There’s no doubt about it – a good CRM system is a must-have for any growing business.
There comes a time when managing your customer database through hundreds of spreadsheets, hopping from one document or system to another to find lead or customer data, or navigating among sales opportunities by checking scribbles on Post-it notes is no longer an option.
No matter what size your company is, the right CRM software can help you stay competitive by allowing you to:
- keep track of your interactions with all customers
- stay in control of your sales and marketing efforts
- maintain strong relationships with existing customers
- sell more products and services
- improve communication between sales and marketing teams
- find and keep new customers.
Yet, choosing the right CRM system for your business isn’t easy.
The difficulty lies not only in the fact that there are many solutions and technologies to choose from. But you also have to consider deployment options, ability to customize, cost, scalability, and business value, before you decide.
With so many things to consider and weigh in when choosing a CRM for your business, there is another important thing that you have to address – your own needs!
In fact, it’s even more important to carefully evaluate what your business needs are. Then, match them to the functionality offered, your purchasing budget, and decide on whether or not you need all or only some functions that a CRM solution offers.
In this article we will try to ease the stress of decision making by offering a few practical tips on how to choose the right CRM system for your business.
8 things to consider when choosing the right CRM system
The biggest mistake that companies who are deciding on a CRM system make is that they are busy evaluating vendors and trying on different functionality, instead of concentrating on their own needs and business priorities.
Before you start evaluating CRM vendors, ask yourself these questions:
- What are the most inefficient processes in our business and what do we want to improve with a CRM system?
- What operational process and workflows we lack and need to add?
- Who in our company is going to use CRM? How many users do we need?
- What other software do we want to integrate with a CRM system?
- What is our budget?
After you’ve done this initial “soul-searching” and know why you need a CRM, the next step is to narrow down what you want in a CRM.
Here are eight areas you should take into account when choosing a CRM system.
1. Decide on CRM deployment: Cloud vs. On-premise
Both solutions have pros and cons.
With a Cloud (Software-as-a-Service/SaaS) solution, you don’t need a server or technical expertise on your side. You simply log into the cloud CRM software in your Internet browser and you’re ready to go. All information resides on the vendor’s server.
However, you must be online at all times. If your Internet connection fails, you will not be able to access your data.
With an On-premise solution, you own the software and it is hosted physically at your location. Thus, you will have direct access to the servers if you want to integrate with other customer applications. Moreover, you won’t have to deal with recurrent subscription charges.
However, you will need to have in-house IT personnel and purchase the necessary hardware and software, as well as incur higher upfront costs.
Here are a summary of pros and cons of each platform:
A word of caution, though – just because you need one deployment option today doesn’t mean that you won’t need the other one sometime in the future.
Choose the CRM system that is flexible and is able to evolve together with your business.
2. Know what features and functionality you need
Your business is unique in terms of its processes, customer base and growth dynamics.
So, committing to a set of standard, basic or inflexible functions is simply not wise. What you need is a scalable CRM solution!
As your business grows, so will your CRM needs. That’s why you need to make sure that the CRM solution you choose can be easily upgraded to the next more sophisticated version.
Another thing to remember is that very often CRM software comes with a lot of functions that need to appeal to a wide spectrum of businesses. But, why pay for the functions you don’t need or use?
According to SoftwareAdvice.com, first-time CRM buyers often overestimate what features they actually need.
Ask yourself – does everyone in your company really need all the bells and whistles a CRM can offer?
This also applies to the number of users in your company. Perhaps, different users need different user plans. Thus, sales departments might need a CRM with an advanced sales set and a possibility to use CRM on their mobile devices; while your communication team may need to only use the marketing-related functionality.
One thing is clear – stay away from the “one-size-fits-all” solutions; instead choose the CRM that can adopt to your needs!
3. Make sure the system integrates with other applications
This is one of the most important things to consider when choosing a CRM for your business.
You’re not buying a CRM as yet another item in the collection of different work systems.
You’re buying it to help you streamline your business operations! That’s why you need to ensure that the CRM system can integrate with other applications you already have.
Of course, these integrations are important… but, your CRM software should also seamlessly integrate with: an ERP or other accounting software, an HR software, your own website to import new leads, billing and e-commerce platforms to register transactions, as well as e-marketing solutions.
On a similar note – make sure that you are able to easily migrate your existing contact data into your new CRM software. Most CRM software will allow you to import data from other sources. Also, check whether you can export information out of your CRM software.
4. Request a demonstration and test drive a free trial
Never take a CRM system at face value! It’s always a good idea to test it out.
During a live demo session, a sales person walks you through the software and shows you how to use it. Then, you can ask specific questions that related to your business.
After that you can move on to “playing” with a trial version in order to get a good feel how everything works and see the system’s strengths and weaknesses. Look at things like ease of use, key functionality and the ability to expand.
Finally, we recommend you invite at least two vendors to the table, so you are able to compare the CRM offerings.
5. Choose an industry-specific vendor with local partners
Your industry may be very specific.
That’s why it’s a good idea to look for a CRM vendor who has worked with companies and industries which are similar to yours.
By simply studying a vendor’s website, you can get a good idea of the types and sizes of companies they work with. You can also check the third-party review sites, such as Capterra or FeaturedCustomers.com, for customer testimonials, references, scores, etc.
Another thing you need to consider is the vendor’s local partner network.
Most European businesses want to have a local partner to provide local support during and after the CRM implementation. If this is important to you, then it makes sense to look into the vendor’s partner network.
- Does the vendor have local partners?
- Do these partners only implement CRM or can they also offer business consulting?
- How much CRM experience does the local partner have, what is their certification status and how many implementations have they been involved with?
6. Check whether customization and training are available
A CRM solution is no good if it’s not properly configured or if your staff isn’t trained to use the features.
So, when you’re asking for a price, make sure to ask how much it will cost to configure the solution to your needs and to personalize training sessions – not just online tutorials.
A CRM system should complement your business and reflect your sales process, your marketing strategy, your customer service activities, your contact management routines. That’s why you should choose a system that is easy to configure.
As for training, it is one of the most important factors of a smooth CRM adoption. It should be an on-going, user-specific hands-on experience, so that everyone knows how to use the software to increase their efficiency.
Being it group, individual or role-based, CRM training not only shows how the system works, but also how everything is connected and how a user contributes to the general organizational workflow. Training, in fact, helps a company to work together towards the same goal.
7. Pay attention to user experience
One of the most crucial criteria of choosing a CRM system is how you feel and what you experience when you use it.
Does it help you? Is it intuitive? Or is there something that irritates you or slows you down?
For example, you can ask the vendor to show you how many clicks it takes to do a specific task. As you watch, ask yourself: How effective (and enjoyable) is the user interface? Are the buttons labeled clearly? Is the flow of actions logical?
All this constitutes user experience.
So, when you are watching a demo or testing out a CRM system, make sure to evaluate the system’s user interface, as well as its ease of use.
How important is a user-friendly CRM system, you ask?
According to our own research, it is very important!
As part of our sales process in SuperOffice, we invite new prospects to complete a survey before we meet them, in order to set (and exceed) their expectations. One of the questions included in this survey is "What do you consider to be important when choosing a new CRM solution?".
Based on more than 1,000 responses, 86% of prospects cite user-friendliness as their most important factor for choosing a new system!
Our research also shows that ease of use is the most important factor in CRM adoption, so don’t underestimate a simple, user-friendly interface.
8. Make sure the system has GDPR features
The last, but definitely not least, is the availability of GDPR functionality in a CRM.
For example, if your customer wants to be removed from your database, you need to able to honor their request and send a confirmation of deletion. Or, if your customer requests an electronic report of all data you store on them in your CRM, you’ll need to be able to generate that report for each customer individually.
A one-click solution will save you time and resources, instead of manually removing the customers’ data from multiple sales, marketing and customer service databases, or painstakingly sifting through various resources and double checking what data you store on them and where – all of which way too often leads to human error.
These are just a few examples of the GDPR-related actions that you must to be able to perform in your CRM solution.
Without GDPR-specific features, you run the risk of failing to comply.
No doubt – CRM plays a critical role in any business’ success.
No matter the size of your company, it’s always a good idea to map out what your needs and requirements are along with your budget to find the right solution.
And even though your business in the beginning may not need all the features and gadgetry a CRM system offers, it doesn’t mean that your company won’t need additional, more advanced functionality in the future.
It’s also easy to get caught up in all the wonderful things that CRM can do for your business, but, be cautious. The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a CRM is to keep it simple.
Start off small and scale up as your business grows. To learn more about how to choose the right CRM solution for your business, download a free copy of the CRM Buyers’ Guide today!