Choosing your first CRM package: what to consider

CRMs do a whole heap of magical things these days. Know what you need yours to do before you pay.
9 January 2023
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When you’re choosing your first CRM package, there are a handful of fundamental things to consider, because as with many software implementations, there’s probably no such thing as an out-and-out best CRM package across the board. There is, however, going to be a best first CRM package for you and your business. But choosing it depends on that handful of fundamentals, and assessing them effectively and correctly before you click a “buy” button.

What do you need?

This sounds like too obvious a question. What do you need from a CRM? You… need it to do what CRMs do – right?

Bless you, our sweet summer child. This is 2023, CRMs do a lot of things – and some focus on particular functions, while others frontload their functionalities in other areas. By understanding what your business needs from your first CRM, you’ll not only get a CRM that’s more tailored to helping your business achieve its core goals, you’ll also make sure you’re not paying cold hard cash for functions that you don’t need and will never use.

Make a list of all the things you’re willing to spend money on in a CRM, like:

  • Lead tracking
  • Closing rate tracking
  • Relationship management
  • Customized reporting
  • Increased productivity, and probably most important in your first CRM,
  • Increased profit.

Then, when you go window shopping for your first CRM, you’ll have a basic list of your must-have requirements. That means you can cross off any contenders that don’t meet those basic criteria – and potentially, as you browse, expand the list with additional functions offered by some CRMs that you hadn’t thought of, but that would make a world of difference to your business.

NB: go beyond sales pitches. If a CRM promises it can increase your productivity and profit, make sure you understand exactly how it claims to be able to deliver those goals – and ideally, check reviews for the experiences of previous customers, to see how it worked for them.

Be prepared.

Any major software implementation entails a degree of upheaval in the way your business works, but adding in your first CRM is likely to completely revolutionize the way you work.

You need to be prepared both for the implementation phase, where the software is new and needs bedding in, and staff need to get used to both what it can do and the way in which it does it, and the day-to-day phase of what the CRM will deliver to your business regularly and how that will change the very nature of the way you work.

The implementation phase may well involve getting help from experts – for which there’s likely to be a cost implication – and potentially training staff from the ground up. That means not only theoretical training in what the CRM package does and how it does it, but probably hands-on training of the staff who will be responsible for using it, so that they approach the CRM with confidence, rather than fear.

It probably also means you’ll have to restructure some team relationships – if you’re going to have a CRM that delivers, say, regular reporting and relationship management, there will need to be procedures in place for how staff work with the CRM on a daily basis.

NB: be prepared for some pushback and some fear from staff – often, the arrival of a highly technological new system, particularly the first of its kind in an organization, can make staff fear they’re about to be replaced by machinery or software. This may seem a frivolous fear, but don’t neglect the effort you need to put in to achieve staff buy-in to your first CRM – putting in the work to bring staff with you is often the difference between a failed “digital transformation” and a successful one.

If you’ve chosen wisely and matched your company’s actual needs with what the CRM will be able to deliver, the persuasion of staff to engage with the technology should be significantly easier, as they should be able to see how it will make their daily work easier and more productive, rather than simply jumping to a fear reaction. Make sure your staff understand why you’re bringing in a CRM, and that it will help them, not replace them, and you’ll have a smoother transition into using the CRM day after day.

Show it who’s boss.

As part of the implementation process, you should be to mould the CRM you choose to your existing processes, and it should be able to work seamlessly with your current software. Again, these are things to check for when you’re choosing your first CRM – does it play nicely with your current software, and is it flexible enough to work with the processes you already have? This is where talking to human beings in the procurement process will save you a potential mountain of buyer’s remorse later. Be sure you get demonstrations of how it works with processes like the ones you use, and how it adapts to working with the particular software you use.

Not only is this a fundamental step towards responsible CRM-buying, it will save your staff a huge headache in the implementation phase – if the new CRM works with the company’s existing software and processes, it will instil confidence that they can get to grips with the system.

Confirm the benefits.

Before you commit to your first CRM, take a second look at your list of requirements.

Have you added to the list of must-have features as you’ve been browsing? If so, have you factored those additions into your decision?

Have you seen evidence that your favored option meets all your requirements?

Are you certain you understand how it meets them?

Are you sure your staff will be able to take it on board easily?

Will it work with your current processes and software to deliver the benefits you want from it?

Is it a cost efficient addition to your business, for what you intend to get out of it?

If you can say a confident “yes” to all those questions, you’re probably in the right place to click a “buy” button and begin implementing your company’s first CRM. By understanding what you need your first CRM to deliver for your business, and the way in which you can successfully implement it with your staff, you’ll take a lot of the guesswork out of the procurement process, and stand a much higher chance of getting the right CRM for your business.