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15 Features to Look for in a CRM

Scott Gerber
Scott Gerber

Here are the top qualities to consider when selecting CRM software for your business.

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. A CRM system 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. 

15 CRM features to look for

We asked 11 entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) 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

2. Integration

"The best feature to look for is integration. The software needs to be integratable to 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

 

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:

 

 

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

4. Security

"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

10. Automation

"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

12. Reporting

A good reporting system 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.

13. Forecasting

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 of them 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.

You can search for documents with ease in these CRM systems. This organization can also boost your customer support, because when a sales rep can easily pull up the information they need, it cuts out long wait times for clients. [Looking for more help  maintaining your business files? Read about our picks for the best document management software.]

Simone Johnson contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Image Credit: Tippa Patt / Shutterstock
Scott Gerber
Scott Gerber,
business.com Writer
See Scott Gerber's Profile
Scott Gerber is the founder of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Gerber is also a serial entrepreneur, regular TV commentator and author of the book Never Get a “Real” Job.