With hundreds of CRM software options out there, how do you know which features and functionalities to prioritize in your software selection?
For a successful business, it doesn’t get much more essential than customer relationship management. This crucial, time-consuming, and tedious task is also prone to human error.
We’ve all suffered on the customer side of things, bouncing around from sales rep to sales rep, gritting our teeth through redundant questions, as information falls through the cracks.
It can make for a very bad first impression with a prospect, which is something your business can’t afford.
Luckily, there’s software for that.
What is CRM software?
Customer relationship management (CRM) software helps automate and manage the customer lifecycle for sales and marketing departments. CRM software consolidates customer information into a single repository so users can better organize and manage relationships, automates common processes, and provides tools to monitor performance and productivity.
Why do I need CRM software?
Good customer relationship management (CRM) software enables your business to better manage customer interactions, provide support, and maintain relationships through reliable systems and processes. It also integrates organizational processes across marketing, sales, and customer service with functionalities and features that can strategically serve key initiatives across departments.
CRM software offers three major benefits for your business:
- Easy access to customer data. Customer relationship management systems include searchable databases that allow users to access client and prospect information during meetings. Some solutions let users sync information across multiple devices, providing the most up-to-date customer information from any access point.
- Streamlined processes through automation. CRM software lets users standardize workflows and processes associated with sales, marketing, and customer support to improve coordination between these teams.
- Actionable insights into business performance and customer behavior. Some CRM software vendors offer analytics functionality, where users can create customizable dashboards and reports based on customer data. These reports help in segmenting customers, tracking revenue, and managing personalized campaigns.
Want a deeeper dive into what CRM software is and why it’s beneficial for your business?
To reap those benefits, you need to select a tool. There are hundreds out there, varying in features, functionality, and price.
Like many choices (in business, and in life), when deciding which CRM software to invest in, knowledge is your best friend. Let’s break down the 10 core, common, and optional features you’ll encounter in your software search.
10 core, common, and optional CRM features
Core CRM features:
What makes something a core feature? Core features make or break a system’s inclusion in the CRM category; these features should be standard across all CRM software.
Any reputable CRM solution will offer the following three core features:
1. Contact management
Stores contact information such as names, addresses, and social media accounts in a searchable database.
Key considerations: While all CRM software offers contact management functionality, you’ll want to look for a layout and usability that make sense to you. How are the fields laid out? Does it feel easy to use and logically organized?
2. Interaction tracking
Add notes and track interaction history to document conversations with specific contacts.
Key considerations: As you compare shortlisted solutions, think about how many times a prospect will change hands as they move through your sales funnel. You want to choose CRM software that allows all necessary parties to collaborate.
3. Lead management
Manage the process of converting prospects into potential customers (leads) by identifying, scoring, and moving leads through the sales pipeline.
Key considerations: Similar to the contact management feature, the key here is ensuring that the lead management process in your CRM tool of choice flows and transitions in a way that makes sense for your business, and your team. Ask a sales team member to look at this feature with you for all software on your shortlist.
Common CRM features:
What makes something a common feature? Common features show up in the majority of systems on the CRM market, but not all of them. These features often indicate more robust systems, rather than a basic plan or offering.
Common features are where we start to see real diversity among software offerings. Take a look at these five features and decide which are imperative to your company’s goals:
4. Email integration
Integrate with email such as Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, etc., allowing for management and segmentation of contact lists, as well as a centralized hub for internal cross-collaboration.
Key considerations: Think about how your team primarily communicates. If they’re not used to collaborating within an app, you may want to prioritize CRM software with email integration capabilities.
5. Document management
Collect, upload, store, and share documents in a centralized location, making it easier for everyone involved to access information.
Key considerations: Document management is a great CRM feature if you have a large team involved in your marketing and sales funnel. A centralized hub for important documentation can go a long way toward ensuring all team members are in the know, and promotes a smooth, consistent experience for your customers.
6. Quotes/proposal management
Create and send quotes or proposals to customers.
Key considerations: How much your business prioritizes this particular functionality probably comes down to the kind of work you do. If the nature of your products/services often requires some back and forth over contracts and proposals, then centralizing that process within your CRM software is a handy, helpful feature.
7. Pipeline management
See an overview of your entire sales pipeline as well as the status/progress of each individual stage in the sales funnel.
Key considerations: If you have a longer sales funnel, it might be a good idea to prioritize this feature as you shop for CRM software. Having a bird’s-eye view of the whole funnel will help keep prospects from stalling out or falling through the cracks.
8. Workflow automation
Automate repetitive tasks by creating workflows that trigger actions or send follow-up reminders for next actions.
Key considerations: Workflow automation is often a CRM software feature available as an upgrade. While you’re shopping for software, consider how much automating repetitive tasks within the sales funnel would free up team members to complete more nuanced tasks. Is that benefit worth the extra cost?
Optional CRM features:
What makes something an optional feature? Optional features aren’t common across CRM systems, and can set certain software offerings apart from others within the category or distinguish it as the best fit for a unique niche.
If one of the below features is a must-have for your business/niche, adjust your CRM search to exclusively focus on tools that offer this functionality
Get routine summary reports of sales figures or sales rep performance (e.g., on a daily, weekly, monthly, etc., basis).
Key considerations: With reporting and analytics functionality, you gain the ability to run reports based on factors like geography, funnel stage, and even individual sales team member. This kind of detail allows you to effectively troubleshoot problems as they arise and maintain an in-depth understanding of your entire sales process.
Generate predictions for future sales figures or projected revenue based on past and present data/trends.
Key considerations: Want the ability to use your existing data to make predictions about upcoming quarters and even new territories? Forecasting functionality puts your data to work for you, empowering you to make objective and informed decisions about the future of your company.
Shop for strategic features and functionalities
Every business is different! Think about your unique sales team and sales process as you shop for CRM software. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to think about how that software will integrate with any existing marketing automation, email marketing, and social media marketing software you already use (or look for CRM software with these capabilities built-in).
You can also search Capterra’s database of CRM software and use our filtering tool to search for software that include your desired features.
Is budget a limiting factor in your software selection? Check out Capterra’s 7 Best Free and Open Source CRM Software Options.