Choosing the right CRM for your business

In this blog, systems specialist and Passionate PA, Louise Cummins (pictured) shares her top 5 tips for choosing the right CRM system for your business.

There’s no shortage of business owners who want to be more efficient and provide their clients with an awesome client experience. Are you one of them?

But, do you feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work in your business and it’s growing faster than you can keep up with?

Implementing the right CRM system into your business is a gamechanger.

As Passionate PAs, we work with our clients to decide on the system that suits their needs and not just to sign up with the latest system to hit the market. As, let’s face it, what one person is using is irrelevant to the next! It’s all about identifying what YOUR business needs, implementing that system effectively and ensuring it’s embedded in your daily routine forever more.

We know it’s a challenge. You might well be thinking…

  • How do I know what I need?
  • Will it connect to my other systems/apps?
  • Will I have to change everything I already have in place?
  • Will the free version fit my needs?
  • How long will it take to implement?
  • Who can help me with that?
  • and most importantly… Will it actually do what I want it to?

Firstly, you need to know where you want to take your business. Then, follow Louise’s 5 simple steps to choosing the software that’s right for you and your business to create a seamless customer journey for your own clients and ultimately more efficiency and profit!

  1. Brain dump a list of the essential elements your CRM system has to include and then a ‘would be nice to have’ list too (such as integrations with mailing and accounting software, video hosting, branding etc).Don’t start with Google – it will throw up thousands of suggestions which just creates noise and confusion! Start with your own head and your knowledge of your business.
  1. Ask for recommendations and pros and cons of each system. Liaise with clients, suppliers, networking buddies etc and ask the same questions so you can make a comparable list.Then do some Google research and see what other systems match your spec.
  1. Create a short list of the systems that fit best with your requirements including the price of each level of access.You’ll now need to strike off the list those that aren’t of interest or giving enough value for the investment. Ensure you look at all price points to ensure you do a true comparison.
  1. Trial the system you think most suited and make use of all the features. We’d suggest this trial is done over a month! Things change in business and doing just a week’s trial won’t really give you a good indicator as to whether the system will suit your business in the long term.Ensure you keep all your ‘must-haves’ at the forefront of your mind when carrying out the trial.  All systems have a support team that can help you through the trial too.
  1. Analyse the results of the trial and make your decision to go with it or start another trial.Did it meet your requirements? Is the price right? If not, set up another trial until you find the correct system for you. Keep going until you find THE ONE! We know this sounds really time consuming, but, the rewards are great. The right CRM will be a total gamechanger for you.

If implementing a CRM system into your business is something you are considering but need someone to support you and keep you on track with trialling and through to implementation – then please do get in touch. Louise has huge experience in this area and takes on project work to help ambitious business leaders achieve their CRM goals.

You can connect with Louise on LinkedIn or, why not book a Discovery Call to see how you could work together – email her directly on louise@thepassionatepa.co.uk.

You can find out more about our team of business support professionals by clicking here!


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Are you a value seeker or a bargain hunter?

In this blog, seasoned freelancer and Passionate PA Debbie Frith (pictured) explores why business owners looking for freelance business support need to focus on more than just hourly rate… price is what you pay, value is what you get.

Whether you sell a product or a service, have you ever been in a situation where you’ve been asked to lower your price? Have you ever been told that you’re too expensive? Or been asked for a discount, to do a deal or to give more for less?

I expect that somewhere along the line you have, and I’ll wager that you were pretty cross about it. I imagine that you were told that your product or service was available elsewhere cheaper too.

When price is a driver, value becomes unimportant

Price is simply defined as the amount of money expected, required or given in payment for something.

Whereas value is the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth or usefulness of something.

Focusing on price is a short-term consideration, delivering short term wins. When you’re looking for a longer term and more stable strategy, then focusing on value is the way forward.

In the words of Warren Buffet, “Price is what you pay, value is what you get”. 

When something is offered at a cheaper price to your own product or service, there’s usually a reason why it costs less, reasons such as:

  • Lower quality and standards
  • New to the market
  • Lack of skills or experience
  • Mass produced
  • Lacks longevity
  • Desperation for customers

Those seeking value in their purchase are more likely to be looking for:

  • Unique strengths
  • A personal connection
  • An excellent overall buying experience
  • Values aligned with their own
  • Quality and consistency
  • Trust in a brand or concept

When being cheaper is more expensive

We’ve all done it though, haven’t we. Bought that cheaper version of a product or service whether it be a buying clothes from Primark or using a casual tradesman that’ll fix that leaky pipe for just £10 cash.

What happens?

The clothes don’t last very long, they’re cheap and cheerful yes, but they’re not likely to be your wardrobe staples that you can rely upon, wear after wear, wash after wash. That leaky pipe, may well be fixed for now, but when it springs a major leak, just before you’re about to go away for the weekend, where’s your £10 tradesman now? Disappeared I expect and what will you have to do? Call out a certified professional, Friday evening at what might seem an extortionate rate – oh how you wished you’d called them out in the first place and got the job done right first time.

So why am I talking about leaky pipes and Primark in the realms of freelance business support?

Let me tell you… If your business is as important to you as mine is to me, then you want to do your absolute best for it. If you’re in the market for some freelance business support to help you progress and develop your business, then you need to find someone who perfectly aligns with your own values and who is a good match for your own personality.

Buying this type of service on price is not advisable, it’s much more important to find and identify the right person with the right skill set (here’s a handy blog that will help you do this).

Invest in that person and you are by default investing in your own business (#winning)

That person charges a price which isn’t plucked out of thin air. It’s a price which is derived from experience and skills (though it’s up to you to do your homework on this), it’s a price derived from that person knowing their value and being prepared to stand by it. Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself – isn’t that a great mantra for life and business!

If you’d like to find your perfect match with a Passionate PA, then the best person to talk to right at the start of your journey is Kate Chastey, our Franchisor, she knows each member of our team very well and is a skilled match maker! After a discovery call with Kate, she’ll put you in touch with the person most aligned with your requirements, always based on experience, skill set and personality – in that way delivering the best value for you.

You can find out more about our team of business support professionals by clicking here!


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

How to find the right business support for you

Freelancers, or business support professionals, can be the solution to many modern business problems. There is no shortage of skills and experience available to businesses large and small, through the army of freelancers available in the UK and further afield.

However, a question we hear so often is “how do I find the right business support for me?”

The blog below has been created to give you an insight into finding the right solution for your needs. However, if you’d prefer to listen to a podcast, our director Kate Chastey was recently interviewed by Karen Murray and they discussed all of the below, and more!

TAKE ME TO THE PODCAST (APPLE)

Or to Karen Murray’s website to listen there

 

Ok, on to the blog…

First things first

As the business owner, you need to determine what ‘right’ looks like to you.

What problem do you need to solve?
Be clear on the challenge you are facing and your desired solution. Is this challenge the result of an immediate or ongoing resource shortage? What skills and expertise are required?

How do you want your freelancer to work/deliver services?
Are you needing to physically meet with your freelancer or will briefing/communication all be done via technology? If you are looking for a long-term business relationship, consider how you want this to take shape.

When do you need work completed?
What are your timescales/deadlines and what working routines are you hoping for?

Who is the person you are looking for?
Or, more to the point, what characteristics and personality traits matter to you?

Why is a freelancer the best option?
Are you looking for flexibility or a skill you don’t have in your team?

With all that clear in your mind, finish this sentence; the perfect scenario is…

Check this is realistic by discussing it with trusted business colleagues or a seasoned freelancer (we are always happy to talk 😊).

 

Then comes the research

The next step is to start looking for the freelancer you need. The best places to do this are:

  • Your personal business network – ask for recommendations and referrals from people that know you best
  • Social media (particularly LinkedIn if you are keen to find a professional)
  • Internet search using key words (skills and location)
  • Then there are, of course, some big listing websites that will introduce clients to freelancers. These have their plusses and their minuses – but that’s probably a different blog altogether!
     

7 brilliant questions to ask your potential freelancer

So, after you have made it clear what you’re looking for – preferably by email so the potential freelancer has time to digest and you both save 15 mins on the next step… a Zoom call – then, it’s time to really get to know each other.

Here are 7 questions, with talking points, that will sort the wheat from the chaff. Remember, the beautiful, valuable, amazing thing about freelancers is that each one is unique. It’s hard to find the perfect fit but, once you do, that’ll be partnership power like you’ve never known before.

1. Tell me about your background and your skills and experience as a freelancer

  • Ask how long they have been freelancing – just starting out or seasoned pro
  • Discuss why they choose to freelance
  • Talk about what skills and experience they have to share

2. How could you add tangible value to my business?

  • Discuss what they know that you don’t
  • Ask what efficiencies they could introduce
  • Talk about the software/tools they are confident with
  • Ask whether they are an ideas person or a completion expert – or both!
  • Really delve into whether they understand your target market and sector

3. What does a successful working relationship look like to you?

  • Investigate what kind of personalities they like working with
  • Ask for clarity on what they need from you to get started, and then what they need from you to achieve the results you have set out
  • Discuss what sort of work/responsibilities you can outsource to them, further than the initial brief
  • Also clarify whether they will be doing all the work themselves or if they outsource/have employees

4. How would we communicate during our project/work/relationship?

  • Ask what their preferred communication channel is
  • Talk about how they manage workflow and deadlines
  • Understand their boundaries – when are they contactable (business hours/working days etc)
  • Discuss whether they work virtually or are they happy to meet in person

5. Tell me about your clients…

  • Who is their favourite client right now and why?
  • Talk about who their ideal client is, and is that you
  • Ask for the back story on a testimonial you have found – talk about tangible value and timescales
  • Discuss how they monitor results and client happiness
  • Ask how many clients they work with at any one time and how this looks in terms of weekly/monthly contact
  • Ask how close they are to capacity and whether there really is space for you
  • Discuss whether it is possible to speak with a current long-standing client

6. Tell me about a business challenge you’ve had, and how you overcame it?

  • Ask them to tell you about a time when they have missed a deadline or underdelivered to a client’s expectations
  • Discuss what their clients like most/least about working with them
  • Ask whether a client has ever ended a relationship with them abruptly – if so, why
  • Ask whether they have a contingency plan for emergencies (power cuts, equipment disasters, illness etc)
  • Delve into their business ethos – who supports them in their business development and growth

7. Tell me about your contractual terms, GDPR compliance, fee structure etc.

  • Understand the hourly/project rate and how this is tracked, plus, other than that are there any additional charges
  • Discuss contract terms, notice periods, service level agreements, invoicing procedure etc
  • Talk about how they will they keep your business information secure and confidential, whether they are registered with the ICO and their understanding of GDPR
  • Are they insured, registered with HMRC and fully aware of IR35 legislation

Seven key questions to really get beyond the fluff and into the value. Freelancers can add so much to your business and/or team but, as you can see, it’s not always easy. The perfect freelancer for you is likely to be someone who will help you create the momentum and results you need to thrive. Finding them can be tricky but it is worth putting in the time so that the relationship gets off to a flying start and your business feels the benefits quickly.

Happy searching!

You can find out more about our team of business support professionals by clicking here!


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

When is it time to outsource?

This is such a powerful question for solopreneurs, SMEs and all ambitious businesses wanting to grow at pace. In this blog, our director (and seasoned freelancer) Kate Chastey, reveals how you will know when the time is right to start outsourcing.  

“If only I had more time, I’d be able to do everything myself”.

If you’ve said this sentence recently, chances are you are NOT ready to outsource. Let me explain; the real value with outsourcing comes from enlisting the help of people that can actually do things better than you – it’s a mindset shift. Only when you really grasp this will outsourcing be a decision you thank yourself for.

Sure, there are many tasks you can outsource that, on the surface, seem likely to save you time (email management or appointment setting being just two examples) but, I encourage all business owners, and especially Passionate PA clients, to think beyond simply time saving and onto where the real value will come.

A valuable outsource solution is one that adds something to your business that you cannot. This might be as simple as efficiency, but it might also be special expertise, knowledge, customer insight and so on. Ultimately, any outsourcing solution should not be seen as simply a cost to your business, but as an asset as it can actually improve your bottom line.

So, how will you know if outsourcing will add real value to your business now?

If you answer YES to any of these questions, now is the time to start outsourcing.

Has overwhelmed and/or overworked become the norm?

  • Do you or your team talk frequently about how busy you are, how overwhelming the to do list is and how you just wish there were more hours in the day?
  • Does this mean that you or your people are not focusing on the elements of business that only they can do?
  • Are errors being made or is customer service falling short?
  • Are you missing opportunities to upsell or drive profitable customer engagement?
  • Is there an over-reliance on one person who is performing most functions or tasks within the business?
  • Are you missing deadlines (even self-imposed ones)?

Are there knowledge and experience gaps in your business?

  • Are there tasks or responsibilities being managed by those with inadequate skill and experience?
  • Do certain tasks take far too long?
  • Are you missing opportunities to automate functions?
  • Is there a lack of fresh ideas and perspective?
  • Do you often have internal projects that overrun or get put on the backburner as there just isn’t the time to complete them?

Is your business in need of a flexible growth strategy?

  • Is your business ready for growth but you are not ready for the commitment of an employed team?
  • Or, do you personally not want to become an employer but still want to grow your business?
  • Have you tried recruiting but you just can’t find the right skill, expertise or personality?
  • Are you craving a consistent partnership that can grow with your business, something flexible rather than over-reliant on you?
  • Do you know there are more opportunities to be had for your business, if only you had the right support around you?

If you answered YES to any of these, it’s time to step back from the frontline and invest just a few hours in finding, speaking with and initiating a working relationship with an outsource service provider.

The most incredible thing about outsourcing is that it gives you power. It allows you to create the time and space needed so you can concentrate on the things you got into business for… the things that are uniquely you and the things you love.

Everything else can (and should!) be outsourced. Yes, everything.

If you would like to hear more from Kate about preparing to outsource, listen to The Smart Business Podcast, episode 49, where Karen Murray interviews Kate to explore all things outsourcing.  

In our next blog, I’ll share with you how to go about finding the right solution for you, and how to start the outsourcing partnership. If however, you are ready to discover what you personally could outsource, we have a super tool to help you decide what you can delegate, and when. Just pop your details below and we’ll send it straight to you. 

 

Request your free Delegation Tool today to help you prepare to outsource. 

Freelancers can help you weather this storm!

As the reality of coronavirus continues to imprint itself into our lives and into our businesses, working remotely has become intrinsic to working practices in all manner of sectors.

The business landscape has changed. New habits are becoming engrained in our society, and the pandemic has forced many business owners to embrace remote working and flexible working hours. It’s become the new normal for so many SMEs, corporates and ambitious businesses; even with the vaccine in sight, this way of working is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

But freelancers have been embracing this way of working for years. Freelancers can provide solutions to nearly every hurdle business owners face, whether providing an entire service on a long-term basis, filling in a skills-gap for an interim period or completing one-off projects. Freelancers are professionals, offering on-demand skills and experience that can add a serious edge to most businesses.

While government loans may prevent businesses from going bust during these strange times, those loans will need to be paid back. As a result, now more than ever, businesses need to look at long-term stability and accelerating growth in order to stay ahead of the competition.

Hiring a freelancer can help overcome challenges without the need to employ. They offer the flexibility businesses need in uncertain times, and, by the very nature of the partnership, the long-term loyalty often lacking in employees.

The Passionate PA offers exactly that; a relationship-led partnership that helps ambitious business leaders and entrepreneurs drive change, build momentum and generate results. Often a commercial sounding board forour clients, The Passionate PA finds solutions, challenges clients to think differently and ensures the highest quality service in all aspects of business delivery.

As business owners ourselves, we know what it takes to run and operate a business meaning we do not fit the archetypal view of a personal or virtual assistant. Rather than managing diaries, accounts or filtering calls, a Passionate PA can assist with anything from streamlining business processes, copywriting and project management right through to driving growth through effective marketing strategies. We are masters of implementation and if it’s on your business to do list, we will help you tackle it.

While effective communication and business management is vital when working with any freelancer, The Passionate PA brings a second business brain to key decision makers and directors who might not always have the senior support they need, or solopreneurs who have no one else in their business to help them think strategically about their vision, their goals and more importantly, how to make them a reality.

Finding the right freelancer can take time so be sure to ask trusted business networks for recommendations or read reviews and testimonials. It might be necessary to work with a freelancer on a trial basis at first, or at the very least have an introductory meeting, just to ensure you will work well together based on personalities. However, once you know and trust a freelancer who delivers a service in line with your brand and ethos, it’s a relationship that can last for years!

Freelance services will be intrinsic to business growth as we tentatively emerge from our lockdown bubbles. It’s a really viable option for those business owners who want to develop at pace with flexible, loyal, commercially minded support but no employment contracts.

David Anderson, Director of Anderson IT Management, has worked with Laurey, the Passionate PA for Peterborough, since July 2019. He said: “As a freelancer, Laurey has brought a skill set and ability to understand the future of my business that is invaluable.  Laurey has assimilated my business ethos which is reflected in the work we do together from marketing, refining in-house processes and administration.”

“The Passionate PA really is an unrivalled resource if you want to grow and prosper, but what I have truly valued since the start of the pandemic is the consistency, continuity and reliability Laurey brings to my business and the efficient approach she has to delivering what I need.”

Founded by Dorset businesswoman Sarah Howells in 2007, and franchised in 2016 by Director, Kate Chastey, The Passionate PA has worked with leading brands such as Virgin Media and the Institute of Directors. It now supports a wide range of entrepreneurial professional services companies as well as agencies in the recruitment, digital marketing, financial services, IT and creative industries to name but a few.

To find out more about how a freelance PA can help you emerge from this storm stronger than ever before, contact us today.

You can find out more about Laurey by clicking here or the rest of our skilled team here!


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: 

Our 7 Point Plan helping clients through crisis

Coronavirus has affected every business in our country. There’s no sugar-coating it, for some it has been utterly dire and for some it has been an unprecedented opportunity.

Here at The Passionate PA, we work with entrepreneurs; fast-paced, growing businesses that are always looking ahead. Our experience has been that Covid-19 literally stopped most of them in their tracks… at the very least for a few days whilst they got over the shock, worked out how to get a workforce to be productive from home and managed the risks associated with the pandemic.  

But now, for most of our clients, it’s business as un-usual.

Working so closely with these business leaders, we see their challenges and feel their pain. The benefit of knowing their businesses so well, is that it gives us a unique and valuable perspective, and a beautiful opportunity to really show how much we care and help them survive the crisis.

In the early weeks of the pandemic, each of our team worked really closely with their clients to ensure they not only survived this crisis, but planned to come out stronger and more focused than ever before.

The Passionate PA Team – Self-employed freelance PAs working with business leaders.

In this blog, our franchisor, Kate Chastey (centre), shares our 7 Point Plan for helping clients through this crisis.

Evaluation

We help each of our clients perform a SWOT analysis of their business. Done formally, or informally, we make sure we are helping our clients see their strengths at this time, and the weaknesses that need to be addressed. 

We’re also helping our clients understand the business threats from this situation – it has to be said, its mostly cashflow no matter what size the business is! And, of course, the opportunities – within every crisis there are opportunities, sometimes it’s just hard to see them when the panic sets in. We help our clients step back and evaluate. 

Planning

Once a SWOT is done, we help our clients prepare a structured plan to ensure they (and the whole business) can cope with the levels of change required. We help our clients focus on the desired outcomes and prepare accordingly.

Innovation & Diversification

No matter what the business or what the challenge, there is always innovation to be introduced somewhere. We help our clients release their shackles and see opportunities for innovation and diversification whether it be in service or product offerings, routes to market, target audiences or even marketing messages.

Efficiency

We are masters of efficiency; from managing productivity, motivation and communication to streamlining business processes and customer service. We happily share our knowledge and experience to increase efficiency for the greater good of the business and its people.  

Implementation

We aren’t just thinkers and planners – oh no! A huge part of the partnerships we have with our clients is rolling up our sleeves and getting stuck in. We help our clients prioritise and action, and we take responsibility where needed to relieve our clients of workload. 

Consistency

The key to all success is consistency and so our clients rely on us to provide a level of service that never falters. With one eye on today’s ‘To Dos’ and one on the path ahead, we help our clients consistently perform their roles and responsibilities, ensuring their business survives today and can thrive as we all move forward. 

Kindness

It makes the world go around. Simple. 

In our relationships, there is always time for kindness, compassion and understanding. Overwhelm happens to us all, no matter how senior or how experienced. It happens at different times and with different triggers and one of the best parts about being an entrepreneur’s Passionate PA is the trust and loyalty we share. 

Our clients can always rely on us to be the listening ear, the kick up the butt or the provider of gin… whichever is the most appropriate at any one time 😉

We are Passionate PAs – with our clients every step of the way. 

If you are looking for a fresh perspective to get you and your business through this really difficult time, please contact Kate on 03 3000 20 200.


Further blogs from The Passionate PA: