You’re considering a CRM for your startup, but you’re already stretched thin. You aren’t sure you have the time, budget or capacity to figure out yet another tool that’s supposed to help your startup succeed.
You have questions. Why would you use a CRM? What if you’re too early in your startup journey to benefit from it? How can you make sure you see results if you adopt one?
To help you answer these questions and choose the best CRM for your startup, read our guide on the following:
What is CRM?
CRM stands for customer relationship management. It can be broken down into two distinct (and highly connected) parts:
- The methodology
- The tool
First, customer relationship management is a big-picture approach to your company’s relationships. It integrates all touchpoints and interactions you have with people in relation to your business.
This includes all departments that rely on building and nurturing relationships—think marketing, sales, customer service, recruiting and public relations.
Secondly, there is a CRM tool. It’s a central hub to keep track of all these interactions. Without one, it’s easier for a hot lead to go cold because you didn’t follow up on time, or completely forget a detail from a sales call that was essential to close the sale.
A CRM for startups (although many CRMs can benefit businesses of all sizes) will help you quickly gauge the health of your sales pipeline. It will help everyone stay on the same page, including founders, investors, managers, sales reps, marketers and product developers.
A CRM can also be hugely beneficial if you’re running a startup on your own, as it will almost act as a colleague: keeping you up-to-date with your day-to-day activities, reminding you about important customer data and helping you monitor and maintain your processes.
The benefits of a CRM for startups
Here are some key activities for startups:
- Find customers for your product
- Effectively manage your fundraising process
- Improve chances of getting media coverage
- Manage your contacts and conversations
- Manage partnerships without dropping the ball
All these marketing, hiring, scaling and revenue goals all boil down to one key activity: finding and managing customers for your product. A CRM will help you make that happen.
Here’s how a CRM can fuel your startup:
- You can build strong customer relationships early on
- You can prepare for growth and scalability
- You know what to focus on and eliminate distractions
- You can correct course quickly
Let’s dive into the details of these benefits:
Build strong customer relationships early on
As a startup, you have an undeniable advantage: you can have real, detailed conversations with most (if not all) of your potential and existing customers. You get to learn about the pain points that made them look for a solution and apply that feedback early and continuously.
When you have thousands of customers, it’s a lot harder to do that. Early stage is your advantage.
A CRM supports this process by:
- Grouping and sorting each conversation you had with a person/company
- Keeping your interview, email and sales call notes in one place (instead of notebooks, Google Docs, spreadsheets etc.)
- Reminding you to check in with contacts regularly
You’ll never have to worry about a conversation falling through the cracks, as a good CRM will allow you to set reminders to reach out to or re-engage with contacts.
Set yourself up for long-term growth and scalability
As you grow, you’ll expand your sales team. The less time they spend getting familiar with customer records, the quicker they can start having real sales conversations and making sales.
With a CRM, your new sales reps will get instant access to historical data about your leads, prospects and customers. They’ll quickly learn what your sales process looks like, what your customers care about and how your product makes a difference.
The process of onboarding each new sales rep will be easier and shorter. It will support your growth so that your product can reach even more new customers without adding more to your plate.
Know which actions to focus on first
There are way more things you can do as a startup than there’s time for; you may not be able to see which are a distraction right away.
You can use your CRM for startups to learn where to focus your time and energy to make the most impact. You can skip a nice-to-have task that can wait and instead focus on a qualified deal that will secure immediate and essential cash flow.
You’ll be able to take action that moves the needle for your startup.
Correct course quickly
You thought you’re doing everything right, but you’re losing deals and missing sales and revenue targets. Don’t panic.
With the right CRM for startups, you can get to the bottom of the problem quickly. As you dig into the data, you can find out:
- Where in the sales process you’re losing deals
- What leads said and how they behaved before you lost them
- Which activities bring you the best and worst conversion rate
- How many activities you’ve scheduled and completed
You’ll be able to notice differences in patterns between successful and lost deals and use those insights to tweak your sales activities.
The challenges of a CRM for startups
You now have an idea of what a CRM could do for your startup, but you’re not sure it’s the right way to go just yet.
You may feel that:
- Your business is still just getting off the ground
- A CRM isn’t the best way to spend your money
- The way you’re currently tracking your conversations and sales works
Let’s look into these common challenges that startups have when it comes to using a CRM.
1. Isn’t it too soon to invest in a CRM? Our startup is in its early stages.
A CRM may seem like a senseless investment if you don’t have many customer relationships to manage. Your instinct may be to wait until you absolutely can’t go any longer without a CRM to invest in it.
However, focusing on customer relationships early can help you get ahead of your competitors faster. Gartner found that more than two-thirds of companies compete primarily on the basis of customer experience.
If you wait until you have more customers to double down on customer experience, it might be too late to make a significant impact.
With a CRM, you can keep track of every interaction, pain point, purchase and detail. An early start means you can tailor your customer conversations months and even years down the road. This way, you’ll delight your customers right away and have a system to keep doing it as you grow.
2. Can I even afford a CRM?
First, let’s consider what drives CRM pricing:
- Number of users
- The set of features you need
- Monthly versus annual pricing
Since you likely don’t have a large sales team yet, a CRM won’t cost you much. Typical startup CRM pricing ranges from $15 to $50 per month for each user.
Even this relatively low investment can help you shorten your sales cycle, increase your average deal value and focus on customer retention. The right CRM makes this an easy “yes”.
Secondly, consider the cost of your chosen option as your startup grows.
As you get more customers and hire more people in the long run, your CRM should support your growth, not hinder it. Your CRM should be affordable and provide a great ROI in long-term, not just now.
Many CRMs also offer a free trial for first-time users, so you can try before you buy and avoid wasting money.
3. What if our existing systems work just fine?
Where are your lead and customer details currently living?
You may have defaulted to a spreadsheet for your customers and to email tags for your leads. You keep your call notes in a separate digital notes app.
You know exactly where everything is and you’re successfully getting new customers, so why change anything?
This system may work for you and your employees now, but think about what happens when:
- You hire sales reps to scale your sales
- You go on a vacation
- An employee leaves the company
When you don’t have a central place for all the details about your leads and customers, moving forward depends on each individual. When this data lives in a dedicated place, you’ll never have this issue and your growth won’t be at risk.
How to find the right CRM for your startup
How will you know if a CRM is right for your startup?
You may be tempted to go with a solution that offers you more features than any other CRM, but it’s more important to find the one that offers the right features. You may also be tempted to go for a CRM for startups, designed or priced with new businesses in mind, but you may quickly grow out of it and need to find yet another with more features.
Here are some essential features to look for in a CRM as a startup.
Sales reporting and forecasting
If you feel overwhelmed by the high (and often unrealistic) expectations typical to the startup world, a great CRM will be a game-changer.
With visual reporting, you can get an instant overview of the current situation. You’ll be able to answer questions like:
- How many open deals do we currently have?
- What’s our stage-to-stage conversion rate?
- How successfully do we attract new leads?
- Where do we find our highest value leads?
These numbers will also help you forecast future sales and plan your sales activities to maximize results.
Your CRM shouldn’t add work to your plate; it should help you remove some of it.
How? By automating tasks like:
- Generating reports
- Following up with a template email
- Scheduling next activities for a deal in your pipeline
- Collecting publicly available data about a lead
This way, you can eliminate busywork and focus on sales conversations that move the needle for your startup instead of the admin that comes with them.
In Pipedrive, you can automate just about any step of your sales process, collect lead data with one click and boost your performance with AI-powered recommendations on what to focus on next.
Who are your customers? What type of data do you need to track based on that? Does your CRM let you tweak and customize options to match your needs?
Here are some CRM elements you may want to customize:
- Pipeline stages
- Data fields inside contacts
- Activity types
- Web forms
Adjusting these to your startup’s needs should be easy and intuitive.
Your business is unique, so customizing your CRM is crucial for efficiency. When you tailor your CRM to your sales cycle and your needs, tracking every interaction becomes a habit. No detail will get lost, so your CRM can truly become the main hub for all lead generation and sales activities.
Easy user onboarding
When you hire a new sales rep, would you rather put them through a weeklong sales process training course or have them spend their first week diving into details about your leads, sales conversations and customers?
If the answer is the latter, make sure your CRM of choice is easy to get started with. The faster your new sales hire can start making sales, the better for your entire startup, so pick a CRM that makes it possible.
Business data security
You don’t need us to tell you about the importance of data protection when your business operates online. This is simply a reminder that your CRM should be part of your overall approach to data security.
A great CRM will allow you to:
- Monitor who has access to your company data
- Manage logins, user permissions and access
- Back up your data regularly
- Prevent security breaches and get alerts for suspicious activity
Your customer data shouldn’t be an afterthought. Check out how Pipedrive CRM gives you a peace of mind when it comes to privacy and security.
How to adopt your new startup CRM
If you don’t make sure your CRM tool is baked into your sales process, you won’t get the results from it you want. CRM adoption is essential, but there are a few reasons it could fail:
- You didn’t choose the best CRM for your needs (the best CRM for startups might not be the best for you)
- You haven’t migrated all your customer data to your new CRM
- There wasn’t a clear plan on leaving your existing systems, such as spreadsheets, behind
- If you have a sales team, they weren’t involved in the selection process and/or they can’t see the benefits of a CRM
Here are some ways you can help your startup adopt a CRM tool.
Work out a plan with each sales rep
Your CRM won’t sit on top of everything you’re already doing to sell your product, it will integrate seamlessly into your sales foundation.
In other words, a CRM won’t be another thing you will have to do on top of your tasks; it will be the way you do your tasks.
If you have a sales team, it’s important to work one-on-one with each of your sales reps to understand their current sales activities. For example:
- What is their approach to prospecting?
- How do they decide when a lead is qualified?
- How many calls and emails do they exchange with their leads in a day/week?
- What is their favorite part of the process?
- What part of the process do they struggle with the most?
- What are their most manual and time-consuming tasks?
This way, you’ll understand how they approach their daily schedule. You’ll learn where they shine and what they could improve.
From here, analyze your list of top CRM options with them and see how it fits into their workday. Ask them for their input on all the options and encourage them to take a free trial and share their feedback on each option with you.
As a result, they will:
- Experience quick wins and see how a CRM could bring long-term results
- Be more inclined to adopt the CRM option you chose because they were part of the decision
If you’re a sole trader, go through the questions above on your own. When you see how a CRM can fit into your routine, decide which CRM tools you’ll test and get those quick wins yourself.
Map out an implementation timeline
Once you’ve decided on a CRM solution, map out some key dates around its implementation.
There’s no one-size-fits-all timeline. Instead, here are some key events you should plan for and add to your calendar:
- Collecting all of your existing data (from spreadsheets and any other place you currently keep it)
- Adding this data to your new CRM
- CRM customization, such as pipeline stages, roles and templates you’re already using
- Setting up integrations with software you’re already using
When these steps are done, set some reminders to check in and review your progress on CRM implementation.
If you’re a sole trader or a one-person team in charge of sales and marketing, take notes on how CRM is helpful and things you can still improve. If you have a sales team, make it easy for reps to ask questions and provide feedback.
Regular check-ins will help you ensure that using a CRM becomes second nature.
Other great sales software for startups
As well as CRM tools for startups, there are plenty of other software options.
To hit growth goals as efficiently as possible, you can boost your CRM—and your entire sales strategy—with integrations and add-ons. Check out some of our recommendations.
Lead generation sales software
Quality leads are essential for a startup looking to grow a loyal customer base. How can you make sure your lead generation is efficient?
Use a tool like Prospect.io to make your cold emailing and prospecting easier. If you want to automate your lead generation, you’ll love Pipedrive’s LeadBooster. It’s a customizable chatbot that captures web visitors and helps you engage customers with instant responses.
Sales software for email marketing automation
Email marketing automation helps you integrate your sales cycle with your marketing activities, especially after winning the customer.
A tool like Mailigen uses customer behavior to deliver the right messages to them. It works with other tools that fuel your startup, such as social media, ecommerce, blog and more.
Invoicing and accounting
Getting paid for the sales you’ve made should be easy. Instead of copying and pasting data between your CRM and invoicing tools, you can integrate these platforms and streamline the entire process.
Xero is the go-to tool for startups and small teams to speed up invoicing and accounting. You can integrate it with Pipedrive in our marketplace. You’ll be able to create invoices from Pipedrive deals, track invoice status in Pipedrive and have a real-time overview of your cash flow.
How Pipedrive can help your startup
Pipedrive is a great CRM for startups and businesses of every size, helping them to get customers and close deals.
Being a startup ourselves, we built Pipedrive with other startups in mind, so it is flexible and results-oriented.
The key idea behind Pipedrive is the sales pipeline. Our founders realized from their own startup experience that a sales pipeline is not only great for sales and contact management, but for solving other problems startups face too.
Pipedrive focus on your sales pipeline and the activities you need to do next to move your leads through it. You’ll get laser-focused on the hottest leads and you’ll never forget to follow up.
Pipedrive is also easy to use. With our simple, intuitive CRM software there’s no 200-page list of functions and no two-day training course required. Just log in, fill up your pipeline and start selling with a product designed to make selling beautiful.
With 100+ integrations, you can connect Pipedrive with your:
- Project management software
- Marketing tools and platforms
- Customer support software
- Internal messaging tools
You can make Pipedrive entirely your own and always have a clear insight into where your startup is and where it’s going. You can get your 14-day free trial (no credit card required) here.
A CRM will help you get your startup off the ground, delight your new customers and set a strong foundation for future growth and scaling.
Don’t wait until your startup grows to make the most out of a CRM. If you start now, you’ll get these benefits:
- Using a CRM will become a habit for you and your team, so all sales data will always be accessible
- You’ll be able to make decisions around product, hiring and much more based on accurate information
- Expanding your team and onboarding new people will be streamlined and simple
With a CRM for your small business, you’ll set yourself and your team up for lasting success.