Customer relationship management (CRM) software allows businesses to collect, monitor and analyze all of their interactions with customers and prospects. These interactions are then built out into chronicalized relationship databases that can be used to not only drastically improve sales conversations, but marketing content as well.
Imagine being able to remember every name, conversation and point of interest of every person you’ve met at networking events, parties and nights out? Of course this is impossible, unless you're a hyperthymesiac, but just imagine the possibilities. This is how a CRM works for your business. It creates the secret weapon to making meaningful relationships.
CRMs are an absolutely crucial component of a successful inbound sales strategy. With the right one, the conversion rates by your marketing and sales teams will grow through the roof, making the impact of a team of 10 feel like a team of 50. But there are so many CRM solutions on the market that it can be overwhelming finding the right one for your business. Here’s what you need to know to find the optimal CRM.
12 Questions to Ask When Choosing a CRM Solution:
1. What do you need CRM software for?
If you don't know what you're implementing CRM software for, then you won't know what type of CRM software is going to best fulfill your needs. Determine exactly what your needs are and where your challenges lie.
If you're attracting a lot of prospects but having trouble converting, then it could be the result of a lack of communication between marketing and sales. In which case you'll want to look at CRM software that can bridge that communication gap. You should also know what your marketing and sales goals are so that you know what kinds of features will best help you achieve those goals.
Knowing what you need CRM software for will also make it easier to identify features that you don't need. There's no point in paying for a CRM solution that's filled to the brim with features you're not going to use.
2. How much does the CRM software cost?
Your budget is going to affect the type of CRM solution you invest in. Different vendors charge different prices for the use of their CRM software. However, you'll find that most vendors have a tier system in place, which means that you can buy more basic versions of their software or more advanced versions. Some CRM vendors, like HubSpot, even have free versions, which are typically more stripped down. They offer these free versions because they assume that you'll grow accustomed to using it and will eventually want more features, meaning that you'll then upgrade to a paid version.
Consider your budget and look at what each version has to offer. In some cases, paying extra for more advanced features can be offset by the money you'll save from the improved productivity of a more efficient workflow.
3. What types of features does the CRM solution offer?
Knowing what your goals, needs, and challenges are will go a long way towards being able to identify what features are helpful to your business and what features are unnecessary. The following are just a few examples of some of the features you may want to look for in a CRM solution:
Marketing tools - Common marketing tools built into many CRM solutions include email templates, project management tools, sales forecasting, email marketing pipelines, and more.
Lead management tools - Lead management tools often include automation tools to help nurture leads through the sales funnel, tools that allow you to generate leads automatically via inbound calls, website visitors, social media, newsletter opt-ins, and more.
E-commerce functionality - Businesses that sell products online will want to look for e-commerce functionality, which is often offered by higher end CRM software. Mid-tier solutions may offer e-commerce integration.
Reporting - Reporting functionality is an absolute must. Look for reporting features that allow you to customize your reports and that allow you to automate the generation of reports whenever you need them.
Call center capabilities - Basic CRM packages do not include call center capabilities, although some do provide call center integration so that you can link your CRM to a call center software. If you need call center capabilities, you may want to look at higher tier CRM solutions that offer them.
Built-in workflows - Good CRM solutions offer built-in workflows that help with managing and organizing tasks. Look for workflows that are highly customizable.
4. How customizable is the CRM?
The more customizable the CRM is, the better. You'll want to configure the CRM software for your needs, after all. Your choice of CRM software should be able to compliment your business by reflecting your specific marketing strategy, sales process, customer service, and more. If the CRM solution you invest in isn't customizable or has limited customization options, what you can do with it will be limited as well--especially since your needs will most likely change as your business grows.
5. What kind of analytics features are provided?
The reporting features of a CRM are incredibly important. Dive into the reporting features of the CRMs you are comparing. What kind of metrics will you be able to track and how customizable are the reports that you can generate? The more comprehensive the reporting features are, the more capable you will be of judging the performance of your sales and marketing strategies, thereby allowing you to adjust your strategies for the better (and thereby avoiding the waste of resources on strategies or tactics that aren't working).
6. Do you need a SaaS or an on-premise solution?
When you choose SaaS (software as a service), it means that the provider will upgrade their hardware as needed and your software will be upgraded automatically. This tends to be the best option for smaller to mid-sized businesses. Larger businesses that require complicated system integration, require heavy offline capability, and have large data volumes may benefit more from on-premise CRM.
7. Will the CRM integrate with other applications?
The whole point of investing in a CRM is to help improve your workflow. If it doesn't integrate with your existing systems, then it's going to be just another system in a collection of different systems that don't work with one another, which could end up hurting your efficiency unless you upgrade your other applications to applications that work with the CRM you end up implementing -- but doing this is an unnecessary waste of money.
8. Is the vendor familiar with your industry?
You're going to get a lot more out of your CRM if the vendor is familiar with the industry you're in. If they've worked with companies that are similar to yours, then odds are that they know what you're looking for. Some of their features are probably going to be more aligned with what you need if you choose an industry-specific vendor as well.
9. Does the vendor offer a free demo or trial?
You won't want to blindly invest in and implement a CRM solution without trying it out first. The majority of CRM vendors do provide free trials or, at the very least, demonstrations. The last thing you want is to invest in a CRM that doesn't work for you. By testing it out or getting a thorough demonstration, you'll be able to better assess the strengths and weaknesses of the software.
10. Is training available?
Some CRM solutions may be more complicated than others, especially if it offers more features and extensive customization options. If this is the case, you'll want your team to be trained by the vendor or else it's going to take forever to implement the CRM and for your team to figure out how to use it. In fact, without thorough training, your team may never grasp the ins and outs of your CRM software, which will make its use inefficient--the exact opposite of why you've invested in CRM software to begin with.
11. Is strong customer support provided?
It doesn't matter how well trained your team is, issues may come up with your CRM software that needs addressing. For example, you may have difficulty using new features, or there may be problems executing certain functions properly. You may even experience bugs in new updates. You'll want to be able to contact someone who can help you solve these issues as quickly as possible. The longer they go unsolved, the more it will hurt your team's ability to do their job. This is why customer support is so important.
When comparing CRM solutions, look for a vendor that provides full-fledged customer support. This means providing multiple ways to get in touch with them, such as via online chat, phone, and email. The longer the customer support hours are, the better. Ideally, you can find a vendor that offers 24/7 support.
12. Are there community features?
A CRM vendor that has a community established can be very beneficial. It means that you can communicate with other users to discuss any issues you have with your CRM as well as tips and tricks when it comes to using the features to your advantage. While the vendor should still offer strong customer support, a community can help you discover best practices and more.
Want to get started with the CRM that we use at Story Block? HubSpot's free CRM is a powerful tool that delivers, and even the free version will prove itself a valuable tool in your sales and marketing arsenal. You can read more about it here. Also, get the free 10-Step Guide to Setting Up HubSpot Account: