If this is your first CRM search (or your fifth), I feel for you— it can be overwhelming to compare and demo dozens of different CRM products that might be right for your company. Fortunately, there are some shortcuts you can take in the CRM selection process to really tell if a software will work for your business. By asking yourself some key questions before you move forward with a product, whether it’s for a demo or a free trial, you can save yourself time and money by avoiding CRMs that just aren’t worth it.
If you haven’t already, pull up your comparison spreadsheet and ponder these questions:
1. What does the end user really need?
In the CRM search, admins often get bogged down by a list of “must-have” CRM features recommended for enterprise systems. They go on the hunt for an affordable CRM with tons and tons of expensive automation features, and end up feeling like there are no “good” CRMs in their price range. They’re making the key mistake of prioritizing features management wants, rather than understanding the features the end user really needs.
Instead, start with this basic list of CRM features (there are only 10 of them, and we promise that most legitimate CRM products will include them). Then get input from the end user. What do they actually need to use the CRM for? If you’re not the only person using the CRM or its data, you have to get feedback from your team members during all steps of the CRM selection process. Maybe you thought everyone wanted tons of automation, but they really need a better way to collaborate in order to streamline their workflow. If you’re not sure, ask.
Finding your answer: team members should give input on what features they need, sit in on software demos, and be a part of free trials. If having most or all of the end users involved in your search sounds infeasible, select one person to be your new CRM’s evangelizer. Have them work with you every step of the way during the selection process and set up your new CRM account. They will help keep you in check and make sure that the CRM fits with the end user’s needs. Knowing that one user likes and understands the system will go a long way towards encouraging others to give the CRM a real try. If your evangelizer learn the ins and outs of the software, the other users at your company will have someone to go to if they have questions, too.
If you’ve already asked yourself question number one, you knew this one was coming. If your end user thinks that the CRM isn’t easy to use, it won’t be, plain and simple. Even little things like the way the CRM looks or where the navigation features are can make someone likely to use the CRM every day— or not at all.
2. What features do you really need?
Many people blame the product for CRM failure, when the actual issue is a lack of (or improper) use, not insufficient features. When CRMs are hard to use without tons of training or your own IT team, end users don’t update information, and your database goes stale. Without accurate data in your system, your CRM becomes a way to throw money down the drain, not make more of it.
Finding your answer: when you get input from your team during the selection process, make sure to emphasize ease of use. Can they see themselves using the CRM every day? How easy is it to do basic, daily functions like adding new contacts, updating notes and pipelines, or even checking the CRM on the go? When you aren’t sure what to do, are customer service and a good help section readily available? Make sure your end users really test the product during your free trial so that they begin to find their daily rhythm using the CRM.
3. What’s the customer service like?
Having a professional to guide you through any questions or hang ups that you might have will make your CRM a whole lot easier to use. Access to good customer service will not only make your account set up easier, but you can get great advice for maximizing your CRM use. A great customer service agent will tell you how you should be using your CRM, not just how you can use it.
Not all CRMs have customer service, and when they do, you might have to pay or deal with sales reps first, instead of knowledgeable customer service agents.
Finding your answer: first, figure out if the CRM offers customer service, at what price, and if their availability changes depending on what kind of customer or free trial user you are. Next, test them out! Submit a support question, and see how quickly they get back to you. Did their answer help you, or not? If not, did they follow up?
You might also want to see if your CRM company offers free training for your end users. What could be a weeks-long setup process can be cut down to mere hours with the help of system-savvy customer service agents.
4. What does account maintenance look like?
It’s possible you are already thinking about setting up your account, and dreading it. It can be daunting to move all of your data into one place, and even simple setup processes can sound tedious when you already have a system in place (albeit, one you want to change). Fortunately, if you set your CRM up right, once it’s done, it’s done, and onto the everyday job of updating the data.
Unfortunately, if you didn’t set up your CRM correctly, or if you required professional consultants you won’t have access to regularly, you could be in for a major headache when it comes to account maintenance. Again, this ties back to ease of use and good customer service. Even the simplest of systems require some training, and if your team has had none, you won’t know how to keep your database, automations, or other special features working if and when something goes wrong.
Another important thought to keep in mind is what will happen if you decide to close your account. Let’s say you outgrow your CRM company in ten years (or worse, they outgrow you), and you have to commence your CRM search again. Can you easily export data from your set up? If you didn’t link data in your CRM correctly, you could end up with a messy spreadsheet that will be incompatible with any other system.
Finding your answer: if you’ve already thought about our ease of use and customer service questions, the answer here should be obvious. You will need help setting up and maintaining your CRM at some point, and you need to know if guidance is readily available, and at what cost. If your CRM is easy to use and the customer service is good, you’ll have smooth sailing. If you know you need to hire a consultant to train one person, who then has to train your whole staff, and they aren’t totally sure how the system is set up, just what buttons they have to press— you might want to reexamine the cost-benefit analysis of your particular system.
5. Are you ready for a culture change?
Good CRM is more than just software— it’s a culture change. When you truly commit to using your CRM properly, you’re also committing to maintaining and celebrating customer relationships. A CRM can’t do all the work of contacting, nurturing, and converting a lead or repeat customer for you. You’ll have to learn how to use the CRM and make it a part of your everyday workflow for it to be effective.
Finding your answer: implement CRM best practices as you train your users on the CRM. Leave a note after every call. Immediately schedule your follow up. Never delete anything. Monitor your users’ progress on the CRM itself. If your users aren’t keeping good CRM habits, let them know that data stagnation or inconsistencies aren’t acceptable.
What questions do you find people often forget to ask? Leave them below! And if you need some tips or some CRM training inspiration, check out this list of CRM best practices.
Looking for Customer Relationship Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Customer Relationship Management software solutions.