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Considering choosing and implementing a CRM for your small business? Read this case study to learn how Bean Ninjas went about it. 

With a CRM for small businesses, there are promises to convert more leads through a process developed over many sales practice years. 

You may have searched the market for the best available technologies, but found existing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions lacking. 

This case study considers how the Bean Ninjas implemented a CRM to supercharge our sales and support service. 

You’ll see how the CRM has been successfully used to turn more leads into revenue. It can optimize your sales workflow, capture each lead, keep a growing pipeline, and integrate all your essential sales tools. 

In this article we cover:

Considering choosing and implementing a CRM for your small business? Read this case study to learn how @BeanNinjas went about it using @close. Click To Tweet

Why implement a new CRM? What problems were we trying to solve? 

There were two fundamental problems we wanted to solve by implementing a CRM for small business:

  1. Increase our rate of converting leads to sales by removing friction from the process for our sales team
  2. Reduce the time spent by sales admin on tasks that could be automated.

The Before Picture: How were we managing our leads and sales workflow before?

We use several tools throughout our sales workflow, and this hasn’t changed since implementing the CRM.

We still receive enquiries via several methods, use Calendly for scheduling, have Zoom calls, and send proposals via Better Proposals

Our primary sales process challenge was that the tool we were using as a CRM (Wrike) didn’t have email integration.

Therefore, each step in the process was manual. For example, when sending a follow-up email to a prospect, document in Wrike in a relevant way.

This problem was due to Wrike being a powerful and flexible project management tool, but not specifically designed as a CRM.

If your project management tool isn't designed with sales workflows in mind, it's probably adding a tonne of manual admin time. It may be time to implement a CRM solution. Click To Tweet
Photo by visuals on Unsplash

How we approached implementing a new CRM and an improved sales process for our small business

1. Plan the project

Metrics of success 

  • implementation taking less than two months
  • easier tracking of customers 
  • higher conversion rates

Resources required 

  • Mainly time from project manager Anfernee 
  • Also my time in being involved in the strategy and helping with the project
  • Getting our sales team members up to speed

Screenshot of our CRM project tasks inside of Wrike project management tool
Screenshot of our CRM project tasks inside of Wrike project management tool

2. Where does the CRM fit within our sales workflow? Getting clear on the CRM requirements.

Implementing a CRM for small business can produce a superior sales workflow and process. It’s tempting to jump straight into selecting the software, but you need first to understand the data and procedures in your current system. 

You want to ensure no loss of valuable contact data or notes on customer and client accounts during the transition to a new system. There is useful information here for many departments, including service delivery, sales, and marketing. 

Understanding the current sales workflow and mapping out the process

CRM project lead Anfernee took the following steps to achieve this:

  1. Review the website user flow from the perspective of a new customer. 
  2. Consult our sales team to understand how the sales process worked and where they felt improvements could be.
  3. Create a visual process map of the entire sales process. 

By working through this process, we identified some necessary actions and requirements:

  • Update the Enquiry form on our website to include an eCommerce specific option. We decided to do this as we’re specialising in bookkeeping for 6-figure+ eCommerce businesses and therefore need a way to funnel those leads to our eCommerce specialist. 
  • Once a lead submits an inquiry form, immediately direct them to book a discovery call in their local Timezone with the appropriate salesperson. Thus increasing the signup rate for discovery call bookings, something we had challenges with previously. If leads don’t book their call immediately, our sales team/sales admin needs to spend time chasing people.  
  • Automatically send all-new lead info into the CRM, where the salesperson can then track and follow up with the lead in a timely fashion. Automating this function removes manual work for our sales admin. 
  • If the lead doesn’t book a call, make it easy to send follow up emails using Close’s time-saving email templates function.
  • Once the salesperson has sent a proposal or quote, they should have an easy way to follow up with the prospect until the deal is won or lost. 
Screenshot of our finalized visual map of the BN sales workflow

Picking the right CRM 

We wanted the CRM software to:

  • Be easy to implement compared to something like Hubspot. 
  • Be integrated easily with our email system (Drip)
  • Have the ability to produce good reporting, and reduce the time it was taking our sales admin to create our weekly sales reports 

We also needed to decide on a budget for the software and ensure that whichever software we went with that it could present a measurable ROI within a few months of implementing it. 

Close seemed like a good option, and several of our team members had liked the content that Close founder Steli Efti and his team had been putting out online. So we signed up for a trial. 

The more significant piece of the project was integrating the new CRM for small business tool into our existing sales workflow. 

Why didn’t we move straight to an advanced CRM tool or a system like Hubspot?

The key reasons were:

  • Close solved our two most significant pain points (noted at the top of this article)
  • Ability to pay month to month, which is better for our cash flow. Besides, we could always upgrade down the track if we have the desire to.
  • Faster to implement with less complexity. Hubspot has marketing built in too, and it seemed like too big a project to launch into right now.

Implementing the CRM and changing our sales workflow 

When implementing a significant process improvement project like this, it’s good to break down the entire sales workflow into its components. By breaking down our workflow in this way, we could evaluate whether there were opportunities to tweak or improve each part. 

Discovery calls 

Discovery calls with prospective customers are a critical part of our sales process and have been for several years. They allow our sales team to jump onto a call with someone who has expressed interest in our services and better understand their business and what they want to achieve. 

When Bean Ninjas launched over five years ago, we initially directed prospects to a buy button on our sales page. We quickly changed our process to include a discovery call to provide a better experience for our customers and learn more about them.

“The discovery call enabled us to understand what each founder’s goals and pain points were and then put the right bookkeeping plan in place to help with that.” – Meryl Johnston, CEO

“‘The discovery calls are critical to us because they’re a unique place for us to share our industry expertise, to begin to build trust with our customers, and create a connection. So that they (the customer) differentiate us over and above any of the other providers that they may have reached out to.”  – Wayne Richard, COO

Once the prospect books the call, we share a link to view a short video that explains what they can expect on the call.

Screenshot of our Discovery call intro video

Follow-ups

One of the key outcomes we wanted to see from this project was a decrease in the increase in average lead follow-up time for our sales team in the following scenarios:

  • Enquiry form submitted on the website but discovery call not booked, and 
  • The proposal was received but wasn’t signed. 

That way, the customers are getting a reply in a shorter amount of time.

We also wanted to make it easier for our sales team to send follow up emails to leads.

So we identified critical milestones throughout our sales workflow where quick follow-ups were needed.

At first, we were excited to implement follow-ups using Close’s automated email sequence functionality, but then we realized there could be issues with enabling automated follow-ups. 

For example, we wanted to avoid a situation where a lead booked a discovery call and then received an automated email to book a discovery call (which could annoy them). We weren’t confident in having no unnecessary automated emails slip through the cracks, so we decided to send manual follow-ups.

To streamline the process, we created email templates using Close’s email templates functionality. The templates would make it easy for our sales team to send off follow-up emails.

(Source: Close.com)

Sales Proposals 

Assuming that both the salesperson and prospect feel that there’s a good fit at the end of the discovery call, we’ll move forward with sending a proposal. 

Here’s COO Wayne Richard’s thought process on writing good proposals and why we prepare them:  

“A proposal ultimately is a way for us to communicate our solution to the pain point in the problem that our customer has asked us to solve. It helps define expectations. 

It also serves as an opportunity to present our credentials, share some of our victories (like being awarded Xero Bookkeeping Partner of the Year), and share customer success stories.

I think the best service engagements have set upfront, clear expectations on the service provider’s side and the customer’s side. It also details out clearly what the investment is.

Better Proposals has been a fantastic tool for us because it adds professionalism throughout our communications and allows us to track and monitor our deals’ progress.”

Related: Automating Sales Processes and Closing More Deals With Adam Hempenstall of Better Proposals 

Why we decided against introducing a standard 2-call discovery process

Ever been in a situation where a significant number of your sales calls are with unqualified people? 

Well, we sure have. One potential solution to address this problem is to implement a 2-call sales process. 

A 2-call sales process typically looks like this:

  1. Call #1: an initial 10-15 min “get to know you” call where both parties get a feel for each other and whether they’d be an excellent fit to proceed with a more extended discovery call. This call is a low-risk first step for both parties. We’ve also heard this first call referred to as a “triage call” by marketing coach Taki Moore
  2. Call #2: a longer call where you get deeper into understanding the business, the challenges, and whether or not you’re the right person to solve the problem. If there’s a good fit, you’d move to an offer or proposal stage.

Here’s Taki Moore explaining the benefit of the triage call:

At one point, we were debating the possibility of implementing a standard 2-call discovery process at Bean Ninjas. The sales team decided not to move forward with a change in our discovery call process. 

Wayne Richard shares more about this decision here:

“What we had looked into was the effectiveness of our current 1-call discovery process. Based upon the over 80% conversion rate after proposals were submitted, I’m just hesitant to change the flow. 

Right now, I think the proposal that we’ve designed is quite clear, and through the initial call and the follow-up with the request, we offer customers a brief chat to discuss any issues that might keep them from signing the proposal. 

That tends to just simply remind people to go ahead and sign it, rather than having them sign on for another call. 

I think part of it is because it’s not a service offering that people buy on a whim. They’ve typically reached either a frustration point, a clear understanding of the value proposition that we provide in saving them time, and ensuring that enhanced expertise around this particular service offering. 

At this point, I’m still open to exploring it in the future, but I need to see a more significant gap in our percentage closed figure for deals with sent proposals.”

The transition from sales to onboarding 

When a prospect moves to be a client, they enter our onboarding process. 

So some data needs to be kept in Close while other information needs to be transferred to our workflow management tool Wrike.

A client offers data during the sales process, and this data should be captured and transferred to the delivery team. This transfer ensures that we deliver on what has been promised to the client by the sales team. 

Failing to provide the right information at the right time can cause confusion, bottlenecks, and massive frustration (for both the client and internally).  

Related: How To Write Standard Operating Procedures that Actually Improve Training and Service Delivery

Sales Reporting 

If you want to monitor your sales team’s performance, plan sales strategies, and forecast sales insights, you’ll turn to sales reporting. 

Sales reports provide a snapshot into who your customers are, where your leads come from, what inspires prospects to buy, and your closing rate. 

If a sales manager wants to keep track of different sales activities while minding targets and goals, they will use reports. 

Before implementing Close, our weekly sales reporting was a laborious manual process.

Say hello to our Sales Pipeline! 

Wait, what’s a sales pipeline? 

Here’s how Close defines it

A sales pipeline is built from the perspective of your reps. Your pipeline is a clear overview of how many open deals your team has on the table, and gives reps a clear path to push that deal towards a sale. It’s modeled after the different stages in your sales process but focuses on the actions representatives take to cultivate and sell to new leads.

By building stages around rep actions rather than the condition of the lead, a sales pipeline shows your team what steps they need to take to get leads through the different stages and convert them to customers.”

What’s the difference between a sales funnel and a sales pipeline?

Close’s Phil Gamache goes on to explain:

Our team LOVE the drag and drop functionality and visual pipeline!

Source: Close

The before picture – a time-consuming manual sales reporting process

We had a specific workflow we wanted to use to generate our reports and benefit from their insights. 

Previously, our sales admin would look at new leads through Helpscout. Every lead was entered into a separate spreadsheet. There were notifications to cross-check, and a few calendars to juggle. 

There were assumptions about whether calls were placed, and the bit of guesswork was a real pain point. Without a real and concrete way of knowing whether a call was booked or completed, leads would come through as tricky to track and even harder to follow up. 

We counted at least four different tools that needed to be accessed to generate the weekly sales report, and this took our sales admin at least an hour each week.

We used Better Proposals to see if deals were signed or a movement from prior weeks. Unfortunately, “Deals Lost” information wasn’t as current as “Deals Won” information for completed proposals. So that was another challenge for our reporting.

The after picture – what sales reporting looks like using Close CRM

Whilst we can’t share screenshots of our confidential sales reporting data, here are some sample images from Close’s website to give you an idea of how reports look in their tool.

Activity overview report (source: Close)
Opportunities report (source: Close)

Other things we had to do as part of the implementation

Import data into Close

So that we could keep track of both the deals currently in our sales pipeline and follow up with past leads that might be a good fit to work with us now, it was essential to import the following data into the new CRM:

  • Open proposals in Better Proposals that hadn’t yet been signed 
  • Closed proposals in Better Proposals that we want to follow up in the future 
  • Previously exited clients that we wanted to follow up with 
  • Past leads to follow up with 

Handover from sales to onboarding

We also needed to make sure that our process was updated so that:

  • Our sales team would pass on any necessary information to the onboarding team when a new client came on board. This is still a work in progress.
  • Our onboarding team had access to Close to review sales call notes. This is still a work in progress.

From a customer experience perspective, this is important so that new clients get a seamless onboarding experience. Nobody wants to have to repeat the same information to multiple people in the same company. 

Why didn’t we do this CRM implementation sooner? 

There were indications that an upgrade might be in order, but our sales team couldn’t demonstrate the new software’s return. 

Though we did have an attempt to move into a CRM through PipeDrive to solve reporting issues, we found we saved very little time while generating reports than we did with Wrike. 

When using Wrike as a CRM we had the issue of having to duplicate data manually from emails into Wrike.

Close does something the other tools didn’t impress us with:

“The real benefit of Close is less about sales admin time and more about closing more deals. Because Close makes it very easy to stay in touch with customers and for Sales to manage their pipeline without needing a sales admin, we can now go into Close and see all the leads in a broad view.” – CEO Meryl Johnston

The other important feature of Bean Ninja’s decision to move to Close was that sales administration would no longer need to do a lot of manual recreation to get reports and generate the dashboard view preferred. 

PipeDrive couldn’t solve these issues when we tested it, and we still had to do something manually to get the reporting desired. 

The truth is that if we had gone in with more precise criteria for a CRM and an understanding of our pain points, we would have found Close sooner. 

The End Results – Feedback from our Sales Team

What has been the most significant benefit of implementing a new CRM and sales process?

Here’s what our sales team had to say:

“I love the ease of access and consolidated view of prior touchpoints and timelines with each lead as well as the quick ability to use templated emails to connect or follow up. As a salesperson, it’s great to have only one tool to refer to and go through the actions of following up and staying on top of leads.”Wayne Richard, Customer Success

“The biggest win for me is the cut-down in labor time of setting up leads in our task management system (not designed for lead management) and ensuring all fields are filled out. It significantly reduced the time-intensive manual process of documenting leads. I feel like Close has completely cut that down, and everything is right there from the dashboard. I think it’s been worth the investment.”Aimee Creighton, Sales Administrator

“Close just makes the whole sales process a lot clearer. With Bean Ninjas working across many time zones, there could be a delay in getting all the information together when a lead comes in.  Close has everything all in one location and easy to find. The email templates help define a standardized sales process for everyone to follow and help identify what is working and what isn’t.”Tom Mercer, Customer Success

5 Takeaways for Choosing and Implementing a CRM for Small Business 

To avoid some of the initial miscalculations that Bean Ninja’s felt during their transition to a capable CRM like Close, follow these simple and actionable lessons from this case study. 

1. Define real needs

The CRM you choose, ultimately, will be decided by your needs and goals. 

There is a multitude of CRM solutions you could run with, but how many of them fit your requirements and integrate well with what you already have in place? 

Remember, the goal is to get deals smoothly sailing through your pipeline and improve efficiency.

Ask questions and determine specific solutions for your unique business and sales workflow.

2. Discover its ease of use

A CRM for small business that gets in the way and demands more work than its worth is an expensive way to waste resources, time, and energy. 

Consider how easy and intuitive the new system you are considering might be. If you find it’s easy enough to manage, you can start navigating on to other lessons.

3. Consider customer support

You may not think you need much support, but, as we discovered, it sure helps to have a responsive support desk to reach out to when questions arise. The Close support email address was a lifesaver multiple times! 

They even helped us set up some Zapier integrations between our other tools and Close. 

While we’re at it, a quick shoutout to James Urie at Close too for his awesome help with pricing, plans, and tech queries during our initial trial period. James even extended our trial period for several team members so that we could get a proper evaluation.

4. Integrate your tools

You might be using many applications currently to get your sales work done. There’s no reason to quit something that works for your business, so start to see where there are opportunities to integrate with the CRM through extensions, third-party tools, and custom development. 

Close’s ability to integrate with our existing tools either directly or through Zapier was a deciding factor in choosing to run with it.

5. Evaluate the reporting capabilities

Reports help you manage your sales processes. So, make sure that any CRM tool you look at meets your reporting needs.

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Have you implemented a CRM in your small business? Which one did you choose and why? Share your experience in the comments.

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