Asking this question is like asking “what is the best vehicle to buy?”

A small, fuel efficient Toyota hatch might absolutely be the right vehicle for some people, but it is not right if you have a family of seven. Or if you transport heavy equipment!

So, what are the right questions to ask when considering the perfect CRM for you?

It is very important to be clear on what you want it to do for you. You need take the time to consider the main tasks it is needed for.

Does your company mainly do online/email marketing to consumers? If so, you need something that emphasises these capabilities.

A large sales and marketing organisation selling complex products to global multinationals has entirely different needs.

If inbound/outbound customer service calls are key, that should be taken into account.

Does your product or service have relationship sales that have a long sales cycle?

Or is it a B2B solution that’s all around price and delivery? Or is it an off the shelf item?

Understanding the customer activities you need to support comes first, and from there you can move on to the detail of operating costs and skill sets.

There is no point in buying a Lamborghini if you have no intention or ability to use the performance capabilities of the car, even less if you can’t afford to service it or pay for the insurance. And if you are buying a semitrailer, you or one of your team have to be licensed to drive it.

The next challenge is to be realistic about the functions required vs what is best value – how to work within the budget without compromising on the deliverables.

The key to finding the right CRM is all about value. The value is not only about the costs, but the benefits your company gets.

Would a transparent flow of communication between sales/marketing and customer service help you reduce costs and improve customer service and customer retention?

For many companies with complex sales and customised solutions getting this right is essential. Otherwise work gets doubled up, messages get lost in the mix and customer satisfaction plummets.

Making sure all areas have visibility and a clear process is in place sounds easy – getting it right as a standard process pays back the investment in the right CRM. Getting it wrong means you’re spending money on a system that irritates everyone who uses it, management and sales alike.

For organisations selling high volume products direct to consumers, automated communications with your prospects and customers can drive higher conversion. If you have many more customers than you can afford to contact individually, automated marketing can be a game changer.

Another factor in selecting the right system is making sure that you are will be successful implementing it.

Depending on the CRM you select and your business profile, it may be that an expert external team is required to install the CRM and run it on an ongoing basis.

Perhaps your in-house team have all the skills and experience required? Some CRMs need more technical expertise to run, and in some cases an organisation will want to tailor the CRM to exactly match what needs to be done.

Like everything else, some CRMs are expensive and deliver indifferent results. Some CRMs are expensive and a brilliant solution – if that’s what your company needs.

Some are not so expensive, or even free, but have fewer bells and whistles and can’t be personalised.

In all cases, once you have done the work to install the software and train your team, you will not want to have to do it again any time soon. Consulting an independent specialist will ensure there’s no buyer’s remorse after the fact!

In summary, the questions to ask when choosing a CRM:

  • What do I need it for? What features will give me the most value?
  • How much can I afford to pay for that value? Remembering that the cost is not only the software but the implementation and running costs.
  • Who can I consult with to ensure I’m making the right choice for my business – now and in the long term?