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The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a CRM

Posted by Indusa Admin on June 16, 2016 5:00 am

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There are many questions you must ask when preparing to choose a CRM software. Leadership must find a proper balance between stakeholders and departments in order to make sure priorities are accounted for and pressing needs are met. You may even question the efficacy of investing in a CRM system, especially if your business has seemingly been “doing fine” without one. However, research by Kate Leggett at Forrester demonstrates the true potential of CRM software. ROI for CRM software is so compelling that the majority of organizations now make them their central customer portal. Furthermore, CRM software improves customer experiences and increases customer loyalty – a feat that many businesses struggle to achieve. That being said, regardless of the reasons behind investing in a CRM, there are numerous considerations to take into account before deciding on a specific CRM system.

Form vs. Function:
When initially considering a CRM implementation, it is important to ask yourself about the goals for the implementation, why your business is looking for a system in the first place, and your priorities in terms of capabilities and functionalities. You should coordinate across the entire organization in terms of who is going to use the CRM, which features are absolutely necessary, and how to go about training users after implementation. Whether or not this is your first time implementing a CRM system, these are all important questions to consider.
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Research by Katie Hollar at Capterra indicates several key findings about CRM software selection and the importance of prioritizing your needs.  While “ease of use” and “functionality” were the top two priorities when selecting a CRM system, research into organizations who already had a CRM and were switching to another provided some interesting results.

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The top reason for switching systems was that “the previous CRM didn’t have the right features,” whereas “previous CRM was too hard to use” was near the bottom of the list – indicating that overall functionality oftentimes trumps usability, even though ease of use was typically a top selection criteria for organizations implementing a CRM. Therefore, if your organization requires extensive reporting features, analytics, or specific functions, initially investing in a more robust CRM solution can prevent you from wasting time and money by implementing a different system at a later date.

Technical Aspects
In addition to functionality, ease of use, price, and other such features, you must also take into consideration the technical aspects of the software as well. Conner Forrest, TechRepublic, indicates in “5 questions to ask when choosing a CRM for your small business” the importance of deciding between an on-premises or cloud-based solution. While cloud-based software is usually more cost-effective, your business must be technologically prepared for such an undertaking. “If you do choose a cloud-based solution,” Forrest said, “make sure you understand if you have the network resources to support such a product.” Before deciding on either option, you should carefully evaluate aspects such as technical preparedness, overall cost, and any other benefits associated with the solutions.

Additionally, any contemporary CRM software should have mobile functionality or even a designated app. Ian Altman, a Forbes contributor, writes about the importance of mobility in his article “The Secret To Choosing The Best CRM For Your Sales Organization”.

“I don’t need to convince you that mobile is essential. If your team can’t access what they need from tablets and smartphones, then you’ve made a bad investment,” writes Altman. “When the customer calls, while you are on the road, you should have easy access to everything about their account.”
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Another key consideration when implementing your CRM should be social media tools. Ayaz Nanji of Marketing Profs indicated that social features were some of the most desired CRM functions. “A quarter of respondents say they wish their CRM software included more social media monitoring functionality,” said Nanji, “24% want their CRM to pull in contact information from social media profiles.”

Ideally, your CRM system should be able to fully integrate with any other software or system, like email, ERP, or marketing tools that you currently use or plan to use in the future.  Annie Pilon, writing for SmallBizTrends, reiterates the importance of integration in her article “23 Tips for Choosing the Right CRM Software”. “When choosing the right CRM, you should also look at any partners, apps, and other integrations that different CRM providers offer. There may be some useful ways to integrate your CRM with other programs or solutions,” Pilon writes, “and if there are any programs you already use to store data or manage communications that you absolutely need to be able to integrate with your CRM provider, and make those partnerships a top priority.”

Taking the Plunge

Choosing a CRM
Choosing a CRM system is an understandably complicated ordeal and it is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information available on the topic. From vendor factsheets to peer reviews – narrowing down your choices based off of other peoples’ information and opinions can be tedious and time-consuming. After all, no one wants to be responsible for choosing an ineffective software and wasting the company’s dollar. Michael Fauscette, Chief Research Officer at G2 Crowd, discusses tips for Comparing Software using Peer Reviews – all of which can be can be used during your search for a CRM system.

“The software buying decision making process can be complex and varies by company,” writes Fauscette. “Just by the nature of the process it’s necessary to build a list of potential solutions and then to compare them in some way to a list of business and technical requirements and to each other. Everyone has their own mental model on what a comparison should include but there are ways to facilitate the analysis of the information by presenting it in ways that can be easily consumed.”

Fauscette elaborates that most software selection criteria falls into three categories: fit, value, and vendor market presence. Fit focuses on business and technical needs, value will determine the licensing fees, total cost of ownership, and other financial factors, and vendor market presence will evaluate factors such as the reputation and available support a vendor provides. While individual needs and preferences vary from organization to organization, peer reviews oftentimes play an important part in the decision making process. It is important to note however, that no one solution will be a perfect fit for every business. “The amount of influence that the [peer review] has with the buyers depends on a lot of factors. Things like company policies, personal style, individual trust of different information sources, or size of company can all play into the decision to use, and how much to use, the review information.”

Choosing the Right Software

When you take all of these factors into consideration, it’s easy to see why choosing a CRM software can be a lengthy process – let alone implementing it and getting users up to speed. Businesses must carefully evaluate their needs, both technical and functional, as well as the overall cost to implement and any other organizational priorities. Establishing a relationship with a trusted vendor or partner firm is also a crucial step; the right system implemented by inexperienced or careless individuals can spell disaster for any software implementation.
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While the benefits of using a CRM system are widely documented, it is obviously preferential to not have to reimplement or switch software after adoption. Be prepared to write down and discuss all of the questions and concerns of every stakeholder within your business – then you must answer these questions, compare answers, and iron out your organizational priorities. Taking these steps through careful consideration will ultimately help decide which software is right for your organization.

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Sarah Van Wambeke
About the Author – Sarah Van Wambeke

Sarah is an avid writer and digital media enthusiast. Here at Indusa, she primarily focuses on content creation and social media management.

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Topics: CRM