CRMDialer: A Salesforce Competitor
BY: VESELINA DZHINGAROVA ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, 2018
Managing customer information and the relationship between a company and its customers is never easy. There are different approaches to the problem depending on the size of your organization, the budget for a suitable software solution and other factors. Because of this, it’s fair to say that customer relationship management (CRM) is a complicated subject for entrepreneurs and CEOs trying to manage the company as best they can.
The A-Z of CRM Solutions from Mom ‘n Pop to SME to Giant Corporations
Depending on whom you believe, either Mark Twain, Abraham Kaplan or Abraham Maslow commented that “to every man with a hammer, everything is treated as if it’s a nail.” To put it another way, not every solution is the right one. This is ever so true when it comes to managing customer information and working with sales staff who are often the people who have the most contact with prospective and existing customers.
Let’s now look at what solutions are used to manage customer relationships with different businesses:
Mom ‘n Pop
The Mom ‘n Pop store keeps records of regular orders coming in, both local and nationwide. Being able to provide a pleasing customer experience including acknowledging every customer by name, remembering their previous orders and making recommendations that reflect their (changing) tastes are just some of the challenges faced by individual retail store owners today.
While they will often remember customers in their head, that doesn’t work as well when they get busier and find it necessary to take on additional help. At that point, having the details of each customer and possibly a photo to identify them is useful for incoming staff to know whom they are dealing with. Even if the store must issue membership cards to customers which have a barcode to scan and pull up their customer record quickly, a little computerization helps maintain a personalized service even as the number of customers grows from an initially manageable number.
For Mom ‘n Pop store owners, there’s often a custom software solution for their industry or one that’s adaptable to their retail needs. A small software development team probably produces it. This has pros and cons. Their software updates are likely to be slow in coming even in an age of LEAN and AGILE rapid software development. However, they may add new features when customers request them which makes them more responsive than most software apps.
An SME is a small or mid-sized organization that could have anywhere from 10 people to a thousand. While it could be a chain of retail stores, usually an SME is an office-based operation typically in a single location. They could also have multiple regional offices to handle the different time zones across the US and sales in that region.
With an SME, they’re often dealing with hundreds or thousands of prospective customers and a similar number of current customers at a given time. The sales team is probably large enough to have been segmented into mini teams to keep it tightly run. The sheer number of contact points that individual sales team members have and with the need to avoid more than one sales agent contacting the same prospect, it’s necessary in most cases to deploy a sophisticated CRM software solution.
With CRM software, they’re not all the same. You get packages that are a good Salesforce competitor because they offer many of the same or similar core features but without the complication or market segmentation with excessive software variations. The learning curve of software like CRMDialer is much shorter than with Salesforce or another Enterprise-level CRM package. The greater number of features that get added, the more frustration is created. This is frequently what user testing has indicated over the years.
Customers get confused over the increasing number of menu options and the requirement for the software developers to keep overhauling the user interface because of the additional functionality that gets added very few months. Most of the new features fly over the heads of busy CEOs, entrepreneurs and sales staff who just need software that works and don’t have weeks to learn how it does that.
At the Enterprise level, CRM software reaches a whole other level. You’re looking at market segmentation with a tailor-made version of popular packages like Salesforce designed for different industries. You no longer have the main Salesforce CRM package alone; now you have the Health Cloud or the Financial Services Cloud. Solutions are intended for B2B (business to business) companies or B2C (business to consumer) companies alone. It all gets terribly complicated!
Along with sector-based versions or optimizations to suit different industry needs, there’s also a separation of packages or modules covering different functionalities. So, sales comes with its own solution, and marketing or customer support, two more. The more you need, the more it costs too. The greater number of staff that need access to different modules or packages, the higher the price per month to use the software.
While this might all make sense to a huge corporation with $500m in annual revenues and thousands of customers to manage, to the SME or the Mom ‘n Pop store owner, it’s a CRM solution that’s basically overkill. In reality, the sheer learning curve required to master complicated CRM software packages would hold back most small to medium-sized business from trying them out.
Knowing How Much CRM You Need
Stories are legion of small companies that tried to deploy a large-scale CRM solution and got bogged down in years of retracing their steps and operational disarray. Eventually they tended to abandon the software solution because it became too complicated for the staff to master quickly enough and got in the way of them doing their jobs. Ironically, CRM was supposed to make their jobs easier.
On the flip side, sometimes companies will work with a developer to create a custom application exactly to their specifications. The difficulty here is if the developer has no previous experience working in that industry, they’ll struggle to properly appreciate (and structure) a programmed solution that is fit for purpose. It may be just as complicated as an advanced, out-of-the-box CRM package and take many months to code it line-by-line. Often, these projects get abandoned for similar reasons in favor of either an industry-specific CRM solution that’s not too advanced or an out-of-the-box CRM package that does just enough to be highly useful while being easy to master.
Is Simplicity the Key?
Tiny companies often use free tools to put together an ad hoc solution to information and customer management problems. They use a Google Sheets document that staff share and can edit live or an Access database on an office server with a programmed front-end to mimic the capabilities of the larger CRM packages.
Task management for sales staff is run through a KANBAN tool like Trello which supports multiple boards or stages, placing individual contacts or tasks on a virtual card, and assigning one or more staff members responsibility for them. While tools like Trello and Asana are traditional task and project management tools, respectively, they can be used as a customer-led, lead tracking, system on the cheap.
When dealing with a few dozen or a hundred prospects monitored across different boards that indicate their position in the sales funnel (initial content, waiting follow-up, warm prospect, negotiating terms, contracts pending and deal signed), a higher volume of leads can quickly overwhelm this system. At that point, you need something more sophisticated that can handle a greater volume of active leads at different stages in the sales process.
Scaling Up CRM to Handle a Growing Small Business
When a company has outgrown an ad hoc or limiting custom coded solution that isn’t adaptable and is overly costly to keep developing, then it’s time to look elsewhere. While it’s easy to dive into Enterprise-level CRM software and get sucked into a review of the available solutions in the marketplace including the major players like Salesforce, don’t buy into the concept that bigger is better with software. Because usually, it’s not.
At this point, what a company requires is a CRM solution that offers great functionality that meets their needs while limiting the features. This might seem counterintuitive in an age where software development companies try to throw the kitchen sink into their list of features. However, most users barely use all the features of Microsoft Excel or Word; a low percentage of users put time into learning macros, for instance, that would make Excel much more useful for them. Therefore, you can only imagine how the average busy sales agent will deal with a complex CRM package when it’s first put in front of them. That’s right… They learn the minimal number of things they must know to do their job and ignore the rest. Sad, but true.
Smaller CRM Feature Set for a Greater Adoption Rate
A much better strategy and one that’s been embraced by the team at CRMDialer is to produce a software solution that lets users do different useful things quickly, easily and with the minimum of fuss. Chatting with a colleague and exchanging business documents? Not a problem. Initiating calls to a prospect from their lead information and then following up with a SMS generated through the software? Sure, of course!
Tracking leads and catching emails from prospects that have come in via Gmail or Outlook and adding that information into their CRM record automatically? Nicely done. Send out emails to warm leads and be able to track the open rate for the 500-email batch? Of course. Set up groups instantly and movie regionally-located prospects or those in the same industry into their own group quickly. Yes, because it helps keep things better organized without making it a hassle to do.
When sales staff can learn to use a CRM package fast and realize real benefits with sophisticated multi-platform communication, instant tracking, and speech recognition to convert audio conversation to a searchable transcript on a prospects’ account, you’ll have them hooked. You won’t hear the usual groans by staff at the latest innovation in software technology that is bound to make their life harder (not easier) and days longer (not shorter). At that point, you have their ‘buy-in’ and that’s half the battle right there.
Detailed Reporting and Analytics to Keep Management Happy
One of the distinct benefits for the management team is that using a customer relationship management package makes it possible to track multiple data points in a logical manner. If the reporting system itself is not overly dense because of the sheer amount of data sets being collected, managers can successfully pull off reports to create meaningful outcomes.
The helpdesk lets leaders see what the key pain points are currently both for existing customers and prospects. Customer contact via email is logged for receipt and responses. Calls are logged to see which ones led to sales and which did not. With the grouping of customers and segmenting of the audience, it leads to more meaningful conclusions about each customer group like whether they’re worth pursuing in the future or too few became buyers?
Whether sending an SMS text message to a customer or collecting validated emails, inferences can be drawn by management about the usefulness of different marketing efforts. The company can then alter its marketing strategy to target either the most profitable segments or where the take up is much higher providing a far lower cost of customer acquisition. Take your pick.
Not having a proper CRM solution for most businesses is a major mistake. However, deploying the wrong CRM solution is equally detrimental to a business, and its operation. Learning a series of different software in sequence is the bane of most sales teams (and other staff too) that suffer the growing pains of an SME that needs increasingly more sophisticated software to keep up with customers’ demands. And yet, it’s often the staff who lead the way when choosing a customer relationship management software package that helps them far more than it gets in the way of making more money.
Ultimately, less is more with software because only a small fraction of the features get utilized by most users. While adding more features lets software companies justify their new releases and provides an additional revenue stream, that’s often to the detriment of the end users. There’s a useful lesson there that shouldn’t be forgotten.