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Choosing the right CRM Solution

Features CRM software offers small businesses.

Lead management and sales. Find new customers by automatically generating leads from various sources like social media, website visitors, inbound calls, newsletter sign-ups and more. Follow up with leads automatically with preset emails and tasks, or contact them directly yourself. CRM can nurture prospects all the way through the sales pipeline, from lead generation to closing the sale. Additionally, many CRM allow users to create and store sales quotes and track invoices.

Marketing. Many CRM solutions have built-in marketing tools, including email templates, email marketing pipelines, SMS messaging and lightweight project management tools. Some even offer competition tracking and sales forecasting capabilities.

E-commerce. Some high-level CRM software has built-in e-commerce functionality, while other products allow for easy e-commerce integration, either by accessing the API or by using a third-party service.

Reports/dashboards. Most CRM software includes some reporting functionality, and many of the higher end products sport live, dynamic dashboards. Make sure any exporting or importing needs you have (for instance, transferring information to and from Excel or QuickBooks) are compatible with a system you choose.

Call center. Most low-cost CRM products do not have call center capabilities, but there are third-party integrations available to link call center software with CRM software. However, if a call center is central to your business, it may be worthwhile to adopt a CRM with full call center features.

Workflows/approvals. Project management is an important aspect of any CRM. Most high-quality CRM have built-in workflows and checkmark-style approvals that help with task management and organization. However, the extent to which these project management tools are customizable varies from product to product, so if you require a specific workflow step or approval process, make sure it is achievable with the application you choose.

There are many CRM solutions for companies to choose from, and wading through the wide range of options can seem like a daunting task. Choosing a CRM for your company can involve considerable time and energy, so it is important to thoroughly research the right CRM to maximize ROI from your investment.

  1. Start with the basics assessing goals and objectives.

Begin by assessing your goals and objectives for the project and examine how these align with your overall business goals. Once you’ve taken this step, you can move on to addressing the question of what you want the CRM system to do. Do you want a system that can be used across the whole business or only one or two departments? Do you need a comprehensive system that can send bulk emails, run sophisticated analytics, and otherwise do just about anything? Or do you need a more basic system that keeps your data organized and tracks sales opportunities? Do you need a solution that falls somewhere in between?

  1. Talk to your system users.

As you evaluate CRM solutions, talk to the people in your organization who will be using the system. These conversations can give you an understanding of the processes you are looking to improve, the features users think are important, the data points the new system will need to handle and whether this data will be a one-time input or ongoing inputs. Talking to your team will help you gain a clearer picture of the specific requirements needed in a CRM system and help boost user adoption. These discussions can also provide insights on the level of resources you will need to train and on-board staff on the new system.

  1. Get granular on features.

The next step is to conduct an analysis of the features and functionality you need from a CRM system. These systems run the gamut from very basic to feature-packed, including components such as revenue tracking, data storing and retrieval, workflow automation, lead tracking, sales pipeline management and project management. The key to finding the software that is the right fit for your company is to realistically assess the features that your business needs and will use.

Does your company need more robust features that manage the entire customer journey and include marketing, sales, service, engagement, and commerce? Or does your company need a more basic feature set that manages communication with existing customers, prospects, and leads? It is important to keep in mind that sophisticated CRM systems are worthless if your company won’t use them or they are too complex to operate. It does not make sense to invest in a system that, while feature-rich, is usage-poor.

  1. Evaluate the integration potential.

A key consideration for any business shopping for a CRM solution is how well the solution works with the company’s existing applications. This means you will need to evaluate CRM options in the context of whether they play well with your other technology platforms, including email marketing solutions, project management software, and email service providers. The bottom line is that whatever CRM you select should be able to easily integrate with your existing software. If you need to connect all your systems through APIs, then you will need to look for a third-party platform that can integrate your systems to streamline data organization.

  1. Look at mobile-friendly options.

The trend toward bring-your-own-devices (BYOD) and the ubiquity of mobile phones makes mobile CRM a must-have for creating a seamless, cohesive customer experience across multiple devices.

Because your customers are predominately mobile, you will need a system that allows you to be where they are. This means that your sales reps and managers need anywhere, anytime access to data like customer history, sales collateral, and pipeline activity access that a CRM with strong mobile capabilities can provide.

Make sure your CRM system is accessible by looking at mobile-friendly options that allow your reps to quickly respond to customer needs, chase leads and prospects, and manage existing customer accounts.

  1. Resist the urge to build.

Many businesses look at building a custom CRM solution as an attractive option, but often once you start down that path, you wish you’d rethought the decision. Regret really sets in when you migrate your single-purpose in-house solution to another CRM platform and experience the burdensome investment in ongoing maintenance, improvements, and support, as well as major expenditures of human capital. In most cases it simply does not make sense to build out a custom CRM solution. This is especially true as advances in cloud technology have driven an increase in CRM systems offering flexible and convenient platforms available for all use cases.

Questions to ask when considering CRM software

There are many different types of CRM software available, so choosing the right one is key to making it work for your business. Here’s what small business owners advise asking potential vendors:

  • Is it built for small business?
  • What is the implementation process like and how much technical assistance is included?
  • How easy is it to use? Can I easily train employees?
  • Are there any user minimums?
  • How easy is it to integrate with other solutions I already use?
  • What is the total cost of the software? Are there any setup or additional fees? What if I need to add more users or integrations?
  • Is the API accessible?
  • What type of security features are built in to the application?

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