SERIES: Manage Your Business

Sponsored by Microsoft

Small business owners have a lot of responsibilities—and it’s all too easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks that need to get done and challenges that need to be overcome. This is the second in a 5-part series full of tips, ideas and solutions to help you better manage your business.

Managing Your Customers (CRM) 

By Rieva Lesonsky

Relationships are the foundation of every small business’ success. But as your business grows, it can become harder to sustain strong relationships with your customers. How can you serve your 100th customer with the same degree of personal attention you gave your first customer?

The answer is customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. CRM software can help you capture more information about customers, use what you’ve learned to provide better service, and quickly take advantage of sales opportunities. Here are some suggestions for finding the right CRM tool for your business.

  1. Gather available customer information. You may not realize just how much data your business collects on your customers — from purchasing history, job title and budget to personal details like alma mater and how many children they have. How can you put all that data to use? Look for a CRM tool like Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online that allows you to organize it all in one place.
  2. Keep it in the cloud. Cloud-based CRM solutions simply make sense in today’s business world. The right cloud solution will ensure the security of your customer data by storing it safely. Since there’s no software to install, you save time and money both at setup and in the future — all software updates happen automatically online, so you don’t have to do anything. Cloud-based solutions are scalable as you grow, offering the flexibility every small business needs. Perhaps the biggest advantage of cloud-based CRM: You and your sales team can access all your customer data, anytime, anywhere, so you can instantly respond to customer needs.
  3. Think mobile. Salespeople are always on the go, meeting with customers and prospects. Use a mobile-friendly CRM solution that syncs in real time, like Dynamics CRM Online, and your sales team always has customer data, service records and quotes at their fingertips — and can take notes, create quotes or sales orders, and update customer records on the fly so everyone on the team has access to up-to-date information. Keep all your salespeople happy no matter what platform they prefer by choosing a CRM product that works on iOS, Android and Windows
  4. Plan for collaboration. What good is customer information if only one person has access to it? Good CRM tools make it easy for your entire team, from sales to customer service, to share important information about customers. Choose a product that makes collaboration easy so everyone has access to the data needed to provide a seamless customer experience.
  5. Keep it simple. If the CRM software you choose is hard to learn, salespeople won’t bother — they’d rather be out making sales than sitting in the office struggling with an unfamiliar interface. To encourage quick adoption, look for a CRM solution with a minimal learning curve — one that integrates with familiar tools your team already uses, such as Microsoft Office 365. With Dynamics CRM Online, for example, you can import data directly from Excel spreadsheets, view customer information from within your Outlook inbox, create quotes or sales orders using Word within the CRM, or use OneNote to save notes from meetings with customers.
  6. Automate the small stuff. Is your sales team spending too much time on paperwork and not enough with customers? Automate and simplify repetitive tasks with a CRM tool that offers templates, workflows and reminders so nothing falls through the cracks. Your salespeople will have more time to spend with customers, building stronger relationships and delivering better service.
  7. Get help. You may want to contact a technology partner to get up and running on Dynamics CRM Online. Check out Pinpoint, where you can directly get in touch with partners to help you deploy Dynamics CRM.
  8. Do more with less. Using technology wisely enables your salespeople to accomplish more in less time. A good CRM solution will help your team quickly spot the most qualified leads, pinpoint which customers are most valuable to your business, and act on opportunities before the competition does. ­­

Be sure to check back next week for the next article in this special “Manage Your Business” series: Managing Your Technology.