How to choose a CRM softwareMay 01, 2021
Everybody knows that a CRM system is a must for any B2B business. But, how do you choose the right CRM vendor? From deployment methods to functionality, from integrations to user experience, let’s have a look at the thing you will have to consider before you select the right CRM for your business.
Because with the right CRM software, you will stay competitive by keeping track of your interactions with all customers, monitoring your sales and marketing efforts, building strong relationships with existing customers, selling more products and services, optimizing workflows between sales and marketing teams, acquiring and retaining new customers.
The first mistake to avoid
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 processes 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 the areas you should take into account when choosing a CRM system.
Cloud or on-premise?
Both solutions have pros and cons, but you will have to make up your mind here.
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-based CRM 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.
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.
Know your features and functionalities
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 Software Advice, 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 adapt to your needs!
Check the system integrations
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.
Now, we’re not just talking about integrations with Office 365 or a Google G-Suite integration!
Of course, these integrations are important… but, your CRM software should also seamlessly integrate with: an ERP or other accounting software, HR software, your website, web forms to import new leads, billing, and e-commerce platforms to register transactions, as well as 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 systems allow you to import data from other sources. Also, check whether you can export information out of your CRM software.
Ask for a demo and have a free trial
Never take a CRM system at face value! It’s always a good idea to test it out.
The best solution is to start with a live (or online), personalized demonstration and then move onto a free trial.
During a live demo session, a salesperson walks you through the software and shows you how to use it. Then, you can ask specific questions that are related to your business.
After that, you can move on to “playing” with a trial version in order to get a good feel of 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.
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?
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 ongoing, 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.
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 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.
The last, but definitely not least, is the availability of GDPR functionality in a CRM.
With GDPR now in effect, your customers’ data and where it’s stored is more important than ever before.
Having a GDPR-ready CRM system helps you manage customer data more efficiently.
For example, if your customer wants to be removed from your database, you need to be able to honor their request and send a confirmation of the 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 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’s 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 small and scale up as your business grows.