How to Choose a CRM System How to Choose a CRM System

How to Choose a CRM System

How to Choose a CRM System

Customer relationships are essential to the success of any company. However, keeping track of each customer's information can prove cumbersome for even the most organized companies and downright chaotic for the rest. If you're searching for a customer relationship management (CRM) system, you've probably hit the point where spreadsheets of customer data – phone numbers, email addresses, and previous correspondence – have become unorganized and inefficient.

CRMs keep track of all of your customer information and streamline the sales process. Many companies also offer supplemental software for marketing and customer service teams. Trying to make sense of the different price tiers, subscription services, features, and third-party add-ons can be almost as stressful as opening yet another spreadsheet. We're here to help. Below, we'll outline what a CRM system is, how much CRM systems cost, and everything else you need to know to decide which CRM is right for your company.

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How to Choose a CRM

Step 1: Identify your needs

To find the right customer relationship management (CRM) software, identify your business needs and consider your daily activities and sales processes. Highlight important steps and types of customer interactions.

Start by listing out problems within your business that you want to solve to determine which CRM features are helpful. Consult every team, including your sales and customer service teams, about their experiences with customer data and customer relationships to understand how a CRM can make their work more efficient and help improve sales.

A CRM system can help your business become more successful, but you need to first be clear about your business goals.

Step 2: Check CRM features and tools

A CRM software should include contact management, marketing automation, and lead tracking for monitoring marketing campaigns and sales activities. When comparing CRM companies, consider the available features and how data-driven and customer-centric each one is. Find out if it will save you money by integrating with your existing task management systems, marketing automation solution providers, and other third-party software-as-a-service platforms that can enhance the CRM's functionality and customization. Also check if the CRM’s tools and features can grow with your company or if you can upgrade to a more advanced version, should your business needs change in the future.

Also consider how these upgrades will fit into your budget. Knowing how much to pay for upgrades, as well as the per month per user base cost, will determine if a CRM software is within your budget.

To promote customer relationships and sales from the field, your team members need to access customer information, monitor the sales pipeline, and perform end-to-end operations without the aid of a desktop computer. For on-the-go sales, consider a potential CRM software’s mobile-friendliness.

Step 3: Test drive the CRM

Before choosing a CRM, ask for a live demo session, where an agent shows you how the CRM operates and answers your questions about the CRM system.

Opt for a free trial to test drive the CRM platform’s functionality and user experience. This trial period enables your sales team and other team members to examine the CRM’s user-friendliness as well as its effectiveness in tasks such as extracting customer information from social media and reporting customer interactions.

Before buying a CRM or opting for a free version, make sure your team members approve of its features and its user experience.

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What Is CRM Software?

A customer relationship management (CRM) system enables businesses to manage their relationships with current customers and sales prospects. CRM software uses a data-driven approach to help employees keep track of leads and valuable client information, including phone numbers, email addresses, and previous interactions in one centralized location. This software includes an assortment of tools that can do everything from automating emails to generating real-time dashboards which show information on business performance and other insights generated with artificial intelligence. The exact offerings of each CRM software vary.

Most companies sell CRM systems as software-as-a-service (SaaS). The CRM service hosts the software on a centrally located server and you pay to access the software on a subscription basis. Subscriptions are typically charged on a per user, per month basis, though the actual contract may last a full year. (Discounts are sometimes available for extended subscriptions.)

Many CRM plans have different tiers, so large businesses can pay for enterprise-level CRM tools, while small businesses can access free versions with fewer features. Some CRM companies offer a full suite of supplemental software that is available via subscription, such as tools to train employees or promote team collaboration. The advantage is that you can purchase all your software in one place and simplify sharing data across teams while making sure that all of the tools work together. The downside is that this also locks businesses into a single digital ecosystem.

Do I Need a CRM?

A CRM is a tool for managing your business’s customer interactions to improve business-to-business or business-to-individual relationships. CRM software helps you stay connected and streamlines sales processes through sales management, contact management, and marketing automation features. The CRM system will help build customer relationships by keeping you updated on customer needs.

You need a CRM if you have a lot of customer information to manage or feel that it’s challenging to locate and use customer data. Also, if your sales team is slow in keeping up with the lead flow or sales pipeline, you can benefit from a CRM. It has the potential to improve your customer service and help your business grow.

A CRM improves the efficiency of businesses by organizing certain aspects of your business in a way that enhances customer relationships and increases customer satisfaction and retention. It studies customer interactions, highlights profitable customers, and markets effectively by using a customer-facing and cross-selling strategy.

A CRM can organize your lead and customer information and automate marketing campaigns. Sales-focused features can help your sales team close more deals. You can receive reminders of sales processes and schedules to improve your customer service, customer relations, and, hopefully, your sales.

For optimum results, train your team members to use the CRM platform correctly. If they are not well trained, employees might make mistakes that cause total loss of customer data and sales.

Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a CRM

These are common mistakes to avoid when choosing a CRM system:

Not involving CRM users
Some companies only consult executives when choosing a CRM. But you need to involve the actual users of the CRM. This may include your sales team and anyone who deals with customer data. Find out their needs and the features they need to increase the efficiency of sales operations and related tasks.

Ignoring business needs
Another common mistake businesses make is buying a CRM without first examining their needs and what they want to achieve by using a CRM. You need to establish your expectations, as it will help you when comparing CRM software.

For example, for many companies, sales activities and customer interactions are primarily digital. Customers expect to connect with businesses over social media. Choosing a CRM that limits social media integrations can mean fewer interactions with your customers. Instead, you’ll want a CRM that pulls data from social media websites and uses AI to better identify leads.

Implementing a CRM without a Sales Strategy
Some CRM companies claim to increase customer retention and sales automatically. However, a CRM can only help your business grow when there’s an existing strategy for customer acquisition and retention.

Before buying a CRM, you should already have target customers and a sales strategy. Then you can make sure the CRM system you’re considering has the necessary tools to implement your strategy and connect with these potential clients.

Believing a high price equals a better fit
Some believe that an expensive CRM is required to promote business growth. Instead, consider how well a CRM software’s features will cater to your specific needs, and be cautious about paying for features that you don't currently need. Keep in mind that a business needs a clear strategy and employee training on using the CRM to achieve company goals for a CRM to be effective.

How Much Does a CRM Cost?

The cost of CRM varies amongst software providers. Typically, CRM providers offer subscription-based models and charge you for each user on a monthly or yearly basis. Prices can be as low as $9 per user per month or as expensive as $79 per user per month. Some have free versions, though these may have limitations on the number of users, features, add-ons, storage capacity, or integrations. Also, CRM software may offer a free trial of up to 30 days to let you test drive the system.

Paid plans often have one to four different tiers to choose between. You can typically pay on a per-month basis or pay an upfront fee for a whole year. Many CRM software companies also offer add-ons from both their own company (think: artificial intelligence or automation) and third-party vendors. Some of the add-ons are free, while others have a monthly subscription fee. So, while some businesses are satisfied with the built-in features of a free CRM, others need to invest a significant amount of money to receive the CRM solutions their business requires.

How Do I Get Quotes for a CRM?

Most companies provide the cost for a subscription to their CRMs on their respective websites. Some companies require you to contact their sales representatives for prices on other software, like marketing add-ons, as well as for information on bundling their CRM with other products. Regardless of whether their prices are displayed, reach out to the sales representative to see if they offer free trials or other discounts on their CRM software.

How Long Is a CRM Contract?

The length of a CRM contract varies depending on the company, but most CRM providers offer their SaaS as annual subscriptions. Be careful, companies often list their annual subscription prices on a per user, per month basis; despite being priced out per month, these subscriptions may actually be for a full year. Some companies, like Zoho, offer both monthly subscriptions and yearly subscriptions, with a discount if you opt for the longer subscription period.

Generally speaking, it is much easier to upgrade a subscription to a higher tier than it is to downgrade to a lower tier. Similarly, the cost to upgrade a subscription is often automatically applied, while you generally have to wait until the end of your subscription term to downgrade. While there are typically no penalties for canceling a contract, companies often have strict refund policies (limiting refunds to the first month or so, if at all). Keep in mind that many contracts automatically renew for the same plan and period unless you specifically request to cancel them.

How to Maintain a CRM

Regardless of what CRM you decide to purchase, you'll want to make sure that you maintain it. The most important aspect of maintaining a CRM is making sure that all of your customer data is up-to-date. This task primarily relies on your teams remembering to update customer information as it changes, assuming the CRM doesn't do so automatically.

One perk of cloud-hosted CRMs is that there is relatively little work required to maintain them. Software updates will usually get pushed out automatically. Any lingering issues can be addressed through customer support, which varies by CRM provider. Most companies offer relatively robust customer support for basic issues, with additional support options available for a fee.

A few companies offer on-premise CRMs (for example, SugarCRM), which require a bit more maintenance. On-premise means that software is hosted on your company's data server instead of the cloud. Technical support is included for the duration of a subscription in most cases.

What Are the Best CRMs?

There are numerous CRMs, and while many offer similar features, not all CRMs are equal. To cut through the confusion, we evaluated both professional and consumer reviews. We compared each CRM's cost along with features ranging from third-party integrations to email tracking, customization, security, customer service, and more. A select few rose to the top, earning a spot in our rating of the Best CRM Software of 2023.

How to Choose a CRM System How to Choose a CRM System