Small business owners should always be looking for an edge. Seek whatever increases market competitiveness and provides opportunities to scale. Technological business solutions, such as customer relationship management platforms, are an obvious avenue to explore. But depending on the features they contain, CRM systems  can prove a help or a hindrance to the SMB crowd.
Many small business owners assume that CRM solutions, with their many projections, integrations, and automations, are overkill for companies with only a handful of employees. They may instead rely on low-tech tools, such as data-heavy spreadsheets and email category flags, for lead nurturing and customer management.
It makes sense. The success of and demand for CRM systems have driven vendors to capture market share by introducing a plethora of new features. As a result, many highly sophisticated CRM platforms exist to serve the needs of rapidly growing businesses and enterprises, but small business users find their elaborate features to be cumbersome and overwhelming.
What to Look for in a CRM
That doesn’t mean that CRM systems are just for industry giants, though. Even the smallest business can benefit from them , as it’s critical to establish processes for efficient customer management before scaling. What savvy small business owners need is a way to filter out the overly fancy features of CRM applications and use only what will benefit their operations.
Consider these ways to pare down CRM systems to their must-have features in order to find a software solution that’s right for your business right now.
4 CRM Features You Don’t need — and Those You Do
1. Ditch the Project Management
A small business doesn’t need integrated project management in its CRM solution. PM software and CRM systems have different goals and properties and should really be kept separate, at least at this stage.
Those differences are substantial. A PM system tends to work in terms of projects with contained timelines and specific deliverables. Whereas a CRM solution functions with respect to a long-term customer vision. A PM system offers agile support, task trackers, and budget management tools, while a CRM platform enables customer support, referral tracking, and sales quote and proposal tools. In terms of cost, all-in-one software packages are generally far more expensive than function-specific software. For small businesses, this can be a budget-busting outlay.
All the management you really need in your CRM system is calendar management. Because you need to meet with leads regularly for sales or follow-up purposes, calendar functionality is critical for responding to existing and potential customers in a timely manner. Calendars can also sync for all sales team members, making it easy to coordinate efforts.
2. Opt for Reminders Over Automation
Automation  is another too-special feature of CRM platforms that won’t serve you well at this stage. It is useful for big businesses, but small ones can forgo it, undercutting complexity and cost in the process. As Tyler King, CEO and co-founder of Less Annoying CRM, observes , “Not only is heavy automation expensive and confusing, it also eliminates the human touch that makes small businesses unique. Your personal interactions, rather than light-speed efficiency, give you a competitive edge.”
Instead, rely on the reminders that are built into CRM systems. These allow you to effectively schedule interactions — and the all-important follow-ups that lead to conversions — with the customers in your pipeline.
3. Save Lead Scoring for the Future
The lead scoring and segmentation features of CRM systems are unnecessary when lead volume is fairly low. “Unlike businesses with huge marketing budgets and teams, SMBs are unlikely swimming in qualified leads,” says Cathy Reisenwitz , a former Capterra analyst. “This makes it all the more important to ensure no lead falls through the cracks,” rather than assigning numerical priorities to every lead.
Down the road, when your operation scales up, you may pursue lead scoring, but for now, you should focus on lead and task management. Lead management tools allow you track lead behavior and activity, while task management enables you to coordinate your efforts and make sure your team stays on track with all leads.
4. Prioritize Consent Tools over Email Integration
Lastly, many CRM systems offer email marketing integration, but this generally isn’t needed for a small business. It can always be integrated later. Maybe when your business has grown well past 100 customers and you feel comfortable with CRM basics.
Instead, a more helpful feature for small businesses is a consent tool to ensure compliance. For example, Europe’s GDPR law has forced all companies that do business in the European Union or have EU customers to comply. Such laws can significantly restrict email marketing efforts .
CRM solutions can support compliance, such as by adding a consent checkbox when users sign up for your service. This allows customers to quickly, easily grant consent for you to use their data, as is required by GDPR.
Don’t be daunted by the many CRM options available on the market. By prioritizing simplicity, you start to manage your customer base and set yourself up for success when you scale. At that point, if you need further functionality, you can always add it in.