When it comes to growing a business, keeping your customers top-of-mind should be a priority. Managing a higher volume of sales data and finding new opportunities requires the right tools for the job. For customers in the B2B space, this means finding a CRM (customer relationship management) that decreases uncertainty and helps facilitate efficient processes.
In this article, I’ll outline why a CRM platform is a necessity, and explain what to look for when finding one that works for your business.
Why It Matters
Post-it notes and Excel spreadsheets might be sufficient when you’re first starting out, but as your business grows, you’ll need to upgrade your system for managing current and future clients.
With so many options to choose from, choosing the right system for your budget and company needs takes some careful planning. If you’re unfamiliar with CRMs, you run the risk of choosing the platform with the best sales pitch – not necessarily the most ideal for your situation.
Before deciding on any type of CRM software, make sure you’re asking these 5 questions:
1. What Features Do I Really Need?
No two businesses have the exact same needs in terms of processes, goals, growth strategies, and priorities. Because these things are fluid and change over time, finding a dynamic and flexible CRM solution will pay off now, and later on down the road.
Businesses that are focused on growth should place a particular emphasis on finding a CRM that can grow and adapt with you, which means having the capability to be easily updated to a more advanced version when the time comes. With that being said, one of the most common mistakes is overpaying for a system with features you don’t need at the time – all those bells and whistles might be great when you have 500 clients to manage, but if you’re currently working with a fraction of that, it’s not an efficient use of you’re budget.
Begin your search by clearly defining the features that are most important to you now, and seek out a system that can accommodate your business as it grows.
2. Have I Seen How It Functions?
“The operating system is drastically slow at times.”, “The interface honestly isn’t all that intuitive.”, “Finding old documents can feel like looking for buried treasure.” These are things that you’ll never hear from sales reps when exploring the market of CRM platforms. For that reason, it’s critical that you get a feel for how a system functions firsthand before adopting it for your company.
The good news is that nearly all CRMs have some type of free trial version that gives you the opportunity to explore all the features and functionality of a platform without the financial risk. Additionally, you should request a demonstration and ask the presenter to go through the exact features you’re hoping to use when you’re all set up.
Finally, don’t just go with the first system you “test drive.” Bring at least two or three to the table in order to compare all the offerings provided with each.
3. Do I Have Customer Support?
Anyone who has spent time dealing with digital marketing vendors knows that issues will arise at some point – it’s just part of the game. A good customer support team (or a representative) can significantly reduce your stress levels…or add to them.
Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to evaluate the level of customer support you’ll receive based on the ‘initial pitch.’ Companies who cater to your every need before you commit might not be as dedicated once you sign that year-long contract. That means it’s your responsibility to do your research before making the investment.
Regardless of which platforms you’re considering, there should be plenty of information from prior and current customers that give you the inside scoop about what it’s really like to partner with a particular CRM platform. These reviews can be worth their weight in gold – don’t ignore them.
4. How Long Does It Take to Implement?
Don’t get me wrong – expediency shouldn’t be #1 on your list of features you’re looking for, but depending on your situation it could be important to consider. Some CRM systems can be ready to use in a matter of days, while others can take weeks or months to install and integrate into your daily routine.
The biggest factor in the amount of time it takes to get your new system up and running is whether you go with a cloud-based program or one that requires software (and occasionally hardware) installation. Most small businesses find that cloud-based systems are a better fit because they’re much more dynamic, even though they might lack some of the advanced features of the alternative. Unless you need to process massive amounts of data and/or need to be able to access data without an internet connection, a cloud-based system should be more than sufficient.
5. Do I Have a Specific Aspect of the Business I Want to Focus on Improving?
It might be following up with contacts after an initial call, keeping in touch with long-term clients by giving them their due attention, or separating the “probably’s” from the “probably not’s,” every business has some aspect of their sales strategy that could be improved. If you’re able to identify exactly what that is, you should seek out a CRM that specializes in that particular area.
What type of system you need often comes down to the areas of your business that you could use the most help in terms of keeping things organized and visible. Additionally, if you’re focused on growth, you might not need the same types of features that a business focused on maintaining current client relationships would find useful.
At the end of the day, when you go looking for a CRM, it’s your responsibility to know the strengths and weaknesses of your business and determine where a CRM could help.
Let’s be honest – CRMs aren’t necessarily the most exciting part of running a business, but they are an absolute necessity if you want to manage clients effectively and efficiently. Any time a business begins to scale, some form of growing pains are simply inherent to the process. The good news? As long as you take the time to lay a solid customer management foundation, it should be smooth sailing.