Automate your consulting business in 2021 with these popular CRM software
This guide will explore some of the best CRM software that is on the market.
18 May 2021 · 8 min read
Just delivering the best consulting services to clients is no longer enough. Thriving in today’s extra competitive business landscape is all about building a strong relationship with your clients for better loyalty and retention. In fact, this must be a priority for all businesses, whether you’re running solo or are part of a large corporation. After all, without clients who trust you and look up to your expert advice, you’re not a consultant.
To that end, companies need to adopt more innovative customer relationship management (CRM) software solutions to deliver the kind of personalized experience that keeps clients coming back for more.
Customer experience (CX) is more important than ever! Especially during these times when the world is still reeling from the effects of the pandemic and remote working is the order of the day.
Now more than ever, savvy consulting firms must show empathy when dealing with clients. Mass messaging is a big turn-off as today’s consumers prefer personal connections. The right CRM solution can tackle this requirement and deliver on customer satisfaction while also helping to fulfill current and long-term business needs.
So the question now is — what’s the right customer relationship management tool for your consulting business? This guide will explore some of the best CRM software that is on the market.
What is consultant CRM software?
It’s simply a CRM software designed specifically to cater to consulting business needs. CRM software themselves are powerful sets of tools used by organizations worldwide to make several aspects of their business process run more efficiently. For example, these systems can help businesses automate their sales processes, manage their sales teams better, and even improve certain workflows within the organization.
Overall, the primary aim of CRM systems is to maximize customer satisfaction, which greatly improves the organization’s bottom line.
Unlike most ERP systems that essentially restructure an organization’s main business processes, CRM software can be implemented in a targeted way for improved marketing automation and to enhance project management to meet specific client needs.
How do these relate to a consulting business?
Well, the simple fact is that you’re bound to face numerous challenges whether you’re an independent consultant, a small business, or a large organization. Everything from acquiring new leads and managing customer support to chasing down overdue invoices, and all other things in between, can add hours upon hours to your regular work schedule. And every minute you spend on tackling business management is time you’re not getting paid for (time not engaged in client work).
With the right CRM tool, you can effectively automate many of these processes and even avoid various business management problems.
What are the benefits of CRM tools for consultants?
There are several advantages that can come from implementing CRM systems in your consulting business. Here are the top seven:
1. Improve contact management
CRM software can help organize important business contact information and store them in a convenient, centralized resource. When we say business contacts, it means everyone from your prospects, clients, suppliers, creditors, and everyone else.
Your consulting firm will definitely benefit from a centralized contact management functionality since it saves you the time it would normally take to dig up relevant contact information from multiple sources. Some CRM tools even allow you to pull information directly from various channels, such as emails, Linkedin, digital business cards, and more.
2. Deliver personalized customer experience
Used effectively, CRM software can drastically improve client engagement, which is a prerequisite for success in any consulting business. CRM software allows you to harness customer data, such as their demographic information, geographical location, social media details, personal preferences, and more.
With this data, you can personalize your customer experience and position your business as a company that genuinely cares about meeting their needs and not just interested in making a quick buck.
3. Maximize ROI
Research conducted by INC shows that every dollar you invest in a properly integrated CRM solution can give you an ROI of between $2.50 to $5.60. These are impressive returns by any standard. That’s why for many startups and small businesses, implementing CRM tools is at the forefront of their drive towards digital transformation.
4. Optimize sales process
CRM software gives you the ability to track and analyze every customer or prospect interaction. This allows you to understand where prospects are in the sales cycle.
It also allows you to build a better sales pipeline through its intuitive lead management and sales funnel features, which translates to higher revenues for your consulting business. According to Salesforce, a leading CRM solution provider, using a sales CRM can boost overall sales by as much as 29%. Plus, it can improve the accuracy of your sales forecasting by up to 44%.
Another benefit of an optimized sales pipeline is that it lets you streamline your workflows. Why spend time on manual, mundane tasks when you can automate them and focus on your business priorities instead?
5. Automate online booking and appointment scheduling
Most CRM systems include automated booking and scheduling tools that take out the hassle of manually managing your schedules. These tools are equipped with advanced customization options so you can easily create an appointment schedule that works for you. This automation saves you valuable time and effort — precious resources in any business.
6. Integrates with digital marketing systems
Your CRM software can integrate with your digital marketing systems to better utilize your inbound marketing techniques and bring in more qualified leads. Who wouldn’t want cohesive marketing automation in their business, especially in a time when it’s getting harder to stay on top of today’s digital marketing systems.
The information harnessed with your CRM system can also allow your sales team to identify cross-selling and up-selling opportunities to bring in higher revenues.
7. Generate relevant reports
As a consultant, you’ll need to generate a number of reports for your clients. A CRM system serves as a central resource from which you can pull the necessary real-time information required to generate relevant reports.
You can also generate reports for your business so you can easily stay on top of important things like sales cycles, client lifetime value, potential problems, and overall returns on investment.
What to look for in CRM software for consultants
In the past, CRM software solutions were targeted at large organizations and enterprise-level companies. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. Startups and small businesses are now able to implement tailored CRM systems without breaking the bank.
However, this commercialization presents a unique challenge — how to choose the right CRM solution from among the many available options on the market today? Not every platform will be right for you since specific goals and budgets tend to differ from one business to the other.
To help narrow down your options and make an informed choice, here are the top things to look for when choosing a CRM platform for your consulting business.
- Usability — If you’re running a lean startup or are an independent consultant, taking time out to learn a new, complex CRM system is a luxury you can hardly afford. That’s why ease of use and simplicity are among the most important considerations. A platform with the least learning curve is best.
- Wide functionality range and customization — Every CRM system has a range of standard features and functionalities, but it’s important to be able to customize them to suit your specific business needs.
- Automation — By automating repetitive tasks, you can save valuable time and focus your efforts on actual client work. There are a number of manual tasks that you can automate in a typical business, such as data entry, contact management, email marketing, and follow-ups, and updating information fields.
- Affordability — Some consultants charge tens of thousands of dollars for their services. But that doesn’t mean they have to shell out that much for CRM software. It is a business, after all, and every dollar counts. The good news is that there are even free CRM tools available today that you can start with. However, expect the features to be limited.
- Vendor customer support — If you’re just starting out with your consulting business, chances are you don’t have a dedicated IT department yet. This means you’ll want a CRM platform backed by a readily available customer support team to resolve technical issues quickly and ensure smooth operations.
- Ability to integrate with other platforms — When your tools and systems are able to integrate with one another, you spend less time working on each one separately. You’re also able to gain a cohesive view of how your business is performing.
- Bonus: mobile access — Some CRM platforms are now available in mobile app formats (IOS and Android apps). This means you can stay on top of your customer relationship management even when you’re not in the office. This is a great feature to have if you’re constantly on the go.
Even if these considerations don’t lead to an immediate pick, they can at least help narrow your options. You can then choose the right one from your shortlist.
6 best CRM software for consultants in 2021
HoneyBook CRM is an all-in-one software solution specifically designed for business consultants. It features an intuitive platform that allows users to handle various aspects of the consulting business processes, including client communications, managing inquiries, invoicing, scheduling, and more — all in one place.
The platform’s automation features are quite impressive and have the ability to streamline various workflows to fit your process. For instance, you can set up a fully automated email marketing campaign, complete with trigger-based actions for sending emails and creating tasks.
The proposal tool is also quite robust with dozens of proposal templates at your disposal. Users also have the ability to create and send contracts and invoices from the platform.
Pricing starts at $9 per month per user. There’s a 7-day free trial. No credit card is required.
What we don’t like about it
There’s a slight learning curve for beginners. Also, team collaboration features are not very prominent in the app. Tasks are assignable to team members, but files are not.
#2. Bigin by Zoho
Zoho is another household name in the global CRM systems scene. Its new pipeline-centric CRM, Bigin, is designed specifically for small and micro-businesses. As such, the platform doesn’t have as many features as other options on this list. Still, all the essential features and tools like workflow automation, activity management, multiple sales pipeline capability, and built-in emailing are present. There’s also a user-friendly dashboard where you can track important business metrics.
Bigin’s web API is quite extensive and able to integrate seamlessly with a number of apps, including G Suite, Mailchimp, Microsoft Office, Zoho Campaigns, Zoho Desk, Zapier, and more. There’s also a mobile app available, compatible on both iOS and Android devices.
In terms of pricing, Bigin by Zoho is one of the most affordable CRM platforms available today. Plans start at $7 per user per month. There’s also a free version with basic features. This might appeal to freelance consultants and one-man startups.
What we don’t like about it
Scaling your business will require you to purchase premium versions of the CRM.
HubSpot is one of the most popular names in CRM software solutions. While it is not exactly specifically designed for consulting firms, it’s certainly flexible enough to accommodate your needs as a consultant.
This CRM offers various automated tools for workflows and email marketing and a robust client management platform that is easy to navigate. You can track leads easily, monitor the sales process, and stay on top of customer interactions.
Hubspot is also easy to integrate with various third-party apps, including Microsoft Office, G Suite, Slack, and Zapier. The free version is packed with enough features and functionalities for the average startup or small business.
What we don’t like about it
Limited customization options in the free version. As your business grows, you’ll eventually need to buy one or more of its many paid add-on packages to boost the CRM capabilities.
Pipedrive is a great tool to use when you’re primarily concerned with optimizing your marketing process and ensuring a steady stream of new leads in your sales pipeline. The CRM has a simple, interactive user interface.
Lead tracking, contact management, and other key sales activities are where Pipedrive truly shines. It also allows users to consolidate their project management and workflows in one place. This helps cut down the amount of time spent on administrative tasks, and so business owners can concentrate on fine-tuning the sales process and building stronger customer relationships.
Pipedrive is also available as a mobile app, open for both Android and iOS users. Pricing starts off a bit on the high side at $15 per user per month and can go as high as $99 per user per month. A 14-day free trial is available.
What we don’t like about it
High pricing, which makes the platform out range for most startups. Also, there’s no internal emailing platform, so users have to integrate a third-party emailing service.
#5. Less Annoying CRM
Less Annoying CRM is an all-inclusive platform designed specifically for small businesses. It features a lean but versatile toolkit that can cover most of your regular business management process, including managing client data, tracking leads through sales funnels, and staying on top of tasks and events and tasks with its in-app calendar and agenda forms.
Task management is also streamlined, and many manual functions can be easily automated. Email marketing setup is also quite intuitive as emails sent and received outside the platform can be logged into the system.
There is only one pricing plan, and it starts at $15 per user per month. There’s also a 30-day free trial available to new users.
What we don’t like about it
Third-party app integrations are virtually nonexistent. This might be a significant limitation, especially if you’ve already invested in other business management systems. Also, there are no in-app notifications; only via email or SMS.
Daylite is a CRM software built specially for small consulting businesses. Its Industry Pack features a wide range of tools, including a customizable pipeline that is specific to consultants.
Other key features present include streamlined project management, multiple email templates, calendar/reminder system, and simple quotes and proposals. Users can also easily keep track of client interactions — emails, notes, calls, appointments, and follow-ups.
Daylite is great for team collaborations by organizing and sharing all relevant information in one place. The platform also provides visibility on various sales reports, such as top lead sources, close rates, and win/loss reasons. This allows users to have qualified data for better decision-making.
There’s only one plan in terms of pricing, and it starts at $29 per seat per month.
What we don’t like about it
Daylite is only available to Mac and iOS users. There’s also no provision for cross-platform compatibility. The pricey single plan is cost-prohibitive, especially among startups and independent consultants.
The bottom line
The best way to keep clients close to you is by establishing meaningful relationships with them. With the right CRM solution by your side, it’s only a matter of time until success starts to manifest in your consulting business. In addition, the ability to streamline everyday tasks frees up resources for business growth.
Of course, it’s not just about the CRM system. You must also be incredibly good at what you do if you want to attract high-paying clients and earn quality referrals.
Along with a CRM, savvy consultants also need to have a well-designed and optimized website. B12 can help set that up for you in no time. Our state-of-the-art website editor leverages artificial intelligence to create attention-grabbing, mobile-responsive, and fully customized websites that will put your consulting business on the path to greater success. Sign up on B12 today to get started and get a free draft of your new website within minutes.