How to choose a CRM for a small business

If you’re on the look-out for an all-in-one customer relationship management (CRM) platform but struggle to see the value in complex enterprise software, then this guide is for you.

Considering the options can get a bit confusing and people are rarely short on opinions, this article aims to give a simple guide to finding and confirming you have the right CRM for a small business.

What is CRM?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) came about in the late 1980s and early 1990’s and generally started out as a replacement for the now distant memories or a Rolodex and a Filofax, stuffed with business and index cards with the advent of the personal computer.

When people talk about CRM, they are usually referring to CRM software, a tool that is used for contact management, sales management, productivity, collaboration and reporting on where your sales activities are and where they could be in the future. When working well, CRM software digitises processes and automates tasks to “improve the efficiency and effectiveness in your business”, to quote  For small businesses it needs to help you quickly change hats and perform one of your many business roles.

Why do I need one?

Like all software, CRM should help you focus on your business’s relationship with individual buyers, their companies and other colleagues you work with during the sales cycle and when you are providing your product or service. 

How do I choose?

If you start your search on Google, you will quickly see that you are not limited for choice when it comes toCRM in general but it can be trickier to find a suitable CRM for a small business!  The best way to start is to not get distracted by the world-changing features and functions (that you will likely never use) but research shows that 35% of businesses succeed to hit their targets without a traditional CRM whilst 78% with a CRM for a small business smash it (Forester Research). The same research suggests that about 50% of traditional CRM features are never used, under would deem their traditional CRM implementation a success and user adoption was equally depressing.  This all indicates that starting with shiny features and functions may not be the best place to start and actually contribute to an unsuccessful CRM project.

  1. What problems a CRM for a small business cannot solve!
    1. Poor sales skills – get sales training
    1. Winning the wrong customers – find your ideal client
    1. Be the sole tool to drive change in your business
  • What problems should a CRM for a small business solve?
    • Improved efficiency
    • Create focus on what matters
    • Provide insights to develop and mentor salespeople
    • Improve forecasting accuracy
    • Improve customer experience
  • What is the most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a CRM for a small business?
    • Balance your need for information with the cost and complaints from adding admin work for salespeople

Step 1: What’s the problem you want to solve?

Of course, this is not a unique step to the selection of a CRM for a small business.  Usually, for business leaders it is about business growth, for sales leaders, it’s about hitting targets and improving effectiveness while for salespeople it’s about keeping focussed and saving time on the dreaded administration.

In small businesses the most common problem to solve is doing more with less, when there is not “a department for that” how do I balance prospecting for new clients, closing existing deals whilst support and keeping existing customers.

As a rule, supporting and keeping existing customers tends to take precedence as they are in your face, a known quantity and

Step 2: How much should I spend?

There is a really simple formula to work out your budget, time saved x average hourly rate. If this doesn’t stack up before you even think about potential for increased productivity, focus on generating revenue and flexibility to respond to market changes – you are off course!

Generally, successful CRM implementations deliver around 8 x ROI through increased efficiency, focus on revenue and better tools to ensure customers are supported.

Step 3: How do I tell if I made the right choice?

  1. You have clear site of what sales activities are driving growth
  2. You don’t wince when you pay the monthly subscription
  3. Your salespeople are task focussed from the minute they take their seat