If you’re a small business owner, you’re likely managing everything from your financials to your marketing activities--and you're doing it all on a limited budget. While you know that you need a better way to manage your sales prospects, especially during periods of growth, you just aren’t ready to pay for a customer relationship management system to keep in touch with potential and existing customers.
At Software Advice, I help review and compare most of the major CRM systems
on the market. But the truth of the matter is that many of the popular systems on the market can be too expensive for many small business owners. For these small businesses, it may be more effective to take the do-it-yourself (DIY) approach and build your own CRM system.
Building your own CRM system can provide several benefits:
- It's affordable (read: free)
- It's flexible
- It's easy to use and customize
A great tool for building a CRM system on your own is Google Docs. If you have a Gmail account, you already have access to an easy way to build your own CRM software. Already widely used as a management tool, it’s fairly easy to extend the power of these applications to help with customer management. Here’s a quick step-by-step overview of how to do it.
Decide Who Gets Access, and What Information to Include
Google Docs allows all users to collaborate across any document thanks to their sharing and editing features. So, if one person changes a contact's information, it automatically syncs across the system. This allows all document collaborators to see the change immediately. Beyond that, you can monitor user privileges to ensure that all users have access to the right information.
Once you decide who will be able to access and update data in your CRM system, you'll need to create a Google Spreadsheet. After that, it's time to determine what information you want to track about sales prospects in your spreadsheet. A few pieces of information that are a good idea to track include:
- Demographics - Company name, contact name, email, phone number, etc.
- Prospect source - How the prospect found out about your company
- Next actions - A code that determines how you’ll follow (e.g. phone call or email)
- Contact log - Notes from every contact you make with the prospect
- Estimated opportunity size - An estimate of the size of the sale
- Lead nurturing stage - A numbered system that shows how close the prospect is to purchasing (1 = aware but not interested; 4 = has purchased)
Keep in mind that this is just a starter list and you’ll likely want to record other information that’s specific to your business. So feel free to add any field that's relevant to your company. If after a while you realize that you want to track more information, it’s fairly easy to add a new field.
Learn How to Manipulate the Data with Spreadsheet Functions
One nice thing about using a Google Spreadsheet is that there are easy sort features that allow you to sort by any field you like. If you only want to look at contacts with the biggest opportunity size, just sort by “estimating opportunity size” and you can view your largest sales prospects from largest potential sales to smallest.
Or, maybe you’re interested in looking at the number of companies that are in the very beginning of the lead nurturing stage. You’ve already coded all entries that are in this stage of the buying process with a 1, but you don’t know how many of your contacts are at that phase. To figure this out, you can use a simple function known as a “countif()”. It works like this:
- Determine the cell range you want to count sales prospects for (let’s say it’s cells C2 to C100)
- Decide the criteria for counting each cell (in this case it's a “1”)
To count all your prospects that are at the beginning of the sales cycle, you can use the formula in cell C101: '=countif(C2:C100, “1”)'. This will give you the total number of contacts that are at phase one in the buying process. Of course there are a whole host of other functions that you can use to manipulate that data, but you get the idea. For a comprehensive list of spreadsheet functions that will work in a Google Spreadsheet, check out Google’s help page.
With this method, you can start tracking their sales prospects in an efficient and paperless manner. And you can do it for free. As a bonus, you’ll also be able to access this data from anywhere with an Internet connection, because information in Google Docs is stored in the Cloud.
Do you have any other DIY tips on creating a CRM system? Leave us a comment below.