Here’s how to find the right CRM software for your business

From startups to large conglomerates: CRM software optimizes customer care, supports lead generation and facilitates numerous work processes. Here you can read which CRM types are available and which criteria need to be observed.

Whether it’s operational or collaborative CRM: there are a host of work processes in sales that software solutions can facilitate.
Image: © Austin Distel | Unsplash

What are the benefits of CRM software in sales?

CRM systems make an effective contribution toward improving the customer experience, strengthening customer loyalty and thus, ultimately, boosting sales figures. It therefore comes as no surprise that software usage is expected to continue to rise sharply in the years to come. According to a consumer study on CRM software in Germany, use in small and medium-sized enterprises alone increased 27 percent year-over-year in 2019.

In principle, CRM systems can support your sales team in the following areas:

  • Data documentation and organization: Customer contacts and information are clearly bundled in a central database.
  • Customer communication: CRM software can be used to create newsletter templates, automatic reminders and the like, greatly simplifying customer care. It can also be used, for instance, to create personalized customer appeals, contributing toward a better customer journey.
  • Information exchange: All sales staff and any other departments that need it can access data and information in the CRM system. This permits in-time and employee-independent processing of customer inquiries.
  • Data analysis: All sales activities and customer interactions can be monitored, evaluated and displayed.

CRM software: Here are the main types

Lots of CRM systems respond to multiple different kinds of needs. Still, there’s no patent remedy for acquiring the perfect software solution. Thus, different software solutions have characteristic strengths and weaknesses and usually focus on certain functions. These can be classified into three basic types:

  1. Analytical CRM: Analytical CRM systems focus on evaluating customer data. Future sales activities can be optimized based on data mining and the like. Zoho Analytics, Salesforce Einstein and Nextiva are examples of predominantly analytical CRM tools.
  2. Operational CRM: Operational CRM systems are primarily deployed to automate processes and to save time and resources in the process. Software with an operational focus is perfect if work processes in the sales team need to be simplified and standardized. HubSpot CRM, Really Simple Systems and Pipedrive are among the operational systems.
  3. Collaborative CRM: The focus for collaborative CRM is on internal and external communication as well as information-sharing. For example, cloud-based solutions can be used to network different company locations, departments and external partners. Copper, Bitrix24 and SugarCRM, for example, feature a collaborative focus.

Here’s how to choose the right CRM software

If there are plans to implement a new CRM system, the requirements specific to the company should always be taken into account. In addition to the available budget, the question of which CRM system is best depends, among other things, on the size of the team or company, the size and complexity of the volume of data in question and the objectives involved. The following steps will aid in decision-making.

Step 1: Define the requirements for the CRM software

There is no such thing as a universal CRM system that meets all conceivable needs in the sales area. This makes it crucial, as a first step, to identify your own company’s or team’s software requirements in terms that are as specific as possible. The following questions should be asked:

  • Is an industry-specific CRM system required?
  • How big is the team?
  • How much can the CRM software cost?
  • How complex should or may the solution be?
  • What functional scope should the system offer?
  • What is the importance of individual features and extensions, and how much can these cost?
  • What previous technical expertise does the team have to offer?
  • Are the resources of staff and time sufficient to bridge a longer training period if need be?
  • Is mobile use desired?

Step 2: Compare providers

Once the criteria have been defined, the providers can be compared. Another factor to take into account is which modules are irrelevant to the particular company – these may be safely ignored. The shortlist includes CRM solutions that present the largest overlap with the requirements that have already been defined. Ultimately, a cost calculation that is as accurate as possible should be performed over a period of up to five years. In addition to the costs of initial installation and employee training, this calculation must take the costs of special functions along with any updates and upgrades into account.

Step 3: Test the CRM software

After these steps, there should be no more than two to a maximum of three candidates on the shortlist. Some CRM platforms offer free trials, so that practical suitability of the software can be tested beforehand. The trial versions are usually valid for a limited period of time, for example for 14 or 30 days. It is recommended to involve all employees who will later be working with the CRM software. Their experiences and any problems should be noted and discussed within the team. This way, ultimately the CRM system can be identified that not only meets the individual requirements of the company, but is also characterized by its user-friendliness.