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Sales CRMs for Start-Ups: The Why and the What



Sales CRM for startups, speaking strictly from a point of excelling, are far better than excel sheets. If you are a founder of a B2B start-up, sales CRM solutions are needed early in the game. How early? How about as soon as you start meeting potential customers. In this post, I want to provide a founder’s perspective on why a sales CRM is required early and what features are most helpful.

Startup Sales CRM

But first, let me briefly describe the context of an entrepreneur in the early stages. In the beginning, when an entrepreneur is trying to get the first few clients, the approach that usually works is contacting people directly through email or phone calls; this applies to both warm as well as cold leads. The entrepreneur relies on his/her own network as well as on databases that he/she buys.

When the workload is anything but forgiving on a daily basis, there are hundreds of emails to send, multiple phone calls to make, and numerous follow ups to conduct with those who do not respond, who ask to be called back at a later date, who could not be reached over the phone, and who respond positively and negatively (yes, it is polite to respond to people who refuse your offering).

Add to this the fact that the founder has to manage other aspects of the business like fundraising, operations, marketing, recruiting, etc. Therefore, it’s safe to say that a founder’s mind is perpetually preoccupied, and relying just on memory will ensure that things will fall through the cracks.

Most founders believe that the ubiquitous spreadsheet can do the trick. However, for a founder, it’s imperative to be, you guessed it, organized. And spreadsheets have their limitations when it comes to giving you the surety of organized data, especially when the volume of data flows like the ancient rivers of Babylon.

So here is my take on what founders need. First and foremost, he/she needs a smart personal reminder system.

Smart Personal Sales Reminder System

With so many sales tasks to complete every single day, the defining feature of sales CRM for startups is a personal reminder system and not just an elementary reminder for meetings; it needs to be much more.

Here are some of the types of reminders that are very helpful:

  • Call back reminders when the call made to a contact couldn’t connect.
  • List of contacts who have not been contacted at all.
  • Leads with whom no engagements have been made in the recent past (whether it is a phone call or an email or a text).
  • Leads with whom there are no future activities scheduled.
  • Follow up reminders.
  • Forward-looking reminders of upcoming engagements in the coming week.
  • Location-based notifications about which of the clients can be contacted based on their presence in a vicinity.
  • Reminders when enough leads are not generated.

In addition, it is very important that this reminder system should have the following key characteristics:

  • It should be proactive and should therefore reduce the amount of time spent by the entrepreneur in figuring out whom to call, when to call, etc. It should have its own intuitive capabilities, not as far as saying it should possess the wit of artificial intelligence, but for starters, it should at least prompt on its own.
  • It should also have a very easy and efficient way to log the outcome of calls and schedule follow up activity.
  • Reminders should be exhaustive but they should not be irritating. The interaction design should be smart so that it does not become a nuisance to the user.

A Robust Mobile Solution

The next very crucial feature that sales CRM for startups should have is a very robust mobile app. The system should have a good web interface, but a very strong mobile app is of paramount importance. Here is why:

  • Easy access: There’s a crying shortage of time and attention when I am pulled into 10,000 directions by IT, sales, product, service, finance, strategy—the list is endless. Even then, I need to be on top of things all the time.

    However, I usually don’t have enough time to sit with my PC and go through every lead in one sitting, but I do get small pockets of time, for example, while waiting for a client to show up.

    That’s when I find it very convenient to access my mobile CRM app and check what’s going on with the opportunities being pursued, the lead flow, and how the metrics stand.

Mobile Sales CRM

  • Completeness of data: I have observed that the inclination to punch in the details of a meeting or lead is more when I have a mobile CRM app; I have seen the same phenomenon with my sales team members.

    Implicitly, this means that the mobile CRM app has to be well designed to meet the limitations imposed by a smaller form factor. I have seen that mobile apps of web-based CRMs (i.e. CRMs which were first designed for the web) do not usually give a great experience on the mobile. This is another solution that a mobile CRM provides.

  • Accuracy of data: This one is closely related to the above mentioned points. I have observed that if a mobile CRM is easily accessible, the accuracy of the data also goes up. The two factors of accuracy and completeness are key from a start-up’s perspective.

    For everyone in a startup, bandwidth or time availability is the most precious resource, and a mobile CRM becomes a godsend, helping reduce time wastage because of the higher accuracy and completeness of data. Therefore, this means that I don’t have to spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning up pipeline data.

  • Point-of-need availability of information: Having all the details, be it data or communication, about a client at one place is always an added plus. I don’t have to sift through sheets of data to access facts such as the kind of email correspondence has happened, the context of early pitches, and how much business have they given us in the past. A mobile CRM allows immediate access that’s as effortless as it is informative.

  • Daily productivity: The daily productivity of salespeople is also usually higher when a feature-rich mobile CRM is utilized. Features like automatic call logging, automatic call scheduling, business card scanning, location based alerts, integrated WhatsApp & SMS, and call tracking can ensure that the amount of time spent in admin tasks is significantly less.

There are two big assumptions that I am making here:

  • Offline availability: Accessibility is of utmost importance, especially when online connectivity fails us at times, making a fail-safe much needed. Therefore, a mobile CRM app is most useful if it is fully offline capable, not just cached pages but fully offline. The feature allows me to access all the data when I am on the road or on a flight (where network is not good or absent). Being fully offline also makes the app fast, and given that most salespeople have very little patience (speaking out of experience) for CRM applications, a fast app ensures that it gets used regularly.

  • Full feature sales CRM on mobile: Lots of mobile apps of web-based CRMs do not provide all the features in the app. For a mobile CRM to be useful, every conceivable feature needs to be on the mobile device and a finger tap away.

19thMile for Early Stage Startups.

Intelligent Email Automation

As I had mentioned earlier, the early stages of a start-up are characterized by a large volume of outbound cold emails. If the right email automation tools are not used, it can become a significant drain on the founder’s time. Here is a list of features that are super helpful for founders:

  • Automated email sequences for various scenarios, for example, when a contact has not responded, or when a contact asks to call at a later date, or when a contact refuses, etc.
  • Detection of responses from a contact, and automated next action taken e.g. if a person responds positively, the system should figure this out and convert this to a lead in the CRM with a reminder for the founder to call or email the person back. No manual entry of lead should be required.
  • Email open detection

Try as I may, the importance of a sales CRM for startups cannot be emphasized enough. The seamless integration of a fully optimized CRM solution that makes decision making easy is an indispensable prerequisite for a startup, making sure that important actions are not lost in the daily hustle.


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