When it comes to prospecting and marketing, Bill Good is the master.  He prospected me until I had a one inch thick file of Bill Good letters; and he had me sold.  Bill Good taught me and mentored me to master my own unique system of prospecting.  I have no doubt Hot Prospects will help you live and finish rich -- it certainly has helped me.  Find what you like and apply it today!        -- David Bach # 1 New York Times bestselling author of The Automatic Millionaire and Start Late, Finish Rich Small Business: Success With Customer Relationship Management

Most anything you read about "Customer Relationship Management" (CRM) will quickly gravitate to software solutions. In that discussion, you will quickly learn that the major players, such as Seibel® (Oracle®), SAP®, PeopleSoft®, and others cater to massive companies with huge IT departments, writers, designers, trainers, project management teams and more support staff than your company will ever have. And yet, you as a small business owner, need a CRM.

If anything, small businesses need a CRM even more than the big guys. You, after all, have to compete.

What is Customer Relationship Management?

Here are two definitions:

Wikipedia®: Customer relationship management (CRM) is a term applied to processes implemented by a company to handle their contact with their customers. CRM software is used to support these processes, storing information on customers and prospective customers. Information in the system can be accessed and entered by employees in different departments, such as sales, marketing, customer service, training, professional development, performance management, human resource development, and compensation. Details on any customer contacts can also be stored in the system.

Whatis.com®: CRM (customer relationship management) is an information industry term for methodologies, software, and usually Internet capabilities that help an enterprise manage customer relationships in an organized way. For example, an enterprise might build a database about its customers that described relationships in sufficient detail so that management, salespeople, people providing service, and perhaps the customer directly could access information, match customer needs with product plans and offerings, remind customers of service requirements, know what other products a customer had purchased, and so forth.

Note: in both cases, CRM is a process anchored in software but is a lot more than a software solution.

CRM Decisions: Make the Right Decisions Correctly or Get a Data Mess

For the small business, four functions must be addressed by CRM.

1. Software Solution. Here are just a few of the decisions you should consider.

a. Does the program come with a suggested data classification system that can be adapted to your company, or do you need to develop one?

b. Do you want the CRM web enabled, or do you want to control your own data?

c. How do you want to communicate with people in your database—phone, letter, email, or even fax? Web-enabled solutions can easily blast out the emails, but the research we have done suggests that sending one letter, or thousands is a problem. For security and bandwidth reasons, web-based CRMs require you to download a file and then separately merge that file with a letter or fax, generally using the mail merge wizard in Microsoft® Word. This wizard most certainly does not facilitate "sales force automation." If you want to get out a stored proposal cover letter, your best bet is just to hand-type it.

d. Will it easily automate common business processes? Examples are: process a referral, send info to a "red cherry" prospect (you need to read my book if you just went "Huh?"), keep track of a client or prospect who cannot make a decision now but might later, welcome a new client into your business.

e. Send letters, faxes, and emails to clients, prospects, and mass mail lists.

f. Can you easily throw together campaigns using common styles (mail only, mail-phone, phone-mail-phone, web drive)? Another"Huh?" Buy Hot Prospects. Read it.

2. Client Marketing Solution. Any client marketing solution must address these issues:

a. Retention strategy. You have heard it said 10,000 times: it costs five times as much to get a new client as it does to retain an existing client.

b. Business now. For many small businesses, survival depends on repeat business. This is a strategy to ensure you dominate your clients' attention.

c. Future Business. Some businesses sell products that last for years. Because of the long product life-cycle, they tend not to bother with looking for that future business. Automobiles are one example. When was the last time you heard from your car salesman, or even the dealership, except to tell you to come in for your 25,000-mile check?

3. New Client Solution. My book is about the process of developing new clients but without the software solution. I assumed in my book that you have some kind of CRM. For some sales people, that may sadly still be a card-file, hardly adequate today.

At a minimum, you will need these processes:

a. Process A, B, C, and D prospects. (Read the book.)

b. Support a Relationship Marketing Strategy. This strategy includes processes to develop referral business, interact with strategic partners, get introductions to prospects who "look just like your best clients," and develop your business contacts and social connections.

4. Staff Support. In Chapter 3 of Hot Prospects, I detail why sales people should not prospect. Obviously, someone has to do it. Someone also has to do the computer operations and the service. So your software solution needs to address the issue of team coordination. You need:

a. Ability to assign tasks to team members and then be able to verify they have been done.

b. Easily track emails to and from support staff to clients and prospects.

c. Ability to re-assign tasks from a departing team member to another.

Here is something to think about: What if you were to treat the prospects you get from reading Hot Prospects as clients? They would become clients. I know that for a fact. So a CRM should really be called a CPRM—Client and Prospect Relationship Management.