Client Relationship Management (CRM) systems are often geared towards helping salespeople better track their leads and prospects. For many accountants and accounting firms, this is not the tool they had in mind, because they often don’t think of themselves as salespeople.
If you’re early in your firm’s growth, it’s hard to consider the importance of a CRM when the firm is made up of just the owner and maybe one or two employees. If you’re the owner, the information is either in your head or in the head of maybe two other people. That’s not hard to wrangle. But as you grow your book and your team, you’ll wish you’d had records of all client interactions. This is where a CRM is the solution.
Core Features of a CRM
There are two core features of any CRM software:
- Central client list that can be consistently updated by the team. This list can contain basic information such as name, address, and email. It can also include more detailed information like billable addresses and second or third contact points for a given client. It’s important that the client list is easy to use.
- Adding notes and to-do’s, or tasks. Adding notes and tasks related to each client is important for your firm if you wish to maintain an up-to-date record of all interactions and work that needs to be done for a specific client. This list becomes your Single Source of Truth for your firm, so it’s important to have a system you’ll commit to using. If it’s not recorded in the CRM, then the conversation did not happen. This is a hard bit of organizational discipline you must be on top of from the beginning. Lax CRM use defeats the purpose of a CRM.
Imagine the leverage you can create if you don’t have to do these things manually. Client communication is a huge part of your administrative weekly work, and finding a tool which will allow you to automate as much of that as possible is ideal. Select a CRM that will allow you to scale with it. You don’t want to pick one to only pull it out and adopt another within a year. Apart from these core features, CRMs start to change based on the industry (or role) they are built for.
What to Automate
When thinking about your CRM, you should consider one that will automate your client interactions in the future. Here are some examples of client interactions you will want to automate:
- Mass emails
- Tax organizers
- Educating your clients
- Recurring emails
- Reminders about the upcoming tax season
- Holiday messages
- Reminders to enter information for bookkeeping each month
- Follow-up emails: Let the system keep sending reminders until the client responds.
- SMS text messages: Some CRMs will allow you to mass text your clients.
- Document storage
- Client-related documents
- Templated documents
- Client emails
- Details on the client’s account
You can also research tools that focus on Recurring Client Management (RCM). RCM software is built to handle both new and existing client relationships. A few unique points about RCM are as follows:
- Setting recurring tasks, jobs, or projects
- Set up customizable recurrence schedules across your team and clients
- Work views
Tracking client work, especially recurring client work across many clients, can quickly add up and become overwhelming for many generic applications or software tools (whether it’s a basic CRM, task management software, or project management application). Therefore, an RCM needs to give the owner and team the ability to quickly see what’s been assigned to them, then drill into a specific work category, status, due date, client file, and more.
With these features and benefits considered, let’s dive into an evaluation of top CRM softwares available.
Base is all about promoting the “Intelligent Sales Productivity Platform.” Base can help you keep your customer relationships solid and ensure your connected going into the future with your business. All the capabilities of lead management from base offer a CRM experience unlike any other.
- Take control of your sales
- Manage customers
- Work with leads
- Take Base everywhere
- Call directly from Base
- Sort Email automatically
Yes, 14 day free trial
Starts at $15/seat/per month
Provides beautiful sales workflow with no manual data entry while also allowing you to make and receive more calls. Simply put, Close.io wants to help you “Close more deals and make more sales.”
- Users can mix and match plans
- 2 way email integration
- CRM migration tool
- Make actual calls
- Unlimited international calling
- Integration with other services
Yes, 14 day free trial
Plans start at $59 a month
HubSpot CRM takes minutes to learn and makes it easy to track every detail of your business relationships — all in one place. Manage your entire sales pipeline and organize and respond to all your customer support issues, all with the same tool.
- Email tracking & notifications
- Prospect tracking
- Meeting scheduling
- Live chat
- Automated messaging
- Automated email storing
- Workflows that allow for planned automatic engagements
- Sequences that follow up automatically
- Document storage on customer profiles
- Marketing funnel management
Yes (undetermined duration)
Starts at $50/month
Liscio bills itself as a Secure File Sharing Software and Messaging Platform. Liscio's all-in-one online platform makes it simple for accountants to work with their clients. Liscio provides all the tools needed to keep both parties efficient, including secure messaging, secure file sharing and storage, e-signatures, Mobile Apps for firms and clients, a built-in document scanner, and more. Liscio replaces vulnerable email and paperwork with an invite-only client experience platform that empowers you to become the proactive, modern firm your clients deserve.
- A secure mobile app for messaging your clients
- Secure file sharing
- Centralized information sharing for every conversation
- Firm to one service - everyone can see the conversations and jump in when needed
The most customizable CRM for QuickBooks. Whether you need simplified contact management, better activity tracking, more accurate estimating, or something else entirely,
MethodCRM has a solution for you.
- QuickBooks CRM
- Lead Management
- Customer Management
- Customizable CRM
Yes, 30-day free trial
Starts at $25/user/month
Recognizing that the world is becoming more complicated while we’re becoming more connected, the business solutions from Microsoft Dynamics offer a way to invigorate these connections with collaboration and real-time information. Microsoft Dynamics brings people together using technology in order to create a great customer experience.
- Sell Effectively
- Give Customers Omni-channel Solutions
- Market Smarter
- Social for everyone – Connect authentically
- Services allow you to manage clients better than ever
- Make your customers’ assets your business
No free trial
$65 a month
Nimble has redone CRM by creating the first “intelligent relationship platform.” Automatic pulling of contacts, email conversations, and social signs into one common place allows you to access the information no matter where you are working from.
- Better contact management
- Better Activity management
- Responsive social listening
- Take advantage of social sales
- Unified inbox
Free 14 day trial
Starts at $15/month/ user
Pipedrive is the first CRM platform made for salespeople, by salespeople. It is a customer relationship management (CRM) tool that helps users visualize their sales processes and get more done. The second bit of sales wisdom built into Pipedrive are visual pipelines. They’re as easy as putting sticky notes on a whiteboard to see where each of your deals stands, except with way more smart features (and they won’t blow away in a breeze).
- Manage Leads and Deals
- Track Communications
- Automate and Grow
- Insights and Reports
- Privacy and Security
- Mobile Apps and Integrations
- Automatically send personalized emails
- Automatically do repetitive sales tasks to help move your prospects down your sales funnel
- Customizable sales funnels
Yes, 14-day free trial
Starts at $12.50 (Essential Package)
Salesforce is a customer relationship management solution that brings customers and companies together. It's one integrated CRM platform that gives all your departments — including marketing, sales, commerce, and service — a single, shared view of every customer.
- Move deals faster by tracking customer information and interactions in one place
- Make more insightful decisions — faster, and from anywhere — with the most up-to-date information
- Drive customer engagement by automating and personalising your email marketing at scale
- Deliver exceptional social experiences by connecting them to marketing, sales, and service
- 24/7 customer support team to help all users from Small business to Enterprise
- Contact Management
- Opportunity Management
- Lead Management
- Reports and Dashboards
- Sales Collaboration
- Email Integration
- Workflow and Approvals
- Territory Management
- Sales Data
- Files Sync and Share
Yes, 30-day free trial
Starts at $25/user/month
Helps you strengthen the relationships you have made with your customers by targeting specific contacts for marketing campaigns, and helps you track sales and company progress with great reporting qualities. Solve 360 is proud to say that it works alongside with Google apps more than any other CRM available.
- Custom field and category tags
- Link Emails
- Report and update activities
- Pre-integrated cloud capabilities
- API and webhooks
Yes, free trial
Plans start at $39 a month
SugarCRM Allows you to have one of a kind customer relations while utilizing the most useful and cost-effective CRM available. Sugar is used by over 1.5 million people, and is widely known as a “visionary” approach.
- 360 Degree view of your customers
- Expert collaboration
- Social Selling
- Mobile capabilities
- Real-time pipeline management
- Workflow and approvals
- Email, calendar and file management
- Sales Analytics
- Data enrichment
Yes, 7 day free trial
Three different plans available starting at $35 a month
Zoho will help you prioritize in order to sell faster. With the ability to track your sales activities, connect with your customers, and extend your CRM, you’ll be creating a more efficient business experience for yourself and your customers. With Zoho, you can mold your company into a customer-focused business.
- Capture leads from your website
- Improve your workflow
- Data Driven marketing
- Visitor tracking
- CRM on the go (mobile)
- CRM for Google
Yes, Free trial
Plans start at $12/month
Whether you’re switching from a CRM, moving from spreadsheets, or starting from scratch, testing out both CRM and RCM applications is a critical step in helping you build a highly scalable, profitable firm. Most applications will come with a free trial period. We recommend starting out with a free trial to see if the application is a good fit.
As an accountant looking for a solid CRM, the search might not be easy, but hopefully you’ve found this article helpful. If you’d like, Jetpack Workflow was built for accountants and accounting firm owners, and comes with a 14-day free trial.