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CRM for startups: Finding the best customer relationship management tool

CRM for startups
What is CRM?
The benefits of a CRM for startups
CRM challenges for startups
How to find the right CRM for your startup
How to adopt your new startup CRM
Other great sales software for startups
How Pipedrive can help your startup
Final thoughts

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? What’s the best CRM for startups? How can you make sure you see results if you adopt one?

To answer these questions and help you choose the right CRM for your business, we’ve put together this guide. Here, you’ll learn about the benefits and challenges of choosing the right CRM for startup businesses and how to best leverage a CRM platform once you find the right one for you.

What is CRM?

CRM stands for customer relationship management. This can refer to either or both of the following elements:

  1. The customer relationship management methodology

  2. A customer relationship management tool

CRM methodology

Customer relationship management, as a methodology, 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, most commonly marketing, sales, customer service, recruiting and public relations.

CRM tool

The term CRM can also refer to a customer relationship management tool. This is a central hub to keep track of all these leads and customer interactions. Without one, it’s easy for a hot lead to go cold because you didn’t follow up on time, or to completely forget a detail from a sales call that was essential to close the deal.

A CRM tool for startups will help you quickly gauge the health of your sales pipeline (although many CRMs can benefit businesses of all sizes). It will help all of your team members stay on the same page, including founders, investors, managers, sales reps, marketers and product developers.

A sales 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 business processes so you can keep up your hot streak.

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The benefits of a CRM for startups

Some of the common needs that startups have include:

  • Finding customers for your product

  • Effectively managing your fundraising process

  • Improving your chances of getting media coverage

  • Managing your contacts and conversations

  • Managing partnerships without dropping the ball

All these marketing, hiring, scaling and revenue goals require one key activity: finding and managing customers for your product. A CRM will help with that in the following ways:

  • 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

One of the distinct advantages of being a startup is that 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 for your salespeople to do that.

This is why, for both big and small businesses alike, a CRM can massively support your relationship building process by:

  • Grouping and sorting each conversation with a person or company in an organized repository that’s easy to find and access

  • Keeping your interview, email and sales call notes in one place (instead of notebooks, Google Docs, spreadsheets etc.)

  • Reminding you to check in and follow up with contacts regularly to build meaningful relationships and nurture prospects and existing customers along their journey and lifecycle

You’ll never have to worry about a conversation falling through the cracks as a good CRM allows you to set reminders to reach out to or re-engage with contacts.

Prepare for long-term growth

As you grow, you’ll expand your sales team. The less time they have to spend getting familiar with customer records, the quicker they can start making sales.

With a CRM, your new sales reps can excel with 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 or service can reach even more new customers.

Know what to focus on

A common struggle for startups is having more to do than you have time for.

By using your CRM for task management, you can learn where to focus your time and energy in order to have the most impact. You’ll be able to take action that moves the needle for your startup.

Correct course quickly

If you think you’re doing everything right but you’re still losing deals and missing sales and revenue targets, a CRM can help.

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 so you can track common sales objections and subsequently optimize sales activities

  • Which sales activities bring you the best and worst conversion rate

  • How many activities you’ve scheduled and completed, which helps with setting realistic goals and sales forecasting activities

Benefits of CRM

CRM challenges for startups

Let’s look at some of the common questions and challenges that startups have when it comes to using a CRM.

Is it too soon to invest in a CRM?

A CRM may seem like a needless 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.

However, tracking and organizing your customer relationships early can help you get ahead of your competitors faster. A study by Gartner found that adding value to your customer service interactions can lead to new revenue streams, while also protecting existing ones, and that 82% of organizations plan to improve their customer relationships by implementing a value enhancement strategy.

If you wait until you have more customers before you improve the customer experience, it might be too late.

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 replicate what works (or ditch what doesn’t)as you grow.

Can I afford a CRM?

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a high-quality free CRM. However, let’s consider what drives CRM pricing:

  • Number of users

  • Which features you need

  • Monthly versus annual pricing

  • Add-ons

Typical startup CRM pricing ranges from $15 to $50 per month for each user. If you don’t have a large sales team yet, a CRM won’t cost you much. Even a relatively low investment can help you shorten your sales cycle, increase your average deal value and focus on customer retention.

As you get more customers and hire more people, the right CRM will support your growth, not hinder it. Your CRM should be affordable and provide a great ROI in the 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.

Doesn’t our existing system work just fine?

Look at where your lead and customer details are currently living. Many startups default to a spreadsheet or a simple sales pipeline template to track leads, prospects and customers. Perhaps you also keep your call notes in a separate digital notes app.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

Without a central hub for all your lead and customer details, you can be overly dependent on specific individuals that are hosting siloed information.

When this data lives in a dedicated place, however, you’ll never have this issue and your growth won’t be at risk.

CRM for Startups

  • Build strong relationships early
  • Prepare for growth and scalability
  • Know what to focus on first
  • Correct course quickly
  • It seems to early to get a CRM
  • Affordability
  • Current systems already bring results
  • All sales and products treated equally

How to find the right CRM for your startup

When choosing a CRM, you may be tempted to go with a solution that offers the most features. It’s actually 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 another with more enterprise or flexible features.

Here are five essential features to look for in a CRM as a startup.

1. Sales reporting and sales forecasting

If you feel overwhelmed by the high (and often unrealistic) expectations typical of the startup world, a great CRM will be a game-changer.

With visual sales 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.

2. Automations

Your CRM shouldn’t add work to your plate, it should help you remove some of it, by automating tasks like:

  • Generating reports

  • Following up with a workflow of email templates

  • Scheduling the next activities for a deal in your pipeline

  • Collecting publicly available data about a lead

This way, you can eliminate data-entry busywork and focus on lead management and sales conversations that move the needle for your startup, instead of the admin that comes with them.

In Pipedrive's sales automation system 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.

3. Customization

It’s important that your CRM matches your business needs. Here are some CRM elements you may want to customize.

  • Pipeline stages

  • Sales funnels

  • Data fields inside contacts

  • Activity types

  • Templates

  • Web forms

  • Metrics

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.

4. Easy user onboarding

When you hire a new sales rep, you want to get them through training and selling to potential customers as quickly as possible. The faster they can start making sales, the better it is for your entire startup, so ease of use must be a priority when choosing a CRM.

5. Business data security

Data protection is crucial when your business operates online and your CRM must fit into 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 peace of mind when it comes to privacy and security.

Advantages of CRM

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 customizable Chatbot, one of the features in the LeadBooster add-on, which 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.

Find more of the best leads fast with your lead qualification ebook

Learn how to find more of the right leads faster. This 22 page ebook will help you build a scalable lead qualification process for your team.

How Pipedrive can help your startup

Pipedrive is a great all-in-one CRM system for startups and businesses of every size, helping them to get customers and close deals.

We built Pipedrive with other startups in mind, so it’s flexible and results-oriented.

The key idea behind Pipedrive is sales pipeline management. 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 helps you concentrate on your sales pipeline and the activities you need to do next in order to move your leads through it. You’ll become laser-focused on the hottest leads and you’ll never forget to follow up.

Pipedrive is also easy to use. With our simple, intuitive, agile CRM software there’s no need for a 200-page list of functions or a two-day training course with a steep learning curve. 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 tools/software

  • Marketing tools and platforms

  • Customer support software

  • Internal messaging tools

  • And so much more

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.

Use the free trial to get to grips with a user-friendly CRM and see just how big an impact it could have on your business.

Final thoughts

A CRM will help you get your startup off the ground, build relationships with 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 the following benefits.

  • All sales data will always be accessible, so no information gets lost in siloes and your team can work from anywhere, anytime

  • You’ll be able to make decisions around product, hiring and much more based on accurate information that you can analyze via advanced reporting features

  • The onboarding and training process will be streamlined and get your reps selling and bringing in revenue as quickly as possible

With a CRM for your small business, you’ll set yourself and your team up for lasting success.

Find more of the best leads fast with your lead qualification ebook

Learn how to find more of the right leads faster. This 22-page ebook will help you build a scalable lead qualification process for your team.

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