VICTORIA, British Columbia (TheStreet) -- If your business is like mine, you're terrible at following up on sales leads.
The Microsoft (Stock Quote: MSFT) Outlook/Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL) Entourage hammerlock we relied on to manage our business e-mail, calendars and contacts is now officially broken. The rise of free, Web-based tools and the need to cut costs has forced many of us to cobble together systems using Google (Stock Quote: GOOG) Apps, Yahoo! (Stock Quote: YHOO) e-mail and our BlackBerrys.
Unfortunately, none of these will get business through the door. Keeping basic contact data up to date is still a challenge, and communications from prospects is far too easy to not follow up on.
The good news is that droves of companies see gold in helping small businesses battle sales overload. So-called customer relationship management, or CRM, tools like SalesForce.com, Microsoft Dynamic, Sage and SugarCRM help organize contacts, tasks and leads.
I've found the services of Victoria, British Columbia-based Oprius
particularly intriguing. Canadian entrepreneurs Alan Smith, Owen Mead-Robins and Jason Chu have developed a program for sole proprietors who are trying to manage complex relationships in the digital age. And it costs only $15 a month.
My assistant and I have been testing the system over the past few weeks.
What you get
It takes time to get the hang of it, but Oprius is a powerful small business tool at a great price.
Oprius is all about simplicity. Every page of this Web-based program, from contacts to calendars to phone management, was easy to read, use and modify. Information is organized well with descriptive tags and clear steps to help guide your work flow. You're not facing the avalanche of options other CRM tools force on you. Just log in, open a test account, grab yourself a Starbucks (Stock Quote: SBUX)and follow the instructions.
You can import customer information as you would with Outlook or Google Contacts. My 4,000-plus names didn't clog the system.
The phone calling features were particularly useful. You can track your customers' contact history and schedule calls, which helped me plan my selling day. I really liked the "end call" button, which prompted me to think about how the call went and schedule follow-ups.