If you own an independent business consulting practice, chances are you’re doing the job of many. You’re meeting with clients, responding to emails, and delivering the work. You’re training staff, managing your books, and running payroll.
Amidst all these tasks, you’re probably wondering how you’ll find time to assess and choose the right CRM software for your business.
If you can relate, we’ve got you covered. In this post, we provide a helpful insight on what to look for when selecting a CRM for your business consulting practice, plus factors that can influence your decision.
A CRM takes time and resources to implement – so it’s important to feel confident in your decision from the get go.
What is a CRM?
Before we dive in, let’s take a moment to first recap what a CRM is. As we discuss in greater detail in our Beginner’s Guide to CRMs for Business Consultants, CRM stands for “customer relationship management”. CRM software is a category of software (usually cloud-based) that helps businesses win and retain customers, as well as deliver exceptional customer service.
A CRM enables business owners and/or sales professionals to keep track of communications, interactions, and needs of their contacts. Plus, it often involves additional features like email marketing and marketing automation and it sometimes even comes pre-loaded with content and templates.
There are many CRMs to choose from on the market today, so it’s important to do your homework before committing to one.
Assessing a CRM for Your Business Consulting Practice
A CRM can benefit your consulting practice in many ways. However, not all CRMs are built equal. While some, like Value Builder, are purpose-built for business consulting practices, others are not.
Here are 8 qualities to look for when assessing your options:
1. A Good CRM Will Help Reduce Costs
As the owner of a consulting business, you’re probably thinking about your own efficiencies and bottom line. You know that to run a successful business, you need to be making choices that will reduce your expenses and increase your profit margins.
A good CRM can help do just that. It will eliminate many of the routine and administrative tasks that suck your time and deflate your motivation. This frees up your calendar and mental space so you can focus on value-creation tasks that will move the needle for your business. With a CRM, you might also be able to eliminate other expensive tools or labor costs, leading to further cost savings.
When selecting a CRM for your business, evaluate its functionalities and see if it will result in an overall cost reduction for you.
2. A Good CRM Will Offer Affordable Pricing
This next point is along the same lines. CRM software comes in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of features and licensing options. But of course, one size doesn’t fit all, and that includes pricing.
Pricing of CRM software can run from a free plan with pared down features, all the way up to thousands of dollars per month for software that is extremely powerful and ideal for large companies.
The right CRM software will be affordable for you. That doesn’t just mean monthly cost, but also a strong return on investment. Does the CRM solve your client relations management problems? If so, it will help you grow your business and deliver a strong ROI.
3. A Good CRM Will Centralize Your Data
A primary part of a CRM’s job is to gather, optimize, and analyze client data for you. After all, how can you decide which strategy works best if you don’t have the data to inform you?
This data should include click-through rates, open rates, downloads, contact information, and other user engagement information.
A good CRM should also give you real-time notifications when a client or lead has interacted with your website – either signed up with their email address, opened an email, downloaded content, or clicked through to certain landing pages. All the data you need, all in one place.
Tip: See how Value Builder’s Contact Management Alert System can help you get the most out of your customer data with real-time notifications.
4. A Good CRM Will Put Your Marketing on Autopilot
Of course, a CRM is no good if you don’t have existing clients or a sales pipeline. That’s why a good CRM should also assist with marketing. In fact, it should put your marketing on autopilot.
Good CRM software will enable you to collect leads online, build email lists, segment your lists, and set up nurture campaigns. Some will even come pre-loaded with quality content that you can send to your leads as a value-add. From there, you’ll be able to prioritize opportunities to close deals, and identify which leads need more nurturing in order to become clients.
5. A Good CRM Will Integrate Seamlessly With Your Other Systems
If you’re like any other small business owner, you likely have software that you’re accustomed to using. Software that’s a part of your everyday life. This might include email, your calendar, your website, invoicing software, and so on.
A good CRM will integrate seamlessly into your workflow so that your service delivery remains consistent and effective. This could involve offering forms or landing pages that you can seamlessly link to your website. Or the ability to upload information from spreadsheets you’re currently using.
Whichever CRM you decide to use, it should help your business move forward – not create another obstacle to overcome.
6. A Good CRM Will Offer an Intuitive User Experience
Speaking of obstacles, let’s talk about user experience. A common complaint small business owners make after purchasing a robust CRM like Salesforce or Hubspot is that it’s just way too complex.
Large CRMs offer near-infinite possibilities for configuration, but with that comes a mountain to climb. Implementation of a large CRM has to be done by a hired specialist and can take months to complete. A CRM that has all the features in the world, but that offers a clunky user experience is simply another task – particularly small business owners who don’t have time to spare.
Whichever CRM you choose, make sure it’s purpose-built for business consultants like you, and that the interface is intuitive. The design of a CRM platform should be easy to navigate, and functionalities like reporting and automations should be easy to figure out.
Tip: When testing out the right CRM for your business, make use of a free demo or free trial. This can help save you time and stress down the road.
7. A Good CRM Will Provide Technical Support
How many hours have you spent waiting on hold for technical support? Probably more than you wish to remember. When it comes to business, time is money and you shouldn’t be kept waiting.
Technical support should always be a consideration with good CRM software, but not all CRMs offer it. Or for some, technical support is an additional monthly fee or upgraded licensing plan. Some CRMs offer live chat technical support and some offer telephone support. Some only work within business hours and some offer it 24/7 (keep in mind that not all technical support works in the same time zone).
A good CRM software will have helpful technical support that’s available when you need it.
8. A Good CRM Will Be an All-in-One Platform
Last but not least, a CRM should offer you all the functionality you need, and nothing you don’t. The purpose of CRM software is to consolidate numerous functions in order to help you find, win and keep your best clients.
Given this, a good CRM should reflect your workflows and allow you to:
- Track and automate all the stages of your marketing, sales and customer retention processes
- Eliminate redundancies by streamlining systems
- Allows for automations, thus reducing data entry and risk of human error
- Give you a better handle on client behaviour
- Keep track of prospects, current clients and past clients
Although some CRMs do a great job at managing client contacts, they may fail to automate your marketing. Or vice versa. Make sure you explore the features a CRM offers before you make your final decision.
Checklist: How to Choose the Right CRM Software for Your Business Consulting Practice
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to make a decision. Here’s a 4-step checklist to help you get from start to finish.
Step 1: Assess Your Business Goals
Pull out a pen and paper and jot down the goals you want a CRM to help you achieve. Here are a few goals you might want to consider:
- Track leads and pipeline
- Track closing rate
- Automate marketing and sales activities
- Organize client information
- Manage emails
- Optimize client workflows
- Streamline reporting
- Gain a single source of truth
Step Two: Map Out Your Work Process
CRMs are designed to optimize a large chunk of your work processes but you can’t figure out which CRM is best for yours until you map out what you need. Your work processes should include your entire client relationship process.
Also consider flexibility and scalability, both of which might be a priority to you.
Step Three: Review Integration Compatibility With Your Current Processes
More and more applications are now connected through API systems and cloud-based software. But there are still a few hiccups you might experience if your CRM solution doesn’t integrate seamlessly with your core applications.
Before you commit, test to make sure that the CRM software integrates with your other applications.
Step Four: Try Product Demos and Free Trials
Product demos and free trials give users the opportunity to test out the CRM. This is your chance to push its limits and identify its strengths and weaknesses.
Investing time in a demo before committing to a subscription can save you a lot of hassle and money in the future.
Want a CRM that’s built specifically for business consultants? Try Value Builder today and see how it can help you find, win, and keep more clients.