Intuit, the company best-known for financial software like Quicken and QuickBooks, is expanding its lineup today with Customer Manager, an application that brings Intuit into competition with established sales software companies like

Many of the small businesses that buy Intuit software use relatively primitive tools like a spreadsheet or a whiteboard to track their customers, said Intuit product manager John Flora, because more sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) software doesn’t really address their needs,. Even though companies like Salesforce offer CRM for small businesses, that software is basically a stripped-down versions of an application that was really built for sales teams within large companies.

“It’s like trying to sell a soccer mom a new car by taking an 18-wheeler and taking the wheels off the back,” Flora said.

What makes Intuit’s product different? Flora said his team focused on simplicity, so Customer Manager provides what small business owners need need — namely, a way to see and update all customer data in one place, including contact information, pending tasks, upcoming appointments, and more — without overwhelming them with features. There’s a BlackBerry version that lets you view that information when you’re out of the office, and Intuit plans to support other smartphones too. Businesses can synchronize data from QuickBooks (so you know if a customer has an overdue bill, for example), as well as contacts from Microsoft’s email program Outlook.

The pricing is small business-friendly too, Flora said, at $9.95 a month for up to five users.

Customer Manager includes collaboration tools like shared calendars and tasks. Also worth noting: While Intuit offers both traditional and web versions of its flagship products, Customer Manager is online-only — another sign that Intuit sees web apps as a big part of its future.

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