How To Choose A CRM System For Your Business

A CRM concept illustration

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can dramatically improve the way your business interacts with customers and pursues leads.

It can also provide many opportunities for improving customer support and increasing productivity.

However, to fully take advantage of all of the features in a CRM system, you must choose the right product. This can be difficult as there are many CRM products available with a wide variety of different features. Each business also has a unique set of circumstances that can determine which CRM system is ideal.

You can use the directory on Software For Projects to look at the many different CRM software that is available but you first need to be sure to know ones that are most suited to your business.

This how to choose a CRM guide will help you understand the types of functionality included in most CRMs and share a simple process for picking the best CRM for your business.

What Is A CRM?

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a technology that helps businesses manage relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers.

CRM software achieves this goal by recording the details of customers in a central database. This information makes it far simpler for businesses to understand what customers want and to identify sales opportunities.

The acronym CRM spelled on a blackboard

CRM systems can build value for a business by creating a common client-focused knowledge base which allows the employees to better serve clients. It also opens up vital communication channels within the business, making it easier for teams to collaborate.

Over time, CRM software will help your business understand the buying habits and preferences of your customers and prospects. This information is extremely valuable as it drives sales growth, increases sales opportunities, and provides the ability to offer value-added services to customers.

Some of the many advantages of using a CRM system include:

  • Stronger customer relationships
  • Easier to ensure customer needs are met
  • Improved service delivery processes and product development
  • Increased staff awareness of customer needs
  • Integrated sales, marketing, and customer service functions
  • New sales opportunities
  • Reduced customer frustration
  • Improved decision making
  • Greater employee efficiency and productivity

What Features Do CRMs Typically Have?

The sophistication of CRM tools has dramatically increased over the past decade. In addition to recording customer data, modern CRMs can help with marketing, customer support, the sales pipeline, content management, and much more. All these need to be considered when making your CRM selection.

The functionality contained included in modern CRMs can be split into three main categories:

Sales Force Automation

Many CRMs contain functionality for analysing the sales cycle and managing the sales pipeline. They can track each prospect as they move along the sales pipeline, improving conversion rates and customer satisfaction. Sales automation tools can:

  • Ensure your sales team is using their time in the best way possible
  • Identify parts of the sales pipeline which need improvement
  • Improve lead tracking
  • Identify the best performing members of the sales team
  • Making it simple for salespeople to find the right sales content for each prospect
  • Process quotes and orders more efficiently
  • Make it easier for new salespeople to learn sales processes
  • Understand which stage of the sales pipeline each prospect has reached
  • Track and solve any sales objects or queries from prospects
  • Give remote sales staff access to the data and information they need to work externally

Customer Support Automation

CRMs are extremely useful for providing support to customers. They can help your business improve customer loyalty, generate more repeat sales, and improve customer satisfaction. Some of the customer support tools CRMs often include:

  • Customer support ticket functionality
  • Conversation histories
  • Tools for promoting cross-sales and up-sales
  • Call centre tools for improved efficiency (automated dialling, call forwarding, call escalation)

Photographs of customers

Marketing Automation

It is common for modern CRM software to include marketing tools. These tools make it easier for anyone in your organisation to obtain and utilise the most effective marketing materials available. Marketing automation can help businesses:

  • Develop and implement marketing campaigns
  • Track the effectiveness of marketing campaigns
  • Ensure marketing materials remain consistent across the business
  • Manage marketing campaign budgets
  • Automate marketing material distribution
  • Maintain email marketing lists
  • Improve the effectiveness of targeted email marketing campaigns
  • Develop a personalised approach when marketing to prospects
  • Use customer filtering to send highly targeted campaigns

Some all-in-one CRMs will focus on all three areas equally. However, other products will have a deeper focus on a particular aspect, which is useful if you are looking to make significant improvements in a single area.

Steps for Choosing The Right CRM For Your Business

1. Think about the main goals of your business

Identifying the goals of your business will help you determine the functionality you require in a CRM. Consider what you need a CRM solution for today as well as what kinds of features that might be useful as your business grows. Some of the key questions to ask yourself include:

Do you need more leads?

Look for CRM software which has excellent marketing and lead generation tools. CRMs with a lead generation focus include HubSpot, Pardot, Contactually, and SharpSpring.

Does your business need to improve how well it tracks prospects?

If so, you may need a package with advanced sales pipeline tracking, like Salesforce, Pipedrive, or Hubspot Sales.

Are your teams struggling to communicate with one another?

Look for a CRM that has excellent internal communications systems which allow sales, market, content, and support teams to work together more efficiently.

Do you need help with email marketing?

Either choose a CRM with internal email marketing software or one which is easily integrated with a third party provider like MailChimp.

Are you looking for insight into how your business is performing?

Look for a solution which offers advanced analytics data and customisable dashboards.

Is your sales team struggling to convert leads?

Use a CRM which has lead scoring so you can qualify leads more easily, focussing your attention on the right prospects.

Do you want to focus on telemarketing?

Choose a platform which offers advanced call centre tracking.

The large number of CRM applications available means you should have no problem finding a platform that meets your needs.

2. Consider usability

CRM platforms can be extremely sophisticated programs with dozens of features. Unfortunately, if the program’s interface is too complex or it has a steep learning curve, your employees may initially find it difficult to use.

A responsive website on a mobile

To ensure your employees can use CRM software successfully, look at its interface and consider its usability. Is it intuitive and easy to use or does it look challenging? Consider the technical skill of your employees and how they might adapt to the app.

3. How much does it cost?

It’s a good idea to assess the price of specific CRMs before researching their functionality. After all, there is no point exploring the advanced features of a CRM if it is too costly for your business to afford. There are also different pricing regimes for different products, with some tools having one-off up-front payments while others use monthly/annual subscriptions.

4. Will the CRM provider help with initial setup?

Switching to a new CRM can be a daunting task. Employees will need to learn a number of new user interfaces and work processes. If they can’t get to grips with all of the features that are available, the CRM may not deliver on its promised efficiencies, improvements, and return on investment.

Some CRM providers will offer extensive personalised assistance during these initial learning stages. However, others simply direct you towards a manual. Consider how much help your business may require during the initial setup period and what is provided.

5. What is the quality of customer support?

No product is perfect. You may experience bugs, inconsistencies, or other problems with the CRM after purchase. Consider how much support the CRM provider is willing to offer when these issues occur.

Do they offer free personalised support? Is over the phone support available or is the only option a lengthy user manual? Are there plenty of tutorials for complex procedures or will your employees be forced to search for answers on a website?

6. What marketing tools does it offer?

Over the past decade, most CRM makers have increased the types of marketing functionality available on their platforms. In some cases, CRMs have become so advanced that they can fully replace other types of marketing software and services completely. Consider your current marketing strategy to see if the CRM’s capabilities would be suitable.

7. Does it come with a help desk?

Having a help desk integrated into a CRM can be very useful for businesses who often provide customer support. A help desk makes it easier to process customer requests and ensures that all customers receive the assistance they require. It can also help you identify sales opportunities amongst customer requests, including up-selling and cross-selling opportunities.

8. Is Social CRM functionality available?

Social CRM integrates social media channels with CRM functions. It makes it possible for businesses to link consumers with their social media activities — giving the business much more insight into consumer preferences and requirements.

Social media icons

Social CRM can also help businesses monitor social media activity relating to their brand and interact with prospects via social media. This can be a powerful feature for businesses with an online presence.

9. Does the CRM offer complete contact views?

High quality CRM software will provide a 360 degree view of each contact, allowing your business to see all of the contacts that a prospect or customer has had. This means that your sales team will be able to see previous sales enquiries, support requests, and other contacts from a prospect.

Likewise, your support team will be able to see what other products a customer owns and what their requirements are. This holistic approach feeds more useful information to your teams, leading to better outcomes.

10. How customisable are dashboards?

Most CRMs will use dashboards to give users access to their favourite functionality and the reports they are most interested in. Dashboards can improve productivity and make it easier for employees to carry out day-to-day tasks.

It’s important to note the amount of customisation available for dashboards can vary greatly between CRM system providers. Some CRMs will let users have virtually any report or function on their personalised dashboard while others are quite limited.

11. How sophisticated are its reporting tools?

One of the best reasons to use a CRM system is that it can give you detailed reports on everything from customer satisfaction through to the productivity of your customer support team. However, some CRMs offer more powerful metrics than others. If your team has the knowledge and time necessary to make used of detailed reports, opt for a CRM that has substantial metrics and reporting functionality.

12. Do You Require Mobile Access?

In recent years, it has become much more common for employees to work using mobile devices. If this is the case with your team, opt for a CRM solution that is mobile friendly.

13. Do you require integration with other software?

If you already have telephony applications, marketing platform, or other types of software,  consider choosing a CRM which can be easily integrated with other platforms. This will help you make the most of your CRM.

14. Read some reviews

Reading impartial reviews of a CRM written by other business owners is one of the best ways to accurately assess a product. Websites like G2Crowd, Capterra, and BestVendor have thousands of reviews from real-world users.

Reading these reviews will help you understand how easily specific CRMs can be integrated, what features are particularly useful, how good the provider’s support is, and much more.

15. Contact the vendor with any questions

If you are unsure about the capabilities of a particular CRM, contact the provider. They should be happy to answer any questions that you may have. In many cases, they will offer to give you a demonstration of the capabilities of their product, which will help you understand if it meets your requirements.


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