The Ultimate Checklist For Finding the Best CRM Tool for Your Business

Businesses gain competitive advantage with the help of a CRM software. This post will guide you in your search for a CRM system.

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Gone are the days when Customer Relationship Management systems merely served as shelves for customer data. CRM tools enable businesses to generate leads, follow up on prospects, and manage customer interactions in a way that allows sales teams to focus on what they do best. Beyond that, however, CRM tools are now heard of in the boardroom. Its power to provide a sensible view of the sales journey is making CRM a strategic decision for companies of all sizes.

If you are looking to explore CRM options, then this checklist should come in handy. We hope that this guide can set you on your way to finding the best CRM tool for your business.


Why Invest in CRM?

A business that deals with a sizeable number of customers can greatly benefit from a CRM system. Companies use CRM tools to plan and implement a product roadmap, enhance the process of issue handling, increase agent productivity, and gain insight on promoting customer satisfaction.

If you haven’t jumped on the CRM wagon yet, then here are three reasons why you should consider investing in CRM:


  1. Store vital information

A CRM tool should primarily enable you to store and manage comprehensive customer profiles. Compared to email communication, CRM tools aid in collecting and handling larger amounts of information. Thanks to CRM tools hosted on the cloud, businesses do not need to worry about hogging space in their local systems. Moreover, cloud-stored software prevents the dangers of losing important data.


  1. Improve customer service

CRM tools put order to the customer service chaos. Helpdesks make it easy for agents to manage and track customer concerns and issues. Live chat, on the other hand, enables a customer service team to provide real-time support to customers. By adopting a CRM tool, businesses can efficiently deliver enriching and personalized experiences to every customer.


Delight customers with personalized experiences.
Delight customers with personalized experiences. (Source: Istock)


  1. Boost brand image

About 60 percent of customers interact with brands through social media, with 1 in 4 customers expecting a reply to a complaint within an hour. The right CRM tool will support the functionality of integrating social media sites within the system, thereby increasing and enhancing your brand visibility on these social spaces. The right CRM tools will also allow customer service agents to manage interactions across social media platforms from a single dashboard. A CRM tool streamlines your customer service processes and ensures that every single customer is taken cared of. This augments customer engagement, thereby enhancing your brand’s image.


Factors to Consider when Choosing a CRM Tool

When selecting a CRM tool,  it is important to know what specific issues your business needs to solve before purchasing any technology. There are CRM solutions that focus on a handful of services and then there are CRM software platforms that encompass all sales and marketing related activities. Deciding on investing in a CRM software platform should involve IT and other departments that will be affected by this move.


  1. Data storage

In selecting a CRM product, you must consider your business’ storage needs and infrastructure. Discuss important details such as  limits on document file sizes, file types and the number of customer fields and custom objects you can create.


  1. Pricing

Organizations with limited in-house expertise will do well with cloud-based CRM options that provide pricing flexibility through their monthly and annual options. For businesses with highly-capable internal IT expertise, it’s important to follow-through with the traditional TCO or total cost of operation to see whether on-premises products are practical, at least financially. Companies with experienced IT staff may find the fixed pricing and higher level of control for on-premises products more appropriate for their organization compared to the cost fluctuations of cloud options, which base their pricing on the number of users and usage patterns over time.


  1. Data Security, Backup, and Recovery

Your contract must indicate who will be responsible for security, backup, and recovery in the event of data loss. For cloud-based CRM services, these responsibilities are usually assumed by the service provider since it hosts the application and data on its own servers. A possible clause to include in the contract might be to require the service provider to indemnify, or reimburse, the business for damages incurred as a result of vendor negligence in the event of a data leak or a legal suit from a third-party.


  1. Scalability

Buying a CRM solution should help you grow your business. Having a well-developed plan for software’s scalability ensures that investing in a CRM software will be worth it. Once purchased, you do not want to be forced into grappling with the costs and hours—and negative feedback from the executive suite—associated with buying a replacement system a few years down the road. Also, consider the expertise level of your staff. If the customer management software is extremely complex, employees may not be able to easily operate it. This instantly decreases the software’s value and ROI. Alternately, an application with limited uses will only leave you with a bunch of software customization requests and hours of unnecessary manual labor. Once you have a more abbreviated list of contenders, take advantage of vendors’ trial and software evaluation programs, and encourage your focus group of prospective users to examine and check out their potential new tools.


Important CRM Features to Look For

While examining your options for a CRM solution, focus on these key features.


  1. A formidable management system

The perfect CRM software should be able to store information from various sources and organize  it for easy access. A CRM should act as a database for everything you need to know about your customers– from contact information to purchase histories, from visit records to interactions with your company. Having this database will be useful in segmenting customers for marketing purposes.


  1. Highly customizable

There is no one-size-fits-all CRM solution. A good CRM solution, however, must be able to cover all areas of a business and must have the capacity to adapt to your business’ size and requirements. Thus, you must choose a CRM solution that you can customize according to your  needs.


Software development agreement
Software development agreement (Source: Istock)


3. Niche-based

Invest in a CRM solution that is designed specifically for your type of business. If you’re in the finance industry, choose a CRM software that complies with transparency and financial regulations. There are CRM solutions created especially for restaurants, retailers, and real estate businesses.


4. Mobile access

If you want to access your CRM data while on the go, choose a CRM solution that includes a mobile feature. Access your data from your smartphone and tablet through the mobile app of the software.


5. Strong multichannel support

Because of the need to support mobile access, support must be strong and available through more than one channel. My Virtual COO principal Jennifer A. Goldman says that, “A service phone number is essential, and not just online help; instant chat lines are good, too.”


6. Integrated analytics

It is not enough to collect data, you must also understand it and what it signifies before you can use it as a basis for action. CRM solutions must provide decision-makers with analytical data that is relevant both for sales and for marketing.


Steps to Picking the Right CRM Tool That Fits Your Business

The first step to choosing the suitable CRM software for your business is by documenting your technical requirements—what you need it to accomplish and the data you want it to track. Failing to do so will lead to overpaying for a solution whose functions you may find useless.

Next, consider what kind of technology your business demands. How easily can it be used to build a customized interface that works with your CRM data? You must consider whether you need programs that integrate with Google or Microsoft. If your employees are mobile users and rely on their smartphones, make sure that the CRM solution has native mobile apps for both Android and iPhones. If employees spend a lot of their day on email, look for vendors that marry email inboxes with CRM so your staff can view all the info they need on one screen. Because CRM databases hold a ton of personal and proprietary information, you’ll have to consider security. You want a tool that supports role-based authorizations.

Also, ask yourself if you need a cloud-hosted solution or would have to download and install one locally. The decision rests on your needs, budget, time, and resources. On-premises CRM gives you more control and full security of your data, offline access and the power to endlessly customize your system. But going that route requires purchasing servers, hiring IT personnel to maintain the system and an upfront investment of time and money.


How to Get More from Your CRM Tool 

Data from HubSpot indicates that 61 percent of salespeople are backed by CRM software. Customers that engage with a business via a CRM system are 20 to 40 percent more likely to convert. Other research, meanwhile, shows that the average ROI from a CRM tool is $8 dollars to every $1 invested.

Some companies are achieving higher ROIs with their CRM systems. What exactly are they doing right that you should do, too?


  1. Invest in training

Ignorance of CRM tool function has put off many sales and marketing professionals from maximizing the platform. Before rolling out the system officially, carry out in-depth training sessions that allow potential internal users to get their hands dirty on the tool. Many CRM tools offer self-learning modules that can help users refresh their skills from time to time. Set up periodic training sessions to help users with certain problem areas or simply to upgrade their skills to the next level.


  1. Encourage maximum utilization

Lack of universal adoption is the most critical reason behind the failure of CRM software. Sales teams see the whole process of data entry as tedious and non-productive, and marketing teams might not bother linking their campaigns to the CRM system if it’s viewed as a “sales only” tool. Avoid this by firmly insisting that all sales and marketing team members both use the CRM tool regularly. Explain how the CRM will help to capture customer information from the first point of contact to every single meeting or touchpoint thereafter. This includes basic profile information to key observations about customer pain areas and requirements.


Encourage your team to use the CRM
Offer CRM training and encourage maximum utilization (Source: Istock)


3. Establish consistent taxonomies

CRM tools are no good if the data they hold is not consistent across the company. Create a coherent company-wide nomenclature for every category name, customer profile detail, title, and comment. This ensures that details about each customer are understood by all users in exactly the same way with no data lost in the process.


4. Sync your tools

To fully take advantage of your CRM tool, integrate it with your marketing automation, email marketing, and productivity platforms. Linking campaigns in your marketing automation system to your CRM tool will tell you which users responded to which campaign at which exact point in time. Website analytics like Google Analytics can be linked to help you determine user behavior in real time. Important details like pages visited, click patterns, content visitors have shown interest in, devices used to access the website and its content are all critical inputs that cannot be understood and processed without this cross-linking. Linking your social media management platforms like Buffer or Hootsuite to your CRM is another critical aspect of getting more juice out of your CRM. Syncing social and CRM will help you develop a richer user profile. You’ll now know what your users do in their leisure time, what their key influences are and what would be the best ways to convert them into paying customers.


  1. Go mobile

The logic that drives websites to make themselves mobile friendly is the exact same one that says that your CRM needs to be mobile optimized, too. Sales teams are usually on the go and the smartphone is their steadfast technology partner. By making sure that your CRM is mobile friendly, you essentially make your sales teams’ lives easier and make it simpler for them to input or retrieve data from the system in seconds. Studies show that integrating social media into the CRM tool and making the CRM mobile friendly can together drive sales productivity up by 26.4%.


Like most decisions, choosing the right CRM software cannot be done in the dark. Having a suitable one in place will help your business thrive as it becomes integral in your daily routine. You should take the time to consider all aspects of the purchase and how it will impact you and your team. With a clear, holistic view of how your team operates and what a CRM can do, you’ll be able to pick the best tool for the job.