Statistics have proven that using a CRM system can increase your sales by up to 30%. However, knowing that you need a CRM system and choosing one that fits your business processes are two very much different things. With a plethora of possibilities and numerous vendors out there, choosing the right CRM can be challenging. 

As seen in our other article, 6 ways CRM systems can improve sales, the average ROI of a CRM system is $8.71 for every $1 spent. However, the important thing is to land in the upper segment of this average to really maximize your results. Here is what you need to think about when choosing a CRM system for your business.

The Core Features Set

Every CRM system needs to offer a certain set of features that are required for any business to succeed, regardless of size and industry. These features include contact management, communication tracking, and workflow automation. 

1. Contact Management 

Contact management features are the pillar of any CRM system. In fact, CRM software was created to perfect contact management and close more deals in the first place. These features revolve around deals, lead stages, lead scoring, and numerous supporting options like labels, custom fields, comments, filters, etc. Furthermore, web forms and data fields that help sort and qualify incoming leads also fall into this category.

In the case of some CRM systems like Pipedrive, contact management features also include live chat and social media updates, qualifying and routing leads to corresponding sales reps, and allowing leads to book meetings with your team members through the app’s calendar. 

2. Communications Tracking

Communications tracking features refer to phone, email, meeting, live chat, and all other contact interaction and communication history. These features compile all the data into a single dashboard and give you full visibility and control over your schedule. Some examples include importing existing contacts, email sync, tracking email open rates and click rates, utilizing pre-made templates, call logging, call recording, reminders and notifications, and the activity calendar.

3. Workflow Automation

Workflow Automation isn’t considered a core feature if you look at the history of CRM systems. However, modern ways of doing business benefit from automation so much that we think it’s an essential aspect of any modern CRM system. The fact that your team gets to eliminate repetitive tasks and organize both marketing and sales workflows in accordance with your company’s processes is invaluable. Moreover, workflow automation allows you to improve contact management through multiple means, depending on your vendor. 

While most leading CRM vendors easily check all of the above-mentioned boxes, you’ll find many differences and unique features with every tool. To stay focused on your goal, it’s important to consider the unique case of your business and ask the right questions. How much automation do you really need? What type of communication platforms do your customers use? How do you capture and classify leads? These types of questions will help you make the correct decision. 

Customizability

Every great CRM solution needs to fit your business processes perfectly. However, it’s extremely hard to find a tool that seems to be made for your individual case. This is where customizability steps in. Most leading CRM systems offer various degrees of customizability ranging from dashboards, tasks, and reports customization to being able to change and adapt absolutely everything, down to the smallest detail. 

Again, the amount of customizability that you want to have heavily depends on your business. The rule of thumb is to look for at least some amount of customizability for every feature offered by the vendor because this leaves a larger room to experiment with multiple approaches regarding customer management until you find the sweet spot. 

Integrations

Your CRM system has to complement your existing business process, and not force you to start everything from scratch. For this reason, it’s important to consider how well does the potential CRM play with your email marketing, project management, accounting, communication, and other tools. Most leading CRM vendors have a dedicated integrations section on their official website which will tell you the information you need to shortlist the best candidates. 

Mobile App

It’s highly recommended to only choose CRM vendors that have a mobile app unless the rest of the features match your business processes perfectly. The thing is that nowadays, customers are most commonly mobile-oriented, and you need a system to be where they are. Also, having anytime, anywhere access to data allows you to respond to customer concerns, queries, and needs faster, with more accuracy, and highly increases the effectiveness of your “in-the-field” sales reps. 

Reporting and Analytics

Close to all CRM vendors offer reporting and analytics features. The range is extremely vast, from basic, list-based reports to complex, dynamic dashboards. However, as with many other tools, you don’t want to go after the most visual and complex features, if you don’t really need or understand how to use them properly. The amount of reporting options you need directly depends on your industry, business size, and customer base. If you’re unsure, we recommend choosing a system that offers deals, sales, leads, timeline, and sales forecast reports. 

Additional Features

Apart from the core set of features, many CRM vendors have additional functionalities that come in various forms, shapes, and sizes. For instance, Copper CRM is natively integrated with G-suite, which allows you to manage contacts, update deals, and schedule appointments right from your Gmail inbox. Other vendors like Freshworks have many other tools related to accounting, and project management, which work extremely well together.

Every business is unique in terms of growth dynamics, customer base, and processes. This is why it’s important to consider the added functionalities and focus on what you need the most. For instance, many experts would recommend choosing a scalable CRM solution at all costs. 

However, it’s more important to focus on your present needs than think about the future in this specific case. With the CRM market being so saturated, you’ll have no problem finding a different solution, if needed. Moreover, modern CRM tools make it extremely easy to migrate your existing data to a new platform, so you’ll not have any problems there. It’s also true that you will need to spend time to find a new CRM vendor if your business outgrows your current system, but it’s well worth the compromise. 

Don’t build your own CRM

Many established businesses consider building a custom CRM system as an attractive solution, but 9 out of 10 regret their decision in a couple of weeks. Apart from the functionality, there are many things you need to take care of including servers, maintenance, keeping up with software and operating system updates, improvements, and support. Data security is another key concern and although there is a high chance that a custom CRM solution will be on-premises, you’ll still need to spend a hefty sum to cover the basic set of required tools. 

All of this comes at a very high cost, not to mention the extra personnel, and the truth is, it’s a poor investment decision. Modern CRM solutions like HubSpot have already taken care of everything you’ll ever require from a robust CRM system. Furthermore, CRM software doesn’t cost a fortune, especially when considering cloud-based solutions.

Conclusion

Choosing the right CRM system for your business can be tricky, but if you stick to the plan of asking yourself the right questions and choosing a vendor based on required, instead of fancy and desired, functionality will get you there. Remember that every tool you invest in has to bring value to your business processes, otherwise, it’s no better than an empty flower vase on your desk. CRM is no different. In fact, it’s one of the most important pieces of software. Don’t get carried away and choose the functionality that will elevate you above the competition.