A lot of good CRM software companies are on the market today, but they all do things a little differently. Here are some strategies to use so that you choose the best software for your business.

Do not be afraid to ask direct, pointed questions of the CRM sales team.

Finding the right criteria for your CRM

Every business has priorities, and those priorities influence what you want in your CRM.

Create a matrix to weigh the contenders and pick the best one.

Use these criteria to judge the various CRM vendors on the market:
  • Capability: Does the CRM do what you need it to do? What, if any third-party integrations do you need to meet your requirements? Are there any critical “must haves” that the CRM can’t do?
    • Sales: Does the CRM manage opportunities easily? Can you set up funnels? Can you customize all the data fields you need? Can salespeople access and update information from a mobile app, if you need that functionality? Is it easy to see all the relevant data for selling and reporting? Is a leaderboard available for motivating your team?
    • Marketing: Can you easily design and send emails? Is it easy to build automation like auto-responders and drip campaigns? Can you build behavioral logic into your communication? Does marketing data automatically become available to salespeople in real time? Can you send and receive text messages, and have those linked to contacts in the CRM?
    • Events: Can you set up internal meetings and public events and track registration and attendance? Can you automate follow-up appointments for those events?
    • Support: Can you easily set up a ticketing system with follow-up automation? Can you set up live chat and have that integrated into contact CRM records? Do inbound call recordings and transcripts automatically get attached to contacts?
    • Operations: Do emails sent and received from your inbox attach to the CRM automatically? Can you use a customizable dashboard to view your overall performance as a company?
    • Training: Can you set up a learning management system (LMS) for tracking onboarding and HR-related progress? Does that data automatically sync up to the CRM?
    • Account management: Does the CRM include project management with billing and invoicing? Can you track tasks and send invoices to clients?
    • Advanced analytics: Does the CRM come with predictive analytics and the ability to set up custom lead scoring rules? Can you correlate campaigns to revenues and conversions?
  • Ease of use: Is the CRM easy to learn? Can you accomplish important and frequent tasks easily, without an abundance of mouse clicks? Is the system fast?
  • Onboarding/help: Are resources available to get you started? Does the vendor have a defined plan to help train you and your staff?
  • Support: How accessible is support? What methods can you use to contact support? Is support onshore or offshore?
  • Price: How much is the setup, and what is included? Is there a per-user cost? What other incremental costs are there to consider as you grow?
  • Contract: Are you locked in for a long period of time? What are penalties for terminating your contract?
  • Reviews: You can check out many websites for reviews of the vendor. What do other people say about the company? Are there significant strengths or glaring weaknesses that your sales contact can speak to?
  • Intangibles: The vendor relationship always has a few undefined aspects to consider. Are the company’s goals and culture in alignment with yours? Do you trust the people you talk to?
In each of these categories, break out specific details to rate each vendor. These details relate directly to your application, and can help you answer real-world problems with the CRM. Come up with a rating scale to go along with each detail, and total them for each category.

Each category also carries weight, or importance, to you. This weight determines the importance of a vendor excelling or failing at delivering something you want. Assign a weight to each of your criteria as a way to help you find the best vendor.

Eventually, you come to an answer for the best provider for your CRM software. This decision-making process can take some time, but a little extra time upfront helps avoid a costly mistake down the road.

Getting demos from CRM vendors

Vendors should make it easy for you to see what their software looks like in real time. If a vendor won’t show you its software platform at work with a lot of data in it, be wary.

Request a demo of an account with a lot of data in it to see how the CRM looks and functions. If the demo shows convoluted steps and clicks to accomplish common tasks, take that as a warning.

Ask a lot of questions during your demo, but be sure to communicate to the salesperson what your business is about and what is most important to you. A good CRM company should be able to offer free tools (such as e-books, whitepapers, videos, or software) to help with your decision-making process.

GreenRope has created a free tool, JourneyFlow, to help you during the early stages of your CRM selection process. Fill out the easy-to-use, drag-and-drop application to design your processes before your get your demo, so you can ask the questions of the vendor to see whether it can accomplish the processes you need. Check out this simple process flow diagram built with JourneyFlow.

CRM journeyflow
Start with a simple journey flow and build on it.

Playing around with CRM trial accounts

A trial account is a good way to see what the software looks like when you use it every day. There are a few helpful things to look for when you’re in your trial.
  • Welcome tools: Do helpful tools show up while you’re working in the CRM to show you how to do things? Are they easy to follow?
  • Help: Is it easy to find help? What kind of resources are available? If you get stuck, are support people available? Is the help you get from human support reliable and courteous?
  • Limitations: Most trial accounts limit what you can do, but is it so limited you can’t get a feel for the software?

Spend a little time playing around the trial account, but don’t go overboard. Remember that the vendor should have an onboarding team to help set up your account correctly, so if you dive into areas you aren’t familiar with, you may need to undo what you build.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Lars Helgeson is a pioneer in sales and marketing technology. His CRM platform for small to mid-size businesses, GreenRope, was built from scratch and has grown to include over 3,000 clients in more than 40 countries since its inception in 2011. He is a frequent speaker for small membership organizations and conferences.

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