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How To Grow Your Business With An Effective CRM Strategy

How To Grow Your Business With An Effective CRM Strategy

No business can survive with a dissatisfied customer base. To keep customers, it is now more important than ever for small businesses to have an effective customer relationship management (CRM) strategy and software which corresponds with the business’s goals. Thankfully, this is now easier than ever. CRM software has blossomed over the past few years. While CRM was once the exclusive domain of large businesses, small businesses can now get CRM software like Salesforce or Insightly for a fair price and use it to keep better track of their customers and how they can keep those customers engaged. However, no software can substitute for the human mind. There are too many businesses who think that their CRM strategy can just be left to whatever software they purchased. Every business needs to have a proper CRM strategy — of which the software is just one of many parts. Emphasizing personal communication over technology and placing power in the hands of subordinates are just a few key things which can be done to ensure that a CRM strategy keeps customers happy and a business prosperous

The benefits of a CRM strategy

The first thing that has to be done is to show why a CRM strategy is so important for small businesses. That can be explained by asking one simple question: what is any business’s most valuable asset? The answer is their customers — not property or technology or employees. All of those things are means to an end of getting more happy customers who will come back and spend money. Businesses which can get repeat customers will be better off than those which do not. A study shows that “in a recent 12-month period, businesses with a 40% level of repeat customers generated 47% more revenue than similar businesses with only a 10% level of repeat customers.” And because repeat customers are so important, businesses need to track their desires and purchases so that they can better accommodate them. While this can be done with Google Docs and spreadsheets, such an approach is inefficient and does not provided all the data needed to perform optimally. One of the key points of any CRM software is that it provides an avenue for workers to both understand the company’s approach towards repeat customers and also empowers them to provide information and thoughts which can contribute to that goal. Take a very simple tool which can turn an angry customer into a loyal one: the discount. Any business must be somewhat concerned about employees being too liberal with discounts to attract customers, but they should be a valuable tool which employees can use without contacting management. A CRM system which works both ways can ensure that an employee can hand out discounts to attract customers, while ensuring that management can make sure the discounts are not excessive.

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The best CRM software

So what are some CRM programs which can help your company? There’s a wide variety of software out there, ranging from BoomTown! for a real estate businesses to bpm‘online. My personal favorite CRM software is Zoho.

Zoho

While Zoho has a premium version, its free version comes with many features that are part of any CRM software. It can gather leads, conduct sales analytics, connect to social media, and store critical information which can help a business make sales. Zoho can be used both with a mobile phone and on the computer, ensuring that all employees are constantly connected to Zoho and communicating with one another. None of this is to suggest that Zoho is without its flaws. It’s ideally designed for a very small company with no more than ten employees. It also lacks customization, which may be a problem for a more tech-savvy business. But for a small business which wants to dip their toes into the water of CRM software before plunging right in, Zoho is the best choice to get in, test the capabilities of CRM software, and see how it can improve communications between management, employees, and workers alike.

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BoomTown!

BoomTown! is one of the few CRM tools out there aimed specifically at real estate brokers, though it has wider applications for other sectors. At its heart, it provides a sales automation and marketing solution that allows brokers to select and customize a lead generation website, monitor sales and team success, nurture and track leads, and much more. But it doesn’t come cheap. The software costs between $1325 and $1500 a month, and what’s more, BoomTown! continues to own the marketing site it is renting to you. That means that if you decide to cancel with them, you will lose it all. This includes any blog posts or community spaces you’ve set up or any content you’ve created. This last point might be a reason some users will stay away from using BoomTown!.

bpm’online

For a cheaper alternative, bpm’online offers a comprehensive CRM solution that has won many awards in recent years, including making it to ZDNet’s 2014 CRM watch list. It describes itself as a process-driven solution that allows you to coordinate your marketing, support service, and sales using its online platform. More importantly, it is aimed at both SME’s and large businesses, allowing to scale your CRM operations with ease. One of the drawbacks, however, is that the community of users for this software is still small, which means finding support is difficult and documentation is lacking. It is also not easy to connect to external services to add functionality to your CRM solution.

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The importance of having a strategy

While these softwares can be incredibly useful, they are only tools, and a poor workman always blames his tools. More than any software, business owners have to lay out a strategy to keep their customers engaged. This strategy requires strong links between both workers and management, so that the workers can let management know the best strategies for satisfying their consumer base and management can make sure all the workers are on the same page for those strategies. In a sense, a sound CRM strategy is microcosm of the business itself. If a business has no real plan to attract customers, or a disjointed plan, it is doomed to fail. Only with constant effort and communication can a CRM strategy be formed — software or no software.

Featured photo credit: CWCS Managed Hosting via flickr.com

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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