This month XU Magazine, the magazine for Xero users, ran an interview with me on the theme of “How do you make a Xero CRM recommendation to your clients?”
Because of the specific nature of practice management and CRM software that accountants use, many accountants and bookkeepers find that question a challenging one to answer. Turns out lots of people do. So I shared with them a checklist of around 10 criteria to consider. You can find the interview here… it’s actually just as relevant for non-accountants, as it is accountants. I hope there’s an ‘a-ha!’ moment or two in it for you. See the PDF version here, or the full interview below.
We sat down with Connectably founder, Gareth Everson, to lift the lid on what a CRM software implementer turned developer advises accountants to do when the dreaded ‘CRM recommendation’ question comes.
So… you’re in the boardroom, the best cups are out. You’ve used the fancy pod coffee that George Clooney drinks. The client’s past their ‘nervous sips of water’ part of the meeting. You’ve diligently walked them through their end of year results. They’ve nodded in all the right places. It’s a positive atmosphere.
There’s even chatter of what they might do with the profit they’ve made. They’re on-board. They’re engaged. There’s a little fire in their belly about their business’ prospects next year.
You’ve even mooted a few extra bookkeeping and payroll services that could lighten the admin load for them next year and increase your fees a bit.
Then they drop the bomb: “So, we’ve got people in and out of the office and don’t want to miss anything. I think we should get a CRM. Got any recommendations?”
And your flow screeches to a halt. It’s now you nervously reaching for the glass of water.
“Well,” you buy yourself another few seconds, “it’s a bit different in our business. We’ve got an accounting CRM. It’s been brilliant, but it’s not for non-accounting businesses.”
Damn. Why don’t Senta do non-accounting software?
You rattle your brain for that CRM recommendation you heard at BNI last month.
Gareth, over to you…
“Haha, yes, I’ve heard similar stories to this before. In fact, prior to the likes of Senta, Karbon and AccountancyManager really getting traction in the cloud accounting market, I had the same awkward conversations, but rather with accountants looking for my advice for their all-encompassing dream ticket of CRM, practice management and marketing automation. They wanted to fully systemise… leads, onboarding, reminders, payment processes, internal workflows, the lot!”
“Accountants are really well-served nowadays, but your clients in the services and trades sectors have not been as well served.”
So why now? And why the Xero CRM market?
“To solve ‘disconnect’. As a CRM implementer I’d become increasingly irritated that service and trades business owners – accountants’ own client bases – were facing this pain of disconnected sales, marketing and finance processes in their businesses.”
“At the same time, you’d log in to Xero, and their integrations make it easy to file receipts, handle mileage, do your bank reconciliation. So then you tell your own clients and friends that Xero’s the best thing since sliced bread, and they ask, ‘so can we link it up with our CRM then?’”
“And that’s where the answer was ‘no’. It became obvious that most CRMs really just did basic stuff like contact sync, and occasionally some high level financials syncing. Even the ones that did have deeper integrations just seemed to be overcomplicating things. And that’s where it started.”
And so in the space of around 18 months, Gareth went from implementer in one business to being a CRM software business founder in another, launching Connectably and seeing it accepted on the Xero, then GoCardless, Stripe and Zoom partner marketplaces. Integrations with GSuite, Office365, Docmail, and Zapier followed.
So what does your unique background give you?
“Everything. Were it not for walking in the shoes of hundreds of prior customers I’d implemented other companies’ CRM software for, I’d never have got the same clear perspectives on what businesses’ real problems are: disconnected sales, marketing and finance processes.”
“”It’s how you do CRM with Xero” is our mantra at Connectably. We help you to move to a situation where everything you do with contacts starts, runs, or ends in just two places: Connectably or Xero.”
And are you getting traction?
“Yes, solid growth and great feedback from users. A business friend once told me that ‘the world doesn’t need another CRM’, and I’d definitely wondered that at first, but our start in the UK has rapidly proven that incorrect.”
So how do accountants answer that awkward ‘which CRM’ question for their clients?
“Based on my past, that’s one we can answer with integrity. Here’s a checklist that your clients can use to assess any provider.”
“Firstly, how’s your business going to be managing your contacts’ interactions with your business? Workflows to consider are how you find and nurture leads, manage sales processes, get paid, onboard clients, provide customer support and run financial processes. Xero’s got you covered on the last of those, but does the CRM help you do all the first ones?”
“Having a workflow manager is great for visibility and planning, so you can systemise and manage those business’ workflows. It’s the differentiator between true ‘relationship CRM’ and something that’s just a ‘glorified address book’.”
“As well as seeing the workflows they’re in, you should be able to manage your leads and contacts – their information, what you know about them, how you’ve done business with them in the past, or how they came to be a lead in your business. The CRM should also allow you to put forms on your website to capture contact enquiries there as well.”
“You’ll also want to be able to create notes, send an email, book a meeting or manage tasks associated with a contact or sales opportunity. It’s even better if that links up to your own email or calendar.”
“Then you’ll want to be confident that the data in your CRM is the same as your accounts system through a two-way Xero integration. Not just contacts, but invoices, payments, products, even things like tracking categories to measure lead sources.”
“So these are the basics. Even here, most CRMs don’t manage workflows or sync with your email / calendar, let alone do much to integrate with Xero. Sometimes they even require separate plugins.”
OK, beyond the basics, what else should businesses look for?
“To make tangible improvements to your business’ systems, look at how you can avoid having to buy a tangled, expensive mess of other software services stuck together with digital sticky tape.”
Avoid the tangled, expensive mess of software services stuck together with digital sticky tapeGareth Everson, Founder – Connectably
“There’s email marketing. Given the CRM has your list of contacts, if you’re able to segment them by interest or their status then being able to send targeted email marketing to them from within your CRM is a valuable benefit.”
“Even better, if the software allows you to manage some basic email automation, sending a series of timed emails at different stages in the sales and onboarding process, this saves you fiddling around with separate lists on Mailchimp or similar.”
“Then, you look at your time management. When it comes to meeting prospects, having an appointment scheduler is really handy, so that they can pick a time when you’re available that works for them without lots of email appointment tennis back and forth. It’s a real time-saver.”
“For businesses that want to raise their game and send quotes out quicker and more professionally than using Microsoft Word or Xero, a proposal sender within the CRM itself is a valuable function. It can really present you as a more premium offering to your prospects, perhaps even allowing you to lift your pricing a bit.”
“Then there’s how you get paid. Does the CRM offer you a simple way to turn that prospect’s interest into getting money into your bank quickly? Can you take card payments or direct debits to improve cash flow? It’s surprising how few CRMs offer a capability to create tailored secure order forms and take payments quickly and easily. Chasing payments ends up being the business owner’s problem if not.”
“Finally, the training or support to implement offered by a CRM company can be quite revealing. Do they have an implementation method? An effective one saves time and errors.”
Where should an accountant get started looking?
“It’s a challenge to look at all sixty CRM apps on the Xero App Marketplace. To simplify, consider a few key functions that would serve large numbers of clients well. For example: workflows, plus Xero integration, plus email marketing, plus Stripe integration. Then draw up a shortlist of two or three CRMs who do those things and focus just on those. As their accountant, you’ll want to make sure it syncs well with Xero and they’ll be checking how their core workflows would be managed using the CRM and Xero.”
Gareth adds: “And, of course, we’d be honoured if Connectably formed part of that review list for the right type of business.”
So do accountants use Connectably?
“Haha, no, not really. In our experience, accountants looking for CRM actually need more of a practice management software. So, practicing what we preach on simplicity, Senta, Karbon or AccountancyManager might be more comprehensive for you. But if you do need a CRM to better manage your sales and marketing workflows, then Connectably might be a good option.”
“Realistically, we’re likely a far better fit for your clients who are services or trades-based businesses. We’re more the recommendation when you get that ‘What CRM would you recommend?’ question!”
What’s that? A CRM provider that actually says “we might not be a fit for everyone”?
Now that’s a conversation starter.
Find out more…
You can download Gareth’s one-page CRM checklist at https://connectably.com/checklist.