CRM Alternatives - It Isn’t Only About Salesforce

posted Aug 28, 2013, 11:09 AM by Douglas McCartney   [ updated Aug 30, 2013, 10:44 AM ]

I’ve used CRM or contact management software for over 20 years, starting in the early 1990s with Act!. The original Act! was a simple contact management system; it had no concept of organizations, opportunities, or other capabilities we’ve all come to consider central to a CRM. It was just a single flat record database, one record for each contact, and then a way to track and record your calls, emails, and other interactions with your business associates. In its heyday, it was either Act! or a six figure enterprise system with an even pricer implementation process. But even with all its simplicity, I ran more than one company’s entire sales, marketing, and support process with a few networked Act! licenses.

Then in the early 2000s Salesforce arrived and as we all know it has become the most dominant system in its space, particularly for mid-sized technology companies. I have personally used SalesForce for nearly 10 years and given the right level subscription, it truly can be used to do just about anything. Not just to run sales and track opportunities, but to run marketing campaigns, track customers, track revenue, manage support, and just about anything else you have a mind to turn its prodigious powers upon. And this power and flexibility has turned it into the market’s primary “hip quotient” product in the space. By hip quotient, I mean to say that today if you’re not using Salesforce, then you’re at the risk of being considered a company that isn’t really ready for primetime. And perhaps that is true to some degree, but the flip side is that I think all too many startups I meet - particularly the ones that haven’t yet scored a serious level of backing - have opted to wait until they can afford Salesforce to get started on CRM. In the meantime, they cobble together an approach using email and other home grown systems. But is this a reasonable approach? I would submit it is not.  

Now of course, to be sure a CRM system in and of itself does not a sales process make. In fact, regardless of the system selected, I probably see more people that underutilize their CRM to an almost breathtaking level than the reverse. But that is not the point I want to make here. Instead, it is the point that a CRM used correctly - even the most basic - can truly help you streamline and dramatically improve your sales and marketing process. Particularly in the SaaS world of today, many sales are for a relatively small dollar value (under $10,000) and are a fairly simple sale so the complexity of a “fully functional” CRM may be overkill anyway. But having one in place can ensure that good prospects don’t fall between the cracks, that the right questions and analysis is done with the prospect at the right time, and potential deals that will not close can be put aside while resources can be focused on those that will. And even in the simplest of systems, there is normally an ability to track marketing activity (if only on a rudimentary basis), support activity, and follow up projects or consulting. All in one system your team can share and leverage as a group. And most importantly at this stage for so many companies, at a price point that will work for the organization while also not locking you in for the long haul when that third round of funding finally comes rolling in.

How to find them? They are out there and there are multiple reviews to be found and poured over. Or Licitus can help you choose as well. In short, regardless of your company’s size or current stage, the right time for a CRM is now.