[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Let’s face it, many of us feel completely overwhelmed at work. It’s estimated that the average professional person spends 20 percent of his or her time searching for information. Our inboxes are inundated with email, our desks are cluttered with stacks of paperwork, and Post-It notes cover our monitors. It’s no way to live.

Within our consulting firm we execute about 25 projects a year. There are roughly 2,000 clients, leads and influencers we need to communicate with regularly. So, I took my third stab at the ever-elusive CRM (customer relationship management) system.

This seemingly innocent CRM implementation turned into something else entirely, and we have completely redefined how we work. It’s as liberating as running naked into the ocean (not that I have ever actually done that).

CRM has been a four-letter word for many small- and medium-sized businesses, and for good reason. The 800-pound gorilla (who shall remain nameless) is viewed by many as overpriced and over-engineered.

We are in a new world. Two or three years after adoption of the cloud, new solutions are emerging, and they are game-changing for small businesses who can’t afford custom, sector-specific solutions.

Now you can use the power of established online marketplaces to grow your brand and sales, while streamlining and simplifying your business processes.

Here are the surprising consequences of implementing a contemporary bundled system:

You can ditch your email.

Email is both one of the most important productivity tools of all time, and the most repugnant. By moving to a collaboration tool similar to Slack or Wrike, we have dramatically reduced our email usage, making information easier to find in conversation threads. These technologies have been around for several years, but only now are mainstream companies using them to move away from email. Giving up gluten might be easier, but you could do it if you try.

Today you can have a smart mailbox that sorts your mail by clients, internal stakeholders, and people you don’t know.

You can eliminate your task list.

A shocking number of companies have no project management system. People just manage their stuff manually.

Today’s contemporary project management systems can integrate with your CRM. Once you convert a lead to a client, you can port over their information to then launch a project. In our case, we can enter a project’s start and end date, and all the tasks, champions and due dates populate seamlessly. The workflow automation is a tremendous time saver.

Task lists are dead. A good project management system allows every person to track every project and delegate tasks to others. I now receive an automated daily summary of my tasks. Not only is this the most useful productivity tool I’ve ever seen, but it drastically reduces my stress because it’s impossible for me to miss something.

Our firm is executing better than it ever has.

You can automate marketing.

We keep reading about marketing automation, made popular by solutions like HubSpot and Pardot. For some, marketing automation seems like voodoo.

Yet today’s CRMs are abundant with powerful email campaign tools that allow the marketer to target specific audiences with messages that are most meaningful to them. It simply doesn’t make sense to keep a list of prospects and export them into a standalone email tool that delivers no additional value.

You can drive more successful selling outcomes.

The promise of CRM was selling more stuff. These outcomes have largely been unrealized in a myriad of unsuccessful implementations.

But today’s CRMs are easy to use, mobile-ready and fast. Five years ago, logging a sales call in a CRM was painful. Today’s cellular and internet technologies allow you to create and store a record in a couple minutes.

Salespeople have the opportunity to use email templates, mass emails, ticklers, email reminders and countless other features at any place and any time. The single most important factor in CRM adoption is to prove that it will save salespeople time, not cost them time.

You can have more effective SOPs.

Many companies are still storing SOPs (standard operating procedures) in binders on a desk. You might as well send messages by carrier pigeon.

In a project management system, work instructions can be embedded within an electronic task. In other words, a new employee or person unfamiliar with an action item can read how to do it right inside the task without searching for it.

You can reduce your cost.

By adopting one integrated system, we have eliminated several software products. Today, every business can have a workflow system for a fraction of what it used to cost.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]