Let’s talk CRM

Right after expensive watches, CRM is probably the most favorite subject of conversations for anyone involved in sales. As a hotshot Sales Director, you live and breathe CRM, so when you arrive at Innotech and on your first day you discover there isn’t one, this is the chance of a lifetime to do thingsĀ right!

So, without further ado, the best CRM is… Nah, not really. Countless engineering and marketing budgets, man-hours press releases and spammy SEO articles are expended to convince you to getĀ just their tool. Every CRM is unique in what it does, and there isn’t an all-around perfect solution, so you need to compile a requirements matrix, look at how each tool meets what you are looking for, whittle it down to two, and then roll the dice.

What goes into compatibility matrix? Let’s review.

How big is your salesforce?

If you are the lonely warrior in your sales department, chances are, you don’t need a CRM at all. You will be spending all your time doing clicks, entering accounts and leads, converting them, adjusting stages – all for the sake of a neat weekly report that you already have in your head. The world’s oldest CRM for a small 1-3 person team is Excel spreadsheet. Better yet, make it Google Docs spreadsheet – we are a 21st century company, after all.

You can easily track the progress of all your opportunities for several people and create fantastic charts for free – courtesy of your company already running on G Suite or Office 365. CRM benefits do not really kick in until you create marketing campaigns, lead generation, deal registration, email integration, and other “*ations”. Let’s take a look at those.

Running lean and mean

CRM market got extremely busy last few years with the advance of integrated cloud offerings for small businesses – namely G Suite and Office 365. Once the integrated platforms became ubiquitous, the CRMs started popping up like mushrooms after a fresh rain. The biggest advantage they carry over established players in the industry (the dominating Salesforce and Sugar), are specializations, rapid deployment, turn-key features and tight integrations with your platform.

What you are looking for are automated provisionings, integration with email, phone system, and marketplace of plugins that also live within the same ecosystem of your cloud. You want your salespeople to spend as little time manually entering the data.

Pipedrive, Insightly, Copper, Zoho – all these CRMs can be deployed within minutes by your IT guy, and be instantly available to the members of your sales team and any new hire. Each CRM comes with a sales process already built, reports preconfigured, and even smart trackers built in: “rotting deals”, deals at risk, absence of activity on leads or accounts. As a result, you don’t need an army of analysts to program workflows, custom fields, dashboards and reports for you: these vendors work hard for your money, and the ease of use and ability to get you running quickly is their key differentiator in the busy segment.

Integrations and Mobility

All the features in the world are useless if they require manual data entry – the bane of CRM systems. You can ride your sales people at every meeting about CRM hygiene, but you can’t beat human nature. If entering data is tedious, slow, if the website is not responsive, if they have to do the same task twice – type an email and then attach it in CRM, make a phone call and then log it in CRM, find a new contact – and then manually enter all the fields – then your people aren’t going to do it, and your forecasting will be as meaningful as Nate Silver’s presidential election predictions.

So, what can you do to ease the burden? The tools are already there: plugins that integrate with Gmail and allow your salespeople to quickly add contacts, prospects and leads. Integrations with website forms and AdWords that will automatically create leads for interested people and generate conversion statistics. Hooks into phone systems such as RingCentral that will track inbound calls to your company and outbound calls to prospects. Mobile apps that allow your people to do the work on the go instead of putting it off until they get back to their desks. If your salesforce is mobile and agile, so should be your CRM.

The Big Guys

“But I’ve heard Salesforce is king!” – sure, may be so, and it is royally priced as well. But Salesforce is an uber-platform, like AWS. The field is wide open, and you can do amazing things with it – from tracking support calls to building knowledge base to tracking your services engagements. This is where the smaller CRMs fall short, because they are oriented towards a simple sales-tracking process and a few auxiliary tools (projects, tasks).

Once you step beyond the bounds of those offerings, you will find you need more robust tools that will generate quotes and invoices, track your PS time and expenses associated with the account. Smaller tools will outsource this function to others via plugins, but bigger players are configurable to handle it all.

Your task is to understand how your model fits into what each of the CRM vendors is offering, and if they are capable of scaling with your business.


Finally, there’s the factor of cost. My favorite question when the customers ask me about the cost of the solution I sell is: “what is it worth to you? If you think it’s worth one dollar, I will sell it to you for one dollar.” Ultimately, for all the smaller players who build on top of G Suite, the price hovers around the same level for middle of the road offering. The way these vendors start making money off you is when you need an enriched set of capabilities form them. Advanced reports, custom attributes, premium support – these are the details you need to read and understand where your sales process fits.

In the end, if the automation and features that cost X per user per year are making your people more efficient and that allows you to close Y more deals and save you Z hours – then you are already ahead.

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