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Choosing the right CRM system: 8 questions to ask yourself

Hardly anyone in today’s business world needs convincing that a CRM system can help a business grow sales, organize marketing activities, improve customer service, as well as streamline administration and automate everyday tasks.

That’s why this article is not about convincing. It’s about helping you find the CRM system that matches your business needs.

But, just in case you still need some proof of the validity of a CRM system, here is a bunch of stats for you to mull over:

  • The average return on investment on CRM software is $8.71 for every dollar spent, according to Nucleus Research.
  • CRM can help increase sales by up to 29%, sales productivity by up to 34% and sales forecast accuracy by 42%, claims Salesforce.
  • Effective sales organizations are 81% more likely to be practicing consistent usage of a CRM or other system of record, says the Aberdeen Group.
  • 74% of users said their CRM system gave them improved access to customer data, reports Software Advice.
  • 47% of CRM users said that the system had a significant impact on customer satisfaction, according to Nutshell.
  • CRM is known to improve customer retention by up to 27%, states Salesforce.

All this means that if chosen correctly, a CRM system will help you create and maintain a modern customer-focused business model that will allow you to grow sales and serve your customers better.

How to find the right CRM for you

In order to find the CRM system that fits your business well, you need to ask yourself a lot of questions and honestly answer them. This way you will outline key criteria that will help you choose the type of CRM with the right set of functions.

Being honest will prevent you from investing in things you don’t need, as well as discover problematic areas that may be stalling your business. You can also use these questions as a checklist for choosing the right CRM vendor.

Questions to ask yourself when choosing a CRM for your business

1. What is our budget?

Let’s start with the obvious: how much are you able to spend on CRM? It’s a serious business investment, so you need to be super clear about the ROI and all incurring costs.

CRM systems come in all shapes and sizes, and their cost depends on the deployment method, number of users, data storage, customization scope, and the functionality set you request. Even though there are free-of-charge CRM options out there, the usual price ranges from $12 per user per month up to $300.

Make sure you find out what the estimated license costs for the CRM implementation, as well as the build-out costs to adapt the system to your requirements are. Also, when considering the price, take into consideration the annual support and maintenance costs, as well as training costs.

2. What operational and business processes are we trying to fix with a CRM system?

This is the key question! You need to have a clear picture of what workflows you want to improve with a CRM system. Is it sales, or marketing, or service that you need improving?

To do this you need to analyze your existing processes and how they affect your internal business operations and your customers. This way you can find out what’s working and what’s not. Think about the key challenges you face in sales, marketing and customer service. Be very specific when describing what you want to improve.

The next step is to identify your objectives (i.e. the processes that require improvement) and outline the appropriate courses of action – which is going to be your primary “requirement set” for a new CRM system.

3. What type of CRM do we need: on demand (cloud) or on premise?

Making this choice is very individual for every business, as both deployment methods come with their pros and cons. The decision will depend on the size of your organization, your timeframe and your budget. Let’s begin with definitions:

Cloud-based CRM systems store all of the data on a remote server, which is operated by the hosting company. On premise CRM systems are hosted on your own company’s server.

Here is a what you can expect and be aware of if you choose:

Cloud CRM deployment:

  • The provider will handle CRM software installation, updates, system backups, hardware maintenance and security.
  • The data is stored on the vendor’s server.
  • It’s accessible at any time, from anywhere and on any device.
  • It’s quick to set up as there’s no need to install complex software, all you need is the internet.
  • It comes with small costs for services, no software licensing costs, and a low start-up fee that, however, grows over time.

If you have doubts about going cloud read our article Why you shouldn’t be afraid of cloud investment.

On premise CRM deployment:

  • You fully control the data, as it is saved on your own server.
  • You can customize and configure the system, as well as easily integrate with other systems.
  • The costs decline over time.
  • Implementation and customization may take longer.
  • You need to employ IT personnel to maintain the system and buy additional hardware.

So, it all depends on what your needs and current capabilities are. Make sure that the CRM system you buy is flexible and can be adjusted as your business grows.

4. Is this CRM system scalable for when our business grows?

Nothing stays the same in a dynamic business.

To accommodate future business growth (or even shrinkage), you need to be sure that the CRM system you invest in is scalable. If the situation changes, you should be able to scale up or down easily.

Another aspect of scalability is the scope of functionality you commit to. What if your business changes over time, and instead of focusing just on sales automation, you will need to add customer service or marketing features? Alternatively, what if you realize down the road that you don’t need some of the start-up features?

A CRM system should allow you to change course and accommodate your changing needs, such as the number of users, dedicated functionality sets and storage. Make sure you find out all about scalability when you meet with CRM vendors.

5. Can we integrate this CRM with other systems and customize it to our needs?

To survive in today’s technological world, your business needs to be able to talk to a lot of different software programs.

And if the CRM is to become your central database and key business tool, it needs to integrate with other systems and applications easily. There is a number of essential systems and apps your business may need to integrate with: from the general MS Office suite and an ERP system, to your own website, social media accounts, HR software, e-commerce, and e-marketing applications – to mention just a few.

By all means – a good CRM system should be able to connect to your existing back-office solutions and allow you to import and export data.

Finally, in order to make sure that you work in your own way, you have to make sure that the CRM software allows you to modify it. Ask whether customization tools are easy to use. Will you be able to modify fields, main screens, reporting tools, scripts, and security settings? How much will it cost?

6. Is training available from the vendor?

Here comes the human factor that very often trumps all technological aspects.

You need to train your staff on how to use the CRM system. Because if they won’t do it, your investment is doomed to fail. When selecting a CRM system, enquire whether or not the vendor is going to provide training. A comprehensive, ongoing training plan will increase CRM adoption in your company and ensure this investment yields results you set out to achieve.

In other words – training is essential. 

7. Will there be technical support provided by the vendor?

Will you get help if things go wrong? Be it technical or user-adoption questions, you need to have somebody to address for support.

So, make sure you find out what kind of support you can expect: phone, online, emails, chat? What’s the average response time and support team’s working hours? Will there be anyone available for after-hours issues? Are self-help resources available online? And – most importantly – how much this will cost you?

8. What do we think of the system’s UX & UI?

Finally, you need to test drive the system and assess how it looks and feels. For that, request a demonstration and then follow it up with a free trial.

Pay attention to the way the system responds to your needs. Is it intuitive enough? Are you able to navigate easily from one module to another? Have many clicks does it take to perform a simple task? Do you understand the logic behind processes and flows? Is the system user-friendly?

Simply – do you like the way it looks? UX and UI are very important for a purchase such as a CRM system. So, click away and test, test, test!

Choose your CRM wisely  

CRM is more than just another software, it’s a business culture that puts the customer in the forefront. It’s an investment in the long-term strategy of winning and keeping the right customers for your business.

CRM is also a cultural change that unites all your business efforts. Eliminating silos, CRM allows you to better listen, service and deliver to your customers by offering a unified database that stores all communications and transactions in one place, automating routine tasks and making your analytics and reporting easy.   

Therefore, it is important to choose the right CRM system that fits your business like a glove. It has to reflect and support your sales, customer service, administration and marketing processes and help you achieve your goals of growth and profit. So, you’d better choose wisely.


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