If you work for an SME company and still do not have a CRM (customer relationship management) solution in place, or would like to replace the current CRM solution with a new one, this article will be helpful to you.
You will need to compare at least 5-10 solutions available on the market and evaluate both their technical and business feasibility and their features. The easiest way is to create a decision matrix in Excel, where you list the CRM solutions and the factors that are important. For a list of such factors, keep on reading.
The first idea would be to go for a solution that is well-known on the market. However, it may not be the solution that fits the needs of your company or your line of business. For example, some CRM solutions with strong market presence are not geared towards the needs of small companies. At the same time, you do not want to end up with an underdeveloped product lacking documentation and support (see below).
Choose the solutions that comply with data protection laws of your country or the countries you operate in. If technically feasible, select self-hosted instead of cloud-hosted solutions.
Consider the landscape of the solutions you are already using. Your CRM system is the central component of this landscape. It should have integrations with all (or most) software you use or at least an open API to create such integrations.
Data import to a CRM solution
Most solutions offer data import from CSV/XLS files, as well as contact imports from Outlook (vCards). This will suffice in most cases. Some solutions offer data import through scanning business cards or from other sources (e.g. TXT files).
Essentially, CRM is there to store and process data on your customers, leads, suppliers, partners and employees. Thus, the features of a CRM system must include an easy way to do all the following:
- categorize contacts (e.g. tagging)
- add comments and attach files to contacts
- create relationships between data sets (e.g. associate people to companies)
- change the entered data
- (last but not least) back up and restore any data deleted by accident.
A good user rights management system will also be helpful (the more people are using the CRM the more helpful it gets :-))
Data export from a CRM solution
This is something that is equally important to data import. In case you want to migrate your data into another system or switch to another CRM, you should be able to do it without losing any important information.
Do not get stuck on having as many features as possible. This will unnecessarily increase the complexity of the system and slow down the learning curve for everyone involved. Instead, decide what features you actually need. Here are some examples.
If your sales people will be using the CRM, consider how it tackles visualizing the sales funnel, lead management and analyzing the sales data.
Some CRM systems offer automated creation of quotes and invoices as well as other payment tracking.
CRM can become a solution that you will use for customer communication and support. If this is important, you might want to invest in CRM offering such features.
Many CRM systems offer project management features, such as setting up meetings, creating workflows, etc.
Usability is THE crucial factor in CRM implementation. The best way to test the usability of a product is to sign up for a trial version (make sure that no hidden costs or contract obligations arise after the testing phase).
Then you can start testing the software with an initial set of fake data, similar in structure to the data you will be using. If possible, let several relevant users from your company participate in this test. In fact, you can even do some internal usability testing. Since this is rather time-consuming, select only 2-3 systems (that rank the highest in your decision matrix).
Support and Documentation
It would be best to test out the support or the documentation on the product during your testing phase. This way you will know how problems will be tackled in reality.
At this stage you should also check how your internal resources can support the implementation and introduction of the new software.
Do not let the price be the leading factor in selecting your CRM solution. If some free CRM software matches all of your requirements – go for it. However, if choosing a free solution involves hours spent on setting it up, bug-fixing and understanding how it actually works, you may want to give it a second thought.
Generally, the two pricing factors are the number of CRM users and the number of additional features (“Starter” vs “Premium” packages). Here I would recommend to start small and add any features when you will be sure that you need them.
The infographic below sums up the relevant factors in CRM software selection.