The quality of consulting work is intrinsically intertwined with the relationships consultants build with their clients. Without a strong, trusting rapport, there is nothing to encourage a client to stay loyal when competitors start knocking on their door.
Because of this reality, it’s important for consulting firms to invest in tools that enhance this connection without requiring additional work. Customer relationship management (or CRM) software is the best choice for firms looking to strengthen relationships with existing clients and create better experiences for potential clients.
Key Benefits of Using a CRM Tool for Your Consulting Firm
- Personalized stronger client relationships: A CRM tool can help you customize your interactions based on each client’s specific needs. This could include reviewing past client conversations for context on a future project or creating memorable moments through personalization, like sending a note on a client’s birthday.
- Truer understanding of your sales pipeline and more accurate forecasts: A CRM database can help your firm create more accurate sales forecasts based on the data it collects from past sales and will offer new insights to help you adjust your strategy and develop a more effective approach.
- Less time searching for information: In addition to the benefits a CRM can have for your clients, it is equally beneficial for the efficiency of your internal teams. Having one database to store important client information will reduce the time your employees spend searching for contact information or the status of an account.
- Superior analytics and reporting: In addition to the data you can gain on sales, some CRM systems can provide additional reporting to improve revenue forecasting with metrics like average deal size and average monthly recurring revenue.
Top CRM Platforms for Consulting Firms
- Zoho CRM
- NetSuite CRM
Accelo is an end-to-end cloud-based platform built to help consultants automate tasks, improve visibility and increase profits at their firm. Accelo goes beyond customer relationship management and offers solutions for all aspects of client work, including sales and quoting, project management, client support and tickets, billing and retainer management.
- A centralized client database to provide all employees with up-to-date client information
- Project management tools, including time tracking, resource management and project templates and triggers
- Retainers, including contract management and automation of recurring work and tasks
- Reporting and analytics, including revenue forecasting, client profitability reports and team member performance
- Built for all aspects of client work beyond its robust CRM, including quote automation and project management
- Products can be purchased individually for unmatched customization
- Accelo works best for teams of five or more, so may not be the best fit for smaller teams or freelance consultants
- No built-in marketing automation tools — but does have multiple marketing-focused integrations, including HubSpot and MailChimp
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HubSpot CRM is a pipeline management tool that provides real-time visibility into your firm’s sales pipeline. Their free option offers additional tools to assist sales, marketing, customer service, operations and business owners nurture existing client relationships.
- Lead management, including nurturing, scoring and automated sales alerts and tasks
- Email and online marketing, including dynamic content, email editor and email deliverability reporting, list management and landing pages
- Campaign management, including calendaring and event and webinar marketing
- Social media marketing, including social campaigns and social profile integration
- Free subscription option with CRM essentials for new firms
- Option to select the tools you need: one or more of HubSpot’s three core hubs (Sales, Marketing and Service)
The Keap platform combines CRM, sales and marketing automation, contact management and eCommerce capabilities with the primary focus of helping small businesses manage client relationships.
- Lead management including lead nurturing, lead scoring and automated sales alerts
- Social media marketing, including social profile integrations
- Email marketing, with personalized email options and automated responses
- Reporting and analytics
- Keap Lite pricing tier for solopreneurs and small teams
- Marketing automation capabilities create a consistent customer experience
Salesforce is a web-based CRM solution that helps companies manage their customers, partners and employees. The platform has multiple pricing levels and features that can scale with your business, making it a great choice for rapidly growing consulting firms who need a solution that can expand to meet their needs.
- Sales automation including customer data management, workflows and contract management
- Customer service and support, including case management and a central knowledge base
- Centralized database with real-time updates
- Reporting and analytics, including forecasting and pipeline visualization
- Ability to automate business processes, including simple tasks like creating automatic email alerts to more time-heavy tasks like filling out orders
- Fully customizable, with options to add custom fields and tabs, create email templates and build reporting dashboards
- Cost of is often higher than other CRM options, and increases with customizations and integrations
- Some users report feeling lost in the features and the platform may be more complex than some businesses need
The Zoho CRM platform is built to help businesses of all sizes manage their customer relationships. They work with a global network of more than 250,000 businesses and help companies engage with customers and build revenue.
- Sales automation, including a contact database, quotes and contract management
- Customer service and support features
- Marketing automation, including lead management and email marketing
- Reporting and analytics
- A free version is available for three or fewer users
- Pay-as-you-go service allows customers to pay monthly or annually without a contract
- While the free and standard levels offer some solutions, many of the features available through Zoho are only available in their higher-priced plans
- User challenges with customer support: experiencing multiple transfers before solving an issue or receiving incomplete answers to questions
NetSuite CRM, a cloud-based solution that integrates into the robust NetSuite ERP platform, brings customer data, sales and marketing automation and support together to help businesses gain visibility into their work and continue to grow.
- Sales automation and forecasting, including pipeline visualization and revenue projections
- Partner relationship management, including visibility into partner sales forecasting and options for joint marketing, orders and commissions
- Customer service and support, including case management and online self-service options
- Reporting and analytics, including customer service metrics, lead-generation trends and customer acquisition costs
- Integration with the NetSuite ERP platform offers consulting businesses a robust combination of tools
- A mobile app allows for managing tasks, updating timesheets and entering customer data on the go
Choosing the Right CRM for Your Firm
Investing in a CRM is an important step in taking your consulting firm’s client relationships to the next level. Even better? Finding a tool that combines the solutions of a CRM with the other essential parts of your business.
A client work management platform like Accelo eliminates the need for multiple systems and offers the ability to manage and automate every step of your relationship with a client, from sales and quoting to billing and retainers. Experience Accelo yourself with a free trial.
Kit Lewis is a Content Manager at Accelo, where she manages content projects, social media and content reporting. With a decade of writing for industries ranging from education to tech, past experience supporting client work and a commitment to building efficient systems, she is passionate about creating valuable content to help professional services teams.