A 6 Step Guide to Choosing a CRM System

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  • 5/29/2019
    When it comes to choosing a new customer relationship management (CRM) system, the vast amount of options to choose from can be daunting. If you feel yourself feeling overwhelmed, don’t fret. We have six general steps that will help you navigate the CRM selection process.

    1. Assemble Your Team

    Once you have the green light to start researching a new CRM, you will want to start by putting together a team that accurately represents the departments of your company. While sales may be the primary focus of a CRM, many also offer a wide variety of features like inventory, marketing and support. It is important to have a voice to consult from each department to avoid missing any critical needs throughout the process. While having a variety of opinions and expertise behind your decision is beneficial, you will want to ensure at least one member of the team is classified as the “decision maker” so you can be sure you’re staying on track.

    2. Identify Your Needs

    Now that you have your decision-making team and one “decision maker,” you can begin establishing critical needs for your new CRM. This is where you outline all the features that your company cannot operate without. For example, a nonprofit that relies heavily on events for lead generation and donations would need a CRM that could adequately manage these events and donations.
    Determining which integrations you need will be a large part of this step. Do you have a support ticket software like ZenDesk or a marketing automation platform like Act-On? Whatever the answer is, you want to make sure all of your data management and data source tools are integrated with whichever CRM you choose. 
    Next up is deciding whether you want a cloud-based CRM or an on-premise CRM. Cloud-based CRMs dominate the market for two major reasons. First, they allow you access to your data anywhere with internet. Second, you won’t need a large internal IT department because the vendor owns the server and will handle most technical issues you encounter. However, don’t rule out an on-premise CRM just yet as they have their own set of benefits, including no subscription cost and internal control over the system and data. 

    3. Identify Your Wish List

    After you’ve identified what qualities are crucial to your CRM, you can develop your wish list. The industry is constantly changing and adapting, so do some homework and research what features are available. From there, develop a wish list of what could improve business quality in your company. (Hint: We recommend using your team to brainstorm bottlenecks in the company now. Then identify what features can help reduce or eliminate those bottlenecks.) 
    Consider your ideal support scenario in this step as well. Do you need 24/7 phone support? Remember that many platforms require you to pay for a certain subscription level to receive this support. Do you have an internal IT team that can help troubleshoot small things? If so, maybe you don’t need 24/7 phone support. 
    The list goes on and on, but here are some things you should consider when building your list:
    • Pipeline management 
    • Marketing capabilities 
    • Reporting 
    • Privacy compliance measures 
    • Platform growth capabilities
    • Training opportunities
    • Free trial availabilities
    • Mobile-friendly qualities
    • CRM transition help

    4. Prioritize

    Now that you’ve developed your features wish list and needs, it is time to prioritize. It can be easy to get carried away in crafting your wish list, so ranking your list in order from most to least important wil be critical in helping you narrow down your options. 

    5. Begin Your Research

    Now that you and your team know what you are looking for in a CRM, you can begin your research. Start by checking for a CRM that specializes in your industry. There are plenty of options that offer specialized services for industries like nonprofits or law firms, so consider starting there. Next, utilize your team by assigning everyone a few options to research. Form a master list of prospects that meet your high-level criteria then have your team note any features they come across that  may have been missed from your initial wish list. 
    It’s also important to note that reviews will be an important part of this step. A platform may check every box on your wishlist, but if the user experience is not up to par, you need to know (and you’ll find out soon enough by reading the reviews). 

    6. Narrow Your Results

    Now that you have a list of high-level qualified options, it’s time to narrow them down. No one has time for 20 demos of platforms, so instead call the platforms you have additional questions for. Rank your list based on the number of criteria they met and any additional features that stood out to you. Once you’ve narrowed it to five contenders or fewer, you can start doing more in-depth demos. Prepare a list of questions to ask during each demonstration so that you can compare the answers. Seeing the platform in action will allow you to compare capabilities easily. This is a good time to address any concerns from public reviews or ask questions like, “What new features or developments do you plan to add in the next year?” 
    Once you’ve seen a demonstration of your top choices, sit down with your team to discuss which one is the final winner. Don’t be scared to ask for an additional demonstration, developer documentation or anything else noteworthy. A CRM is a large decision and you have the right to be as knowledgeable as possible before making it. From here, it’s up to your internal team to discuss and settle on the best fit for your company. 
    Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of the decision-making process. Feels good, doesn’t it?
    Overall, communicating with your team is the overlying theme when it comes to choosing a CRM. While there is no “one size fits all” CRM, there is also no “one size fits all” process. Each company is a little different and you may have to adjust the plan. However, having a set plan of attack and a list of criteria will enable you to split up the research throughout the team and make the best and most informed decision.
    Want to know more about how to choose a CRM? Contact us today and we’ll get you in touch with our Marketing Automation team.  
    About the author:: Tracy Devlin is the Marketing Automation Coordinator at thunder::tech. She helps plan, develop and implement strategies designed to automate various processes for clients. She enjoys reading, evenings in with her dogs and trying to beat her personal record of how fast she can binge watch a show on Netflix.  
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