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CRM: Not Just for the Big Guys Anymore
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By Geary Broadnax

SMB CRM Hurdles
Cost is not the biggest hurdle small businesses face when implementing CRM. It is the initial adjustment. The challenge is to get employees to use the platform and to understand why.

For SMB employees already overloaded with daily "must dos," adding another report may seem like the last thing that is needed. But in the end, sales drive business and CRM builds more sales. CRM is not simply a static database. It is a fundamental change in that it ensures that all customer interactions become accountable. Implementing a CRM system means that a sales processis in place. The level of personal accountability a CRM system forces is very different than the way business is conducted in organizations that do not use CRM.

But cost still is a hurdle for most SMBs. Contrary to popular belief, however, there are very affordable CRM solutions geared toward small businesses. As a general rule, if a business generates a profit of $250 or more per employee, it can afford to implement a CRM solution. With the acceptance of hosted CRM services, the days of huge multi-million dollar client/server CRM packages are gone, and even a one or two person SMB can afford CRM.

The most important advice for small business owners is to choose a CRM package that fits your business. It is of no value to select a famous name brand because it is "safe" or “cool” for your $1 million revenue company if the software alone will cost a $1 million and the implementation will be another few million dollars. If you select a CRM package that requires such extensive modification that it will take months to be fully functional, then do not buy it. You will spend more time and money than the solution is worth to your business. Select a package that can accommodate your organization’s expected future growth. What if you acquire another company, or experience a huge revenue boost from a killer product? Make sure the CRM package will accommodate such growth.

A good CRM package should allow you to change the number of users, the volume of data and the volume of transactions (number of entries). It should also allow an upgrade to another of the CRM vendor’s products if you ever wish to access more features. Also make sure the CRM package you choose can adapt if your company experiences a slowdown.

Finally, make sure the CRM vendor offers the financial terms you desire as a standard offering. If you attempt to negotiate a non-standard agreement, then you must accept the risk of the terms not being acceptable in the future. This is a decision you will almost always regret. Make sure to read the agreement—both license and use—and make absolutely certain that you—never the vendor—always own the data. Then be absolutely sure that your IT infrastructure can easily accommodate these requirements.

The CRM vendors that offer hosted solutions offer an attractive CRM solution, but there are considerations. Make sure the hosting vendor offers a way for you to get your data on request and that the vendor will perform backups and has a disaster recovery plan and a business continuance plan. Do your research and choose the CRM package that fits your company’s needs. They are out there and you will find one, if you put in the initial effort.

What types of benefits can small business users expect after implementing a CRM solution? They are many and varied, and they include:

• Increased sales
• Enhanced customer service
• A higher level of customer satisfaction
• Improved time management
• Greater sales management performance
• Superior communications and messaging
• Improved document and email access (organized by account/opportunity)
• Availability of total account history on a single page, with one-click access

There is no excuse for small businesses not to implement a CRM solution. If you choose one that fits your company’s needs, you will end up with a happy sales team, satisfied customers, and a profitable business. It is time to put an end to the myth that CRM is only for big business. You and your customers will be thankful.

Geary Broadnax is the Chairman and CEO of Dovarri.
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