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What is a CRM?

what-is-a-crm

As the CEO and co-founder of a CRM company, I often forget that not everyone knows what a CRM actually is. I am reminded when one of my smart friends gets a blank look on their face when we talk about what I do for a living. 

If you are not exactly sure what a CRM is, you are not alone. In fact, most very small business owners are in your same boat. So lets walk through exactly what a CRM is and if you even need to be looking for one at this time.

CRM Defined

CRM stands for “Customer Relationship Management”. But those are just words that don’t mean a lot – so let’s forget about the technical definition and boil it down to something we can actually use.    

A CRM is a software tool a small business will use to help them keep track of what’s going on with their customers. 

Every small business already uses some kind of CRM already, even if it is not technically a software-based CRM as it is normally defined. For example, if you talk to a customer and then jot down a note to yourself on a post-it to call them back in a week, you have just used a CRM. 

If you have a checklist you use when you get a new customer to make sure you remember all the things you want to do for them, then you are using a CRM.

So you are already doing the things that a CRM does. Getting a real software-based CRM will just help you do things faster and more efficiently.

It’s like when you first got Quickbooks. Before you had Quickbooks you were still writing checks, paying bills and keeping track of all the money coming in and going out. But you were doing it all on paper and spreadsheets. At some point you needed to get more organized and more “official”. So you got Quickbooks to help out.

Do you really NEED a CRM right now?

I have friends who have small businesses or work in sales that don’t use a CRM. I used to pester them and tell them all the reasons they should be using a CRM. I have even given them free access to my CRM software, AllClients (afterall, they ARE my friends!). They would poke around in the AllClients system a bit, and then end up not using it.   

I used to think: Why are my friends so dense? These are smart, successful people, but they are missing the boat here. 

I have come to understand that even if you own your own small business or work in sales, not everyone needs a CRM. A CRM is only necessary at the point that doing things manually is getting overwhelming. If you are able to keep track of things in your head, or in file folders, or in spiral notebooks and things are not falling through the cracks, then you can stop looking for a CRM.

Here’s when you need a CRM

When you are feeling overwhelmed, unorganized and maybe even losing sales because you no longer have things dialed in – THEN you should be looking for a CRM. A good CRM will help you smooth out the wrinkles in your small business sales and marketing. 

And don’t think that getting your first CRM has to be a big undertaking. With a simple CRM like AllClients, you can take baby steps and use it to help you with the issues you are having right now. 

Just having a single place to keep all of your contacts’ name, address and phone numbers, and being able to access that info from the office, from home and from the road may be all you need right now. 

You don’t have to start doing internet and email marketing, or automating all of your manual processes today. If you ever need those functions, don’t worry, they are all already built into most CRM’s and they will be waiting for you when you are ready.   

My advice is that you don’t sign up for a CRM until you absolutely have to! There is a big learning curve, and things might not make sense to you right off the bat. 

But when you need to make that jump, just do it! It will simplify many of the manual processes you have been doing for years, and in time, you will look back and wonder how you worked so long without it.

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