Zoho CRM: A Good Option for Web Workers

Zoho CRM LogoCustomer relationship management (CRM) solutions vary, but for the most part they help businesses manage sales leads, accounts, campaigns, forecasts and activities. Most CRM packages tend to be too heavyweight for the sole proprietor, however. They cost a bundle and contain features that most web workers don’t need. Zoho has a relatively simple CRM solution that’s free for up to three users. Although it takes some figuring out, it’s a good option to consider for web workers.
Zoho CRM comes with all the basic CRM functions you’d expect: You can manage campaigns and leads, view reports and dashboards and manage inventory.
Getting Started
It’s best to start at CRM.zoho.com, even if you have an existing Zoho account. At first glance, the application looks overwhelming, especially if it’s the first CRM package you’ve used. Zoho has a useful Getting Started video that gives you a quick overview of the application and makes it feel less threatening.
Everything you need to access appears in the tabs at the top of the screen and the links below them. You can customize most of the reports and dashboards as well as the settings for every tab.
The first thing you’ll want to do is add a second user as an administrator so you can access more features, including adding your company’s logo.
Zoho CRM Home

To start with, you need to import your business contacts. This will give you some content in your CRM to work with the rest of its features. You can import contacts from whatever application you use for business contacts, in comma-separated value (.csv), Excel (.xls) or vCard (.vcf) format. A tip: Before importing the data, open the file in Excel and make sure the first row contains headings, as you’ll need to match up Zoho’s fields with your data.
If, like many web workers, you have a service-based business, it will take a little work to figure out how to set up Zoho CRM. It focuses on products and doesn’t work with hourly rates. For example, if you’re a writer creating a quote for some web content, you’ll need to treat the web content as a package and give it a flat project rate. If you charge by the hour, you can always make a note of it in the description field.
Fields, Forms and Features
Zoho CRM has a useful wiki-based Help section. Helpfully, it includes user questions and answers at the end of each page.
You’ll need to refer to that Help section every now and again, because some of Zoho CRM’s field names take some figuring out. For example, the “Create Potential” form requires filling out the “Potential Name” and “Account Name” fields. Do they both take the company name? Or a contact person’s name? It takes a little digging into the Help section and even there, it’s not clear.
Fortunately, the required fields are few. Zoho has plenty of non-required fields so you can keep track of as many details as you need. Its settings let you remove unneeded fields, but it won’t let you change field names such as “Unit Price.”
Tracking and Managing Leads
The key reason businesses invest in CRM is for tracking and managing sales leads. The Leads tab lists all the active leads for easy reviewing and updating. After creating a new lead, you can return to that lead to update its page with information including attachments, products and activity tracking. You send emails straight from the application, with a record of the sent email added automatically to the lead’s page.
If you need to track many leads, Zoho CRM keeps all the information in one place for easier management. Once a lead converts to a sale, Zoho CRM removes it from the Leads tab and moves it though the pipeline, automatically creating the account details.
Customer Support
Customer support is handled with the Cases feature, which provides tools to manage customer trouble tickets. Another useful feature is Solutions. Here you can keep track of common questions and answers. Then when a customer or a prospect has questions, and you can search Solutions to see if you or another person in your team has solved it before.
As well as being able to search within specific categories, like Solutions, an account-wide search box is always available. The search results are sorted by category.
Zoho CRM Search
Activities and Calendar

You can keep track of key dates using the Calendar. You can also enter tasks and activities along with due dates in Activities. However, they don’t show up on the Calendar, and they should.
Zoho CRM Activities
Zoho CRM is available in three different flavors. While most web workers should be able to get by with the free version, the Professional edition costs $12 per user per month, while the Enterprise edition costs $25 per user per month. Note that Zoho charges for some features on the free account, such as the Outlook plug-in, requests for importing all data and adding storage space.
You can see some screen shots of the application in use and see also check out the online demos. Compared to other CRM solutions, Zoho’s CRM package is affordable and easier to learn. Web workers will more than likely find most of what they need in Zoho CRM for a great price.
How do you track leads and manage client accounts?