The CRM You Use is the One You Love

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After working with a string of dreadful non-intuitive CRM applications, young entrepreneur Tara Berthier, President of Speakers Boutique, recently discovered Zoho CRM, the first CRM application she actually loves using every single day.

The business

For her six years out of college, Tara Berthier (@tberthier) has worked at a string of speakers agencies, Speakers Spotlight and the National Speakers Bureau. Just a year ago she started TLB Talent and last month she launched Speakers Boutique, a speakers agency with offices in Toronto and Halifax, Ontario Canada.

A troublesome history with CRM applications

Berthier was introduced to CRM applications right out of college. They were a must for any speakers agency that not only have to manage talent, but also customers and prospective customers.

First job out of school was at the National Speakers Bureau where they used a CRM application called Maximizer. It was Berthier’s first ever experience with CRM. She had never been exposed to CRM or even know it was called CRM. Regardless, she found Maximizer to be not user friendly and a little complicated.

Her next job was with Speakers Spotlight, and they used ACT! for which Berthier referred to as “the worst.” She complained that it was slow, complicated, and was loaded with useless features. Her greatest aggravation was how cumbersome it was to complete the simplest tasks. For example, with ACT! there was no way to move a large amount of tasks forward in the calendar, said Berthier. You had to manually move them one by one. She faced this tiresome task every time she came back from vacation and faced a series of assigned tasks whose dates had passed. Her first day back at the office from a vacation was spent manually rescheduling her tasks.

After learning the business from two established companies, it was time for Berthier to break out on her own. She started her own company, TLB Talent, for which she used Google Docs, an application she loved. Being that she was a young entrepreneur with loan debt, she began searching for free CRMs that would work with Google Docs. She stumbled across Insightly and decided to give it a try. Given her past experience with Maximizer and ACT! she didn’t have high expectations for any CRM application.

Unfortunately, Berthier wasn’t disappointed. She found Insightly to be just as frustrating as the previous CRM applications. She felt it was a dinosaur when it came to graphics and it was slow and non-intuitive. But since she was a young entrepreneur with poor cash flow she felt at the time it was worth it to slog through this application and get out of it what she could.

How discovered Zoho

After months of frustration with Insightly, Berthier had enough. She started searching for another Google App friendly CRM application and stumbled across Zoho.

“I decided to try Zoho and it was night and day,” said Berthier. “It’s cleaner. It’s fast. When I’m using it, it just makes sense.”

With all the previous CRM applications she found herself looking things up constantly on Google, calling support, or asking colleagues how to do certain tasks.

“With Zoho it’s almost as though it reads my mind. It’s so user friendly and intuitive,” she said citing the ease of importing all her contacts from Insightly into Zoho. It was a task she admitted she was dreading yet was happily surprised when everything came in perfectly, without a hitch.

A CRM application is only valuable if you use it

With only a couple of months of Zoho experience under her belt, Berthier is using the CRM application for its most basic uses. She puts in potential leads and logs all her communications. If she doesn’t hear back from someone she puts a task to follow up with them in a week.

“When I had Insightly I didn’t want to use it,” Berthier complained.

Prior to Zoho Berthier admitted she had poor organization with all her communications simply because she wasn’t actually inputting data into the CRM. “Those things were incredibly disorganized at my last company because I dreaded using the application,” she said.

Berthier became so discouraged with Insightly that she just avoided using it. As a result she found herself going through 800 emails just to try to figure out what her last communications was with a specific contact.

Zoho turned that all around. She actually likes using the application.

“Now, I go to my office and [Zoho] is the second thing I open after my email. It’s made me a more efficient worker. Much more organized. I feel much more in control with my work and my ability to be a good agent,” she said.

Advice for others 

Berthier used to look at CRM as being a necessary evil. She knew she had to have one for her company, but she also realized that you have to use it for it to serve its function.

“It’s a pain in the ass to have to log all your communications,” said Berthier. “But it’s essential to keeping organized and motivated and knowing what your next day is going to look like and being on top of things.”

Her advice for others is to “find a CRM that’s easy to use and doesn’t make you depressed by the site of it.”

“My [first] business would have looked a lot different if I had found Zoho,” said Berthier. “I would have done more work. I would have definitely reached out to more people. I would have felt more confident with my abilities as an agent instead of scrambling every day and feeling disorganized and just discouraged overall.”

We’re glad that Tara isn’t disorganized anymore.

As a side note, I thought you’d be amused that we discovered Berchier through a tweet, in which she announced:

With praise like that, we had to talk with her.

Listen to our full 15 minute conversation here on Soundcloud.

Has Your CRM Application Changed Your Life?

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After undergoing an exhaustive search of CRM applications, Deborah Morelli, Account Executive for Interbank Mortgage Company landed on one CRM tool that has changed her life and she’s vowed to take it wherever she goes.

Business:

On a daily basis, Deborah Morelli, Account Executive for Interbank Mortgage Company, must manage 40 to 50 accounts with mortgage brokers across 20 states while also looking through 200 to 2000 different leads.

The Challenge:

Morelli used to manage all her accounts through Outlook. It was a mess. She forgot people’s names, couldn’t discern key contacts within a group, and she forgot to return phone calls.

“Keeping track of them within Outlook just doesn’t work for me,” said Morelli. “I found myself disorganized, losing business, not servicing my clients very well, and I was just desperate.”

Competitive analysis of CRM:

Morelli wanted to be more organized so she started to do some research on CRM. She wanted an application to look nice, be configurable to the way she wanted to work, and be interactive.

“If I put information in to tell it to talk to me, I want it to talk to me,” said Morelli.

Night after night she pulled up her iPhone and researched different CRM applications. When she saw one she liked she gave it a try. Sometimes she would sign up for the 30 day trial and after she realized she didn’t like it she would cancel the subscription.

Morelli would discover a variety of reasons for the CRM application to disappoint her. Either it didn’t do what it said it would do, was ugly, or it didn’t let her make many changes.

Morelli looked at somewhere between 35-50 different CRM applications. She was frustrated by all of them until she discovered Zoho. What she liked that about Zoho was the lack of limitations. It could work for anyone in any industry.

“The criteria you can set up, it’s unlimited. It’s all within your imagination actually,” Morelli said. “I feel this is my little buddy here. Without it there’s no me.”

With all her research, Morelli set a limit of $125 per month she would spend on a CRM application. That wasn’t a problem when it came to Zoho.

“The price point for Zoho is amazing,” she said.

Unique use case of Zoho CRM:

Every day Morelli’s in her office looking at 40-50 accounts and 200-2000 leads in Zoho. She needs to know who’s active, who’s inactive, and who she needs to call. Then she has to know if there are any leads. Which ones are the good leads and which ones are the dead ones.

Deborah Morelli proudly flaunts her Zoho desktop

From her first initial setup five years ago, which took her only 20 minutes, Zoho has become a standard part of her workflow as she’s in the application every single day. One extra feature Morelli likes is the ability to have links within Zoho that let her pop into other sites without having to leave Zoho.

As Morelli did most of her CRM research on an iPhone, she is also dependent on using her CRM via her iPhone.

“I can be on my iPhone and open Zoho and it’s just as good as the one I have on my desktop,” said Morelli. “A lot of these CRMs it’s one or the other.”

Zoho goes where I go

Morelli is an unabashed Zoholic saying, “I’m not able to function without it.”

“If I change jobs I’ve decided I’m going to have Zoho a part of my life forever. Because life is business and business is life,” said Morelli who will soon be adding personal to do items as well to Zoho. “Everyone needs some type of CRM.”

“By keeping up with your CRM you’re helping your clients make money and then you make money,” she said.

For those still not sure, Morelli advised you not frustrate yourself and waste your time trying to manage your business through Outlook.

“Outlook doesn’t work for me anymore. I don’t know who it works for. It’s outdated,” she said.

Instead Morelli suggests you try Zoho for one month and you’ll see improvement in your business life which will lead to your personal life.

Listen to my full interview with Morelli on Soundcloud.

A Proper CRM Tool is Necessary to Create a Sales-Based Company

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To build a fast growing company like SpamExperts, CMO Nils Decker needed a CRM tool that converted his technology-only company into a sales-driven company.

Business

Back in 2005, two university friends of Nils Decker launched SpamExperts, a company that had built a new technology for filtering out spam.

While they had a great technology, they had no plans to build revenue as they didn’t know who their customers should be. That’s why the founders asked Nils Decker to join their company as CMO to determine who they should be their target market. By 2008, SpamExperts had found their niche: ISPs and webhosting providers.

Challenge

Decker’s challenge was to turn this technology into a company that was driven by sales. To do that he would need customers. To get customers he would need prospects. To convert prospects to customers would require management of that relationship. At the beginning, all Decker had to manage contacts was a spreadsheet. It didn’t take long before he realized a spreadsheet is useless when you want to follow up and keep track of people.

We need CRM…stat

Decker knew he needed a CRM solution, but didn’t know which one. He started with an open source solution, Vtiger, which “sort of” worked, said Decker. He complained it wasn’t smooth, was hard to define workflows, and most importantly there was no support. There was no one to call if he had a question.

Analysis of a new CRM application quickly turned towards more professional solutions. Decker and his team isolated the competition to just Salesforce and Zoho.

Criteria for CRM solution

The SpamExperts team took a look at the CRM applications based on Decker’s criteria:

  • Wanted a cloud-based solution
  • Great support
  • Integration with Google Apps
  • Calendar integration
  • Easy mobile access
  • Cost

While many CRM applications were cloud-based, it really came down to great support, integration with Google Apps, and easy mobile access. The final criteria, cost, is what ultimately got Decker to choose Zoho CRM for his company.

Unique Use Case of Zoho:

While they toyed with other CRM applications, they are finally rolling with Zoho CRM as of one year ago.

Decker admits he’s not yet an advanced user as he’s mostly using the application for its most basic needs: calendaring plus interactions with potential and current customers.

To evolve from just a technology provider to a commercial email security vendor, the sales staff was forced to adopt a commercial CRM solution, and Decker is very pleased with the results.

“Business results from Zoho CRM, things have become a lot faster,” said Decker. “It has made our sales cycle significantly shorter. I would estimate between 30 to 40 percent.”

Advice for others

“If you want to grow as a business you have to outsource certain services. And having an Excel spreadsheet is not a professional way of dealing with your customers,” said Decker of others trying to grow a startup like he did with SpamExperts.

As soon as you start making money with those customers a spreadsheet can’t accurately track what’s going on, like how big a certain account is for you, said Decker.

“Zoho CRM will simplify your business processes, give you much shorter lead times, and actually allow you to grow your sales team,” Decker said. “Out of my 10 hour workday, I use Zoho CRM about 8 hours nonstop. It will really make it a lot easier for you to create a proper sales organization rather than just having a technology focus, or product focus, or development focus.”

Listen to my entire interview with Decker on Soundcloud.

How it started: Nils reached us through our Facebook Page with a question. Here’s what he said:

Running Multiple Businesses on One CRM Platform

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Young Eric Hans Shaefer organizes the bits of his very busy life and businesses all together on one single instance of Zoho CRM.

The Business

At 23, Eric Hans Shaefer has already become quite an impressive Renaissance man and entrepreneur. He runs a series of successful businesses including a luxury rental service in Hawaii, an online video prayer site, and a web development company. On top of all those entrepreneurial ventures, he is a Christian artist that has worked as a standup comedian, actor, and musician that tours across the U.S. and the world. He used to manage all his life and businesses with a multitude of tools and a very scattered brain. Now he just uses Zoho CRM.

The Challenge:

Shaefer started his luxury rental business with very little organization. While he scheduled lots of online advertising, he really didn’t have a system to manage the calls, the contact information, or payment processing. Realization hit him when the calls started flooding in and the information was being left on scraps of paper and digital files everywhere.

How discovered Zoho:

A woman who ran a companion tour company in Hawaii introduced him to Zoho. It was at this point he realized that this was the tool he could use to could organize all the elements of his multiple businesses and his creative pursuits. He immediately started using it and got ramped up in just a couple of months.

“Being able to use Zoho to help me out with my business has helped me fund my passion,” said Shaefer. “What I have found is that when I have so many different things managed in one spot I get a lot more productive.”

Competitive analysis of CRM:

It really took just that introduction from a friend to be sold on Zoho. Shaefer had used other such information organization type applications, such as Evernote, but they didn’t have the organization by person that Shaefer needed. They simply didn’t have the focus Zoho had, said Shaefer.

Unique use case of Zoho CRM:

What’s so unusual about how Shaefer uses Zoho is how it manages his many different businesses and his creative pursuits. For each business and his tour schedule, he’s divided all the information into tabs.

Zoho has also become an information repository for Shaefer. He grabs screenshots and PDFs that he thinks would be valuable to his customers, tourists. He includes images so often in his use of Zoho that he would like a drag and drop feature with Zoho and see the pictures in line with the contact instead of having to download attachments.

Shaefer also wants greater management of his phone calls, especially as he’s taking many of his calls via his Android phone and he uses Zoho CRM on his Android phone. Zoho does have a Log a Call feature and there are plugins such as Ringio that offer similar services.

Advice for others: 

For someone who was in his same situation as he was, Shaefer recommends Zoho for the following reasons:

  • You can customize it to whatever you do and however many businesses you have. Even likes you can actually customize the colors and look of the application.
  • Zoho has great customer service. You can actually talk to the people if you have a question or problem.
  • The Zoho fellowship and community is growing making it valuable for everyone.

If you’re not using a CRM application such as Zoho, you’re losing money, said Shaefer.

“I was personally losing money because I was not having everything kept track of. I would call these places and not have the right dates and the right names of people,” Shaefer said. “I had credit card information strewn throughout my house.”

Now that’s no longer the case as he accesses Zoho from any device – his computer, iPad, and phone – and all the information is in one application online.

For more, listen to my full 16 minute interview with Shaefer.

Zoho Assist: Remote IT Support Made Simpler

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Steven Arant works in IT desktop support at Mecklenburg County officeNorth Carolina. His everyday job involves providing IT support to his fellow staff. Before discovering Zoho, he wasted a lot of time physically running around the office to address various support issues.

According to Steven, not using any kind of remote support application made his daily job very difficult. Not only were his time and energy wasted, but his fellow employees also had to wait for him to come and assist them. Steven was determined to change this into a more pleasant and less wasteful IT support experience.

​Well, this was history, as one day, one simple Google search for remote support services landed him on Zoho Assist. He found out that just by entering his fellow employee’s email address and inviting them for a remote support session was more than enough to get on to their computer screen. He was thrilled with the instant connect to the remote screen and this helped him to resolve the issues much more faster.

Let’s hear his success story in his own words.

Within 20 seconds I can be on their PC working on their problem. Since I have a email listing saved on my desktop all I have to do is copy and paste their email into Zoho Assist and hit invite to session. My fellow employees can get instant help. I can also help contract employees at remote areas now without them having to come into our office for help.

To cite one recent case, an outside contract attorney needed help from his office opening and viewing discovery on a case. The DVD had a video player that was VERY difficult to install and operate. He would have had to come into our office to watch his video but I was able to fix it remotely. He was so happy since his trial was going to start the next day!

My coworkers call it computer magic. That’s how I feel about it too. Its taken our old outdated office into a new era of productivity. I paid a $115 a year for Zoho and its worth every penny to me. I paid out of my own pocket because I wanted to provide better service to the people I support and Zoho allows me to do it.

If you have your own share of experience with Zoho Assist helping your business scenario, easing your job of supporting your customers remotely, do let us know. If you are one of those who haven’t tried Zoho Assist yet, well, it’s high time you try your hand! You can get an idea on why Steven is so excited about Zoho Assist.

Happy Supporting!

The Technical and Human Hurdles of a New CRM Implementation

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It took Jamie Wilson, Coordinator of Global Operations for Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium (CDISC) six months to evaluate all the CRM systems the nonprofit was considering. He looked at Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Siebel from Oracle, and Zoho. His top requirement was a CRM system that could offer tight integration between financials and billing.

Initially Wilson began advocating Microsoft Dynamics because it integrated with Sharepoint and Microsoft offered a decent nonprofit pricing scheme. But when Wilson made his final decision he advocated for Zoho because of its interoperability with other applications through its open API. CDISC uses so many different systems and Wilson discovered that a lot of them integrate with the Zoho API right out of the box.

Choosing a system that fit CDISC’s needs was Wilson’s first technical hurdle. Now he needed to get people to actually use the CRM system which was a major culture shift for the nonprofit. Just because you create the workflow processes it’s not easy to get people to stop inefficient behavior such as sending all communications via email and attaching documents to emails. Ultimately his job required a lot of follow up with members and leads on how to use a workflow to make their life a lot easier.

For any other nonprofit struggling with a similar situation of porting over legacy financial data, Wilson highly recommends you get your financial data in the most standard format possible and get ready for a long cutover period. You’ll have to rely on old Excel spreadsheets for a while until you can start relying on the live CRM data coming in.

For both technology and people, Wilson advised, “Don’t rush the money and be sensitive to people’s attitudes to how they do work.”

Good CRM Requires a Standard Data Input Methodology

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Before the vacation rental management company Optimal Owner Care started using Zoho, they tried to grow their database by purchasing a bulk set of leads and dialing them through a piece of rudimentary client management software that wasn’t sustainable nor expandable, said Matthew Velez and his colleague from Optimal Owner Care.

Since switching to Zoho, business has changed dramatically. The company has grown from ten employees to sixty. To get a handle on what was happening with the sales team they had to normalize the data protocols and the 70,000 leads they’ve processed, explained Velez.

If everyone is doing their own thing when entering data into the CRM, that’s a real problem. You can’t generate reports. It’s very important that everyone follows the same protocols.

Optimal Owner Care’s most valuable reports are their sales reports. They can see how efficient sales people are being and use that information to optimize the workflow. They also utilize a dashboard so that each sales person can see the exact dollar amount they’re making based on every single action they take and that motivates them to do more, Velez said.

Without Zoho there’s no way they could have pulled this off with their growing staff.

For other organizations dealing with a mountain of growing data, they highly advise to stay organized. Create data entry protocols from the start and stick to them. If you keep constantly changing procedures you’ll create gaps and lose data. It’s the only way to create a sustainable and growable sales force.