For many virtual assistants, helping their clients keep track of sales leads, scheduling follow ups, and other general sales-iness is a large part of their business. It’s near impossible to keep track of all of this in your head, or even on a simple calendar. So, we are very thankful for the smart minds out there that create wonderful customer relation management (CRM) tools to keep us straight!
Why Do Virtual Assistants Need A CRM?
The business of a virtual assistant or a virtual office assistant is about the client. The client is paying the assistants to provide valuable services to them, sometimes these services require scheduling flights and meeting up with clients and other business professionals. A virtual assistant needs to keep track of appointments, clients’ schedules and activities, business contacts, and any other business related matter.
A virtual assistant will use a CRM to manage their client schedules, also to manage the leads from various marketing activities that can be used by their clients. CRM allows virtual assistants to capture, organize, and track contacts, activities, and communications in one place.
There are many types of CRM on the market. I’ve chosen three of my favorite CRMs and have explored them in depth, based on my needs as a virtual assistant and companies I’ve worked for as a virtual assistant. Depending on your needs and your clients, you may choose one of the products that match best for you.
These three CRM include salesforce, Zoho CRM, and HubSpot.
Salesforce is an industry leading CRM tool. Salesforce offers a number of different products for many different needs, but may be best suited for sales businesses and industries.
Salesforce is a very comprehensive and powerful tool. It contains many functions to help sales professionals and businesses track everything from leads and conversations to orders and sales history. One of my favorite features about Salesforce is the reporting tool. They have excellent reporting to track time spent, leads, and closed sales. The business intelligence reporting is comprehensive, allowing review of past performance, prediction of future performance, and financial analyses. Salesforce is especially targeted to the point of sale. They offer integration with POS (Point-of-Sale) systems such as Square, Shopify, and Magentrix, to name a few. Also, Salesforce offers many ready made templates to get you started. The visualization and reporting of business metrics is outstanding. It’s very easy to see where your business is doing well, where your success metrics are falling, and then to take action steps to correct those areas.
One major downfall to Salesforce is the cost. Unfortunately, if you only have a few clients that you are using a CRM for, the cost can be a little steep. However, if you are expanding your business, and taking on more clients and projects, the cost will be very affordable for the use. The other thing to remember is that if you are not in a sales industry, this isn’t necessarily the best choice.
Zoho CRM (formerly Zoho SalesIQ)
Zoho CRM is a good option for anyone that needs a CRM tool to manage sales leads, appointments, or even sales activity. The best part about Zoho is the price point. They offer a free edition and reasonable pricing for business users.
Zoho CRM has many of the same features as Salesforce. It includes lead identification and tracking, click-to-call features, lead pipeline and follow-up, and even pipeline reports for predicting sales. Zoho CRM also offers collaboration features for internal users. For example, you can add team members for project-based collaboration, accounting integration for your finances, and marketing reporting system. The pricing and licensing for companies is quite reasonable. Zoho CRM also offers a free edition to test, as well as a Zoho Open edition.
Zoho CRM does not offer a wide variety of templates to use. So if you are running a very service based business you will need to copy and paste features to your needs. Another downside of Zoho is the reporting. There are not many reports available to see your overall business performance. Fortunately, Zoho CRM does offer a wide variety of professional services, including third party consulting, integrations, and development.
HubSpot CRM is a good choice for anyone who is wanting a tool to track prospects and leads, but also to manage their day-to-day social media and content marketing. HubSpot offers an all-in-one dashboard for all social media, marketing, and sales data.
HubSpot CRM is a comprehensive tool focused mainly on businesses with a service-based business model. They offer free basic features, and then different paid versions for different features. The features include marketing automation, social media management, lead tracking, reporting, and content management. HubSpot CRM is very budget-friendly, as they offer a free edition and are fairly priced depending on the needs of a business.
The only downside of HubSpot is the overwhelming amount of features that are included. There will need to be a learner curve for an organization to get the most out of their CRM. An organization should take advantage of HubSpot’s free training resources and test drive a few features before investing in a paid plan.
Advantages of a CRM for Virtual Assistants
1. A CRM assists a virtual assistant with tracking prospects, leads, scheduling appointments, follow up, etc. A CRM can be an invaluable tool for a virtual assistant to manage their business activities.
2. A CRM will assist a virtual assistant with the business intelligence metrics such as tracking business metrics, sales lead metrics, and sales funnel activity.
3. A CRM keeps all the information for the virtual assistant organized and can be easily accessed.
4. A CRM can be used for clients to track their meetings, contacts, and opportunities. This makes it easy for clients to review incoming information while on the go or from any location.
5. By using a CRM tool, a virtual assistant can develop an online presence by using the automation features to post updates to social media sites.
6. Most CRMs have built in email integration along with calendar integration. This means new emails go directly into a virtual assistant’s CRM. This can make it easier for a virtual assistant to stay organized by having all updates in one place.
CRM: Master of Business Intelligence
“The real question is, what workload is this CRM going to relieve me from? …Is it going to free up my time for strategic thinking, or am I going to be spending my time in data entry and workflow management?” – M. Jones, The Software Samurai
Just as you would not try to manage your business operations without a tool to track your clients and their projects, it would be foolish to try to manage your business without a tool to track your business activities.
CRM stands for customer relationship management. It is used by sales professionals and business owners to track and manage their business leads, prospects, and account. For a virtual assistant, it can be the tool to track their opportunities, projects, and client work.
The way that a CRM works is that the information is organized in one place for business owners and sales/marketing personnel to access information on specific accounts or opportunities. The information is then organized in a way for the user to use it as a learning tool for future sales/marketing initiatives.
What is a CRM good for in a virtual assistant business?
Similar to having your business tools (computer, telephone system, fax machine), it is important to understand what a CRM is good for. The biggest downfall that I have seen with virtual assistants that are using a CRM tool is that they are using the tool for everything and anything. They cannot see how they can get to the finish line of their business goals if they are spending time entering data in a CRM.
So what is a CRM good for?
A CRM is a tool to track your prospects and clients. You know what they say, “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” It is much easier for virtual assistants to start recording information in a CRM tool then it is to try to track your business activity in a completely manual process.
Let’s face it, the biggest benefit that a virtual assistant business owner-operator has is their time. They have the time to run their business. They don’t have the time to track their business activity on a piece of paper.
Do I need to spend time using a CRM tool?
The most important question that a virtual assistant needs to ask themselves is, “Am I spending more time tracking my business activities and activity on my project, than I am working on my clients’ business?”
This might seem like an obvious question, but you would be surprised how many assistants are not taking the time to understand how a CRM tool would work for their business processes.
As a virtual assistant, you need to decide if a CRM will help you organize your business, or if it will be a time sink. It is important to understand what functions your CRM needs to offer, or you will be wasting your time and resources.
Whether you choose a CRM tool from your software provider or not, it is important to find a CRM that will help you track your business activity, and allow you to purchase one of your top two virtual assistant business tools (the other being a good time tracking software program).
So now that we understand what a CRM is, it is up to you to understand:
- What is a CRM good for in a virtual assistant business?
- Why is it important to choose a CRM that is best for your business?
- Excel or Google Sheets? The Face-off for virtual Assistant CRM
“Excel and Google spreadsheets are the most common programs used in CRM implementations. While Excel is a popular program and the most widely used, the Google spreadsheet can be a good alternative for small to mid-size businesses with fewer sales reps.” – Keith Smith, B2B Marketing Advisor
Virtual assistants can implement either the popular Excel program or the free Google spreadsheet for use as a CRM tool. Excel is one of the most widely used desktop programs by computer users around the world. Excel is a favorite for data-centric business users for tracking columns and rows of data. Google Sheets is the spreadsheet program that is free and easily accessible when using Google account.
Each program has its share of pros and cons. Excel has hundreds of features, native email integration, a calendar plugin, and many other features that make it a strong contender for a CRM tool. On the other hand, the biggest risk with Excel is data security and compatibility with other programs such as Gmail and Google Drive. The good thing is that there are a couple of different ways that people can use Excel to address their business needs.
Google Sheets is more of a no-frills spreadsheet program that tabs across the top. There are several different ways to implement Google Sheets as a CRM tool. The biggest benefit to using Google Sheets is the free cost and excellent collaboration features. The downside to using Google Sheets is that the interface can be difficult to understand, it can lack live support, and sometimes it can have inconsistency issues because of the multiple versions of spreadsheets that can be on line at the same time.
- Google Sheets functions include tracking projects, activities, sales leads, and contacts.
- CRM Google Sheets key features include:
- Sheets is a Google product, so it?s easy to learn using easy-to-follow directions.
- Sheets is easy to access using a Google account.
- You can create multiple spreadsheets in the same document to track various types of data.
- The Google Sheets “Add-ons” make the program more useful for tracking virtual assistant business activities.
- Features add a tremendous amount of power to your CRM tool.
- Excel CRM Features
The 20+ features that come standard with the Excel program make it a formidable CRM software program. It is also very popular with business users around the world. The good news is that collaborative features of Microsoft Office can be used with Excel and create a powerful CRM tool.
CRM Excel key features include:
The Excel spreadsheet has been developed over three decades and is an extremely flexible program.
You can use its communication features to send data (email addresses are automatically embedded in an Excel spreadsheet).
Excel advanced communication features send email alerts to your cell phone when an activity takes place or when a contact becomes available for sales.
You can set up your spreadsheet so that when a new contact is registered or an opportunity is created, it automatically goes to a column where it is stored in your data table.
Features of Excel can make your sales pipeline faster.