The Complete Beginner’s Guide to CRM

????????????????????????????????Let’s start with the question ‘What is CRM and do I need it?’ Why you might need it is covered in this question that arrived in my inbox this week:

I was wondering if you had any idea what kind of programs are out there that track appointments, client info and purchase history.  I work for a salon part-time and they use which does MOST of that but  my business is not spa related. I’d love to have something that sets up appointments, allows me to track what we talked about and then track what they bought and what they are interested in for future. Is this a program or is this just good note taking in my contacts?

And here is my answer:

What you are describing is Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) software. You may need to integrate it with Quickbooks for total purchase info, but you can certainly track purchases in the CRM software. Act and Salesforce are the two most popular CRM programs. ZOHO also provides a CRM you might want to check out.

Let me give you a quick example of how a CRM program differs from Outlook, for example. In Outlook, you would schedule an appointment and manually add your contact’s name to the calendar. If you wanted to see information on that contact, it is stored in a different part of the program (your contacts), and you would need to go search in your contacts for that information.

In a CRM program, you could schedule an appointment directly from the contact, and if you were in the calendar, clicking on the contact name would instantly open that contact information, including any notes you had made, and past history (any event or phone call scheduled in the past would show up in the contact history).

There are many other features of CRM programs, but it is the integration of all client data that make these powerful programs, especially for salespeople, or business owners who contact many current and prospective customers.

Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • How much does it cost? Many CRM programs are cloud based only (Salesforce) and have a monthly charge (which you may pay annually). Act still has a program you install on your computer, which may cost less if you don’t upgrade frequently.
  • Are the benefits worth the cost (i.e. will I get a good ROI on the time-savings and/or productivity gains)?
  • How easy is it to use? Is there a long learning curve?
  • Do I need to share this database with an assistant or VA? Does the software allow this? Is there an additional charge if more than one person is a user? Does my assistant know how to use/what training will they need?
  • Is there a free demo? In most cases, the data entered into a CRM demo can be downloaded before your trial ends, so you will not lose data you entered into the program. The exception is any notes you added to the CRM – those don’t export. Most programs will also easily import and/or sync with your current contact info.

Make sure to check out online reviews, such as Simply enter ‘CRM reviews’ into your search engine of choice to find more review sites.

If you want help quickly sorting out the pros and cons for your specific situation, I can help you determine if CRM software makes sense for you in a short phone call. Call me at 805-616-2466 to set up a phone appointment.

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