CRM Software Buyer's Guide
Acquiring and retaining loyal customers are both essential strategies for business development and growth. To execute these activities successfully, your lead and customer data must be organized, accessible and up-to-date so that you do not miss any opportunities to transform an interested lead into a customer, or a one-time buyer into a lifelong advocate for your brand.
While worthwhile, keeping excellent data records can be time-consuming and prone to error when done manually. Until Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software was developed, converting leads and retaining customers were both very arduous processes on the back-end. CRM solutions continue to evolve and offer more tools each year and are growing in popularity for companies of every size, in every industry.
This guide will provide insight and tools for selecting the best CRM solution for your company.
Conduct a business review
Your unique business needs will be key in making any CRM purchasing or upgrading decisions in your company. Do a thorough analysis of the things that may be holding back your company growth, and then address whether or not a CRM can help heal up some of the pain points that are consistent across your company.
Some of the business needs you should factor in are:
- Customer retention and churn rates
- Success with meeting sales goals and strategic objectives
- New client or customer acquisition
Completing an in-depth analysis of your business and effective budgeting will help you understand your business needs and growth challenges. You can then use this vital information for selecting a CRM that best fits your needs and your budget, as well as discover even more ways you can position your business for growth and success.
Questions to ask to guide your review
If you have a good understanding of what you need, you will be better prepared to make an informed decision as you select which CRM software option to buy. This step of the planning process will also help you avoid purchasing too much software filled with options you don’t need or won’t ever use.
As you plan your CRM purchase, ask yourself the following questions to see what features are most important to your business:
- How can this software simplify lead generation, tracking and follow-up?
- How easy will it be to integrate this CRM?
- Can this system be accessed remotely or from mobile devices?
- How difficult will it be to customize this CRM to my business needs?
- What kind of support does this CRM offer?
- Does this CRM offer user-friendly and accurate analytics?
Build your CRM budget
Budgeting for a new CRM is a necessary first step to determine how much you can afford to invest. To accurately plan for what you can spend on purchasing a new CRM or upgrading your existing solution, you should consider aspects that impact your current and future profitability potential such as costs, time savings, efficiency and productivity.
The first thing you should become familiar with as you work a CRM into your company budget is cost. Make a detailed list of all your monthly expenditures and compare those costs to your sales and profits over the past six to twelve months. This will give you a solid baseline of your profitability and help you see how much you can truly afford to spend on a CRM.
Once you have an idea of the amount you have to spend, you can begin researching CRM solutions, and comparing features and costs to see what makes the most sense for your company financially.
Your profit potential cannot be fully estimated on sales and costs data alone. When you are budgeting for a powerful and time-saving software like a CRM, then you will also need to consider how much time the new tools will save you, and build that into your bottom line.
Efficiency and productivity
While planning for your new CRM, you should also spend time evaluating what activities your team is spending the most time on each day. If your company has experienced recent growth, there is a good chance that your valuable team members may be spending a majority of their time on paperwork rather than working toward bigger strategic initiatives in your company.
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Determine which type of CRM technology and deployment method will best suit your needs
CRM vendors typically offer an array of different technologies and deployment methods to best meet the size, budget and needs of your company. While cloud solutions are swiftly gaining popularity, particularly among small and medium companies, larger business still often choose to go with an on-site solution, so they can create a more customized and proprietary service.
Here’s a closer look at the main CRM technology options available on the market.
Cloud-based technology is becoming increasingly popular for all types of business software, and CRMs are no exception. Cloud technology functions through a third-party platform that is powered by the internet, which supports business mobility and remote system access that a flourishing company needs. Cloud CRM systems are also quite affordable, which gives more companies the opportunity to embrace a CRM earlier in their business.
On-premise, or on-site CRM solutions are systems that are built on-site in an office building or other physical location. On-premise CRM solutions require hardware and ongoing updates and maintenance, which makes implementation more expensive than cloud solutions.
Open source CRM solutions provide users within your organization with your system’s source code so that they can customize the CRM according to a company’s unique business goals.
Not sure what technology or deployment is for you? We can help!
Think about the people in your company who will be using your CRM system
For your CRM to be a success, your employees will need to embrace it and use it to its full potential. If your system is cumbersome or confusing, many employees may become frustrated and not use it as much as they should. This can hinder your growth, so it’s important to pick a CRM that suits the needs of everyone who will be using it.
As you think about the CRM users in your company, think over these questions to find the best fit for your teams:
- How many users will be using the CRM system?
- What levels exist in your users? (Basic, Intermediate, Advanced)
- What are the needs of each group of users?
- What type of support will users need as they learn to use and maximize the potential of your CRM?
Determine the features and tools your CRM must offer
While your business needs, users and budget will all work together to help you choose the best CRM system for your business, there are a list of core features offered by most CRM vendors that you will want to make sure are included in whichever option you choose. The core, must-have features of CRMs include:
- Remote and Mobile Access
- Lead Management
- Email Integration
- Social Media Integration
- List and Data Management
- Reporting and Analytics
- Automation Tools
- Upsell Tracking
- Forecasting Tools
Know what to look for in your perfect CRM provider
As you meet with various CRM system providers that you’re interested in working with, you should do some due diligence in researching their reputation before you commit to purchasing their services.
Some of the key things you should look for in your perfect CRM provider are prominence, reviews and support.
Industry prominence and popularity
While you should not choose a CRM provider based on popularity alone, a vendor’s standing in the industry can signal what you can expect from their services. Make sure that the provider you select has prominence in the industry and is popular among other companies with similar needs as yours.
Reviews from current or past system users
One of the best ways you can easily research a CRM provider you’re considering is to look for reviews given by current or past users. Reviews from current companies using the CRM can give you great insight into how the provider treats customers and how companies value their services and features. Past reviews can establish a history of service values and give you a snapshot into how the provider handles business over time as well.
CRM system support offered
Support is a vital component that all CRM system providers will offer. However, the types and degree of support will vary from provider to provider. So make sure you know what level of support your team will need, and then ensure your selected CRM vendor can easily fulfil those support needs.
Understand Your hardware needs for your CRM system
If you choose to implement a cloud-based or hosted CRM solution, then you will not require any hardware to get your CRM up and running quickly. You’ll just need an up-to-date computer or mobile device and a high-speed internet connection for the system to function following implementation.
However, if you’re going to be implementing a CRM solution on-site, you’ll need to plan on investing upfront for hardware, installation and ongoing maintenance on your system.
Study current trends in CRM technology
Business trends and software trends have a symbiotic relationship much of the time; innovation in one area always drives change in the other. To stay current and competitive in your industry by embracing all the best tools for your business, you should regularly study trends surrounding the software solutions you use in your company.
CRM trends are especially interesting at the moment because there are more devices connected to the internet than ever before. The IoT is causing a shift in the landscape of the business workforce, as more people choose to work remotely. As a result, cloud-based CRM solutions are rapidly growing in popularity each year and the technology is improving to make the systems easily accessible from remote locations or mobile devices.
On the horizon, CRM solutions are expected to get smarter and easier to automate with the help of AI-powered technology. While this trend is still in its infancy, it could potentially create a more immersive experience between users and the system itself, while also improving client interactions and relations.
Research and compare multiple CRM providers
Once you have a firm grasp on all the things you need from your CRM and understand what you must invest, you can then begin researching and comparing CRM vendors.
There are many excellent CRM providers on the market, and you’ll undoubtedly be able to find your perfect system if you take a bit of time to really look into what each vendor offers. Next, compare your top choices against one another to determine which is best for you and your business. As you compare your options, make sure to keep your list of key business needs and required features handy so you can reference them and keep yourself on track.
Set up demos and get pricing from CRM providers on your shortlist
Once you’ve created a shortlist of three to five CRM vendors that you’re interested in implementing, it’s important to take your preparation and research one step further and get in touch with each one. Most providers will happily set up meetings to discuss your CRM requirements and can demonstrate all the key features they can provide, for you.
Before you participate in a meeting or demo with a CRM provider, make sure that you refresh your memory on all your business and feature needs. It is also a great idea to provide your lists to the vendor prior to meeting, so they can put together the custom options and pricing they have available that will meet your needs. This will make your time much more efficient, and also give the vendor a clear understanding of exactly what you require.