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How to choose the right CRM for your business

Written by Martin Gessner

Have you ever wondered what sets successful business owners apart from others? One of the reasons may be the way they manage customer relationships. Enter the world of customer relationship management systems.

A customer relationship management system, or CRM system, is software that helps businesses manage, analyse, and improve their interactions with current and potential customers. It works as a centralised hub for customer information, streamlining communication and aligning sales, marketing, and customer service efforts. 

A staggering 91 per cent of companies with more than 11 employees use a CRM. But with a myriad of options available, how do you choose one that’s a perfect fit for your business? Keep reading for some actionable insights on how to choose a CRM system for your business.

#1: Define your objectives and needs

You need to find out what you’re looking for in the first place. What are the specific needs and objectives of your business? This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many businesses skip this crucial step.

Start by asking yourself some key questions. What do you want to achieve with your CRM system? Are you looking to improve customer service, boost sales, enhance marketing efforts, or all of the above? The answers to these questions will help you determine the kind of CRM you need.

For instance, if you’re a small to medium-sized company focusing on boosting your sales, you’d want a CRM that offers robust sales tracking and pipeline management features.

Don’t forget to map out your current sales process and identify areas that could be optimised. Based on this, incorporate the additional features you’ll be looking for in a CRM into your list. This features list will come in handy once you start evaluating CRM systems. 

#2: Evaluate your options and create a CRM software solutions list

Now that you’ve identified your needs, it’s time to research the many CRM solutions on the market. But beware, it’s easy to get lost in the ocean! The key is to not get overwhelmed. Here are some common features a small business will generally find helpful in a CRM system:

  • contact management for storing customer data and interactions;
  • sales pipeline and lead management;
  • workflow automation;
  • customer feedback surveys and polls;
  • visual dashboards, reporting, and sales forecasting;
  • sales automation;
  • email marketing tools;
  • integration with your current solutions, such as business phone systems, project management tools, and collaboration tools.
  • customer support ticketing and tracking.

But not all of these may apply to your business. That’s why you need to go back to your features list. Want to know how to choose a CRM system that will drive your business’ success? You should ensure it fits the CRM criteria you determined were the best based on your business goals.

So, start looking for information online about the many CRM providers, then create a list of CRM solutions that fit the criteria you specified in your features list. For example, if data analytics is your priority, your list of potential CRM solutions should include systems known for their robust analytics features. But don’t stop there.

Once you have an initial list of CRM systems that fit your criteria, narrow it down by looking at customer reviews. Assume you included one brand in your potential CRM solutions list because it seemed to be a good fit for your business. In the course of your research, you find it has many negative reviews. Well, the prudent thing to do would be to remove it from your list of potential CRM software.

Also, as part of your CRM solutions evaluation, test the CRM systems. Ask for a demo so someone from the CRM company can show you how the tools work. This way, you can see the product in action and ask any questions you have. 

Follow this process until you narrow down your list to five CRM solutions. These are the CRM platforms that closely align with the specific needs of your business. 

#3: Consider your budget

You need to consider your budget; this is where many businesses, especially start-ups, can come undone. CRMs come in different pricing models. Some are a one-time purchase, while others offer a monthly subscription. Many have a tiered pricing structure based on features or the number of users. This variety means you can often find a pricing plan that matches the size and needs of your business. 

However, it’s important to consider not just the upfront costs, but also the long-term costs. Assume a start-up initially chooses a seemingly cost-effective CRM. Six months down the line, you may find you need advanced features like additional reporting and customisation, and you may end up paying more than if you had gotten the more expensive package in the first place.

The lesson here is look beyond the price tag. The cheapest option can sometimes end up being more expensive in the long run if it doesn’t scale with your growing business. Additionally, watch out for hidden costs. These can include expenses for additional integrations, data migration, or training to use the system. A CRM might appear affordable on paper, but if it requires extensive training or numerous add-ons, the costs can add up quickly.

#4: Look for integration capabilities

Your CRM has to play well with your existing tools. Why is integration so crucial? All your digital solutions should allow a seamless flow of information across all your business platforms. A CRM should be able to integrate with your existing software, like your accounting, email marketing, or customer service platforms.

This interconnectivity enhances efficiency, reduces data entry errors, and provides a comprehensive view of your customer interactions. Imagine a business using multiple standalone systems for different functions. The sales team uses one tool, the marketing team another, and customer service yet another. The result? Fragmented customer data and a lot of time wasted juggling between systems. 

Now, picture a cloud-based CRM that integrates with all these tools, bringing everything under one roof. A completely different story! So, to further narrow down your potential CRM solutions list, check for integration capabilities with the tools you already use or plan to use.

For instance, a retail company may benefit immensely from CRM software that integrates effortlessly with its e-commerce platform, POS system, and inventory management software. This integration ensures that customer data from online and offline sales channels are synchronised, ensuring invaluable insights for personalised sales and marketing strategies. Some CRMs offer built-in integrations, while others might require third-party tools to bridge the gap.

#5: Prioritise user experience for your team

Choosing a CRM system for your business requires considering the user experience. The new software has to be easy to use. A CRM with a steep learning curve or clunky interface can lead to low adoption rates and employee frustration, and ultimately, a wasted investment.

Think about it this way – a CRM is a tool your team will use every day. If it’s not user-friendly, it’s like having a high-tech coffee machine that no one knows how to use. What’s the point if it only complicates things?

To avoid this, focus on CRMs that offer an intuitive, clean interface and customisable options to match your team’s workflow. Also, consider the level of training the CRM will require. A good CRM should help your team do their jobs better. It shouldn’t be a burden. Look for CRM providers who offer training materials online, with clear instructions, videos, and easy-to-access troubleshooting channels

Furthermore, look for CRM software with a responsive design that works well on various devices, including mobiles and tablets. This flexibility is handy especially for sales reps doing business on the go. Happy CRM hunting!

“The opinions expressed by BizWitty Contributors are their own, not those of BizCover and should not be relied upon in place of appropriate professional advice. Please read our full disclaimer."

About the author

Martin Gessner

Martin Gessner is the Founder of Focus on Force. He has spent over 10 years working in various Salesforce roles including business analyst, project manager, consultant, and solutions architect. Along the way, he has earned twelve certifications, published "The Salesforce Career Playbook", and helped Salesforce professionals learn more about Salesforce, develop their careers, and prepare for certifications.