Commence CRM a Solid Alternative to Salesforce

The Honeymoon is Over

You wanted a robust CRM solution for your business and like many others bought into the hype and fanfare of Salesforce.com.  No one can blame you.  The industry analysts, review sites, and pay-to-play listing services all touted Salesforce.com as the number one solution for Customer Relationship Management.  So, you selected them and paid a small fortune for use of the product and for their customer service. Now one year later it’s renewal time and you are a bit dismayed because you have learned that your staff is not in love with the product and have found it cumbersome and difficult to use. In addition, you have discovered that they are only using a fraction of the functionality you paid a premium to get one year earlier. Now what?  You certainly did not plan to have to change CRM systems after one year, but you are struggling to once again pay an exceptionally high price to renew a service that your staff does not like and is not fully utilizing.

Well here is some good news.  You don’t have to. There are several very good CRM solutions for small to mid-size businesses that are rich in functionality, easier to use and much more affordable than Salesforce.com.

One of these products is Commence CRM, recently listed as a Top 20 Most Popular by the Gartner Group’s Capterra review site.  Commence CRM is targeted at companies that need more functionality and flexibility than the basic, low cost, one-size-fits-all solutions can provide without the cost and complexity of solutions like Salesforce.com.  It’s a comprehensive offering that includes the traditional contact management and sales functionality you find in most CRMs, and additionally provides Marketing Campaign Management, Help Desk Ticketing with a Customer Portal, and a fully integrated Project Management application. This additional functionality differentiates Commence CRM from other offerings, and makes it an attractive alternative to Salesforce.com for companies that may require this level of functionality.

If you have Salesforce.com and are considering a change due to poor utilization and the high cost of renewal, Commence CRM would be a solid alternative.  To learn more visit commence.com.

Commence CRM Automation for Nurturing Leads

If you are a sales representative you know that sales can be a tough and frustrating profession.  At times, you are nothing more than a pin on the map to the sales manager, a quota to the company, and an item called “cost of sales” to the finance department.  You call prospects every day, send out mailers and e-mails, and network on social sites to get new leads only to discover that as many as 50% of them are not ready to buy.  Sounds a bit depressing, doesn’t it? But that’s sales. Experienced sales people have learned to focus their energy on the qualified leads who are ready to buy and are taking advantage of next generation CRM software to nurture those prospects who are not.

One CRM product that does this very well is Commence CRM.  Commence offers a lead qualification feature that allows you to categorize leads based on specific criteria such as hot (highly qualified), warm (not purchasing for 3-5 months), or cold (no specific time frame for purchase.)  The system automatically color codes the leads so that you can immediately determine which category they belong to.

Lead Management

The drip marketing feature allows you to automate how you want to nurture the leads. Here is an example.  Warm leads will receive a direct mail or e-mail every 30 days highlighting your products, a case study in that industry, an invitation to a conference, or a call to action.  The program is set up and completely automated with future time frames for each action to be taken and triggered after the number of days has elapsed.   Cold leads for example may only get contacted every quarter after the initial introduction.

Drip Marketing Schedule

The objective here is to enable the CRM system to nurture these warm and cold leads while the sales team is laser focused on the most promising new opportunities. It’s an easy, efficient and effective tool that can be used by a marketing professional or the sales representatives themselves.  With Commence CRM, every lead is looked at as a potential opportunity throughout the year.  Just because they are not ready to purchase today doesn’t mean they will not purchase tomorrow. Keep your product, your service, and your company in front of them to strengthen your brand, ensuring they contact you when they are ready to buy. Commence CRM can make this happen for your business.  To learn more, see commence.com.

Use Price to Differentiate CRM Solutions

CRM Buyers Guide: What to Expect from Free and Low-Cost CRM

CRM software is considered a commodity market today, especially for very small businesses that have basic requirements such as a need to manage contacts, activities, notes and e-mail history.  Most of the companies that serve this sector now offer their products for free because it’s simply too costly to market, sell, and provide service to customers for a few dollars per user per month.  They use their CRM solution as a loss leader because they often have other products and services to sell you; and now that you’re a customer they have your company name, contacts, phone and e-mail addresses. So, expect to hear from them as part of their free offering.

If one of these basic cookie-cutter solutions meets your business requirements that’s great, but if you’re thinking that ‘all CRM solutions are the same… why pay for one?’ you’re dead wrong. Many people differentiate CRM solutions by price alone. It’s not a bad approach because price does in fact differentiate the basic low-cost or freemium solutions from those that cost more. The key is identifying what you may or may not be getting for the price you are willing to pay. Here are just a few things to consider before making your decision.

Free and low-cost CRM solutions come with limitations

Traditionally there are limitations on the number of accounts and contacts you can have, number of reports you can generate, number of custom fields you can add, number of e-mails you can send, and no group calendaring. More importantly there is often no online data security, no permissions (so all data is visible to all users), little to no customization, no system integration, and no phone support.   If you do not want these limitations – expect to pay about $30 dollars per user per month for a good solution.

Data Hosting Service

If you are concerned about the storage and protection of your online data (and you should be), it is important to note that the top tier data storage companies like Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, and others are not free which simply means the following. If you select a free or low-cost CRM solution you are not getting the high level of data security and protection service that is provided by higher cost CRM solution providers. If you are OK with this, it is still important to ask the vendor where your data is being stored and how you can get to it if needed.

Security Permissions

There are times when you need to ensure that certain data is only viewed by specific internal resources. Perhaps you want to make sure a sales representative in San Francisco cannot see the leads or accounts being worked on by a representative in New York. Or maybe there is a major account in the system only accessible by the management team. This is simply not possible with low end or freemium products.

System Integration

If you need to integrate your CRM solution with a third-party software program chances are this is just not offered by low end or freemium solutions. This feature is in the higher cost products.

Customer Service

Let’s be real here. If you select a free or low-cost CRM solution, you have no right to expect that you can get on the telephone with a company representative and get free advice and counsel. The best you can hope for is the ability to send an e-mail and hope someone responds, or that you can get your questions answered via the company’s web site.  Higher cost products traditionally provide telephone support and have a named account manager assigned to your company.

There are, of course, other things to consider when selecting a CRM solution. My objective here is to ensure buyers fully understand that all CRM systems are not alike and that there are limitations associated with low-cost or freemium solutions.

About the Author

Larry Caretsky represents Commence Corporation a provider of CRM solutions for small to mid-size businesses. Commence CRM is rated as a Top 20 Most Popular CRM solution by the Gartner Group’s Capterra review site.  Commence CRM offers a robust set of applications for sales, marketing, customer service, and project management. The product is affordable and easy to use making it a popular alternative to higher cost programs like Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.com.

Meet Them Standing Up

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.
Sandler Sales Tip: Be a stand-up person and get things done. | Shulman.Sandler.com

The Story:

“Melinda,” asked Nick on Thursday, “what’s your secret?”

“My secret?” she asked in return.  In the past month, Melinda had been promoted to regional sales director and was now in charge of 31 salespeople in seven states.  Nick could not help but remember meetings with the previous regional director.  Every meeting had been an eternity with boredom as the only result.

“Yeah.  How do you fit three times more meetings into an hour than anyone else?  And before you answer that, everyone who has had a meeting with you feels that you really listened.  No one is walking around saying you just pushed him out the door.  How do you do it?”

“I don’t know, Nick,” responded Melinda, “I guess I’m just a good listener.”

“Well, I think I figured out a possible reason.”

“You have?” she asked.

“You hardly ever meet people sitting down.  Someone comes into the office and you immediately get up and walk toward him.  The whole time the person is in the office, you’re standing.”

“I hadn’t realized that,” responded Melinda.

“Just to see if it works, I started doing the same thing three days ago.  Instead of having the usual chit-chat, people seem to get to the point a lot quicker.”

“Now that you mention it,” responded Melinda, “I’ve actually had people say things like ‘You must be real busy so let me get to the point’ when I get up and walk toward them.”

“Funny you should mention that.  This morning, instead of sitting when Greg came in for his usual morning chat about how horrible his commute is, I got up as he walked through the door.  His comment was ‘I guess Melinda’s keeping you busy; catch you later.'”

The RESULT:

Melinda sees a great many people during her “drop in” hours.  Everyone who drops-in has the perception that Melinda is accessible and that though the time spent with her is brief, things get accomplished.  In fact, when Melinda asks someone to meet with her, the person looks forward to it, simply because no time will be wasted.

DISCUSSION:

The largest time wasters in any business are those 10 drop-in visits from fellow employees, outside suppliers, and other salespeople.  Only about five minutes, at most, of this time is useful for business purposes.  The rest is socializing.  There is nothing wrong with this.  The problem occurs when you have multiple drop-in visits every day.  By the end of the week you can easily lose hours to socializing.  If you see nothing wrong with this, then continue.  If you want to recapture this time for business purposes, then consider changing your meeting posture.

APPROACH:

The biggest initial problem with standing up while meeting with people is that if you have been a “sit down” person in the past, it will take a while for people to get used to the “new” you.

People will come in and head straight for the chair, regardless of whether you are standing or not.  They do this because they are trained from past encounters.  You have to break their training.

The simplest solution to keep them from sitting is to create a large pile of books and papers on the chairs.  When they realize they can’t sit, say “Bill, what can I do for you.  You can see I’m piled up.  Let’s stand and talk.”  Don’t say you’re busy.  If you do, people will hear that you have no time for them, and you will develop a reputation as being inaccessible.

After five or six meetings like this, you will have retrained the person to meet standing up.  Stand up meetings are, 99 percent of the time, short and to-the-point.  The best part is that people will enjoy meeting with you because you don’t waste their time.

If you want to keep a meeting short with other people in their work space, and if they are sitting down when you arrive, sit for about a minute and then stand up as you continue with the conversation.  Within a minute or two, the other person will cut to the essence of why you are there.  Be warned:  If you sit down again after standing, you will double the length of the meeting.

THOUGHT:

Be a stand-up person and get things done.

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.

Best CRM 2017 List Lacks Credibility

Best CRM 2017 List Swings & Misses

By Larry Caretsky
Commence Corporation

Selecting the right CRM software for your business can be a grueling exercise. I am sure that many businesses appreciate any help they can get with the selection process and as such they rely on product listing services and articles that recommend specific products and services.  Unfortunately, in today’s world the majority of listing services are paid listings meaning the vendors pay to be in them and some of the articles that recommend particular products seem to lack credibility.  I found this with a recent article published by Business News Daily called Best CRM Software 2017.

Best CRM 2017 Picks | BusinessNewsDaily.com

As someone with a great deal of experience in the CRM sector, and knowledge of competitive products in the small to mid-size market, I am perplexed by the recommendations made in this report. Here’s why.

First, Salesforce.com is clearly a leader in the CRM sector. It’s a good company with a robust product that is better suited for larger organizations than small businesses. It’s known to be cumbersome to navigate and is chock full of features and functions that most small businesses will never use. Yes, of course there are small businesses using this product, but no one who has ever used or worked with this solution would suggest that it is the best CRM software for small businesses. As such, I say “Come on man.”

I am equally surprised by their recommendation that if you are a very small business or a start-up, two of the best CRM solutions for 2017 are free, and another starts out free for two users.  There are more than 400 CRM solutions in the industry today with many targeted at the small business community and others that service small businesses in specific vertical industries. Business News Daily indicates that their research staff reviewed an extensive collection of CRM software products and picked out the ones they thought were the best for different types of small businesses.  Of the 400 plus solutions out there they determined that the best ones for any small business are either Salesforce.com or free. Really?

They also made some assumptions here about the small business community and have failed to point out that free or very low cost CRM solutions often come with limitations, and the ones listed above are no exception. There is limited functionality by design and traditionally limits on the number of records, storage, number of custom fields, e-mails, no security permissions, no customization and no telephone support for the free versions. In addition, these free solutions do not provide best-in-class cloud hosting services because it’s expensive and they cannot offer this for free. Despite this, the article seems to recommend that if you are a small business or start-up the best solution for you is a free one with limitations, a second or third tier hosting service, and limited customer service.  It’s as if they have placed the requirements of every small business in the same shoe box.  What if I am a small business or start-up in the real estate, construction or health care industry? Chances are I have requirements that far exceed the capabilities of these products.  If I were one of these businesses reading this article I would say, “Come on man.”

In conclusion, let me be perfectly clear.  I am not saying that there is anything wrong with free software or the products outlined in this article. But I do take issue with the fact that the article clearly presents these offerings as the best for small businesses without pointing out the limitations associated with these products, and without acknowledging that not every small business has such limited requirements.  I think there are 400 other CRM solution providers that would agree.