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Selecting a CRM for Your Small Business: Key Criteria

Understanding and tracking potential customer relationships from the first introduction to product purchase can have a profound impact on your customer conversions. Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, has become a hot spot for the tech industry. Many software programs exist to help you effectively manage your customer relationships. Learn what a CRM is, understand the benefits of using CRM software, know how to choose the right CRM for your business and review answers to frequently asked questions about CRMs.

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What is a CRM?

Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, software or platform is a tool for managing all customer relationships at every step within the sales process. While “CRM” technically refers to the process of managing customer relationships, it’s come to be synonymous with CRM software, or the specific tool that companies use for their CRM. Here’s a more detailed explanation of a CRMs purpose and key features:


The overarching goal of CRM is to boost company profits and save money on unnecessary expenses. CRM helps businesses achieve this goal by integrating a number of disparate, customer-related processes and procedures into one platform.

Key features

CRMs can have a number of features ranging across departments to assist your employees as they develop and track customer relationships. Some of the best CRM platforms include these key features:

  • Automating workflow:Use the automation feature to trigger “if-then” scenarios. For example, if you receive an email, the software will send an email back stating you’ve received it.
  • Customization:The ability to customize certain fields of forms to best fit the needs of your business can vastly improve employee efficiency and workflow.
  • Integration with third-party software:It’s useful for your CRM to easily connect and interact with your email platform, sales platform and other often used workflow software.
  • Providing customer service:You want your CRM to gather important customer data and let you know when you should follow up on an incident.
  • Tracking employees:Tracking employee hours, tasks, goals and other important data points can help you effectively evaluate them during performance reviews.
  • Monitoring social media:Some CRMs have relatively advanced social media integration, allowing you to monitor, post and analyze your accounts from the CRM itself.
  • Managing leads:Many CRMs allow you to track leads by assigning them to specific staff members.
  • Producing real-time data:Your marketing team will benefit from the integration of real-time data to see how potential customers are responding to marketing efforts.
  • Offering analytics:You’ll want a CRM that makes it easy to see how effective your strategies are at earning and retaining customers.
  • Creating reports:For those companies who regularly run and share reports, a CRM that can do it for you saves an enormous amount of time.
  • Forecasting sales:Some CRMs can take past sales data and create sales forecasts, which help several departments make data-based decisions.
  • Tracking emails:Including email integration in your CRM keeps your employees from having to work in multiple platforms and reduces the chance they’ll forget about an important message.

Benefits of using a CRM

CRMs offer quite a few benefits. Consider these advantages to implementing a CRM for your company:

  • Accurate data:A CRM can gather data from a multitude of sources for you to use in decision-making for your sales team, marketing staff and other departments.
  • Intuitive navigation:Most CRMs allow you to customize an individual dashboard for every member of your company.
  • Useful automation:Your CRM can automate basic tasks to save time and increase communication with customers.
  • Proactive service:Since the CRM collects and stores important customer data, it’s easy for the sales team to provide proactive service to entice the lead to make a purchase.
  • Maximized efficiency:Integration between various industry platforms, task automation and information storage all help your employees work as efficiently as possible.
  • Simple collaboration:Most CRMs allow multiple users to work on the same file or access the same information.

Related: Recruitment Tools: Three Ways to Efficiently Hire Employees

How to choose the right CRM for your business

If you’re looking for the right CRM for your company, use these steps to help you find the best option:

1. Define your needs

Determine exactly what you need in a CRM platform. Consider necessities like:

  • Lead generation support
  • Excellent sales reporting information
  • Clean 360-degree contacts
  • Increased employee efficiency
  • Customizable dashboards
  • Lead scoring
  • Third-party integration
  • Automation

2. Consider your budget

Set a budget for your CRM per month. If you’re working with a salesperson, be clear and firm about your budget. If you’re researching on your own, ensure the options you’re assessing fit within your budget.

3. Think about training

Some CRMs are more intuitive than others. Make sure you’re prepared to offer training if the CRM you like best takes some education. If you don’t provide your employees with the proper training, they won’t be able to use the tool effectively.

4. Look for support

Many CRMs offer tech support for any problems you or your employees face while using the platform. If customer service, troubleshooting and support are important to you, ensure the CRM you select offers those options.

5. Know the features

Check the features included with the CRMs you’re considering against your “must have” features. Make sure the platform provides everything you need so you’re not in a position where you have to purchase additional software to meet your employee’s needs.

6. Check integration

Third-party integration is an incredibly useful tool for most CRMs. Make sure the CRM you’re looking at will work with your email provider, social media channels and any other software programs you already use and want to cross-share information with.

7. Ensure mobile readiness

Many salespeople work out of the office as much as in the office. If your employees are often away from their desks, ensure the CRM you select has mobile access, so they can still get the information they need while on the go.

8. Consider the analytics

Make sure the CRM you’re considering provides useful analytics you can use to inform business decisions. Also consider the types of reports it can run with the data it gathers.

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Frequently asked questions about CRMs

What should a good CRM system have?

The specifics of the best CRM depend on the needs of your company. In most cases, businesses want the following components in their CRM:

  • Mobile readiness
  • Integrated communication
  • Little to no set-up and training
  • Contact syncing
  • Report generation
  • Third-party platform integration
  • Sales tools
  • High ROI
  • Included tech support and customer service

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