CRMs run the gamut from lightweight services intended for quick and easy customer relationship and lead management to powerhouse systems with integrated e-commerce solutions and advanced analytics.
While many small business owners worry that they'll sign up for a product that doesn't offer enough functionality down the road, these concerns are often overblown. Higher tiers of service and add-on features are nearly always available. Also, while more features and functionality may seem inherently better, too many options within a system can be overwhelming, make the implementation process longer and more complicated, and cost more than necessary.
The best way to determine the features you require in a CRM is to list what you want to be able to do with it. Technology should never be adopted simply because it's current or common; it should be adopted because it solves a specific problem. If you cannot outline in detail what you want to do with your future CRM system, and why you want to adopt one in the first place, you may not be ready to implement it.
If you already know what you're looking for and why you need it, but you want to narrow down your options, begin by asking 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 something that can be used out of the box, or do we want to do lots of customizations ourselves? If we do want to customize our own system, how much API access do we want?
- Who will be the primary software admins, and what comfort level do they have in that role?
- How much are we willing to spend, either per user or on an annual basis?
Whatever your needs are, list them out in addition to the answers to these questions. Make sure you also list any integrations you need (including proprietary legacy software, if applicable), and inquire about how such integrations are achieved prior to choosing a product. 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; still others require hands-on coding to make integrations happen.
By outlining your needs ahead of time, you stand a much better chance of getting a product that does what you need without overpaying for features you'll never use. You can always upgrade – a company is never going to refuse to sell you more features in the future, so address your most pressing needs first and go from there. Keep in mind that when you're not a customer yet, nearly everyone you talk to is a sales rep, so treat their advice accordingly.