These features are not standard in all programs. Many providers will offer these services; others will not. Some programs specialize in certain features that are not available from others. Make a note of which features are important to you when evaluating a vendor.
- Time Tracking. Many firms require time tracking, time-based billing, or time-plus-materials billing. If your company charges customers based on time, you'll want to be sure your CRM program allows you to assign account numbers and activity codes to time tracking for better billing practices.
- Scheduling. Sales and customer service components of CRM software solutions often include the ability to schedule customer service or sales representatives. On higher-end systems, this scheduling can be integrated with payroll processing and even time clocks to monitor hours worked, calculate commissions earned, and generate paychecks and pay stubs.
- Lead Processing. This feature pulls new leads into the system—for example, from people making inquiries at your website—and tracks progress on those leads. Leads can be automatically distributed to sales representatives, and follow-up activities can be tracked.
- Assign Sales Territories. Some CRM programs allow the assignment of selling territories, and then automatically handle lead distribution based on those criteria.
- Sales Literature & Price Lists. It's handy to have all the information you might need at your fingertips when making sales calls. Some CRM programs allow you to store product information, price sheets, and approved discount rates within the system, where they can be quickly accessed on a sales call.
- Revenue & Sales Trend Forecasts. Sophisticated CRM programs can analyze data to come up with projections of future sales based on previous patterns. This is very helpful for budgeting, staffing, and pro forma financial statements.
- Instant Graphing in Reports. Some CRM programs provide excellent visual summaries of important sales data. In the best programs, these colorful reports are automatically generated and continually updated.
- Allows Assigning Teams. For many companies, sales is not a solitary activity, but rather, a team effort. The better CRM programs will allow data and tasks to be shared by a team, and inform team members about actions taken by other members of the team. This avoids having multiple reps working on the same account without knowing that others are also doing so.
- Social Media Integration. Most of the better CRM and sales programs have fully integrated social media into their systems. Social media integration allows you to easily gather information on prospects from social networking sites. It also allows you to use these networks to reach out to prospects—in addition to using phone, email, and direct mail. It enables you to see who your prospects are connected to as a way of finding new prospects and new business.