Figuring out which customer relationship management (CRM) software is best for your small business is no easy feat. You may have decided to invest in a CRM system or switch providers, but how can you ensure you’re choosing the right one? With CRM now one of the largest software markets in the world, this guide will help you narrow down your options and make the best choice.
1. Review Your Business Needs
Choosing the right CRM software begins withes knowing your “why.” The most common error companies make when evaluating CRM is to jump right into the features different vendors offer. However, the best place to begin is by evaluating your business needs and priorities.
To be clear on your business goals as they relate to CRM, ask yourself these questions:
- What are the most inefficient processes in our business? Which processes and bottlenecks do we intend to improve with our CRM system?
- What operational processes and workflows are we lacking, and what do we need to add?
- Will the software be able to support our projected growth?
- How will CRM support our overall sales and service efforts?
The answer to these questions will help you identify how you would like to use a CRM as your business grows. However, it is also important to have an equally good understanding of your business’ more immediate needs. This is why you should also ask yourself the following logistical questions:
- Which members of our company will use CRM? How many seats will we need?
- What existing or additional software or systems do we want to integrate with a CRM system?
- What is our budget? Will we have more budget in the future? When choosing CRM, you want to focus on the future as this system will need to grow and scale alongside your company.
Once you’re clear on your needs, you can begin identifying which features you want in your CRM.
2. Identify Mandatory Features
Use the list of business goals from the step above to make a features list. Core features found in CRMs include tools to help manage contacts, tasks, accounts, and opportunities, which you can learn more about in our in-depth article on CRM features and functionality. However, what you can do with each feature can vary greatly by provider.
Keep in mind that when it comes to features, more isn’t necessarily better. First-time CRM buyers tend to overestimate how many features they’ll need. Don’t opt for the CRM with the most features if your company doesn’t need them. Ensure that you’re only paying for what you need.
For example, a retailer might need a CRM that works with their preferred payment processor but they may not care whether the tool comes with automated workflows or extensive electronic document storage, especially as those features can often drive up the price. In this example, they would want to choose an adaptable CRM that offers features like enhanced integration capability and little else.
However, before you rule a feature out, consider the different needs of your CRM users. While one department (like Finance) may need access to the CRM, they won’t necessarily need mobile access or marketing automation functionality. To accommodate varying needs, opt for a CRM that allows your team members to opt for different plans.
3. Research User Feedback
Look at user ratings. We feature a number of CRM reviews on our site, which we encourage you to check out. Also, gather suggestions from a few of your internal departments by asking what features they’d prefer and which features would make the most significant impact on their roles. Getting input from different departments allows you to choose a CRM that serves everyone—not just the sales team.
Some CRM vendors will have a ton of reviews to make it easier; read verified reviews written by companies similar to yours. You can learn how companies in your industry use the software and what benefits they found for their organization. Getting team involvement ensures that the entire organization will benefit from implementing the CRM, not just the sales department.
4. Narrow Your Options
Create a list of six to eight potential CRM vendors. You can do this by seeing the top-rated CRMs on review sites like ours, or just listing CRMs you’ve heard other companies in your industry use. You can also check out our guide on the best CRM for small business.
You should then be able to winnow your list down to two or three CRM vendors. A shorter list makes it much easier to make deep-dive comparisons.
Eliminate CRM brands that don’t align with your mandatory features or have too many unnecessary features built into the price. Similarly, you may discard vendors that don’t easily integrate with your existing systems. When narrowing down options, don’t become overly fixated on price. While your budget is important to consider, the right CRM may be out of your budget yet worth the cost. Always calculate the return on investment (ROI) a CRM can provide before ruling it out based on price.
5. Get a Personalized Demo
Reading reviews is helpful to an extent but nothing can replace a personalized walk-through of the software. As part of your research process, request a call with a salesperson to schedule a product demo and discuss your specific needs. During the demo, share your business goals and challenges to ensure the rep speaks directly to your needs. The demo will also serve as a “mini-training” that will show you how to use and navigate the software during your free trial.
Vocalizing your goals during the demo call highlights the issues that their product may not solve, proving it a mismatch for your organization. Do not hesitate to ask the rep plenty of questions early on in the demo process and be sure to name the other CRMs you’re considering. A knowledgeable salesperson will be able to speak to the differences between their software and the competitors in a way that genuinely helps your decision-making process.
6. Evaluate Your Existing Business Systems
CRM is a core system within your business, but it’s not a stand-alone solution. Keep in mind that you may want to integrate your CRM with your current accounting, human resources (HR), and marketing platforms. By making a comprehensive list of the software you already use, you ensure you’re choosing a CRM that integrates with the majority of your existing systems.
Compare the integration and API capabilities of the CRM vendors you’re considering. Avoid CRMs that don’t easily integrate with your marketing automation system, customer data platform (CDP), or human capital management (HCM) software.
7. Take Advantage of Free Trials
With significant investments like CRM software, it’s a best practice to try before you buy.
Most CRM companies offer a risk-free trial so you can test the software before committing to a monthly subscription. The trial period is technically free, but it still represents an investment of time, energy, and resources—so use the time wisely.
The only way to know if a CRM is genuinely right for you is to use it thoroughly and consistently. Get to know how it will feel to use it daily. Imagine what it would be like to rely on this software as the backbone of your business every workday. Use it to interface with other departments to test for its collaboration capabilities. Familiarize yourself with the software by using it daily.
CRM is a significant, long-term investment in your business. You shouldn’t make your CRM choice lightly. With proper research and feedback from your team, and by following these simple steps, you can ensure that your CRM choice will be useful companywide for years to come.