4 Tips to Choose the Right CRM Vendor for your Business

There comes a time in the life of your startup when you need to make a commitment to productivity. It could well be when you see that your sales team has had enough of juggling spreadsheets, looking for post-it notes and using multiple devices to call prospects. Or maybe you’re tired of watching your smartest employees sip lattes and do mindless data entry when they could be closing more deals. 

Or it could be when a customer shoots off an angry email, complaining about a poor support experience as your departments seem to work in silos. It is time to start exploring your options and finalizing the right CRM vendor that’s a perfect fit for you and your business.

The right CRM will not only organize your information, but make your sales and marketing process smooth and seamless. It should boost productivity and help you close deals faster and more efficiently. Like its name, a CRM software should help build a relationship with the customer that lasts a lifetime, not just for the duration of the sale.

But choosing a CRM vendor is not as easy as it sounds. There are so many factors to keep in mind. From features to flexibility to functionality to budget, you have to take everything into account. This cheat sheet for choosing the right CRM vendor should help you:

1) Begin with the end in mind

We like to call this CRM Soul searching 101. What are the goals and problems you are looking to solve? Set SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Don’t be vague. 

Your CRM goals or strategy should enable you to close the gaps in your sales, marketing and support processes and help take the customer through the life cycle without any hiccups. 

Here are examples of some SMART goals:

  • Reduce customer churn by 20% by the next quarter
  • Reduce the length of the sales process by 50%, from an average of 2 months to 1 month
  • Increase revenue by 30% by the end of the year

Once you have goals in mind, you can make action plans and proceed to find the best CRM vendor to help you get there.

2)Identify your needs

Once you’ve got a good idea of what features you require to run your day-to-day operations, make a list. Have you ever gone to the supermarket and ended up coming out with bags of things that were on discount, but forgetting what you originally went in for? It’s easy to get caught up in a tide of flashy features and overlook a crucial capability, so make a note of everything you need so you can check it against what any potential vendor is offering. 

Only about 50% of the CRM features paid for by businesses are actually used. This could mean asking yourself how much support and training would you need to implement the CRM? What kind of integrations and customizations would you need? 

Paula runs a fashion startup. She sells clothes and accessories for women on her website and was looking for a CRM that could help her on board new designers and also align her sales, marketing, and support channels in a cohesive way. When looking for a CRM vendor, she knew that she needed a social CRM, as a lot of designers that she worked with had their portfolios on their social channels and a vast majority of her customers talked about her brand on Instagram. It was important for her to be in the know. Just like in this case, each and every tool must speak to each other to help you reach your business goals.

Cloud or On-premise? This will be one of the most fundamental questions you’ll have to answer when on the hunt for a CRM. Both solutions have pros and cons. But you need to know what would work best for you. Cloud or SaaS CRMs are hosted on a vendor’s server and can be accessed by you if you have a stable internet connection. On-premise, on the other hand, requires you to store the data on your own server, is not location-agnostic but saves you recurring subscription charges.

3)Shortlist and compare

As a business owner, when taking any decision, big or small, you go through a thorough process of evaluation. In the case of a CRM vendor as well, you must first shortlist and then compare. Don’t forget that switching a CRM is a huge task unto itself. So get it right the first time around!

Evaluate the services and support offered: Are there regular webinars that talk you through the smallest of feature updates? Does the website link to case studies that are specific to your industry? How extensive is the FAQ section? And if you can’t seem to find an answer anywhere else, is there someone you can call? Of course, you’ll want to test-drive each vendor’s product, but make sure it’s not just the IT people at the wheel. Getting buy-in from end-users can be a challenge when it comes to a new CRM system. You’ll be ahead of the game if they have a chance to try it out before buying.

Review sites: There are also innumerable review websites where users review and rate tools in an unbiased manner. Different CRM review sites include various vendors in their Top 10 or Top 20 vendor listings. For this reason, it’s a good idea to cross-reference review sites. Capterra, Software Advice, G2Crowd, FitSmallBusiness are just a few sites that review technology products on the basis of various criteria like the number of users, customers, social media presence, etc.

Easy adoption: 72% of CRM customers indicated they would trade functionality for ease of use. Ease of use is one of the biggest hindrances to CRM adoption, and while you might think that this comes later, when deciding your CRM vendor, keep this factor in mind. 

Scalability, flexibility, budget: You need to partner with a CRM vendor who grows with you. Think ahead to when your business might be bigger and question whether you see any of these solutions working for you.

4)Do your due diligence

The importance of transparency: As in any partnership, honesty and trust go a long way. Wouldn’t you want to partner with a CRM vendor who is aligned with these values? Explore case studies, customer references and probe the sales executive for as much information as you can. 

In the interest of transparency, the vendor should be more than willing to answer your questions, then do a quick search online for news and background information on the company and its principles.

Your business is unique in terms of its processes, customer base, and growth dynamics. So, committing to a set of standard, basic or inflexible functions is simply unwise. What you need is a CRM vendor who can take you to new heights and help you scale. 

It may seem overwhelming at first, but taking the time to make an informed decision will be worth it. Choosing the right CRM vendor is as good as picking a business partner – you may want to start the journey together, only to realize a couple of months in that things aren’t working out. As your business grows, so will your CRM needs. 

That’s why you need to make sure that the CRM vendor you choose can be easily upgraded to the next, more sophisticated version. One thing is clear – stay away from the “one-size-fits-all” solutions; instead, choose the CRM that can adapt to your needs.

Illustration by Prasanna Venkatesh Bhupendran

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