Using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can vastly improve the productivity of your sales team. There are a lot of very different CRM options on the market and figuring out which system is right for you can be daunting. When looking for a CRM, there are a few factors you must consider before committing to a system.
Will it support your sales process?
Look for a CRM system that supports the way you and your team want to work. You shouldn’t have to adapt your entire process to fit the system – the system should fit you. This doesn’t mean you aren’t going to make changes to your process (no doubt, that’s part of the reason you’re looking for a CRM in the first place), but those changes should be dictated by your needs, not by the CRM.
Involve your team in the process and make sure it fits your team across the board. Not every salesperson works the same, and not everyone on your team is going to want the same features. This is where features like customizable dashboards are especially helpful!
Does it connect to your other applications?
Look for a CRM that can easily connect to the applications you already use. The more your team has to switch between applications to record data, the less likely people are to do it.
For example, if you’re using Outlook for email, find a CRM that will integrate with Outlook and track emails, appointments, contacts, and tasks so your sales team doesn’t have to switch between the two applications.
Consider the departments your sales team works with the most – will your CRM integrate with their systems? How easy or difficult will it be for the sales team to get other departments information they need (and vice versa)? Will your marketing team be able to easily alert your sales team to new leads? Can financial information about deals be passed to QuickBooks (or whatever accounting software you’re using) automatically?
Integrating your CRM with other systems ensures information is consistent across the board without an employee having to spend time entering it into multiple systems.
Can it grow with you?
Look for a CRM that can grow and adapt with you as your sales team grows. There are some nice, cheap (even free) options for small CRM systems on the market that can seem perfect when you’re just starting out – but may not be able to grow with you as you add more contacts and employees. There are a few specific areas where you’ll need to watch for this:
Price: How are you billed? Are you charged by the seat (user)? By the number of contacts? By features? Or some combination? Will you still be able to afford it if you need to move up to the next pricing level? And the next one? Some CRM systems make their money by getting you in the door at a low price, then getting more and more expensive as you grow. If you’re already dependent on the CRM system at this point, this could put you in the position of having to choose between the features you need and the features you can afford.
Features and customization: Not everyone needs a ton of bells and whistles in their CRM system, especially when your team is small. It may seem like a waste of money to invest in a system that has more than what you need right now. But consider a few years down the road – how big will your team be then? What will your sales process be like? Consider what features you need now AND what features you may need down the line.
For example, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online has some really nice upsell and cross-selling features. When you’re just getting your feet wet with a CRM and have a small sales team with a fairly simple process, these may seem unnecessary. But as your team grows and become more sophisticated, cross-selling and upselling may become a vital part of your sales process.
Another factor to consider is whether or not features can be customized to fit your needs. The out of the box options may work fine for you up front, but as you grow, you may find you need more – or different options.
Is it easily accessible from any location?
A CRM system should be easily accessible to everyone who needs to use it – no matter where they’re working. This is especially important if you have a mobile workforce or a sales team that often goes to client offices for sales meetings.
If your team can’t easily access the CRM system and has to wait until they’re at the office to enter data, it’s much less likely that the data is going to actually end up in the CRM every time. Look for a CRM that can be accessed from anywhere, to make it as easy as possible for your sales team to enter information as soon as they get it.
To do this, your best bet is generally going to be a cloud-based CRM that can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. An on-premise server with a VPN can work, too, although, accessing a CRM with a VPN can be a slow process.
Even better, look for a cloud-based CRM with an offline mode and offline synchronization so you can still work, even when you’re offline.
Finding and implementing a CRM isn’t always a quick process. But taking the time to find the right system for your company will save a lot of headaches down the road.