The Attributes of a Small Business CRM

In today’s always on economy, small businesses need to utilize CRM software to engage and delight their customers. 

By Zen Newman, Marketing Analyst at PipelineDeals


 Small business owners need to have access to their customer data while on the job. 
Small business owners need to have access to their customer data while on the job. 

Small businesses are rapidly figuring out the need for customer relationship management software and are purchasing solutions at an increasing rate. According to CRM Search, the market for customer relationship management (CRM) software has grown at more than 10% per year for five years with no indication that growth will slow in the market. With all this development, new companies are rapidly entering the market with a variety of offerings geared toward different market segments. For small businesses who may be unfamiliar with the sales practices employed by corporate sales teams, the variety of offerings in the market can be daunting. In this article, we try to break down some of the defining characteristics at the core of a small business CRM.

We’ve built PipelineDeals to be an ideal CRM for small businesses

The enterprise side of the CRM market is filled with robust tools that offer a dizzying array of features and integrations to fit the needs of any sales team. While the customizability of these offerings can offer huge benefits to companies with specific needs, they tend to clutter the interface and complicate the use of the platform for the average salesperson. For most businesses, simplicity is key in their selling tools. Keeping things streamlined helps companies utilize the new technology faster and by more people in the organization. Even more fundamental, time spent selling is a precious commodity for most businesses, and a complicated CRM takes from that. Simplicity matters, and even enterprise platforms would do well to take a dose of it.

Efficient is important, but even small businesses need their platform to accommodate the nuances of their business. Claiming to serve small businesses still leaves a staggeringly large amount of ground to cover. Offering a platform that will work equally well for specialty contractors, web designers, and tax accountants needs to be simple, yet customizable through maximum flexibility in its features. There’re a few things that can help facilitate customization within a CRM without requiring bulky features and complex integrations. First, is the ability to create custom fields to accommodate all the different factors in their sales process. Most CRMs can do this to some extent, but they are made inaccessible except to people with programming knowledge. For small and medium-sized businesses, this simply doesn’t work. Development resources are not available and out of the box solutions need to be customizable in minutes, not hours.

The second most important customization for CRMs is the ability to produce reports that are relevant to a business. In too many cases, even with larger businesses, the reporting options are not used because they lack relevance to the specific business, with reports instead created in Excel spreadsheets. Generating custom reports outside of the CRM creates extra work, not only for those creating but for those supplying the data, who are, more often than not, sales reps who should be out selling. Additionally, when reports are created outside of the CRM, it’s no longer readily available to those who may need it, instead relying on email distribution. The reason for inflexibility in reporting for most CRMs comes back to the problem of easily customizable fields. If a category can’t be defined, then it can’t be reported.

 Reporting that can adapt to the nuances of your business is essential in your CRM.  
Reporting that can adapt to the nuances of your business is essential in your CRM.  

There are many commonalities between CRMs that are built with the fortune 1000 in mind and those built for the rest of us. They are both designed to help us keep track of our clients, prospects, and sales teams. Where they diverge, however, is that enterprise systems are designed to provide robust solutions that can be customized by developers. When utilized by companies without the resources to capitalize on these features, these platforms become far less useful than their more modest counterparts.

When choosing a CRM, it’s important to be honest about the needs and capabilities of your company before settling on a platform. It’s worth keeping in mind while making the decision that the CRM that is what you need today may not be what you need in five years if you grow like planned; that’s okay. Pick a CRM that will help your company maximize its growth, whatever stage of the business you’re in.  

See how SunX Solar grew after adopting a CRM that fit their needs with this case study