you reach for that first dial of the day.  However, there are things you can do to help alleviate the fear of the call and make it a more effective communication for both you and your client.

Simply cold calling from a list of clients is valid and has its place, but it shouldn’t be the only method you use for prospecting.  Also, a list such as this, (usually an Excel spreadsheet), doesn’t give you the opportunity to minimize the trepidation that keeps you from a having a successful call campaign.

Firstly, have a message.  Don’t ever call with the dreaded “just touching base” routine as it most often will be a waste of your time and your client’s.  Sometimes, if you are on a really good relationship with the client, it will work.  However, even then it may not so I advise to just not use it.  When you have a prepared message to share, (something of value), you will find it makes the call proceed much more smoothly.

Secondly, do a little research on the clients you will be calling.  Knowing the background helps to keep the conversation going and become more familiar with the customer.  It gives the client the feeling that you care and will be more likely to stay on the phone and let you make your pitch.  Also, the research can help you group similar clients so that the calls are easier to make because you can bring up industry specific points your competition may not be able to do.  You will seem to be more than just a provider of a product…you will be a seen as a resource.

Finally, end with an action step.  The client may not be in a position to buy your product or services right now but there are other things you can get from the call.  Set up a meeting to better understand their needs.  Put them on a mailing list.  Ask when they will be ready to buy and set up a call back date.  This is still prospecting and having these steps set up your next point of contacts will help you ease into the routine and get over the fear of calling.  I agree with Steve Richard when he says cold calling will not go away, as he writes in his guest blog for MSNBC.  You need to accept it as an integral aspect of your sales program.  Trust me, I feel the fear as well, even after all these years, but I know now how to get past it and I feel better as a result.