Your company is small but growing. When should your team consider implementing a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM)? A better question may be, how far do you want to go?
Smaller software solutions do exist for individual business elements. But implementing an ERP, accounting software, and a Sales Management Tool (SMT) piecemeal is a poor strategy for a business that intends to grow beyond just a few employees. The most effective CRMs are designed to start small and grow as you do.
As your business strategy gets more sophisticated, your tools should, too. No matter how big your business or how fast it’s getting bigger, it’s important to seek out tools that will mature with you. Every business is unique, but here's our stage guide for small companies considering a CRM implementation.
Startup (1-10 Employees)
At this stage, you might not notice a need for a CRM yet. Maybe you’re using something simple like a shared spreadsheet to track leads, customers, and deals. This is a great, free solution for many small companies. However, if this is where you want to start, make sure you've addressed a few of the following concerns.
- Data Security. The early stages of a small business are delicate, and data security is serious. Could a terminated employee take your book of business with them when they leave? Would locking down data access with a CRM save you trouble later?
- Disorganized or missing data. Do you have a drawer full of business cards and handwritten post-its serving as your client database?
- Internal communication hurdles. Are there parts of your sales process that “everybody just knows,” but an outsider wouldn’t recognize? As your company grows, this will become a bigger issue. A CRM is the smartest way to correct this critical issue early, before organization-wide problems emerge.
Set your company up for success without the cost, contact us to learn more about HubSpot's free CRM.
Early Growth (10-25 Employees)
Businesses focused on sales and marketing strategy should begin looking at stronger software tools during this phase. You still might not need a true CRM yet, but our first piece of advice stands: invest in tools that grow with you.
You may decide to start out with smaller, more focused software such as a Sales Management Tool to help you manage email and keep up with your pipeline. This is a good solution for companies at this size. However, most SMTs don’t have the capacity to keep up with an expanding business. Here are a few questions to ask at this stage:
- Are you looking toward a growth phase in the next year? Strategically implementing a CRM will save you from having to move data across platforms and re-train your staff on new software.
- How quickly will the size of my sales team grow? The more cooks in the kitchen…
- Is there more than one sales path available to follow? Depending on the customer or deal type your team may need additional guidance on process.
CRM adoption at this stage provides immediate perks. Data security is optimized. Sales and operations personnel have a central hub for contextualized customer data, helping them to stay efficient and professional. The automation capabilities of a CRM clean up repetitive items that bog down workflow. Not sure if you're ready for automation? Check out our tip sheet on Marketing Automation Readiness.
No matter what you decide, you absolutely must stop using spreadsheets to track your sales data at this stage. It’s here that shared spreadsheets become unwieldy, complex, and filled with inconsistencies. Trying to move forward from here armed only with an Excel document or two is a recipe for disaster.
Middle Growth: 25-50 Employees
Around the 25th employee, interesting things start to happen. A culture forms around common employee habits and management practices. Employees have wider expectations for what their time means to the company and the career moves available. In other words, things start to get real.
What does this mean for your CRM strategy?
It’s no longer possible for 1-2 people to manage the entire business. Time and resources must be delegated, and a management hierarchy begins to develop. The culture surrounding sales strategy and customer service sets in, and clear processes need to be established. Lastly, time input at the top of the ranks becomes more valuable than ever, and ideally should be focused externally towards sales, marketing, and business growth—rather than internally on tracking down information or management of internal issues.
It’s here that a CRM becomes essential—other tools absolutely won’t do. In addition to serving as a database for your leads, deals, and customers, a CRM can help your management team handle their day to day tasks. This includes:
- Security and access requirements for a multi-leveled management setup
- Internal logic for assigning and resolving customer service cases
- High level marketing tasks to help you communicate your brand even when engaging hundreds or thousands of prospects at once.
Maturity: 50 employees and beyond
If you haven’t made the jump to a CRM by this stage, it’s time to get started. Begin with these quick steps to help you on your way:
- Perform a data audit. Is all your data correct, unique, and uniform? Little differences such as telephone numbers logged both with and without dashes can cause massive duplication problems in mature organizations.
- Define your sales process. Meet with your team and outline each step needed for a successful sale. If there are several paths, clarify each one. Use our worksheet to help guide internal communication.
- Identify your tools. Begin researching which CRM will best fit your needs. At this size, an enterprise-class CRM such as Salesforce likely makes the most sense.
Download our CRM Planner for more help analyzing your options.
As you continue to scale, you start to see the long-term value of tools that grow with you. You'll notice that your CRM easily accommodates larger volumes of customer and sales data. Your internal processes, even the very complicated ones, are described within the CRM system. See our blog on CRM stage and sales process alignment for more information on this.
The value of automation also begins to show: representatives across your business save time by utilizing the knowledge base and template tools available within the CRM. And, as always, your sales pipeline is easily accessible, manageable, and understood.
If as a business leader you intend to reach either of the last two stages, begin planning for your CRM as early as possible. Avoid the expense of multiple pieces of software, hours of training, and the hassle of converting your data from one platform to another. You can enjoy the early advantages of a secure, organized, and simple tool to manage multiple business processes. You'll feel comfortable as your CRM follows you through every restructure, pivot, and expansion that comes along. So, ask yourself: how far do you want to go?
If you're ready to talk through your CRM options, request a 30 minute consultation with our team today! We have experience with most major CRM's and are a certified HubSpot Partner & Salesforce Partner.
You can also use our bank of resources to start a conversation with your team on when a CRM implementation will be best.