Let's face it, many of us feel completely overwhelmed at work. It's estimated that the average professional person spends 20 percent of his or her time searching for information. Our inboxes are inundated with email, our desks are cluttered with stacks of paperwork, and Post-It notes cover our monitors. It is no way to live.

We have a small consulting firm and execute about 25 projects a year. There are several hundred leads and influencers we need to communicate with regularly. So, I took my third stab at the ever-elusive CRM (customer relationship management) system. This seemingly innocent CRM implementation turned into something else entirely; we have completely redefined how we work. It's liberating, like running naked into the ocean (not that I have ever actually done that).

CRM has been a four-letter word for many small- and medium-sized businesses, and for good reason. The 800-pound gorilla (who will remain nameless) is viewed by many as overpriced and over-engineered.

We are in a new world. Two or three years after adoption of the cloud, new solutions are emerging, and they are game-changing to small businesses who can't afford custom, sector-specific solutions.

Our firm implemented Zoho (not an endorsement of the product, as it is just one of many on the market).

Here are the surprising consequences of implementing a contemporary bundled system:

You can ditch your email.

Email is both one of the most important productivity tools of all time, and the most repugnant. By moving to a collaboration tool similar to Slack and Wrike, we have dramatically reduced our usage of email, making information easier to find in conversation threads. These technologies have been around for several years, but only now are mainstream companies using them to move away from email. Giving up gluten might be easier, but you could do it if you try.

Today you can have a smart mailbox that sorts your mail by clients, internal stakeholders, and people you don't know.

You can eliminate your task list.

A shocking number of companies have no project management system. People just manage their stuff manually.

Today's contemporary project management systems can integrate with your CRM. Once you convert a lead to a client, you can port over their information to then launch a project. In our case, we can enter a project's start and end date, and all of the tasks, champions and due dates populate seamlessly. The workflow automation is a tremendous time saver.

Task lists are dead. A good project management system allows every person to track every project and delegate tasks to others. I now receive an automated daily summary of my tasks. Not only is this this most useful productivity tool I have ever seen, but it drastically reduces my stress because it's impossible for me to miss something.

Our firm is executing better than it ever has.

You can use automated marketing.

We keep reading about marketing automation, made popular by solutions like HubSpot and Pardot. For some, marketing automation seems like voodoo.

Yet today's CRMs are abundant with powerful email campaign tools that allow the marketer to target specific audiences with messages that are most meaningful to them. It simply doesn't make sense to keep a list of prospects and then export them into a standalone email tool that delivers no additional value.

You can drive more successful selling outcomes.

The promise of CRM was selling more stuff. These outcomes have largely been unrealized in a myriad of unsuccessful implementations.

But today's CRM's are easy to use, mobile-ready and fast. Five years ago, logging a sales call in a CRM was painful. Today's cellular and internet technologies allow you to create and store a record in a minute or two.

Salespeople have the opportunity use email templates, mass-emails, ticklers, email reminders and countless other features any place, any time. The single most important factor in CRM adoption is to prove that it will save salespeople time, not cost them time.

You can have more effective SOPs.

Many companies are still storing SOPs (standard operating procedures) in binders on a desk. You might as well send messages by carrier pigeon.

In a project management system, work instructions can be embedded within an electronic task. In other words, a new employee or person who is unfamiliar with an action item can read how to do it right inside the task without having to search for it.

You can reduce your cost.

By adopting one integrated system, we have eliminated several software products. Today, every business can have a workflow system for a fraction of what it used to cost.

Published on: Jul 26, 2018