There's a bevy of CRM platforms on the market, and examining certain key features can help you find the best one for your business. You can use it to track leads, monitor your customer relationships and maintain your contacts list. Different CRMs may have distinctly different features that can narrow down your search, such as the ability to customize the platform to your needs or create a reporting structure that fits your business requirements.
What is CRM software?
Customer relationship management software is your sales team's best friend and primary tool. This digital system allows you to organize your company's leads and customers so your sales and marketing team can connect with them directly or through marketing campaigns. The best CRM software helps you understand what consumers need and shows details from when your team last connected with them.
- A CRM tool can keep you from wasting time, resources and funds connecting with an audience that isn't interested in your product or service. With a CRM, you can examine and analyze users' information, needs and behaviors to pinpoint potential customers. A marketing campaign targeting these leads can improve your ability to close sales, boost customer engagement and build brand loyalty.
- A CRM can also group and organize your audience's information. You can gain a full understanding of what customers need and how they interact with your company.
- Building a relationship with your customers is an important part of your business, and CRM software can help you build that connection. This helps you market to them in a way that best suits them. Your marketing, customer service and sales processes will be better for it, because it will help your employees understand what they need to do and keep tabs on past interactions.
Editor's note: Looking for CRM software? We can help you choose the program that's right for you. Use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:
12 CRM features to look for
We asked entrepreneurs to share what features they look for the most when selecting a CRM. Here's what they said, plus four more CRM features we've found to be important for business owners.
1. Ease of use
"When deciding on a new CRM system, my initial thought is to analyze the user experience. I know that if the design is intuitive and easy to use, my employees will be able to find information quicker, which could result in them reaching out to more clients." – Syed Balkhi, OptinMonster
If you are looking for a simple-to-use CRM system, consider Keap, our choice as the best CRM for ease of use. Learn more in our comprehensive review of Keap.
"The best feature to look for is integration. The software needs to integrate with your website, phone and email accounts. It might be time to switch if you're closing fewer deals and losing clients." – Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
Some of the top integrations to look for include
|Email marketing||Companies can keep their entire list of customer email addresses list neatly organized inside of their CRM system. When a customer contacts your business, your reps can easily pull up all of their information, previous interactions and purchase history to help them.|
|Social media management||CRMs can be used to manage your social media accounts and allow multiple team members to access and post from them.|
|Web analytics||Integrating your CRM with web analytics software allows you to collect data on who is visiting your website and analyze it to identify problems and provide insights that can be used to make more informed decisions.|
|Other third-party integrations||Your CRM could also be integrated with other third-party applications such as top HR software, business intelligence programs and ERPs, offering you more streamlined functionality.|
[If you're also looking for a business phone system, check out Nextiva which has a robust built-in CRM. Learn more in our full review of Nextiva.]
3. Revenue tracking
"When choosing a CRM, I focus on which one is going to give me the most visibility when it comes to my revenue tracking. If I am not able to track my revenue, then the CRM isn't doing me any good. The more I am able to track my data, the better the CRM is. This is why I typically go with Salesforce or HubSpot CRM, because they support data being the core of your business." – Sweta Patel, Silicon Valley Startup Marketing.
"A good CRM will gather a great deal of pertinent data on our customers. Some services offer more in-depth features than others, but the one aspect that I always prioritize is security. The most damaging action a business can take is losing the trust of their customers, which is why any sensitive data gathered by CRMs need to be encrypted competently. If there's a leak, it's time for us to switch." – Bryce Welker, CPA Exam Guy
5. Role specificity
"There are so many CRMs these days that they have now become role-specific. You're now able to find CRMs specific for PR, real estate, finance and more. Sometimes finding an industry-specific CRM is the way to go, because they already have all the features you would have spent time customizing." – Jared Atchison, WPForms
6. Data collection
"CRM software should store and retrieve data, but it should also be able to collect data and analyze patterns. Making sure the system is capable of complex analytics is important. You'll know when it's time to switch platforms when your business has scaled beyond the software. If the program is struggling to keep up with your growth in terms of contacts, leads or campaigns, it's probably time to move on." – Lisa Curtis, Kuli Kuli Inc.
7. Ability to eliminate features
"CRM is a massive and feature-packed industry. Despite the incredible integrations and robust features, some CRM solutions are like smartphones crammed with bloatware. It is vital to be able not only to customize the CRM experience through the additions of features, but through the elimination of features as well." – Ryan Bradley, Koester & Bradley LLP
8. Channel data integration
"Integrating CRM with channel data to know where the lead has come from – such as Google, social, trade show, etc. – allows you to effectively optimize each marketing funnel and assign cost per lead per channel. If you have an organized funnel system and team to monitor the costs and efforts of content, you are able to determine what metrics provide the most accurate data for your monitoring." – Matthew Capala, Alphametic
9. Simple visual interface
"CRMs get cluttered with messy data too often. We tried a CRM that had all the features we needed and the automation to speed up our processes. The biggest challenge was that it was an eyesore, painfully slow, and required too much clicking through windows to get anything done. When we moved to a new CRM, we chose one with significantly fewer features but a simple interface. Our team loves it!" – Krish Chopra, Nurse Practitioner Clinical Rotations
"Artificial intelligence has progressed enough that it's important to look for software that has automation and elements that can be launched based on triggers. There's too much work to be done to do it all manually. Look for a CRM software that can assist you in the cumbersome process of customer relationship management in as many touchpoints as possible." – Marcela De Vivo, Mulligan Funding
11. Multiple users
"We have been using Pipedrive: It is easier and less expensive to use than Salesforce, and you can train anyone to use this web-based software from day one. It's very intuitive, and they have comprehensive training videos online. The best advice I can give is that you shouldn't just go with the most popular one out there. Many companies offer a 30-day free trial, so take advantage and explore different CRMs to see which best fits your needs and budget." – Shu Saito, All Filters LLC
A good CRM report helps you to understand how consumers are interacting with your sales and marketing projects. You can check the number of calls your team makes or how many users checked your website after an email campaign launch. You can gauge customer satisfaction through reports on the sales cycles and lead interactions. This information can help you make more informed decisions on how to reach and connect with potential customers.
"[Reports help you to] gain visibility into your business, [and] focus your efforts on your most important activities and most valuable segments of your database," said Gibran Nicholas, founder and CEO of Momentifi.
Other CRM features to consider
In addition to those above, here are several other CRM features that provide some added benefits.
Forecasting gives you a projection of your business's growth and opportunities according to your sales and marketing efforts. This keeps you from overestimating necessary inventory and gives you a read on how your campaigns and strategies will impact your sales growth.
14. Lead tracking
A lead-tracking feature helps you follow potential customers and target consumers who are more apt to buy. When you can trace your leads, you can convert more leads into paying clients, which is key to your business's success. You must be able to analyze and view which leads are showing and generating interest in your product; then, you can use that data to market and push users toward purchases.
15. Document management
To organize consumers properly, you need to take the time to organize your business documents. A CRM with a document management component allows you to store your digital paperwork and keep all your information in one place. Your sales and marketing team should be able to work within the program without flipping through several different tabs to get the data they need.
16. Contact management
One of the most important features of a CRM is its ability to manage all of your prospects and contacts. Users can organize all of their customer contacts in one place. They can also organize their contacts into certain groups, making it easier to search and connect with a segment of clients. In addition to having their contact information, you can gather more customer data to help improve your marketing strategy. Having more detailed data also allows you to foster better relationships with your customers, as you can cater the experience to the specific person you're speaking with based on their information, expectations and previous interactions.
17. Lead management
CRMs give their users data that allows them to follow up with potential customers based on several factors. These can include demographic, financial and psychographic factors. This improves a sales team's efficiency and productivity as it allows them to focus on "warm" or "hot" leads – prospects who have a high probability of turning into customers – over "cold" leads, which are customers that need to be nurtured by the sales and marketing teams before they’re ready to buy.
18. Mobile CRM
With workforces increasingly adopting remote or cloud systems and employees working through their smartphones, it's important that your CRM has a high-functioning mobile app. Users should be able to access most, if not all, of the features and information on their mobile devices. Having a flexible CRM implementation allows for users to set up push notifications to get alerts about campaigns and any new customer interaction is also beneficial to keep all engaged parties in the loop.
19. Campaign management
Depending on the software, users can manage entire sales campaigns from their CRM in addition to the traditional relationship management features it offers. You can plan, execute and evaluate your sales campaign from a single user interface that your team can access. Through this interface, users have access to features such as campaign ROI, scheduling abilities, analytics reports and more. After your campaign, you can combine the management tools with data collection software to give you numerous customer data points to help make informed decisions about future marketing efforts.
20. Customer satisfaction
CRMs are all about managing relationships with your customers, so it's important to take advantage of the features that can improve their satisfaction. Users can keep track of each customer case individually and see their satisfaction levels. By tracking your customers’ satisfaction, you can work to improve their experience and create better processes for the future.
Scott Gerber and Simone Johnson contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.