Choosing a software solution is not like picking a commodity at the shelf of a convenience store. It requires some patience and dedication. The same applies when choosing the right CRM solution for your business. It’s not like you get one and if it doesn’t work you return it for a refund or get another one. You’ll have to put in some extra time and careful study. Rushing in, you risk committing any of the common mistakes when selecting CRM software. Remember, you’re gunning not only for the best CRM but also the right one for your business. You may have the best-in-class CRM tool that money can buy but if it doesn’t fit into your requirements, then your investment ends up useless.
It is important that right from the beginning, you get the information and resources you need to make an intelligent assessment. When purchasing time comes you’ll be doing so with confidence in your choice, backed up by an informed decision. With this article, we’ll help you arrive at that decision.
The CRM software market is valued at $120 billion as of 2018. It is growing at a CAGR of 12%, driven by the need of companies to further streamline sales processes, improve conversions, strengthen relationships with customers, and increase revenues. CRM holds such significance that it is ranked the top technology priority of growing SMBs, followed by financial software, and other technology services.
Source: SalesforceDesigned by
In all likelihood, CRM software will end up as one of the most vital tools in your technology stack. Its importance and the benefits gained from its usage are reinforced by CRM statistics and studies. According to CSO Insights, 48% of sales teams heavily use CRM systems to improve their operations.
And based on a Salesforce report, CRM software can boost forecast accuracy, productivity, and sales by double digits. With proven benefits, the CRM industry is experiencing accelerated growth and CRM software adoption is becoming even more widespread. The facts and figures are compelling reasons for CRM use. Now let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of how to choose the best CRM software for your business.
It may sound so obvious but you really do need to know what you’re going into. To illustrate: did you know that 22% of sales professionals are still unsure about what CRM is? What if it were you, the business owner, who has no idea of CRM? That spells disaster for your business. You have to soak up on CRM—what it is, its benefits and advantages, its methodologies and best practices, and what it can do for your business. Fortunately, CRM is one of the most written about business topics that there is no lack of information about it.
Here at FinancesOnline alone, there are several resources that you can check out including our comprehensive analysis of CRM software. It’s a good way to look at the basic and advanced features of CRM.
Further on, there’s also our how-to guides such as how CRM can help you overcome sales objections. Here CRM is used as a powerful tool by sales teams in order to close calls.
The point to all this is that you do not go into business competing with others if you are not equipped with full knowledge and relevant information. The initial step to choosing a CRM software is knowing first what CRM is. The software part comes later, that is after you determine your needs.
Your business requirements will dictate the kind of CRM tool and features you will need. As we said, the best might not be the right one but you must aim for both. The first question to ask is: do you really need a CRM? You may actually make do with a customer experience management (CEM) software instead to have a deeper understanding of your customers. But there’s a difference between CRM and CEM. It is good to have both types of tools working in tandem if budget allows. If not, you have to prioritize CRM which carries more features and capabilities.
Now you have to be clear about your needs. These usually stem from issues you’re experiencing which could include the following:
There could be other challenges. Your objective is to tie together all of the above and streamline your sales processes and operation. Those are your goals and requirements. With that checklist, you can now go over your options.
Unfortunately, there is no “one-size-fits-all” CRM software. The closest thing to that is a basic operational CRM system that provides a common platform and a single set of customer data that your sales, marketing, and support units can work on. This addresses the difficulty of finding customer data since all of your three units will be using one centralized database or a “single source of truth” when it comes to contact details and customer information.
With an operational CRM, you can leverage three main capabilities: sales force automation to analyze the lead to customer cycle; marketing automation to streamline marketing processes and campaigns; and service automation for managing customer service and support. This can be the ideal CRM if you are looking for an all-around CRM solution.
Another type is the analytical CRM designed for processing and analyzing customer data using advanced techniques such as pattern recognition and data mining. It is able to give you deep insights into customer buying behavior and purchasing trends, allowing you to craft precise and targeted offers.
The last type, collaborative CRM, facilitates communication and sharing of vital customer information with both internal (agents, employees, management) and external (partners, vendors) stakeholders. This is to involve all those concerned in coming up with more effective promotions and campaigns.
Once you are decided on the type of CRM that can best meet your requirements, you can proceed to shop around for a CRM solution.
This is usually the part that requires your extra time to do research. But you don’t have to scour the internet far and wide since we’ve done that task for you. In fact, right now you can head straight to our list of the best cloud-hosted CRM solutions you can consider for your business. These products are among the leading CRM tools currently available in the market. They are some of the highest rated solutions based on the factors we set when we review any type of software. These include:
Based on the above parameters and using our evaluation system, we are able to score and rank software, and even come up with a user satisfaction rating using a certain algorithm.
For CRM software, there are important features you should consider? Vendors may have similar features offered in their products. But make sure the CRM software is equipped with tools and capabilities for the following:
There may be other tools and features offered by the vendor depending on the pricing plan and packages.
Speaking of prices, how much does CRM software cost? It depends on the subscription plan and deployment methods, but cloud-based CRMs offered as SaaS have become quite affordable.
Software cost is a major consideration for SMBs, hence many start off with free CRM software to jumpstart their business and later on upgrade to paid solutions when operations grow. One of the best free CRM solutions to get you started is HubSpot CRM. It also happens to be the top software in our CRM category.
You can easily get HubSpot CRM free app here.
You may think you have a lot of items to go through in your checklist but have patience. It may only take once or twice to go through your list and narrow down the features you need, match it with your requirements, and connect them with the right software.
The vendor or the software company is just as important as the software itself. Why? You’ll be relying on the company for customer support and assistance for as long as you’re using the software. Thus, the vendor must be reliable and dependable. It must have customer service and help desk teams that can be reached at all times from all available channels and means – tickets, phone, email, social media, live chat, mobile, etc.
In addition, the software company should also be able to provide technical, product or any other related training through in-house seminars, webinars, or online courses. They should offer resources and knowledge base complete with product documentation, answers to FAQs, how-to’s, tutorials, and guides. Other companies go out of their way providing not only product-related readings but also insightful articles on growing your business, optimizing lead generation, improving agent productivity, and other similar topics.
Some of the most successful CRM companies are bywords in the industry – HubSpot, Salesforce, Freshsales, Pipedrive, and Zoho are leading examples. With reputable vendors, you’ll be guaranteed world-class support, prompt response or resolution of issues, automatic updates, and new features rollout.
Aside from the popular ones, how do you verify the reputation of a vendor? You can pick up vendor profiles and information from software directory sites such as ours. Here at FinancesOnline, we not only rate, rank, and review software but also substantiate the credibility and trustworthiness of vendors to ensure that you’ll be dealing only with legitimate companies and using only quality products.
Another gauge of company reputation is from the experience of others. User comments and feedback abound in social media and online community sites or forums. Majority of consumers search online for customer reviews on a product, service, or company. Naturally, positive and negative reviews, as well as the responses of the concerned companies, influence purchasing decisions. It’s something you should consider too.
After reading up on the vendor and narrowing your product choices, its time to experience the software and features yourself. Most of the leading CRM vendors offer free full-featured trials of their software. We highly recommend you take these so you can feel your way around the software and see if it has intuitive features and easy navigation. Without worries of cost and strings attached, it is the best way to know if the software meets your expectations and matches your business requirements. If it does, it’s easy to shift from a trial to a paid version. If not, you can opt-out anytime during the trial period and then try other software in your shortlist of preferably five products.
There are four stages one has to go through to arrive at a buying decision – the problem or need recognition, information search, evaluation of choices or alternatives, and the purchase decision. We’ve helped you cover the second and third stages which are the most burdensome and time-consuming. The first stage is for you to determine and we’ve helped you spell out those needs in Section 2 of this article. The last stage is ultimately for you to make. We’ll make it even easier for you by recommending the best CRM at no cost to get you up and running in no time. Simply get HubSpot CRM free app here.
All the steps we’ve outlined are intended for you to realize that the best CRM solution is the one that works for you, something you are able to assess even before you make the actual purchase. Now because it works and fits right into your requirements, then you’ll be able to arrive at the right purchase decision with the right CRM software.
FinancesOnline is available for free for all business professionals interested in an efficient way to find top-notch SaaS solutions. We are able to keep our service free of charge thanks to cooperation with some of the vendors, who are willing to pay us for traffic and sales opportunities provided by our website. Please note, that FinancesOnline lists all vendors, we’re not limited only to the ones that pay us, and all software providers have an equal opportunity to get featured in our rankings and comparisons, win awards, gather user reviews, all in our effort to give you reliable advice that will enable you to make well-informed purchase decisions.