A CRM or contact management software solution is an important piece of software that will help your business run more efficiently from every angle. It should streamline business activities and processes, improve customer relationships and serve as the central hub for sales, marketing, and customer service teams.
When your company is ready to invest in a CRM (customer relations management software), there are a lot of factors to consider before purchasing. With plenty of options to choose from, you’ll need to have a deep understanding of what you want to get out of the solution, which teams and employees will be using it most often, and how they will use it to build and maintain customer relationships. In addition, a CRM solution is a long-term investment and one that can strain your budget if you choose poorly. Undeniably, the cost of the solution will come into play but so will other aspects such as functionality, add-ons, ease-of-use, and available integrations.
Buying a contact management solution isn’t going to happen in a day – and it shouldn’t.
You need to do your research to find the best solution for your particular company. One of the most common mistakes companies make is to be ‘wowed’ by all of a CRM’s capabilities rather than focusing on what the company actually needs to get from the CRM itself for it to align with business priorities. To help you with the evaluation process, we’ve put together a list of key considerations to keep in mind.
While it’s important to buy a contact management software solution that works for your business today, you also need to think about the future and how it will work as your business grows and expands. Ask yourself which teams will use the CRM most often and which functions they need now and two years from now.
Does the sales team need remote access while the marketing team will only use a few features? If yes, look to buy a CRM that has flexible options and perhaps different user plans, so you only pay for what each team needs rather than an overly complicated set of bells and whistles.
When introducing a new piece of technology to your company, you may get some pushback from employees who don’t want to learn another complicated piece of software. The CRM you choose is going to be a core application for your business, so you need to have a good adoption rate from the get-go. Before you buy a CRM, make sure you understand how easy it is to use, how much time your employees will need to invest in training, and what the training options are.
Is there a local representative that can come into your office for personalized training sessions? Is there an easy-to-search knowledge base or plenty of online video tutorials? Also, consider the user experience itself by seeing how many clicks it takes to get to a certain functionality and if that process is intuitive. One purpose of a CRM is to help increase productivity by housing important data under one roof, however, if no one can find what they need or it takes so many clicks to get there, it’s probably not the right CRM for you.
A CRM should fit into your business – not the other way around. If you already use other software solutions for accounting or answering support tickets, make sure you buy a CRM that easily integrates with those applications. Reexamine your sales and marketing strategies as well as your customer service approach and ensure that the contact management software will help streamline your business activities so you can meet your goals more easily.
For example, if your business relies on sending out personalized marketing campaigns, keep that in mind. Or, if your team complains about tedious tasks that have the potential to be automated, look for a CRM that includes that type of functionality.
Depending on your industry, you may be able to buy a customer relationship software solution that is designed for your specific sector. If that’s of interest to you, then do a little research on the CRM provider’s website and look for specific use cases by industry or scroll through their list of customers and see how many are in your field of expertise.
In many cases, industry-specific solutions can give you exactly what you need without requiring a lot of customizations. However, at the same time, consider how your business is expanding and be sure that the CRM will still meet your needs down the line.
With a cloud-based SaaS contact management solution, your information is available from any device and at any time. There is a high level of convenience built into this option, especially if you have remote employees or a sales team that’s always on the go.
The one caveat here is that if there is no internet connection or the cloud server goes down for any reason, you have no control and can’t use your system. Most SaaS solutions maintain high-level SLAs with their service providers to ensure you can always access a backup copy so be that this is an option if you go with a cloud-based CRM. With an on-premise solution, your software is hosted in your office so an IT person can have direct access at all times, but you’ll need to have a reliable IT team that can jump in in case of an emergency.
After you’ve narrowed down the list of potential suppliers to those that most closely meet your needs, start scheduling demo meetings with the CRM sales reps and invite the key decision makers at your company. Come with an open mind but also with a list of critical questions that you need answers to. You may even want to ask team leaders what requirements they have so the sales rep can prepare a demo that is tailored to those. If you like what you see, it’s time to give it a test run with a free trial.
Make sure that the trial is available for at least 14 days and that multiple users can give it a test run so you can collect feedback from different departments.
Software vendors know that you have plenty of choices when it comes to buying a customer relationship management solution so take advantage of that power. Besides the ongoing monthly or yearly licensing fee, also consider if there will be other costs involved – like integrating with your other systems.
Many CRM suppliers are open to negotiating price points or creating a custom pricing model and service terms that fit your needs. Once you know how much each company will charge and what’s included in that offer, you can start to compare products and see which fits best with your budget.
Having a great customer relationship management software is no longer a luxury for businesses; it has become a necessity for every company. Investing in a CRM can greatly change the way you operate regardless of the size of your company. When you are ready to buy a CRM, remember to start with your needs and then map out the requirements from there.
Cast a wide net at first so you don’t miss out on discovering a solution and then narrow those down based on the guidelines discussed above. Do plenty of research and check unbiased review sites, take advantage of the full length of the trials and get the best deal possible. While you shouldn’t be dazzled by lots of special add-ons, you do need to think about how you might need them in the future.