CRMs run the gamut, with lightweight services intended for quick and easy customer relationships and lead management as well as powerhouse systems that offer integrated e-commerce solutions and advanced analytics.
While many small business owners worry that they’ll sign up for a product that won’t offer enough functionality later, these concerns are often overblown. Higher tiers of service and add-on features are nearly always available.
Also, while more CRM features and functionality may seem inherently better, too many options within a system can be overwhelming. An excess of features often extends the implementation process and makes the system more complicated and expensive.
If you already know what you’re looking for but want to narrow down your options, ask yourself and your team these questions:
- Should we have workflows with built-in multilevel approvals?
- Will we need to email clients directly from the CRM?
- What sales tools do we need?
- Do we want software we can use immediately after setup, or do we want to do lots of customization ourselves? If we do want to customize the system, how much API access do we want?
- Who will be the primary software admins and what is their comfort level in that role?
- How much are we willing to spend, either per user or on an annual basis?
In addition to your answers to those questions, list the integrations you need (including proprietary legacy software, if applicable) and ask the CRM company how you’d achieve such integrations with its software before you choose a product.
For example, in some CRM systems, integration with an outside solution is as simple as clicking a few boxes; in others, you must use a third-party tool (like Zapier) to click your way through the integration. Some even require hands-on coding to make integrations happen.
It’s important to understand which key functions a CRM should offer so you get the most out of the program. Here are some of the most important features.
You want to use a program that automatically executes actions based on data in the program. For example, when a customer fills out a form, your CRM should automatically send the message to the appropriate sales representative. After the message is received, the CRM should send a notification that the message was received or opened.
Workflow automation minimizes or eliminates much of the time-consuming, nonproductive work involved in data entry and sharing. It gives your staff more time to make sales and reduces the chance that a lead may be overlooked or lost in the system.
Reports help you understand how well your sales and marketing campaigns perform. Knowing how many leads or sales you get within a certain time frame and the point at which leads drop off can help with sales funnels. Knowing how many outbound calls each team member has made enables greater visibility on KPIs. You can spot training opportunities for reps whose conversion rates are lower.
An effective CRM system helps you to make more informed decisions about your marketing and your wider company in general.
Customer Data Management
Understanding your customers is a big part of your business’s success and customer data management features with CRM systems help you collate and interpret that information.
Well-organized, easily accessible data on current and potential customers can help you build better relationships, which will help you sell more and increase the lifetime value of a client.
Customizable CRMs allow you to pick the features you need to help your business run better. You can create workflows and automations specific to your business that help it run more efficiently.
They also allow you to arrange your dashboards and reports in a way that makes more sense to you. You can get your CRM to do more by adding on extensions and plugins that you can often find in your provider’s marketplace.
Third-party app integrations connect your CRM software directly to the other programs you use in your business.
This is also a great timesaver because it eliminates the need to switch between apps and manually input data you have on other apps.
To determine the features you need in a CRM, list what you want to do with it. Make sure you know exactly how you would use each feature and determine its potential value to you before investing in it. If you can’t see a clear use case for a feature, don’t purchase it.