Why Free CRM sounds great in theory but in the long run it could end up costing you.

The word ‘free’ has, perhaps, negative connotations, particularly connotations around quality. If you were getting married would you want to wear a ‘free’ suit or dress, or would you, correctly assume, that the quality of the product offered would be inferior to a product which you had invested in?  Could it in fact be a false economy? . In the world of technology even the open-source community of coders, who often give away excellent-quality software without charge, describe their philosophy as “free as in speech, not free as in beer.”

For similar reasons, “free” can be the most expensive word in business technology.

Why? Because the free part… isn’t the important part.

Whether wheelie bins, fighter jets, or an IT platform the real cost of a product isn’t in the hardware. Rather the cost, and therefore business value, stems from the services and support around the product. Without these helping hands, you could end up wasting time, and money, on a product that simply stands alone, in CRM terms on  a platform that’s one founder’s problem away from closedown.

So if you’re considering one of those free CRM systems, here are three questions to ask yourself before making a decision.

1. Does your choice of CRM have a pedigree?

What we mean when we label a CRM  “pedigree”, is does the free CRM have a known history in the market? Is it going to integrate  well with your other applications, is it free from show-stopping bugs, is there a large ecosystem of vendors and packages with a stake in its continued success?


2. Does it work as a business case?

A business case lives or dies on the invisible costs. Your people’s time is a cost. Your systems integration is a cost. To say nothing of the cost of the risks attached to the allure of that zero sticker price. (Software bugs, supplier failure, incompatibility with your other software.)


3. Can a costed CRM actually work out cheaper?

Forget those stories of £10,000-per-seat rollouts and lock-in contracts; some big-name CRM systems can be surprisingly flexible and low-cost. In addition many offer a range of payment options such as simple monthly subscriptions. Per person, even market-leading CRM systems can be extremely cost-effective.


Above all, of course, what your CRM system needs to sing is service: a reliable partner (or partners) to bed in your choice, make sure your KPIs are being met, and getting your people on board with the new way of doing things. An established partner can also supply the software itself as part of its agreement with you… sometimes for free! It’s the service you pay for, giving you the best of both worlds.



  • Free can be the priciest word in business
  • Free CRM might also be free of support, free of case studies and free of customer success stories
  • Paying for CRM service, support and training from a reputable partner can often reduce the price of the actual software close to free anyway


Now we’ve dealt with the cost side, take a look at boosting revenue – download our eGuide:The ultimate guide to: increasing sales performance


5 tips and tricks to improve sales performance with CRM

CRM can be complex software, but the things it enables – if implemented well – are simple. Basic business drivers like increasing turnover, driving profit, and improving sales performance.

Here’s the thing: there are probably some quick wins hidden in your data RIGHT NOW. Check out these five and see if you agree.

See where your old leads went

Let’s say your 7,500 name CRM database has 3,750 names you haven’t mailed in three years. Perhaps the email is missing or you had a bounceback. They’re still worth chasing.

A short project – perhaps well suited to new member of the Sales team – would be to see where those 3,750 people are now. It’s likely some smart searching of LinkedIn can reveal where 90% of them went. What are their new companies? Have they taken a new senior role? How are you connected to them? All these are reasons to contact them anew… and sales opportunities in the making.

Look to social media for relevant reasons to contact

Is there a trade show coming up, or your customers’ main sectors are experiencing turbulence? Pin down those stories as they pop up across social media – then contact your customers to talk them over.

They’ll be pleasantly surprised at how switched-on you are to their sector. Especially if you’re in a position to offer sales support at their busiest time of the year…

Do a whip-round for new Connections…

If you haven’t cleaned your database for a while (slapped wrist!) there’s another reason to do so: your own new starters will have networks and connections across the social sphere who may provide a useful “in”.

Does James from Accounts have an old boss he still meets for drinks… in your biggest sales vertical? How about Laura from Finance, whose friend works for the bank you’re mining for leads? A basic part of Sales is networking; use your CRM network to improve sales performance.

…then make use of your customers’ networks

Take this a step further by digging into your customers’ address books. The people they follow on Twitter, the pages they ‘Like’, their blogrolls,  alerts and connections – in many cases this information is open, and the right CRM setup can trawl social media to collect them.

What’s the value of a Case Study written about someone your prospect knows? A retweet about YOU from someone they already follow? Small, smart actions like these build the biggest sales equity anyone can have these days: reputational trust. All of which can markedly improve sales performance.

If in doubt, phone a friend!

Asking for help – a referral to a new prospect, or a written recommendation – is far more likely to deliver if you do your homework first.

Your CRM system is a mine of data on who’s done what. Who clicked on which newsletters; who went to an event; what they did after your phone call. Use it. If you know Mr Schmidt switched from Salesforce to Microsoft Dynamics CRM after visiting three events where you spoke, call him to ask about his experiences. Then ask if he knows anyone in the same position! You’ll be going in with the right introduction.

Let’s sum up:

Takeaways :

  • Look at your “lost contacts” as “moved-on” contacts.. and track them down
  • Use both internal and external networks to build reputation and trust
  • Always, always have a REASON to call a contact beyond the next sales push


As the the web continues to evolve, marketers are forever looking for the latest way of capturing the attention of their audiences in a way that truly connects – and has an impact on their buying habits.

Personalised content has become the latest of these developments, with new research showing that it is becoming increasingly popular and desired by consumers.

A study by Yahoo of 6,000 consumers aged between 13 and 64 has shown that personalisation is something they generally know about, with 60 per cent aware that it applies to online written material and two-thirds noting this also applies to the things they watch and listen to, Marketing Week reports.

Moreover, the public mainly approves of this: 78 per cent said they would like to see some sort of personalisation applied to them. That figure may be music to the ears of those using CRM technology to fine-tune the message to consumers, not just by breaking them down into groups with common interests, but tailoring content and messages to individuals.

However, all this comes with a caveat. The Yahoo research also found that two-thirds want to have some sort of privacy control over the use of data held on them in creating personalised content. 58 per cent would want to see it based only on the information they actively volunteer. This includes expressed likes and dislikes, basic demographic data and personal interests.

Vice-president of global research and insight at Yahoo Lauren Weinberg observed: “It is all about striking the right balance in consumer control and personalised experiences. Consumers really understand that when they put in those preferences and share with publishers or brands, it makes their experience much better.”     

What also matters is that a personalised approach comes with good service. A recent study by IntelliResponse revealed consumers are very keen to engage with firms through both traditional and social media channels. It found 24 per cent of them regarded personalisation as important, but 59 per cent emphasised the need for efficient service.  

That may act as a reminder that however personal the service gets, the standard must remain high. 

Customer engagement white paper

Many businesses involved in the capture of key data needed to fulfil orders or send invoices are highly dependent on their sales team for these activities. So it makes sense to get them on board early on with any new CRM solution that will make them manage their time more effectively.

The adoption of CRM by sales staff is often a task that managers find difficult to accomplish. Management spends thousands of pounds on a CRM solution only to find that the sales team is not fully utilising it for sales best practice. There are ways to get round this of course and help them with the initial and ongoing adoption of CRM.

Here are several ways that CRM can help improve your sales best practice:

Productivity Tool

Your CRM should be much more than a reporting tool. It should be a tool that helps your sales team sell more goods and services to other businesses so they can bring in more business and earn larger commissions.

Your CRM will include many features like automation, inventory management, reports and productivity tools that will make your staff more effective and productive.

Correct data

It should go without saying that your data should be correct because CRM only works if it’s correct. Your CRM will help you in ensuring that your data is consistent, clean and maintained by including drop down fields where necessary to ensure data integrity. Sales staff using the CRM should take personal ownership to ensure the integrity of the data.

Staff Training

CRM training for sales staff is essential to help them fully benefit from the system and ensure it is regularly used. Training provided should reinforce the sales process and it should be customised to meet the needs of your organisation.

This should lead to higher bookings and commissions from using the CRM system and the best practices will help the sales team realise the CRM as a tool that can increase client loyalty.

Knowledge of your customers and prospects is vital to build relationships with them and to sell to them. The extensive knowledge that you gain will enable you to develop a marketing strategy that can be laser-targeted at your prospects and customers.

A prime example of this, that is simply done but is extremely effective, is Amazon. Even when you are only viewing a product, Amazon are serving up other suggestions with their “Customers who bought this also bought these other products”, and when you buy something they serve up individualised e-mails suggesting products you might like based on what you have bought previously. This is extremely effective and is a large part of what has made them Amazon a powerful internet shop.

Where to start?

A customer relationship management system (CRM) can be a powerful tool in your marketing armoury. By recording your customer’s product likes and dislikes, their spending patterns and even their location, age and gender, a CRM enables you to build up a detailed picture of their tastes, needs and buying habits.

This in turn allows you to ‘slice and dice’ the information to segment your customers and prospects to allow you to market to them in a personalised way. By funnelling all your company information through a CRM system, you can get an accurate picture of what your customers and prospects want and serve this up to them effectively. If the message – and its timing – is right, you can improve your sales conversion rates considerably.

A good CRM, used properly and effectively, can give the salesperson and management a dashboard of actual progress of where in the sales process a particular prospect or customer is. It can effectively segment your customers and prospects (but only based on the information input into the system) and this structure, if used correctly, can help to increase sales in your business greatly. There are several excellent systems on the market now both based in the cloud (online) and offline (installed locally) that vary in price from a small amount per month for basic functionality for the small business to extremely complex systems designed for enterprise-sized companies.

At Redspire, we think Microsoft Dynamics CRM is the best system to help you grow your sales. Watch us demonstrate why!

Using CRM to Promote Sales Growth

Watch this webinar recording now to find how to use Microsoft Dynamics CRM to grow your sales.

[button size=”small” type=”rounded” color=”red” href=”https://redspire.co.uk/resources/crm-videos/using-crm-to-promote-sales-growth/” ]Yes please![/button]

There are many CRM providers that claim using their CRM solution will motivate employees to do a better job. They include examples such as making their work easier by having all files in one place; making the responsibilities more transparent because all employees have access to one central database; speeding up the processes because of clearer organisation and access to relevant data etc.

However, before your company can benefit from all these factors, you first have to take the first step – which is motivating your employees to actually want to use the system. Here are our top 9+1 tips.

  1. Include your key employees in choosing the CRM system. Listen to the future end users and act upon the fact that they system needs to meet their requirements.
  2. Show them your confidence in the product. If your employees see you have a sound plan and a concrete vision, they will find it easier to put their trust into the project.
  3. Use a ROI calculator and show them in numbers the potential of the system.
  4. Make sure everybody understands that the system you’ll implement will help them sell more, sooner and with better margins.
  5. Similarly, make sure your employees understand the importance of a customer-centric approach. Underappreciating this factor defeats the whole purpose of a CRM!
  6. Especially for your sales team, choose a mobile CRM solution that can be accessed on the move, enabling them to access information whenever needed.
  7. Ask your vendor for user training and support material for every employee that will use the system.
  8. Strengthen the team spirit among the various CRM teams and give them autonomy in crucial future decisions about the system.
  9. Introduce a CRM usage-based reward structure so employees try more, learn and eventually get used to the system.
  10. Consider going to a networking seminar held by the vendor so your employees can see how others have used the system and benefited from it.

There was a time when the typical client management system might be a filing cabinet, rolodex or even a Filofax (remember them?).

Now, however, we all know computers can do this sort of thing so much more quickly and efficiently and with many more functions than pen and paper could ever provide.

Client management software will form a key part of any CRM (customer relationship management) system but can also operate as a stand-alone system.

The very simplest systems – and you can probably use a well-featured email programme like Outlook to some extent – will store full contact information with a history of all communications between you and the client.

Customers are the lifeblood of your business; no clients, no business. The philosophy of customer relationship management is all about putting them at the centre of everything that you do and client management software can put you on this road. Smaller businesses may be able to get by with the databases and email software that come as standard on most machines, but as you grow you may need something more powerful. You might need networked access for all your staff or a remotely stored database that can be used by staff on the road.

How scalable is Client Management Software?

As client management software becomes more complex and more expensive it will do more for you, allowing you to keep and access a more complete picture of your history with each contact. You’ll also have more choices to make, so doing some research, asking around or even asking a software company to design you a bespoke programme is all the more important.

Nowadays, it’s even possible to keep tabs on a client’s social media activity via client management software. However, as with all CRM solutions, it’s only as good as your use of it – if your staff aren’t bought into updating and making notes then you could be left with an expensive white elephant.

You may be able to use your client management software to segment your client base and even run email campaigns and report back on their success. However, as you grow your business you’ll probably want to look for more  powerful functionality including detailed email and web analytics, sales forecasting, customer service automation and the like.

Keep in mind that no piece of technology is going to turn a non-customer focused business into a model for others to follow. You need to change your thinking as well as your systems if you are to succeed with client management software or any CRM programme.

Customer relationship management (CRM) tools can seriously improve your revenue – and here are some examples how:

Streamlined sales processes

CRM software offers a way to streamline sales methodology by filtering out leads that are unlikely to convert and by targeting the correct market. This is achieved by the use of automated marketing (where responses and visits can be monitored) and by keeping all the customer details and activity within one, easily accessible and shareable profile, so they can be filtered depending on past activity and preferences.

Qualified leads can also quickly be converted, while those that aren’t sales ready will be highlighted.

Sales quotations can be automated, using sets of preloaded templates within your CRM system.

Effective reporting

Relationship management software has a whole suite of reporting tools that allow your business to view opportunities and better forecast outcomes, as well as analyse the effectiveness of campaigns.


While your clever CRM tools are working hard in the background for you, this means less time is spent by staff producing reports and forecasts. This means you are saving both time and money.

Not only that, but, unlike traditional marketing methods such as paper mailouts and radio campaigns, your online activity can easily be analysed and tracked – so you can see quickly what is working and what isn’t.

Overall, this means the cost to acquire a sale can be less.

After-sales cost savings

Once you’ve got that sale, traditionally, there has been a lot of paperwork that goes with it. But because your CRM system has all these details in one place, you will spend less time sorting the paperwork, leaving you to concentrate on your sales and marketing.

Your customer service is also improved. Relationship management tools can identify common reasons for customers to get back in touch post-sale – meaning you can deal with them, whether that may be, for example, adding further information on to your website or perhaps being more specific about your product or service.

In summary, CRM’s can be an invaluable member of your sales and marketing team, helping speed up processes; removing any chance of human error; and generally making your business work smarter.

There’s an overlap between Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and sales tracking software and you may see the terms used interchangeably.

However, while CRM is an all-encompassing solution bringing sales, marketing, customer service and support together, sales tracking systems can be limited to the sales function.

Do you need sales tracking software?

Well, that depends how large and complex your organisation is. If your sales staff are juggling lists, databases and other contact systems it could be that a single system to rationalise the prospect-lead-contact-follow up process would be useful for you. Ask the people who know and involve them in the decision and the choice of system.

As with any type of software, there’s a huge variety of sales tracking systems available. Budget will almost certainly come into your choice, but also consider what you’re paying for and whether you’ll get full use out of all those smart new features. Sales doesn’t need to be over complicated – it’s about people and relationships at its heart – so don’t over complicate the system that monitors and facilitates it.

The most basic requirements can probably be reduced to just four areas: contacts, tracking, history and diary.

They’re all pretty self-explanatory. Making sure that the system you choose has strong contact management, can easily track leads, allows your staff to keep a record of how they interact with clients and prospects and will help organise their time efficiently should reap practical benefits. It should also provide decent feedback on how your sales team are doing.

See for yourself!

But don’t take our word for it, design your own ‘must do’ list in consultation with your sales specialists and compare it with the systems you look at. Integration with other systems – like your email software – and web access on the road are also likely to be on your mind. Support and security should be the first things you check whenever you consider buying new software for your organisation.

Whether you want something simple and good value or can try something more sophisticated, you will need to do your research. Many systems offer free trials and with some forethought these can be useful. Use review sites as well, but be aware that much of the material online is linked to people who are trying to flog you the systems. This site offers reviews and an overview of the sector and appears to be independent.

Today we’re going to look at how companies that implement CRM systems can improve their CRM strategy. In our experience, all factors I’m about to mention play a big role in CRM implementation success rates.


This is not to say that if you get all these factors right, your CRM ROI will go through the roof. However, if you do pay attention to them, you should significantly reduce the chance that your CRM project will become a statistic.


And what a horrible statistic. 18-70% CRM failure rate according to various studies might be an off-putting number. But in our experience as a CRM consultancy, this just goes to show the importance of a robust CRM implementation strategy. After all, successful Microsoft Dynamics CRM implementations show an average ROI of 243%, which should eliminate any doubts about the competence of the software. Taken that you’ve chosen the right CRM for your company, the only other factor to contribute to your success will be your CRM strategy.


Factors that contribute to CRM strategy failure

CRM Strategy Problem #1: You don’t have a CRM strategy.

Why is it a problem?
Not having a CRM strategy means you don’t know what you’ll do when problems arise. Perhaps more importantly, it also means that you don’t have a sense of direction of where you want to be in the next 3 or 5 years. You might end up stabbing in the dark and your system can eventually fall apart or become obsolete.

How to fix it:
Understand that CRM is not only about the power of technology and ad-hoc tactics. Create a plan that will detail how you want your current system to evolve and how you’re going to achieve it. Make sure you create a document that will be a point of future reference anytime you need to decide about adding functionality, new tactics or tackling unforeseen circumstances.


CRM Strategy Problem #2: You focus on reducing costs rather than improving value.

Why is it a problem?
Cost is a number and numbers can always be decreased. It’s difficult to decide when to stop reducing costs and start focusing on creating optimal value but it should be done because otherwise you’re risking damage to your business reputation.

How to fix it:
Determine a standard which you’ll always aim to deliver. Naturally, this standard should be higher for your best customers and lower for the others. However, you should also define the threshold for the lowest standard you’ll always provide for anyone. This is crucial to your company’s reputation, as it’s far more difficult to repair damage once it’s done. any cost reduction that can happen within these boundaries is then allowed.


CRM Strategy Problem #3: Your CRM strategy is more inward- than outward- focused.

Why is it a problem?
If you use your CRM primarily to track your employees’ actions, it distracts you from creating value for your leads (which is the point of a good CRM strategy). Your employees might feel spied on, do tasks for the sake of doing tasks and your company will gradually lose track of what matters for the customer.

How to fix it: Understand that while CRM is a great tool for reporting on your employees’ performance, the main purpose of it should be to gather information about your customers so you can nurture them effectively. After all, your performance measures can be very high but what point does it serve if your customers don’t notice?


CRM Strategy Problem #4: Your employees can’t access your CRM from everywhere.

Why is it a problem? Not being able to access your CRM database from a mobile device limits your employees’ performance while they’re on the go. Especially Sales and Customer Service can meet and exceed you customers’ expectations more easily when they have all data at hand. By not addressing the importance of mobile CRM, you might be wasting time and money.

How to fix it: Choose a CRM that offers a mobile version.  Some CRM vendors, like Microsoft Dynamics CRM, offer the mobile version free of charge for every user.



CRM Strategy Problem #5: You haven’t won your boss’ support.

Why is it a problem?
The higher managerial level that supports the CRM project, the better. A general rule of thumb should be: the project should be supported by people with managerial control over any CRM user/implementer. Otherwise you’re risking that when the project runs into problems, you won’t be able to save it from failing.

How to fix it: Prepare a CRM business case and make sure all the key stakeholders are on board before launching the project.


CRM Strategy Problem #6: All departments are not using the same system.

Why is it a problem?
If your three customer-facing functions: Marketing, Sales and Customer Support are not working from the same database, you’re likely to waste time transferring data, money on multiple licences, disagree on crucial criteria and run into unnecessary misunderstandings.

How to fix it: Choose one CRM system that can be used by all departments in question. Get the help of your IT department* when implementing the system. IT should help take into consideration all these department’s needs, which perhaps wouldn’t happen if only the CRM vendor was to implement your solution. Another good tip to go by is to make up a cross-functional team which will take care that CRM gets used properly in each department.

*If you don’t have an IT department, make sure you pick a vendor that’s willing to invest time into getting to know your company’s needs.


CRM Strategy Problem #7: You’ve not made a habit of using CRM daily.

Why is it a problem?
Your employees don’t use the system as much as they could and as a result they are wasting time they could be using elsewhere. Moreover, their efforts are hard to evaluate since they’re not recorded in the CRM system. As a result, you’re paying for a glorified spreadsheet without taking full advantage of it.

How to fix it: Ensure all CRM users receive proper CRM training and understand the value of using it. Some companies have also found it helpful to implement a incentive system that will reward users based on how well they’ve adopted the system. Although this might cause some disapproval at first, in the long term it’s a good way of showing that the CRM project is a company priority.


CRM Strategy Problem #8: Your CRM doesn’t support all your customer touch points.

Why is it a problem? Customers like to choose through which channel they prefer to interact with you. Not being flexible enough to give them the choice may not only shed bad light on you, it can also frustrate the customers if they have to repeat information to you because you’re not able to capture it properly.

How to fix it:
Make an exhaustive list of all customer touch points you use and choose a CRM that will cater for all of them. Make sure your employees use the CRM to communicate with your leads as much as possible.


CRM Strategy Problem #9: You can’t guarantee that your system is safe.

Why is it a problem? Data security is absolutely crucial to your business’ reputation. If you’re willing to risk data leakage, you’re willing to accept all the negative publicity that goes hand in hand with it.

How to fix it:
Research the market well before implementing and choose a CRM that has good reputation for being safe. Take care to consult your vendor about CRM security and carry out all necessary precautions regularly.


CRM Strategy Problem #10: You’ve chosen a CRM that’s not able to grow with your company.

Why is it a problem?
As your company grows, you need to be able to accommodate for new users, extra functionality and data storage. If your system is not able to provide this, parts of your organisation might be left out of the process, which will cost you time and money.

How to fix it:
Make sure your current CRM system is able to support the size of a company you’re planning on becoming in the next 5-10 years. Your current CRM system doesn’t need to be able to support a much larger company; rather it should offer enough upgrading options to cover all your future needs. If you find there are other unnecessary limitations of your current CRM system, consider replacing it as soon as possible, to secure higher chances that your CRM will have a bright future.