CRM. From its beginnings as a glorified list of contacts, modern CRM has matured in something much more powerful—and much harder to define. Today’s CRM systems house and make sense of unlimited points of customer data; generating leads, capturing sales performance, marketing campaigns, customer service cases and more information about a customer can be just about as easy as creating more fields. Allowing you to proactively identify opportunities and areas for improvement in all areas

What makes CRM special is the way it helps you turn data into actionable business intelligence. Used in that way CRM helps you uncover your customers’ requirements and points the way toward delivering it. And it does all that in a way that saves your business time and money.

Options, Options, Options

Fundamentally you need to choose a CRM system that lets you parlay the cost of the system into sales that make it worth every dime.

This guide will help understand the various features and capabilities, as well as your goals, so that you can make a choice that’s in line with your current needs, budget, and business plans.

Step 1: Answer These Questions About Your Business and Its Needs

Getting what you need requires you to first know what you need. This step will help you sort things out—and update as your needs change.

  1. What are your top three business goals?
  2. How do you imagine CRM can help you reach those goals
  3. What are your current processes? Are you willing to change them based on what you learn during your search for a CRM solution?
  4. Do you need a full-fledged system that does it all? What functions do you need? Lead management, sales analysis, sales forecasting, content management, document archiving? Others
  5. Will your CRM solution need to plug into existing software? It almost certainly will, unless your business is brand new, in which case you can build everything around your CRM—or let it handle pretty much everything.
  6. Do you prefer a hosted or onsite? If onsite, do you have the necessary hardware and other infrastructure in place, as well as tech staff? If hosted seems like a better bet, be sure to check the provider’s record for uptime and security. If you can’t decide right now, skip this and come back later once you know more.
  7. How about mobile support? That’s probably going to be a “Yes!” But what platform(s)?
  8. Will you require support for multiple languages and currencies? If you do business internationally—or want to—this will be critical

Step 2: Match Your Needs with Top CRM Solutions Once you know what you need today (and have an educated guesstimate of what you’ll need tomorrow), you can match those needs up with CRM solutions that other businesses are using right now to make more sales and keep customers happy. This step will help you do just that, and you’ll end up with a short list of candidate solutions.

 Step 3: Ask Shortlisted CRM Providers These Questions Now that you’ve got a better idea of who offers what and how it might fit into your plans, it’s time to dig deeper. This step helps you arm yourself with the right questions to make sure you get the right CRM solution for you.