Customer relations during a pandemic: CRM hacks for small businesses

In a time where the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated economies around the world, many small businesses are facing unprecedented hardship. 

As small businesses struggle to stay afloat and meet the moment, it’s critically important that they’re seeking to fine-tune their business model on a near-constant basis. Survival for small businesses during the pandemic might well come down to which companies invest in their operations the most wholeheartedly. 

It’s for these reasons that small businesses of any kind consider utilizing customer relationship management (or CRM) technology to enhance their overall approach to making sales and refine their sales-making process. 

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the different things small businesses should keep in mind when building a sales team. And how CRM can factor in, what metrics they should be prioritizing tracking and refining using CRM technology, and what some of the best programs are to consider. 

What is CRM? How can it help my small business?

CRM is all about effectively managing the relationships between a business, and it’s customers. 

For many companies, the notion might be obvious enough not to necessitate doing anything beyond their current practices, as most business owners understand that sustaining their livelihoods depends on building relationships with their customers. 

Yet, as with any aspect of a business, there are particular programs and practices companies can adopt and embrace to refine one of their core competencies, and thus improve their success as a result. 

CRM solutions provide a centralized way for businesses to manage their customer relationships through the compilation of customer data. 

These systems help businesses stay connected with their customers, establish new relationships, streamline the processes of managing relationships, and ultimately enhance profitability. 

Many small business owners will tell you that their favorite part of being a small business owner is the intimate connections they can make with the customers they serve. With CRM, small business owners can seamlessly improve their customer relationship competency, and broaden their impact as a result. 

Regardless of the size of your business, it’s helpful to imagine a CRM tool as a shared ledger that optimizes collective direction, impact, and focus. While they vary in their offerings, most CRM tools maintain a database of customer information—including contact information, previous purchasing information, relevant notes on prior interactions, and opportunities for future sales—that anyone from your business can access, update, and utilize. 

By streamlining the sales process, businesses can expect a boost in both returning business and lead conversions, which directly affects the bottom line. 

Forecasting with CRM can also aid in budgeting and the allocation of resources, giving you a more concrete understanding of current and future cash flow and revenue. 

Some CRM tools also provide small businesses with a chance to more widely collect feedback and data from their customers, which can directly influence tweaks to existing services or products, or in the creation of new ones. 

Things to consider when building a sales team

With a clear understanding of what CRM is and what it can offer your business, it’s essential to consider some of the different ways your sales process will interact with the CRM software to best position yourself for success. 

Let’s take a quick look at the way your sales team can be structured and considerations you should make while building that team, and how CRM systems figure into the equation. 

Generally, there are three models for building a sales team that most small businesses utilize: The island, the assembly line, and the pod. Each offers its respective strengths and advantages. Structure your sales team depends on both personal preference and your confidence in the people around you. 

The island model puts a heavy burden on sales representatives, as under this model, individual sales reps are responsible for the vast majority of the sales-making process and report directly to you, the business owner. 

This is an excellent option for small business owners with experienced sales reps on their team or with a great deal of confidence in those people. 

The assembly-line model gives each member of the sales team a specialized role. For example, outbound sales could be explicitly tasked with one team member. In contrast, inbound sales can be handled by another. And existing relationships can be managed by yet another team member—so on and so forth. This model encourages specialization and requires coordination, and, like an assembly line, can increase productivity dramatically. 

The pod model is more fit for small businesses looking to optimize their established and existing sales team and works best for those with more than a few team members. The pod model creates groups within the sales process, almost like little hives where everyone has their specialty and manages their own set of existing customers and leads. 

All these models can benefit tremendously with the use of CRM software. Efficiency and clarity are the names of the game when trying to drive sales, and an excellent CRM program can help your sales process operate like a well-oiled machine. 

The data made available through CRM helps your sales team make informed decisions about which customers to track, where new opportunities lie, and what data might be most persuasive or most important to driving new business. 

When it comes to building a sales team around a CRM, there are a few things businesses must consider. Recruiting and retaining the best talent for your sales team is always the most important consideration you can make. 

Still, it’s more important to focus on those qualities that make a salesperson genuinely exceptional. These qualities include curiosity, competitiveness, adaptability, and empathy. And while it’d be great to lure the best in the business to work for your small business, the truth is that top-tier talent can be costly and elusive. 

A better bet might be to invest in the training and well-being of existing sales team members and prospects with a lot of potential heavily. 

Training your team, investing heavily in their acquisition of product knowledge, industry knowledge, and overall skills is a must for anyone looking to get the results their small business deserves. 

Selecting a single strategy or model once your team is established is important, but won’t indeed be useful if you do not also develop a culture of feedback and refinement. 

Without a feedback mechanism in place, many small businesses are doomed to miss opportunities and repeat mistakes. 

Also, encouraging feedback and open communication helps small businesses adapt to challenges and recognize opportunities. 

3 most essential CRM metrics to track 

With data comes loads of different metrics, and sometimes it seems impossible to decide which are worth paying attention to.

Here are three CRM metrics that we believe are most critical for you to track to understand your data and make informed decisions adequately. 

  1. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): This metric is used to determine how much money your business is spending to bring in new customers.

    The formula is quite simple: divide sales and marketing costs by the number of new customers brought in. That’s all it takes. And while it may seem like a simple metric, it is vital in gauging your return on investment in your sales and marketing efforts.

    For example, if you spend $20,000 on sales and marketing during a specific quarter in which you added 20 new customers, then the CAC for that time frame would be $1,000 per new customer.

    Knowing how much each new customer ‘costs’ can help you allocate resources and determine strategy. 

  2. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Many customers are returning customers for small business, and knowing how much tangible value that repetitive business offers your operation is essential.

    To calculate the CLV, multiply the amount of money made off a specific customer by the average amount of time they stick around, and then subtract the CAC of new customers.

    This metric helps you determine how long you can expect to hang on to existing customers and helps create targeted strategies for customer retention. Remember, new customers cost much more than existing customers, which makes these two metrics very important. 

  3. Percentage of Customers Acquired via Marketing: Marketing efforts are an essential part of any small business’s success. But what’s a marketing campaign without detailed data pointing to what’s working and what isn’t?

    This metric allows small businesses to determine how much of their new company has been driven by any specific marketing campaign or set of strategies.

    Having a better understanding of what successfully wins new business will allow small businesses to invest more heavily in those operations and those responsible for them. 


CRM recommendations 

Now with a clear understanding of how a CRM can help your sales team and your business, it’s time to consider which platforms and programs will provide you with the most value. 

Choosing the right CRM is mostly a personal decision and depends on your specific needs. And much has been written about how to think through this process. 

Oorwin Labs

Although there are many to choose from, we list four of our favorite CRMs to help jumpstart your search. Oorwin, with its integrated CRM, ATS, HRMS, is a platform that suits small businesses best. The unified platform helps organizations have Intelligent customer outreach, Analyze, engage, and win new deals and move them efficiently between the platforms.

A single platform for all usages helps in increasing recurring revenue and productivity by 10X. Oorwin platform smart integrations are the key to intelligent customer outreach.

Explore more

Hubspot 

Widely hailed as the best bang-for-your-buck option for small businesses, hubspot can do everything any given CRM software can offer, and, importantly, they have a free version.

Their free program options allow for a great sandbox for small business owners just dipping their feet in the practice, and features sales hubs, marketing hubs, targeting email campaigns, professional consultation, and more. 

Freshsales

While also featuring a free option, freshsales can help your sales team use AI-based technology to dramatically improve lead scoring, phone, email, and online activity capturing, and much more.

The software’s biggest upside is a feature called Freshcaller, which allows sales teams to centralize their operations and make more calls, deliver targeted emails, and keep in touch with prospects and existing customers.

Importantly, they also offer a dedicated support team that can aid small business owners in their understanding of how to use CRM to their advantage, which makes it both a great option for experienced CRM users and newcomers.

Apptivo

This is a very adaptable option that grows with your business. Boasting over 200,000 users and discountants and additional accommodations to those affected by COVID-19, Apptivo has a proven track record and is currently proving how much it cares for those that use their software.

It markets itself as a cloud solution that not only offers CRM services but also project management, invoicing, and more.

Apptivo is a great option for small businesses that are looking to ascertain a full fleet of services at a reduced cost, scalable, and appropriate for each small business’s unique needs.