Successful small business owners understand how many facets of their business need to be managed on any given day. The balance of time, resources and workload becomes more complex the faster the business grows and the more customers the business gets. Many small business owners or managers in small businesses are curious about switching to an online customer contact management system. The most important reason to upgrade from a mixture of spread sheet files, email software and half a dozen other things to an all in one solution, is that it will not only save the business valuable time, but maximize the opportunities to close more sales. Choosing the right on-line customer contact management software can be confusing, fortunately some offer free trial periods wherein small business users can see how easy the software is to use, if it has the features that best fit a small business user and learn how much insight they can get into their existing customers. The most important factor that small business owners find is whether the software was actually designed with an understanding of small business needs or was the software actually built for large enterprise organizations and simply marketed to small business for the software provider to earn money from this growing market. Questions to consider when using a free trial: Does the software let you import your customer information from the current products you use such as Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Excel? The software should provide for importing of .cvs and .xls files so that bringing your existing information can be done in minutes not days of data entry. If the package was not designed for small business but for large corporations you may find that it requires that extra services are charged for or that additional “plug-in” software needs to be purchased. These hidden costs will quickly make the solution un-affordable for the typical business of fewer than fifty employees. Does the software take advantage of the latest web technologies or does it force you to constantly switch full pages of information to see what you need to see about a customer? Web based software has come a long way in the last five years since the first online CRM software came to market. Larger corporate based solutions may add features but they can not take full advantage of the latest web programming techniques because they simply can not change software that large companies have invested so many training dollars into. The latest software solutions can be reached online from any computer or mobile device and feel exactly like they are on a desktop or laptop computer. The advantage of this is that multiple windows can be viewed comparing information, different types of information can be switched between without waiting for screen redraws and much more. Seeing one of these solutions in action compared to a five or ten year old web-based product provides dynamic proof of limiting older technology can be. How much software does the company need? Web-based customer contact management software can be scalable and based on the individual company need. In this way the financial commitment to a program is kept very affordable and within the budget of most small business users. Some solutions require no long term contract or commitment to the number of users, contacts etc. that you pay for. Watch out for hidden fees for storage or additional features that the business can live without because they are aimed at large sales force management with a heavy emphasis on executive reports and employee monitoring. The best fit for a small business is usually software that provides customer contact tools focused on closing sales not on analyzing years of performance or providing the best impression to your board of directors. Many older customer contact management solutions focus a great deal on interrupting the sales process for sales people in order to provide the greatest amount of analysis of the sales person’s activities and time. In a small business the result of this is that sales people become frustrated with the software and simply avoid the software you provide them during the actual sales process. There are many customer contact management software products on the market. Take advantage of free trial periods to learn about the products and see how fast the company can adapt to the user interface of the solution. Remember that the most popular solutions or longest established products may not be the best fit for small business and may in fact not take advantage of the latest technologies for speed, flexibility and shear customer management power.