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From Paper & Spreadsheets to Cloud CRM

We have interviewed many thousands of SMBs, since 2003, to find out what their needs were in managing their business. It turns out over 1/3 of the businesses we speak to are still using paper processes. This may seem surprising, but these are businesses that have survived and thrived for years on their processeses, because they got the job done. Today's business CEOs are looking to leverage the Web to get business done faster & better and Cloud CRM is the place they are doing it.

Like Contact managers revolutionized customer management during the PC era, nowadays Cloud CRM is leading the charge. But with more technology available, the trick becomes how to best utilize the tools for your specific needs.

So how best to leverage those processeses with today's technology? The first step is to partner with your vendor early on, and expect them to help map out a plan for going from 0 to 100 mph. Get realistic with what can be consumed and digested by your employees. Does your vendor help you setup and train employees or do you have to find a third party consultant? Do you have business consulting and IT services at the ready. or is your vendor your goto person for that? How will the relaionship (and costs) look like in the years ahead to get this thing up and running and maintained? These are things you should discuss with your vendor before choosing a Cloud CRM system.

Scan your paper documents that are key to your Sales process, or take a picture with your mobile phone to make a high resolution pdf scan of any document. Email these documents to your vendor and make sure their software can accomodate those documents and automate the flow of the business around those document. They are the lifeblood of your business process are how you have been succeeding for so long, but at the same time they need to be married with the online world - your website, blog, social, etc. Cloud CRMs are built to be the hub where there is a history for each customer and lead so that the conversation is kept in real time. Now Cloud CRMs systems can automatically generate pdf documents with customizable workflow rules, merged customer information, and queued up per your request. Document Management workflow is on the frontier and it is exciting when married with the drip email marketing campaings and email workflow. Time to take advantage of your paper processes and definition of the fields to leverage that data in online forms and let your customers tell you what they need from your website or self service portal. At the same time, maintain your existing backend processes while having real time scanned documents and documents generated by the CRM and sent out on your behalf.

Is your customer information housed primarily in your Quickbooks Accounting program, and in your email? Some Cloud CRM vendors have Quickbooks plugins native to their offering, and others use third party integration tools to make the data sync between Quickbooks and the Cloud CRM. Ask whether it works on installed Quickbooks vs Quickbooks Online. Also try and find the plugin as native to the product so you can have some control over the features that make or break your business. Make sure the CRM is customizable in the fields, workflow, reports, etc that mimic your processes in Quickbooks. Make sure they bring in and speed up processes between Marketing, Sales, Order management, Product Managers, Support, Billing, etc in one system so everyone can share in the information across the organization.

Spreadsheets are great for consolidating your information but are not good at sharing real time information and are one-dimensional whereas a Cloud CRM system have set processes and workflows for each business scenario and updates made to the CRM are shared in real time, with built-in Audit Trail to track who changed which fields when and what they changed them to. Real time reporting runs automatically to alert you with graphs and dashboards. Real time messages at key junctures in the customer lifecycle keep everyone on the same page. A Cloud CRM should be able to import your data into any object or tab, point-and-click, by firt saving it to a .csv file. It should also let you export your reports to excel to reuse the processes you rely on in spreadsheets during the trainsition from the old system to the new Cloud CRM processess.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Too common an issue with CRM implentation is user adoption. Most times user adoption is because there was too much change in the process that it got in the way. The answer to this problem is to set up a short term, medium term and long term strategy to your CRM rollout. Set your Cloud CRM up to mimic current processes but with improvements to make things faster and more efficient. Then work on adding advanced features that are new but bring great value. Most Cloud CRM vendor update their software quarterly, so actively ask for the application of your dreams, and then break that dream up into a few milestones that make sense and will be easily trainable so that the CRM is 'adpted' by your 'users'

Find a system that integrates well with Outlook and make sure it synchs the data from Outlook to the CRM and vice versa. This allows you to stay in your familiar Outlook for emails and calendar, tasks, etc and this information will be automatically shared with the Cloud CRM. If someone updates the customer information on the Cloud CRM , then some vendors will push that update back to your Outlook to keep it up to date in real time. You will get email alerts from the Cloud CRM as well right into your email inbox and the Cloud CRM will save all the sent and received emails, notes, tasks, calendar events right against the contact or the lead. If the contact is not found in the Cloud CRM database when synching, it can be set to create the contact in the Cloud CRM as well as synch the data.

Make sure your Cloud CRM vendor has experience in implementing the CRM system directly to their clients. Are they experienced in customizing the system, migrating the data, and rolling it out and training end users on their own platform? Many vendors will outsource this work to third party companies who represent a host of different software products and they get paid by integrating multiple applications together, and making things very complicated so they can justify they big bills they are sending you. If you can find all that you are looking for in 2 or 3 vendors then you are doing well for yourself. The average SMB is having to juggle many more systems and consultants than they can handle wo they end up buying shelfware. Now you can find CRM suites that handle the customer across all departments and through the entire customer lifecycle, in a closed-loop manner that allows for constant growth. This can only really be achieved if all the working parts are under the same platform for most of the heavy lifting, as opposed to broken up in to many different pieces and hoping to keep them all glued together. That has been proven to be a failing proposision.

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