Are you guilty of continuing to use an Excel spreadsheet to manage your leads, customers, and sales channel? Do you think that a CRM is too expensive or not appropriate for your small or medium business? Wondering why you can’t increase your income? Customer relationship management (i.e. CRM) has been a key enabling technology for many successful businesses and has a very attractive return on investment.
A few years ago, my two business partners and I agreed that our product was ready for prime time and the task of putting together a sales and marketing strategy fell on my shoulders. He knew a thing or two about marketing, but he had no idea about sales. So I liked most of the sales leaders back then and created an Excel spreadsheet to start capturing our leads, customers, opportunities and creating a simple pipeline. I posted the spreadsheet on our company intranet so my partners and the sales team could access and edit it. He had no idea what a mess he had created …
Our sales team, myself included, spend most of our time traveling visiting potential and current clients; connecting to our VPN in our hotel room to access our intranet and edit our spreadsheet was a huge hassle. We didn’t have an automated way to notify the team when it was time to reconnect with a customer for a specific project. Creating a report for our Board meetings was a bummer. It was nearly impossible to analyze our data and figure out where in the selling stage our opportunities were stuck. Leads were not automatically assigned to the right salesperson and I had to manage them manually. And I could go on and on and I’m sure many of you have similar stories to tell. The bottom line is that our sales did not meet our expectations. Rather than creating a growth enabler, my spreadsheet was a growth impediment.
After two quarters of breakneck growth and two hellish council meetings, it was time for a change. I consulted with my team and called some friends with successful and growing businesses and asked how they handle their sales process. The answer was unanimous: a cloud-based CRM, with Salesforce.com being the most popular option.
Sure, it wasn’t free as a spreadsheet. But the time I saved by not having to manually manage the spreadsheet, assign leads, and bother with pipeline reporting was spent in front of customers. According to Salesforce research, sales people spend 68% of their time not selling. I definitely fit that profile back then. For this reason alone, our CRM paid for itself. Also, keep in mind that most cloud-based CRMs, like Salesforce, offer monthly fees so you don’t have to fork out a costly sum up front; making it ideal for small businesses. And with Salesforce partners offering quick-start deployments, you can be up and running with an efficient system in less than 30 days at a reasonable price.
As you can imagine, our CRM ROI was felt in less than 2 quarters. No more VPN on our intranet for our sales team, they could access our cloud-based CRM and update their own pipeline. Back then, smartphones weren’t available, but today, sales teams can update their pipeline on the fly right on their phone. All pipelines were integrated into a company pipeline that we could share internally and with our board of directors. It allowed us to analyze our data and figure out how to adjust our sales strategy. We constantly reiterate our sales process based on the data we collect. For example, we define best sales practices and targeting based on the stage of the opportunity. This made the process of onboarding new sales reps easier. We shorten our sales cycle with automatic reminders to contact our customers and follow up on opportunities. And there you have it, our sales growth was solidly underway. Later we sold our company to the French multinational Schneider Electric.
In short, a CRM pays for itself through better visibility, productivity, and intelligence. Our sales team had better visibility into their pipeline, spent more time selling, and were more efficient. The bottom line can be summed up with this equation: the monthly CRM license cost of $ 130 / per position is always less than the hours wasted by salespeople without a CRM * your hourly rate; factor in increasing your productivity and it’s a no-brainer. Are you sure you want to continue with your spreadsheet?