In today’s economy, more businesses are focused on finding ways to improve productivity, acquire more customers, and increase their ROI. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can make these objectives and many more—a reality for companies that adopt them. Businesses that implement CRM systems realize more opportunities and greater revenue, without necessarily investing in additional sales staff.
However, choosing the right CRM for your unique business needs can prove rather difficult, especially when considering the seemingly endless amount of features, options and price points, across a long list of providers. Below are the top nine best practices for selecting the right CRM for your business.
1. Understand Your Ultimate Needs
What are your company’s growth objectives and current pain points? Do you need a solution that will help drive more business? Where would you like your company to be in the next year years? Do you want to improve customer satisfaction and retention? Choosing the best CRM must entail not just forecasting current needs, but planning for the future as well.
2. Solicit Feedback from Your Team
Determine the ‘must haves’ from the ‘nice to have,’ and understand the bigger picture of how each department creates, accesses and stores data. In addition to involving your marketing, sales, and IT departments, it’s critical to obtain buy-in from a minimum of one C-level executive. Keeping your entire team aware and engaged during the process of CRM selection will ensure the final choice, is the correct choice.
3. Prioritize Your Problem Solving
Getting the whole view of your organization from the standpoint of results and performance can be challenging. It’s pertinent to realize exactly which problems you’re trying to solve today and looking into the future. Some examples of typical problems may include:
- Lost income potential
- Long sales cycles
- Lack of competitive insight
- Failure to track key business metrics
- Communication errors and difficulties
Creating a list of problems that a CRM should help solve provides a more accurate idea of the success you can expect, upon adoption of the platform.
4. Reporting – Garbage in, Garbage Out
Carefully consider which reports are likely to be needed, and ensure the solution you’re considering can actually create them. Many companies are optimistic about their overall performance until a CRM provides the true numbers, and disappointment shortly ensues. Having the ability to create custom reports based on specific data that’s unique to your company, gives you a bird’s eye view of your strengths and weaknesses, and highlights opportunities that could improve your business.
5. Classes of CRM: Be Informed
Your business may need certain features that are only available in certain CRM platforms. Knowing the differences between the various CRM classes is critical to avoid making an expensive mistake, or a mistake which could threaten your company’s existence. Be sure to learn and fully understand the difference between budget CRMs, Mid-market CRMs, and Enterprise CRMs.
- Budget CRMs – often cater to a single user’s needs, and provide only limited functionality
- Mid-market CRMs – cater to teams and organizations for 5 or more users, and generally, have rich functionality with an emphasis on collaboration
- Enterprise CRMs – are designed for larger companies that require complex integrations with other systems, as well as customization
Cheaper is not always better when choosing a CRM. Sure, budget CRMs attract customers with their monthly subscription models and low pricing, but that’s partly because turnover is so high, and vendors anticipate drop off. In contrast, mid-market CRMs generally require an annual agreement, unlike most budget CRM products.
It’s important to consider, however; once the purchase has been made, additional investments into equipment, software customization, integration, training, maintenance, and upgrades will be needed—if not now, in the years to come. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider not just the upfront costs, but the long-term costs and benefits the CRM will deliver.
7. Implementation and Setup
Implementation and setup activities usually fall under implementation costs and are often a requirement for Mid-Market and enterprise CRMs. Setup and configuration generally include some or all of these types of services:
- Migrating existing Customers and Contacts
- Migrating existing Leads and Opportunities
- User account setup
- Importing Goods and Services
- Configuring your CRM account and workflows for your business
Be sure to select a CRM vendor that will assist in the setup of your account. It’s important that you get help from a qualified party to set up your CRM, thus maximizing your investment. Failure to have your account setup correctly can lead to poor adoption, or even worse, the ultimate failure of your company’s precious investment.
8. Training and Support
It’s important to ask what kind of training and support the CRM vendor provides after the sale. Ask what forms of training are available and whether it’s on-site or online because if your team is unable to use the software, the best CRM in the world becomes practically worthless.
Furthermore, a certain percentage of users will need extended training and ongoing access to documentation, in order to learn the new CRM and have success using it in their roles. Since support can become a major problem, be sure to inquire about the vendors’ support policies, support hours, and any additional costs which might be involved.
9. Ease of Customization
How many of your business functions can be done with the CRM—right out of the box? How easy can the CRM be customized if more features are needed? Some CRM platforms require setting up the basics in order to start using them, while other systems require advanced customization prior to implementation.
Approaching CRM customization (even basic customization) incorrectly can prove very costly down the line, especially if improper setup warrants the conversion of data into a format that’s more usable or report-friendly. Your CRM should have the flexibility to handle the necessary functions while scaling with your business and its challenges, without needing a replacement.
Choosing the right CRM for your company is a serious process that should be planned thoroughly. Instead of making a quick dash to the most tempting offer, keep this guide handy when the time comes to purchase your first CRM, or upgrade your current platform. Carefully assess your company’s ultimate needs and expectations, and then move into the research process, with everyone onboard. After the right CRM has been adopted and deployed, you’ll have an unfair advantage—even in the fiercest markets.