Affordable and User Friendly CRM

Affordable and User Friendly CRM Often Means Limited Functionality

Cookie-cutter CRMs are easy but have limited customizability by design | Commence CRM

Looking for a CRM solution for a small to mid-size business?  You want something that is easy to use and affordable, don’t you?  Of course you do, but it is important to note that CRM solutions that are easy to use and affordable are often products with limited functionality and customizability. They are created as cookie cutter “one size fits all” programs. This is by design of course as the vendors that offer these solutions (which typically range from free to under $20 per user per month) cannot afford to engage customers with personalized training or customization, so they simply limit this.

Why does this matter?  Well because according to a recent Capterra survey 40 percent of companies that switched CRM products did so because the previous software they selected did not have the right level of functionality or flexibility they required for their business. Unfortunately, they discovered this after utilizing the product for several months. Now they must deal with the cost of selecting, installing, data transfer and training people on a new solution.  In most cases, they end up spending more than if they had selected a more robust product from the start.

Add to this the fact that sales executives now want more capability out of their CRM system, such as adding business intelligence to help sales representatives sell more efficiently. One of the companies that offers this to the small to mid-size business community is Commence Corporation, manufacturers of Commence CRM.  Commence has added rules based intelligence into their CRM system whereby the CRM system helps sales representatives identify which new leads or prospects are of high quality and which are tire kickers. The system then ranks and color codes each lead providing a snapshot of the best leads to management. “This is really the first step in adding some artificial intelligence to our system” says Larry Caretsky of Commence. “It helps ensure that the sales team is laser focused on the most promising new opportunities based on facts and not the sales representative’s experience or gut reaction.”

Commence plans to continue down this path with their other applications for marketing, customer service and project management. “We want to make our CRM smarter” says Caretsky, “but without requiring an engineering degree to use it. However, there is certainly a correlation between ease of use and affordability. Any CRM solution that is free or low cost, and exceptionally ease to use, is not going to provide much in the way of functionality or customizability. So customers will need to accept that more robust offerings will require some training or onboarding services.”

To learn more about Commence CRM and its core functionality visit

I Don’t Know Where My Time Goes!

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.

I Don't Know Where My Time Goes! | Sandler Sales Training


“I know for a fact,” said Greg at the sales meeting, “exactly where I spend my time.”  Looking around the table for a moment, he went on.  “The only problem is I never have enough of it.”

Most of the other salespeople nodded their heads in agreement.

“I do everything I can to make sure that each day is productive.  I even list the things I want to accomplish that day, and five days out of five, I never get through the list.”

“Greg,” asked Joan, the Sales Manager, “do you think perhaps the things on your list just cannot be accomplished in one day?”

“No, “he replied, “That’s not the problem.  The problem is all the interruptions.  Someone stops by to ask me something, and there go fifteen minutes.  Someone calls, and there go another ten minutes.  At least five times a day for both.  And then you have the PIB problems.”

As all of the other salespeople chuckled and nodded their heads, Joan asked, “What do you mean PIB problems?”

“Well, that’s what we’ve all taken to calling them…Pain-In-the-Butt.  Like when the laser printer jams at least once a day and no one knows about it for five minutes.  What you’re printing then disappears into the never-never land of bits and bytes.  So now, if you send something to be printed, you head over to the laser and wait to see if it printed before you do anything else.”

“I see,” replied Joan, also smiling, “what other PIBs do you people have?”


Joan is about to get side-tracked dealing with PIB problems.  While important, PIB problems tend to be simple to deal with because no one has to change his behavior.  Solving the laser problem requires nothing more than a simple technician’s visit.


There are two basic types of problems that waste time.  The first are mechanical problems such as the jamming laser.  Other mechanical problems could be the office phone system, a person’s car, and so on. When the mechanical things don’t function correctly, time is spent putting up with them until, hopefully, a solution is found.  Usually the solution can be discovered quickly.  Money can buy a technical quick fix.  If the money is not available, then everyone involved is absolved from doing anything.  “Hey, it’s OK to waste the time because there is no money to fix it.”

The second type of problem that wastes time is much more difficult to identify and solve.  These types of problems are usually centered around the behavior of the person or persons involved.  Greg quickly listed two situations that waste time.  People stopping by to chat and people calling to chat.  By his estimation, 25 minutes are wasted when both happen.  And at five “chats” a day, Greg has just wasted two hours.

What’s difficult about solving Greg’s two time wasters is that he may actually look forward to both occurring.  Or he may view them as “a necessary evil” of doing his job.  Either way, he knows time is wasted and does nothing about it.


Mechanical time wasters are easy to identify.  “If I spent (fill in the dollar amount), I could do this more quickly.”  You, and perhaps others, have to determine if spending the money is worth it.

Personal time wasters require you to recognize them for what they are.  Jot down the two that immediately come to mind.

Drop-ins?  Unexpected phone calls?  Drop-ins can be dealt with by simply stating, “Can this wait until (time)?”  Nine out of ten can wait.

Unexpected phone calls are similar.  “Appreciate your calling.  Let’s make a phone appointment at (time).”

What others do you allow to happen?


You do know where your time goes.  You have to decide if you want your time to keep going there.

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website and sign up to receive the free sales tip of the week. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development.

CRM Company makes Customer Service an Integral Part of CRM

Awesome Customer Service from a CRM?! Yes!!!

Businesses today are often guilty of giving lip service to customer service. What do I mean by this?  Well every business wants to provide quality service, but many believe this simply means answering the phone when a customer calls and being as helpful as possible in assisting them. Unfortunately, this simply is not the case anymore.  Customers have much different expectations today and if they do not have a good experience in dealing with your firm, they may not be a customer for very long. So what are customers looking for and how can you make sure you are exceeding their expectations?

Well for starters, customers do not want to be placed on hold waiting for the next representative to become available. They do not want to leave a message and wait for a call back and they do not want to send an e-mail and hope that someone addresses it in a reasonable time frame.  Just like you, they want answers to their questions and they want them now.

Commence Corporation, manufacturers of Commence CRM, has taken a proactive approach to helping businesses interact with their customers. There have always been a myriad of standalone help desk and call center applications available in the software industry. What differentiates Commence CRM is that the company has fully integrated the customer service functions with their CRM system.  What this means is that all authorized employees (i.e. sales, marketing, administrative and management) are provided with immediate access to customer inquiries or tickets as well as the customer’s service history. This allows every employee to access the information they need to deliver best-in-class customer service.

For customers, Commence CRM goes well beyond traditional offerings by providing an easy to use content management system with a built-in Knowledge base and a Frequently Asked Questions area, where customers can get answers to their inquiries 24/7 without needing to talk with or wait for a service representative to be available.  In addition, a web-based customer portal provides customers with the option to enter a service ticket if they are unable to find the answer they are looking for.  An automated response system provides them with the comfort of knowing that their inquiry has been received and that someone will be back in touch shortly.  It’s this level of functionality that differentiates Commence CRM from competitive offerings. For more information about Commence CRM visit or call Commence Sales at 1-877-COMMENCE.

Don’t Show Them How

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.

Coworker asks for help. Do you say "Let me do it for you." | Sandler Sales Training


Katie had just finished her first week with her new firm and by digging right in, she had her first two orders.  As she looked at the form to fill out for ordering product, she wondered who could have possibly come up with the five-part maze.  The form was impossible to decipher.

Glancing up, she saw Greg, one of the other salespeople.

“Greg,” she asked, “could you give me a clue as to what goes on this customer order form?”

“Sure,” he replied, “but why bother?”

“Well, I have two orders, and I’d like to get them out.”

“Hey, congratulations.  I meant why should you do the forms?  Give them to Mary up front.  She’ll take care of them.”

“Aren’t we supposed to fill them in?”

“Well, that’s the theory, but Mary is the only one who knows where everything is supposed to go.  I don’t think a salesperson has filled out an order form for the past four years.”

“Oh,” responded Katie.  “What happens if Mary gets sick or when she goes on vacation?”

“We just leave them on her desk.  When she gets back, they get done.  She gets ticked-off at the pile, but if you try to do one yourself…well, Mary will give it back to you, telling you how screwed up it is.  And she gives it back to you a week after you put it in.”

“Why doesn’t she just show us how to do it correctly?”

“Have no idea.  It’s been like this since I was here, and you know the phrase, ‘Go along to get along.”‘

“Have orders been late?”

“Sure, but I’d rather deal with an irate customer instead of an angry Mary any day of the week.”


No salesperson has any idea of what a “correct” order form looks like.  Additionally, the salespeople have learned not to ask.  And when orders are late, the salespeople would rather deal with an angry customer than a fellow employee.


Is Mary a good employee?  She has taken over the task of filling out the order forms so that the forms are done correctly.  You can hear Mary saying, “What’s wrong with having such an important form filled out correctly?  If it’s not done right, the wrong product will be shipped and make customers angry.”

And then when Mary is sick or out on vacation, well, it’s just a day or two at most, a week.  “Besides,” continues Mary, “the form is complicated, and salespeople never get it right anyway.  The first thing I do when I get back in is make sure that the order forms are done.  You want it done right, don’t you?”

Mary isn’t wrong to want to make sure that the form is correctly filled in.  What is wrong is that she has not taught the salespeople how to do the task correctly.  The salespeople are wrong because they have not insisted on learning how to do the task themselves.


Are there tasks you do which you refuse to teach anyone else?  Before you quickly nod “no,” answer this question.  If Katie asked Mary how to fill out the form, do you think Mary would refuse or instead just say, “Let me do it for you.”

You should pick a week, and during that week make a one-line note every half-hour of which tasks you are doing.  At the end of the week, go back over your notes and see what activities you did alone.

Once you know what the “solos” are, you then need to determine if someone else could have done them, if you showed him how.

Guard against talking yourself out of showing someone else how to do what you do.  Mary has a ready supply of answers for any objections.  So will you.  Fight the urge to give into them.

Decide on a solo task that you do and then find someone and show him how to do it.  As long as you don’t make it his solo task from then on, you will now have a co-worker who will be able to help the next time.  And in most instances, a co-worker who will be flattered to help.


Make the best use of your time by showing someone how to do something you do.  And then, if appropriate, let him do it.

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website and sign up to receive the free sales tip of the week. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development.