A Common-Sense Approach to CRM Selection

Selecting the right CRM software for your business can be challenging. This common-sense approach can make your life and selection process a lot easier.

Advice for CRM Buyers: Get the tool that gets the job done. | Commence CRM

Step one is to simply document why you are looking for a CRM system. What problem(s) are you looking to solve? You may have heard the old adage: People don’t buy a drill because they want a drill. They buy a drill because they need a hole.  CRM is just a tool; it’s the drill. You need to buy the CRM solution that will address your specific problem(s).

Once you have determined what you want to achieve you can narrow down the options very quickly because despite the number of solutions available they all fall into one of three categories.  At the most basic level there are a myriad of low-cost out of the box solutions. These are for small businesses that may be tired of using an Excel spreadsheet to run their business.  They are designed as one size fits all, so typically what you see is what you get. But if you are simply looking to capture, track and share customer data such as company names, contacts, notes, activities and perhaps generate a sales forecast then these products may be perfect for you.  Keep in mind that they are cheap for a reason.  There are typically limitations with regard to the number of accounts or contacts you can store, reports you can run or the customizations you can make. Once again this may not matter if you are a small business with limited requirements.  I do recommend that you ask the vendor where your data is stored and what kind of customer support they provide. Remember the majority of these solutions are cloud based and due to their low cost the solution provider cannot afford to provide best-in-class data hosting.  If you comfortable with who is storing and backing up your data and that you can get to it in case of an emergency that’s fine, just check it out. Also, make sure you are ok with customer support which is typically self-service and e-mail only. Products in this category range from free to about $20 per user per month.

The next level up are CRM solutions that offer more robust functionality and flexibility.  They are scalable to support a larger number of uses and can manage a high volume of data and transactions.  Let’s call these mid-market solutions. In addition to the basic account and contact management features found in low end solutions, these products help automate the internal business processes that impact sales, marketing and customer service.  The advanced functionality allows you to capture, manage and qualify leads; manage the sales pipeline from introduction to closure; generate marketing campaigns; and keep track of the experience your customers have had with you via automated ticketing and problem resolution. These programs also offer advanced reporting and analytics that provide a graphical snapshot of sales, marketing, and service activity. In addition, the ability to customize these solutions for your business is significantly greater than lower cost products and customer service is very good as companies at this level have highly qualified personnel on board to ensure that you realize exceptional value from their product.  In fact, the entire business relationship with the solution provider is different at this level.  You are not just buying a software package over the internet that you can use and pay for on a month by month basis.  You are buying a solution coupled with the expertise that ensures the product is properly implemented, tailored to your requirements, and that your staff is well trained on how to use the software to manage your business.  You can find good quality products in this category from $25 to $65 dollars per user per month based on the applications you select.

Lastly, you have enterprise level solutions. These products are traditionally differentiated not by their CRM functionality, but by the fact that they are highly scalable and capable of supporting several hundred to several thousand users.  In addition, enterprise level CRM systems are often a component of a total solution that includes Accounting and or ERP functionality.  Those that do not offer this have built integration capabilities to the leading Accounting and ERP systems.  These programs traditionally start at $75 per user per month and can end up as high as a few hundred dollars per user per month when all is said and done.

So, there you have it. Chances are you fall into one of these categories.  If you are a small business with very limited requirements the world is your oyster as there are several hundred basic low-cost solutions to choose from.  Because the functionality of these programs is so similar, the level of service they provide coupled with their data hosting service could be a good way to differentiate one from the other.

My choice for companies of 10 to 100 users (i.e., mid-market) is Commence CRM. This is because Commence offers a robust set of functionality the rivals several enterprise level solutions at half the cost. In addition, the company continues to introduce new functionality that differentiates them from the competition. A new fully integrated Project Management module is a recent addition that is getting very good reviews. Commence also has a reputation for providing outstanding customer service and has been in business for two decades.

In the enterprise space, Salesforce.com is the recognized leader for those businesses seeking a feature rich scalable CRM solution. However, Oracle and SAP or NetSuite would be better choices if you are looking for a CRM solution fully integrated with Accounting and or ERP functionality.

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 commence.com/crm-software/

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 www.commence.com/customer-support or call Commence Sales at 1-877-COMMENCE.