It’s amazing how fast CRM software has exploded as a part of the selling scene and overall strategies within sales organizations. In the last decade, CRMs (which began in the 1980s) have boomed, and now, 74% of businesses use a CRM, as opposed to 56% a year ago.
Much of that growth has come from businesses with 11 or more employees (91%), whereas the smallest businesses of 10 employees or less are still lagging behind the curve at 50%, but increasing. All told, it’s a projected to be a $40 billion industry by the close of 2018.
With so many options and CRM’s shift from valuable add-on to now virtually required, there’s the question of how to choose the right software for you. It’s not about getting the latest and greatest with the most features. It’s about finding the solution that best fits your situation.
- Consider features list.
Broadly, CRMs offer contact organization, and, depending on the precise software, can include lead management and sales; marketing; e-commerce; reports/dashboard; call center; and project management. You might need one or two of these things, half of these, or all of these. Or, digging deeper, maybe you need your CRM to have inventory tracking and sales forecasting capabilities. Or perhaps you don’t need project management, but you do need a fully featured call center, even if it’s more expensive (the bargain basement CRMs require third-party apps to integrate call center and CRM software – meaning three different programs where things can go awry).
- Ask the right questions.
In order to really ascertain if a CRM is correct for your business, you need to ask penetrating questions – not just price. A cheaper option may seem more attractive at first blush, but after diving more deeply, it might lack a key feature that a more expensive service provides. Thus, in terms of value, the more expensive one would be a better choice. A sampling of questions includes:
- What size business is your CRM built for?
- How much technical support do you provide?
- What’s the ease of use, and what’s the training time?
- Is there a minimum/maximum user requirement? If so, what is it?
- What’s the total cost of your software, including setup and additional fees?
- How can I be certain the data is secure?
- How much customization is possible?
- Is the software provider reputable and will the solution receive ongoing, frequent updates?
- Can my team use the CRM on the go, via their mobile device?
Notice that these questions are talking about the broader overview of the CRM rather than the features sizzle. There’s a reason for that – a software can have all the things you want, but if it’s difficult to learn, or if the tech support is comparatively lacking (as an example), that CRM might not be the right one. Most critical here is the intended business size market – if you’re a small business, a high-end service like Salesforce may be too costly, with features you don’t need, whereas if you’re a multinational corporation, a random startup CRM geared towards small businesses probably won’t be robust enough.
In general, expect to pay anywhere from $10 per user/month to hundreds of dollars a month, just to give an idea of the vast range of costs.
- If there’s a trial or free version available, test it out.
As you can see above, a CRM will represent a significant expense, so it’s important to nail down the right one. One of the best ways to do this is to experiment with a trial or free version first. All the seeming perfection of a program and all the reassurances of a sales rep (even a trusted advisor) can come undone if the actual user experience doesn’t meet expectations or proves to be an exercise in frustration. Hence, the need to use a trial version once you have it narrowed down to a couple finalists.
If you have no budget at all for a full CRM, investigate free versions that are either fully-featured but with a cap on records or users (ideal for those with a small client base) or with the bare essentials, but no records limit (best suited for businesses like plumbers or other construction contractors which potentially have a lot of customers, but no need for advanced features).
- Be aware that customization can be costly.
Many CRMs can be customized and specifically tailored to your individual needs. But this comes with a few key caveats: 1) You’ll need to have the talent on hand with the programming knowledge to make the changes you want, 2) It’s a time-intensive process because it also includes your having to do the training yourself on the unique parts of the CRM. The vendor’s employees might not be able to unless the customization comes from the vendor. 3) If you do go with a vendor’s customization option, you’ll pay a premium for those services. With all of that in mind, you’ll need to a costs/benefits analysis when considering customization – is that type of tweaking the best way to go, or should you be looking at another level of service or a different provider instead?
There’s obviously a lot more that we haven’t covered here, because CRMs are a topic as vast and far-reaching as the industry itself. But these tips will serve as a basic guide for when you’re ready to start exploring a CRM (or think about switching from your current software provider).