Sunday, July 17, 2011

5 Reasons A Spreadsheet Is Not A CRM

"A Spreadsheet is Not A CRM", says Chief Executive Boards International  member Brian Fricke of Financial Management Concepts.

Brian delivered an excellent Executive Briefing on sales lead generation at a recent CEBI Summit. I would have to add that an Outlook Address Book isn't a CRM, either. In case the acronym is unfamiliar, we're talking about a Customer Relationship Management System. The key word is system.

A real CRM has several important attributes that are essential to your business:
  1. Enterprise-wide and Online -- Everyone who needs access to it can get there, anytime, anywhere, and at the same time (spreadsheets crater under multiple users) 
  2. Portable -- Synchs with PDAs, smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc. so anyone who needs it can use it on the road
  3. Captures all prospect and customer "touches" -- Phone calls, emails, quotes, etc. are captured and tied to both the company and contact
  4. Prompts followup -- Each "touch" has a followup/reminder date so prospects don't get lost in the sales cycle
  5. Continues after the sale, tracking customer service "touches", new quotes, problems and complaints, as well as execution work flow. 
Here's a great Wikipedia Article with a typically thorough explanation of CRM systems:

So, you might ask, "Where would I start in selecting a CRM platform for my company?" Good question, and here are some suggestions on places to start -- CRM platforms regularly mentioned among CEBI members:
  • ACT! -- The granddaddy of "personal" Contact Managers. ACT! has added most standard CRM features, and is also available in a multi-user version, hosted on an in-house server. Integrates with Outlook and has a "mobile" module available. ACT! Premium is also web-accessible at a hefty per-seat price.
  • Goldmine -- The historical favorite of self-hosted users. Available in several multi-user versions, plus some additional post-sale "workflow" modules. Web Client available. Integrates with Outlook and MS Exchange servers. 
  • -- The original "cloud-based" CRM (invented before use of the term "cloud" in IT). Salesforce leverages the native advantages of a hosted solution. No server, no backups, no hassle. Monthly subscription. Droves of 3rd-party "add-ins" to manage specialty integrated application needs. 
  • Sugar CRM -- Cloud-based, low cost
  • Zoho -- Cloud-based, low cost
  • Highrise -- Cloud-based, moderate cost
  • MRP/ERP-Integrated solutions -- If you own an enterprise-class MRP/ERP system such as a Sage product, Microsoft Dynamics, Visual Manufacturing etc., almost all enterprise vendors provide a highly-integrated CRM offering. It's worth checking with your vendor to have a look at their offering.
Other Resources -- I came across an "industry report", with a very basic comparison of fourteen different CRM offerings. It's not clear to me how they picked those products - a curious span from Zoho to SAP, including some, but not all of the above.

Most CRM offerings have "Free Trial" offers that give you an opportunity to sample the user interface and feature set to see how they fit your company. Some offer a "free" version of limited functionality, plus a full-featured "paid" version.

DISCLAIMER -- The above product descriptions are based on information available from users and vendors, and may be incomplete or inaccurate. Do sufficient due diligence on any product under consideration to be sure it fully meets your needs and expectations.

If you've recently evaluated or chosen a CRM, please click "Comments" below and share your views with others.

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Terry Weaver

Chief Executive Boards International

Chief Executive Boards International: Freedom for business owners & CEOs -- Less Work, More Money, More Freedom to enjoy it 

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