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If your small business doesn’t currently have a centralized platform for streamlining your customer relationship management (CRM), then you’re doing the right thing by investigating your options. CRM software that’s a good fit for your business can help you more effectively manage your interactions with leads and current customers so that you can see more conversions and more satisfied customers.

Since CRM is such an essential part of your business, you want to make sure you take the time to choose the best software for your business. Every CRM solution is a bit different, so it’s crucial that you take the time to evaluate your options before making a purchase. We’re here to help guide you through that process with a buyer’s guide for choosing a CRM product.

We’ll answer the question “How do I choose a good CRM?” by looking at 10 CRM assessment questions you should ask yourself throughout your investigation. Think of it as a CRM evaluation checklist. The answers to these questions can help you narrow the field and ultimately settle on the best CRM for your business.

1. Why Do You Need a CRM System?

The first question to ask on your journey to choosing a CRM software is why you need a CRM solution in the first place. Try to think specifically about the shortcomings you’re currently experiencing in how you interact with customers and how you would like to fix these issues.

Do some leads get lost in the chaos? Do you tend to lose customers at a certain point? Even if you’re doing a great job from the perspective of your customers, maybe the problem is that you’re spending inordinate amounts of time trying to manage data across a variety of platforms. Or perhaps you aren’t able to see how each sales agent is doing at their job. Whatever the reason, it’s crucial to be aware of why you need a CRM solution.

The answer to this question is the first step in guiding you to finding a CRM that will help you where you need it most.

2. What Features Do You Need From a CRM?

The question of why you need a CRM program naturally leads to our second question — what do you need in a CRM system? By identifying gaps in your current process, you can start to narrow in on what to look for when choosing a CRM. Come up with a list of your CRM system requirements based on your needs.

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Let’s look at some examples of what features you may want to prioritize for your business as you compare software options:

  • Lead categorizing and scoring
  • Sales analytics
  • Marketing automation
  • Email marketing solutions
  • Lead capture forms
  • Custom reporting
  • Data mining tools

If your main problem area right now is organized and effective email marketing, then it makes sense to pay special attention to what email marketing tools a CRM program offers. The same is true for any of the other features listed above or other features I didn’t include that are important to you. As you look at various software options, keep your desired features at the forefront of your CRM evaluation.

Remember that a long list of features doesn’t necessarily mean a CRM will provide the solution you need. You may end up with a lot of bells and whistles and not enough real answers to your company’s challenges. So, focus in on the features that matter to you. Pick a platform that is customizable so you get exactly what you need. I typically suggest the implementation start out simple with features added as time goes by. This way the people who will be using the system aren’t overwhelmed with features. Don’t try to boil the ocean on day 1 with a million features in your CRM.

3. Does the CRM Integrate With Your Other Applications?

Once you start to look at CRM systems you think may meet your needs, find out whether the program will integrate with your existing platforms. This is a critical question to ask since a CRM is meant to streamline your operations rather than make them more complicated. A CRM system that won’t integrate with the platforms you currently use and plan to continue using won’t be a helpful solution in the long run.

What sorts of platforms are we talking about? Here are a few examples of some platforms you may currently be using that you need your CRM to integrate with:

  • Email
  • Calendar
  • Your website
  • Accounting
  • Project management
  • Social media sites
  • Cloud storage
  • Marketing automation
  • Call automation

The more your CRM can integrate with other programs your business depends on for its day-to-day operations, the more effectively it will do its job of simplifying your sales and marketing operations. You can ask a CRM vendor about specific programs and applications you use so you know ahead of time whether these programs can integrate with the CRM.

4. How Much Automation Does the CRM Incorporate?

Another question that gets at the goal of simplifying your business operations is how much automation a CRM incorporates. Automation is an essential aspect of any good CRM system.

There will always be certain tasks and touchpoints that people should handle so customers feel personally connected with your business. However, there are also plenty of tasks that needlessly eat up your employees’ time. For example, if employees have to manually transfer contact information over from online forms to their CRM database, this means their CRM is still leaving them with mundane tasks that should be automated.

The more of these manual tasks your CRM can handle, the more your sales team will be free to invest their time elsewhere. For example, they could focus more time on taking phone calls from customers who are looking to talk to an employee. There are many scenarios where customers prefer this to written communication. Remember that a CRM is meant to simplify the way you move leads through the sales funnel. To that end, whenever automation does not take away from the customer experience, it’s a major asset.

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5. Is the Software Hosted on Location or in the Cloud?

With any software, including CRM solutions, it’s important to note whether the software is cloud-based or installed locally on your internal server. Let’s take a moment to explain the difference:

  • On-premise: When you host software on location, that means you install it onto your local server or hard drive. You purchase the software once and install it on your devices. You can then access it only from computers on which you have installed the program.
  • Cloud: A cloud-based program functions as a subscription through a type of agreement known as software as a service (SaaS). Your software is stored remotely on the vendor’s servers, and you can access it, along with all of your data, from any internet-enabled device.

There are benefits to both models, but cloud-based programs come with a longer list of pros. There are two major advantages that SaaS has over installing programs locally. One is that you can depend on the vendor’s IT system to take care of any potential glitches and to update the software periodically. The other is that you can access and interact with the software from any device as long as you have an internet connection.

This remote access is extremely beneficial to sales teams, which is likely why CRM systems make up nearly a third of the worldwide cloud applications market.

6. Is the CRM Solution Secure?

Another quality to look for in a CRM solution is a robust security system. Security is critical because a data breach could cause major problems for your company and could fracture the trust of customers who provided you with their personal information.

So, how can you avoid this sort of security catastrophe? Pay attention to what types of security measures a CRM vendor has in place to protect your data. The best CRM vendors should be able to tell you right away how they plan to keep your company’s information safe.

Pay attention to the credentials employees must provide to gain access to your company’s sales data. Aim for secure passwords that hackers won’t be able to guess. Additionally, find out what sorts of measures a CRM vendor has in place to protect against data loss, such as routine data backups.

7. How Adaptable Is the CRM?

Every business is unique, and chances are your business today is notably different from what it was a year or two ago. This is why your CRM program must be flexible enough to adjust to your changing needs. Part of this adaptability is scalability, as we’ve already discussed, but it also involves tailoring the program to your business. Are you able to adjust settings and features to make your CRM software do what you need it to do?

One essential aspect of a CRM system is the ability to adapt its reporting capabilities. You should be able to identify the particular data points that matter to you, and adjust these data points over time as you refine your processes. Your CRM should be able to report on many different aspects of your marketing and sales analytics, but it’s also helpful if you can choose to eliminate data points you’re not currently evaluating. This way, your reports show you only the information you’re interested in.

Customizing your CRM may also mean altering the way your dashboard or homepage looks. Find out how extensively you can customize the CRM system, as this makes it more likely you’ll be happy with your user experience.

8. Is the CRM User-Friendly?

Speaking of user experience, this item is next on our CRM software checklist. No matter how much a CRM program is capable of, its effectiveness will be limited by what features you and your sales team can comfortably use. Here are a few examples of the marks of a user-friendly CRM:

  • The program’s dashboard is easy to understand
  • The menu is intuitive to navigate
  • Altering settings or preferences is easy

How can you know if a CRM you’re considering is user-friendly? The best way to find out is through a demo. You should always watch a detailed demonstration or take the program for a test run on your own. As you try out different systems, ask yourself, “what is the easiest CRM to use?” You want to feel confident that you and your employees will be able to learn the new program with ease

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Adopting a new program — especially for something as significant as your CRM — can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Choose an application that’s intuitive to use.

9. Is the CRM System Affordable?

As you start to narrow in on the best CRM software options for your business, you’ll want to think about cost. You may already have a defined budget for your CRM, but remember that an effective CRM program can help boost your sales by as much as 29%. Therefore, you should think of your CRM as an investment that can ultimately improve your bottom line.

While you can hope for a great return on your investment for a CRM system, it’s still essential to consider the upfront cost. In the case of CRM software that is installed on-site, you’ll have more substantial upfront expenses. On-site also means having to manage the infrastructure yourself, including servers, storage, network, firewalls. Keeping all that running and secure also means spending money on technical expertise. SaaS options, on the other hand, tend to be more affordable upfront since they involve an ongoing subscription fee rather than a high one-time cost.

Another great aspect of choosing a cloud-based option is that it allows you to scale to match the number of users. What does this have to do with cost? It means you don’t have to discard your old CRM system when you outgrow it. Instead, you can opt for a SaaS model where you pay on a per-user basis.

10. Does the Vendor Offer Support?

Hopefully, by now, you have a good idea of how to conduct your evaluation of a CRM. I have one more item to cover, however. In addition to evaluating the software itself, you also want to pay attention to what sort of support a vendor is willing to offer.

Are they willing to walk you through the initial setup? Is their job done at this point, or will they be there to answer your questions and help you troubleshoot along the way? These are crucial questions to ask because knowing you have an expert on standby can eliminate a lot of the stress and pressure of adopting a new system.

At LeadMaster, we provide a dedicated consultant to every business who partners with us so you can avoid downtime and start enjoying the full range of benefits your CRM system has to offer right away.

Contact LeadMaster for a Free Trial

I hope this CRM buyer’s guide is a helpful tool for your business as you choose a CRM solution. Now that you know what to look for in a CRM, you can start your search. If you want to keep that search short, be sure to check out LeadMaster’s CRM Platform.

Our SaaS CRM checks all the boxes and stands out as an effective solution that can help you make the most out of every interaction with your leads and customers. To find out for yourself how easy LeadMaster’s CRM Platform is to use, request a free trial today — 30 days, no credit card required. Find out how LeadMaster can help you better nurture leads and build strong brand loyalty with your customers, all in an easy-to-use, scalable system.

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