Robert Lacasse’s IT staffing and software company is finding hundreds of new sales prospects every month and turning a good percentage of them into customers.
Mr. Lacasse gives much of the credit for his company’s strong sales performance to its use of web-based customer relationship management (CRM) technology.
“We’re a small 10-person organization, but CRM allows us to run like a big one,” says Mr. Lacasse, president of Ottawa’s Alcea Technologies. “It’s definitely a key part of our success.”
Alcea’s CRM system starts from the moment a potential customer goes to the company’s website and clicks on “Create Your Free Trial Now.” Alcea’s sales manager receives a daily list of prospects who she then contacts by e-mail or phone. If a product demonstration is scheduled, the system generates automatic reminders of the date and time.
From there, Alcea tracks every step of its sales processes using CRM.
“We use it to follow prospects, sales, follow-up and service,” says Mr. Lacasse, whose company already has about 1,400 customers for its software that helps companies manage their information tracking needs, including CRM.
BDC consultant Andrew Penny says small businesses shouldn’t shy away from CRM. “There are packages for all sizes of organizations at all price points,” Mr. Penny says. “They are painless to set up and provide a central, secure repository of all your information about customers and prospects.”
“That information is an important part of your company’s intellectual property,” he says. “It’s a valuable asset that needs to be centrally-located within your business, and controlled, not scattered on individuals’ laptops and hard drives.”
And CRM is far from being just a passive database. It can help you make more sales and make them faster.
Businesses can use CRM to:
- Segment information about clients in many different ways (geographically, by sector, by spending habits), and maximize sales by customizing marketing offers and customer service to each segment.
- Identify potential customers as well as best customers.
- Note details about a client or prospect that are critical for sales and service. For example, when will the key decision maker be away? Is the business planning to expand to a new location? What are the customer’s preferences?
- Set up and track defined work flows from marketing to sales to customer service while organizing and monitoring employee performance. “It’s important to be able to monitor and nurture the sales process with both new and existing customers,” Mr. Lacasse says.
- Issue regular reports that monitor overall performance, providing a view of where additional sales focus is needed to reach target revenues.
- Help new employees to quickly get up to speed on customers.
- Support marketing campaigns by generating mailing lists for promotions, updates and newsletters. “It increases your ability to reach out to people, including those who you may have forgotten or who may have forgotten you,” Mr. Penny says. “At some point that person may need your services again.”
There’s a longer-term benefit to CRM adds Mr. Penny. “When it comes time to sell the business, a solid, well-organized CRM makes your company more valuable.”
For businesses getting started with CRM, “Don’t run before you walk,” he advises. “Start methodically and add more features as you go along.”
Most CRM systems are as easy to use as Microsoft Outlook, Mr. Penny says. “A few hours of training is usually all that is required,” he says. “Most of the applications are intuitive. In addition, there are communities of experts who you can consult if you need support.”
His final word of advice: “Get started today.”
Content in this section is provided in partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada. BDC provides entrepreneurs with financing, venture capital and consulting services. To find out more go to BDC.ca.