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CRM for Construction: How to Choose the Right CRM for Your Firm

Topics
Do you need a CRM for construction companies?
Key features in the best construction CRMs
How to choose the right construction CRM software
How to implement a CRM-driven process in your construction company
Final thoughts

For many construction companies, attracting and keeping new business is a challenge. However, the right software could help construction companies close deals and retain customers... While the industry isn’t traditionally associated with cutting-edge technology, that’s changing. As they look for ways to be more effective and grow, construction firms are embracing technologies such as construction management software.

One example is the use of sales tools such as customer relationship management (CRM) software.

In this post, we’ll walk you through everything that a CRM for construction can do, how it may help you streamline your construction business and sales operations and how to choose the right one for your end goals.


Do you need a CRM for construction companies?

As the name suggests, CRM is an approach to managing and improving relationships between a company and its leads, prospects and customers.

While the purpose of a CRM is to help you track and manage customer relationships, it can also help your business become more efficient. CRMs improve internal processes with automation, team collaboration tools and in-depth insights and reports.

A CRM is much more than a database of prospective clients and customer names. It can help to vastly improve relationships and, as a result, improve sales.

Despite the name, CRM solutions aren’t limited to managing just customers. Construction companies do business with a wide range of stakeholders, such as partners, general contractors and other construction professionals.

You can track all the relationships and moving pieces of a complex contract within a CRM for construction industry projects. The best CRMs also have mobile app capabilities so your team can access crucial information and track projects in real time in the field.

Maintaining efficiency and remaining on scope is critical in the construction industry. According to a study in the Journal of Building Engineering that examined 2700 construction projects, profit margins have been shrinking for years. The study also found that few contractors predict their profit margins with accuracy when bidding.

If you don’t track your project processes and activities, it’s nearly impossible to make accurate bids and sales forecasts and set goals. Without accurate forecasting, you’re merely guessing how much money you can make which puts you at risk of running into cash flow problems and potentially losing your business.

For construction companies, a good reputation is essential – every single interaction you have has the potential to affect your business’s reputation.

Relationships and financial organization are key to construction companies. Firms that embrace construction software to manage relationships and accurately forecast job costs, sales revenue and profit margins can gain a strong competitive advantage.

CRM for contractors: Why even small businesses need one

Using CRM software isn’t just for big firms: it’s critical for all contractors and remodelers to stay organized.

Remodelers, general contractors and specialty contractors including electrical, HVAC, plumbing, painting and environmental remediation can use contractor CRM software to improve customer satisfaction and grow their business.

Not all contractors have an administrative assistant to answer calls, track leads, log projects, and dispatch contractors. You might be spending all your time in the field rather than at a desk, and that’s OK. Running a business from your phone or tablet can succeed with the right contractor CRM.

It’s difficult to stay on top of lead management, proposals, project management and invoicing when you’re wearing many hats. A CRM for contractors allows you to log project details, document progress, send customer communications, send invoices and even get paid with ease in real time.

Automation to help you scale: How construction companies and contractors can benefit from a CRM

Historically, many construction firms and contractors relied on paper files to keep track of their contacts. While today they’re more likely to use an email client or a spreadsheet, it’s often frustrating for staff to find the information they need. Even if they do manage to find what they’re looking for, the details may be out of date.

With a CRM construction solution, your team can see a contact’s details and status in real time, along with the necessary next steps in a deal or operation, all at a glance. It’s a single source for the information your team needs to know, enabling them to proactively build stronger relationships.

As projects grow more complex, a CRM can help you to automate tasks, easily share key information and accurately forecast financials. Here are the top six benefits of using construction CRM software for your construction business and sales team.

Customer relationship management

CRM stands for customer relationships management, so this function is number one.

First, CRM construction software allows you to log and organize all of your leads and customers with their contact information in one place. No more searching through emails or spreadsheets for this information.

Second, a CRM allows you to communicate with customers through the contractor CRM and see your log of communication all in one place. With a CRM, you can automatically send a similar email to every contact you select with predefined personalized details. By automating repetitive tasks such as scheduling appointments, project updates and data entry, you can free up time for your teams to work on more high-value tasks.

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Managing contractors

The best CRMs for construction companies also have custom capabilities for managing contractors. For example, a CRM can automate sending emails in bulk to all contractors working on a certain project with personalization. Rather than sending individual updates, your team will save valuable time they can put back into lead management and project management.

Project management

Juggling multiple contractors and clients at the same time makes it challenging for construction companies to keep track of everything that’s going on at once. Employee and contractor CRM software makes it easy to monitor your operations at both a high level and through detailed project views so that you can quickly see what your teams are doing.

For example, you can monitor specific work orders or change orders, as well as what tasks still need to be completed to move projects through the sales and operational pipelines. Keeping all the data you need in one place makes it easier to get insights and accurately forecast future performance, scope and project timelines.

Improved collaboration

A lack of organization makes teamwork much harder than it has to be, as some tasks may be accidentally duplicated while others are left incomplete. By using a CRM as a platform for your construction project management software, it’s easier to have a standardized process with aligned goals.

With all data recorded in one place, your teams always have access to all the information they need to make the best decisions. Where possible, you can also integrate your projects with your Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry partners, to work together and get results quicker.

According to JB Knowledge’s Construction Technology Report, it’s critical that construction companies consider integration when choosing software and apps. The report states:

“Companies must prioritize, and budget for, integration when choosing software and apps. Even at additional expense, technology that integrates to allow communication between workflows and departments for cross-functional teams (is beneficial). It would be advantageous for companies to explore incentivizing integrations to reduce stress, optimize use of time, save money, and increase productivity. Seamless exchange of data reduces manual entry and redundancies, making integration a crucial feature for modern construction.


Improved intelligence

There are a lot of moving parts in a construction deal. From document management, deadlines and lead times to job site access and time tracking, there’s a lot of information you need to be aware of and able to access at a moment’s notice.

Rather than having to search through crowded inboxes or outdated spreadsheets to find the latest information, a construction contractor CRM keeps all the details you need in easy reach. It also makes it easier to manage your pipeline and make smarter decisions, such as which opportunities you should prioritize.

For example, if the majority of your workforce is busy on a big job for another month and a lead comes in that only requires a small amount of human power, an organized project pipeline could help you to swiftly prioritize that lead over a larger project and capitalize on the opportunity.

Better relationships and sales

All of these benefits combined make maintaining and improving customer satisfaction easier, as you have a reliable system at your beck and call.

While there’s no substitute for the human touch, you also shouldn’t leave customer satisfaction up to chance. A CRM empowers you to improve your service, collaboration and follow-through. It also improves lead generation and management and prospect management to help you fill your pipeline and close more sales.


Key features in the best construction CRMs

While customizing CRM construction software is key to your success, it can be an overwhelming task. To help make this process easier for your construction business and sales operations, here are some of the features we recommend prioritizing.

Effective pipeline management

The best CRM will give you increased visibility of your sales funnel and sales pipeline, enabling you to track leads and see where prospective clients are in the sales cycle. You can see which construction projects have the biggest potential, which ones are likely to close at any given time and which ones are in trouble.

A clear visual overview makes it easy to see which deals you should focus on and which are a waste of time. It can also help you optimize your sales activities; by seeing the exact stages where a deal is more likely to collapse, you can troubleshoot the process and try out different approaches.

Activity management

The right CRM should also make it easy for sales management to track the sales activities behind the deals. While you don’t have total control over whether a deal will close, you can control the tasks your team carries out, such as making phone calls, sending emails and so on, to help boost your chances of signing a new client.

These activities also cover project management tools and any tasks relating to managing your construction clients and partners. Sales managers will benefit from increased visibility into their activities, as it enables them to easily identify any weak points in the process or their reps’ performance. You can also use this to keep track of project quotes, contract management and any necessary steps needed to maintain compliance with regulations.


Contact management

At their core, CRM solutions are about your contacts. Whether they’re for clients or contractor CRMs, you need to have all of their data in an easy-to-navigate database.

This would include contact details and customer data such as company information and activity records. Some CRMs also allow you to enrich this information, pulling data from LinkedIn and other social media platforms so you always know the latest details.

For example, a tool like smart contact data automatically pulls in public contact information about your leads to give you flexibility in how you can reach out to start new conversations or enhance your networking efforts.

Data analytics

Data can be extremely valuable, provide actionable insights and empower business development.

To get the full benefit of your data, a CRM should show you the information clearly, in an understandable format, with the details you need to improve your business processes. For example, what are your top-performing team members doing differently? Do you need to change your sales training or procedures?

The right analytics will help you understand in greater detail what it takes to close a deal, as well as the challenges that might prevent a successful outcome. Company and sales dashboards should give your team a simple snapshot of your most valuable information, customized to show you the KPIs that matter most to your organization.

Forecasting

By analyzing the available data, a CRM can help you forecast the future: what deals you can expect to close, when they should close and how much those deals will be worth.

This can help you with business management and help your sales team know what to expect. Rather than relying on a sales manager to tell them whether they’re on target or not, they can see for themselves what deals they need to focus on and avoid any last-minute surprises.


How to choose the right construction CRM software

Along with the different potential CRM features, you also need to consider the vendors themselves. Picking the best construction CRM software for your business will make the whole process of choosing and using a CRM smooth and painless.

Function

There are a lot of CRM platforms available today with varying degrees of complexity. Construction businesses need to pick a package that has the functions and features they need while avoiding anything too complicated or overly complex. Whatever CRM you pick has to work for your business, based on your size, number of departments and sales process.

You’ll also want to consider whether you need a construction CRM, specifically designed for construction companies. While these are tailored to the unique requirements of the construction industry, they may also lack simplicity, ease of use and powerful integration opportunities (more on this later).

If you decide to go for an all-in-one CRM, it’s essential that it can be easily customized to your needs, and is flexible enough to fit with your existing sales process.

Pricing

The price of CRM systems ranges from cost-friendly up to hundreds of dollars per user, so you need to know your budget before making a choice. Some may appear to be cheap (or even free), but likely lack key features, limit the number of users or charge for add-ons. As a result, they can end up being more expensive in the long run.

When setting your budget, you should always be aiming for a positive ROI. How much time do you currently spend on your sales activities and operations management that could be saved by using a CRM? What’s the cost of lost opportunities due to not having a CRM in place?

Reputation

If this is your first time looking for a CRM, take some time to familiarize yourself with the market. With new CRMs being released regularly, it’s important to know whether the vendor you choose has a good reputation and can provide the level of service they promise.

Setup

The right CRM should make your sales team’s job easier, not more complicated. For first-time users, find out how complicated it is to get set up, add data and start using the software. If you’ve used other CRMs before, can you easily import your existing data to the new system?

Integrations

A CRM does the most good when it works together with your other tools, such as email marketing, accounting and other software. Rather than having to use different programs, switching to Xero for your invoicing and then back to a CRM for communications, you can take care of all that directly from a CRM that integrates with these tools ( Xero integrates with Pipedrive, for example).

Nucleus research found that integrating a CRM with data from internal and external sources increased productivity and grew business by up to 30%. While the benefits are clear, the research also pointed out that it came with significant costs. If there are no integrations, or they’re complicated to set up, your team will likely have to update records separately. This increases the chance of key data being incorrect or left out.

Cloud-based vs. onsite

CRM solutions are commonly hosted in the cloud. This is generally the easiest option, eliminating the need to invest in the infrastructure (including necessary hardware and IT support) needed to care for the setup and maintenance of an on-site solution.

However, if you want to manage your CRM yourself, you may opt for an on-site solution. Although this will likely involve higher upfront costs and require ongoing support, it does offer added control over data, with no reliance on external parties.

Identifying the CRM needs and strategy for your construction company

While CRMs are powerful, buying a CRM solution won’t magically improve your business. To get the most out of the robust platform, you need to have the right sales strategy and setup in place.

This means setting up your CRM to align with your business’s goals, operations and ideal workflow:

  • Know what relationships you want to manage

  • Identify the journey those relationships take

  • Define key benchmarks and KPIs

  • Understand how you’ll track and measure performance (based on those predefined outcomes)

Let’s take a look at how to uncover these benchmarks and activities so that you can effectively customize your CRM for your construction business needs.

Identifying relationships

What kind of relationships do you have to manage? This will largely depend on your construction company, its size and the kind of projects you typically work on.

For example, a smaller construction firm that deals with local real estate and small business projects will likely have fewer relationships to manage than a large multinational construction company that exclusively handles commercial and industrial projects.

While a CRM is primarily used for managing customers and clients, any relationship that has the potential to affect your business, such as contractors and other partners, can be included. You should also be able to have separate employee and contractor CRM pipelines, so each person on your team can manage their own relationships and contracts.

Identifying the relationship journey

How do clients find you? How do you find contractors? For each relationship, map out the steps from before pre-build to successful project completion and beyond. Pay particular attention to any steps that are bottlenecks or otherwise present obstacles.

Don’t get caught up in recording every minor detail. The goal is to have a step-by-step journey that your team can use to easily identify a contact’s stage. For each step, ask yourself if it’s integral to the process and, if so, what information do you need to know.

As long as you’ve covered the key steps, you can (and should) optimize this as you go on.

Identifying metrics

What KPIs will you be using to measure performance? What metrics will you track throughout the project? It’s important to avoid being distracted by any vanity metrics and instead focus on the metrics that directly relate to your objectives.

You can track sales metrics on your sales dashboard in one of two ways: results-oriented or activity-based.

Results-oriented metrics include:

  • Number of deals in the pipeline

  • Win rate

  • Average deal size

  • Average time to close

  • Total sales revenue

Activity-based metrics include:

  • Emails sent

  • Calls made

  • Follow-up rate

  • Lead response time

Narrow down your metrics to the most important activities based on your business’s operations and goals.

Analysis works best if you combine activity and results metrics to discover how each step in your general or specific sales process is performing.

Finding and evaluating CRM providers

With a clear understanding of what your requirements are, you’re ready to start looking through the various CRM providers on the market. Here’s the best way to carry out that search and find your ideal solution.

The search

Many companies make the mistake of picking a CRM, then adjusting their requirements and processes so that they work with it. A CRM should fit your needs, not the other way round. Review your CRM strategy, confirm which software features you need the most and use that to find the CRM that ticks all the boxes.

When you’re sure about what you’re looking for, you can use a search engine to find relevant solutions. However, you may find it easier to use a software review site, such as G2 or Capterra, to identify the best CRM for contractors. These allow you to see the highest-rated solutions or narrow down your search based on features, pricing, users and even CRMs specifically designed for the construction industry.

Alternatively, you could hire a CRM consultant. Along with making recommendations based on your unique requirements, they can also help you set up and implement the CRM you pick.

The trials

Once you have a shortlist of potential solutions, it’s time to narrow them down. Take a look through their website and pay particular attention to any case studies that are similar to your situation. If you’re looking at a general CRM provider, have they successfully helped other construction companies? Here’s Pipedrive’s case study with McKeon Group as an example.

If it looks promising, you may request a demo to get a feel for the features and discuss your requirements with a sales rep. Many cloud solutions offer a free trial period, which is an ideal opportunity to try out the CRM with your team before you make your final decision.


How to implement a CRM-driven process in your construction company

CRM software can be powerful, but it will only help if you and your team use it properly.

Getting buy-in

For the CRM software solution to benefit your company, you’ll need buy-in at all levels of your company. For larger construction companies, that might mean a board of directors needs to sign off on purchasing and implementing the CRM. If that’s the case, you’ll need to focus on the benefits of implementing a CRM and how it’ll contribute to business growth. Explain the costs, any potential risks and don’t get bogged down in technical language.

Along with senior management, you’ll also need buy-in from the people who will be using the system on a daily business. After all, if they don’t see the value, they won’t bother using it. Make sure staff are aware of the reasons and benefits of implementing a CRM and explain how it’ll make their jobs easier.

Training

Rather than throwing your salesforce into the deep end, give them the training and resources they need. Allow them to familiarize themselves with the software, ask any questions, and give clear instructions on how to use it effectively for your specific requirements.

For larger organizations, it will be best to carry out a phased deployment. Start with one team or department, so they can see that it works while giving you a chance to iron out any issues.

Getting started

With your teams fully prepped, you’re finally ready to get up and running. While the way you use your CRM will change and improve over time, you can get yourself off to a good start by…

  • Customizing the setup, including pipelines and activities, to match your process

  • Setting up automation, such as emails and data entry, to ensure no important tasks are missed

  • Setting up reports for your metrics to give you full insight into your process

  • Setting up forecasting to improve future planning

  • Importing any existing data or adding new contacts.

With your CRM properly set up, you’re ready to start using it to track your deals, manage your clients and projects and analyze your metrics for better results.


Final thoughts

A CRM solution can help construction companies remain profitable, even in challenging circumstances, by enabling them to easily monitor and manage their deals and strengthen relationships with both contractors and clients.

By taking the time to put the underlying strategy in place, understanding what features you need, and choosing the best CRM and package for your unique requirements, you can use your CRM software to grow your business.


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