A customer relationship management (CRM) manages your small business interactions with clients. The right CRM has the tools and features that include lead tracking, contact management, and other items.

What is a CRM System?

This software for your business guides prospects through the sales pipeline. There are different plans and packages to choose from. Sorting through CRM solutions means choosing between enterprise-level packages and smaller versions with fewer options.

Choosing a CRM means matching up the tools and packages with your business requirements. Choose the type that meets these needs.

Cloud vs On-Premises CRM Systems: What’s the Difference?

One of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make is between cloud versus on-premise CRM systems. As the name suggests, on-premise CRM is housed under your business roof and managed by your employees.

One of the bonuses here is security. On-premises solutions are less likely to be breached. However, you will need to have your own server and IT team.

Small businesses can buy CRM solutions under the software as a service (SaaS) banner too. A central server hosts the software and your company pays for access through a subscription.

These types allow you to access information anywhere through WiFi. The cloud-based applications here are easy to download.

How to Choose a CRM System: 17 Top Tips to Guide Your Decision Making

Choosing the right CRM software is a process. Here are 17 boxes to check to help your business make the right decision.

1. Make Sure You Choose a CRM System with All the Features You Need

There’s lots of different CRM software to choose from. And lots of business features. Small business owners need to have a plan to pick the right product. For many companies contact management is at the top of their wish list. But there are other aspects you should consider. Here’s a path to choosing a CRM that supplies the items you need.

2. Think About Your Overall Business Goals

Brainstorming what you need a CRM solution to do is the first step. You should align your business goals with the features available from different CRM companies. Better customer relationships should be near the top of the list. Streamlining the sales process to foster business growth should be another goal

3. Make Sure the System Saves You Time and Optimizes Business Processes

A good CRM should streamline things for your sales team. CRM tools focusing on sales should have inventory tracking tools Performance tracking tools are important too. Look for an automated sales outreach type that includes phone calls texts and emails in the business model.

4. Consider How Many Users Will Need to Access the System

Scale is important. The right CRM software can allow your service, marketing and sales department to work off one platform. The more teams you include, the more data you’ll have to analyze. CRM software can help your business to grow as you scale up. Business growth in your market is an important step to consider.

5. Find a Program that Can Determine the Right Communication Strategy Fast

Any effective CRM solution focuses on high quality client communication.A good strategy considers your customer’s demographics. For example, seniors react best to personal emails and phone calls. Research shows millennial customers prefer emails. Text messages are an excellent method to tell everyone about meetings. Integrating a CRM system with social media works too.

6. Check the Level of Customer Support provided by the CRM Vendor

Customer service separates a good CRM system from a bad one. A business should be looking for a solution that provides multichannel communication with all of your customers from Crm vendors.

Personalized service is also important. That’s why the smart business is looking for a 360° customer view.

Keeping your customers happy means being quick and efficient. The routine tasks of your service agents should therefore be automated.

Case management is another feature to look for in a good CRM. Efficient deployment methods are essential.

Detailed dashboards and reports should be included in this software for your business. They need to answer any questions sales has on prospects.

7. Invest in a CRM Software that Prioritizes User Experience

A responsive user experience needs to be another priority. That means making sure you have a mobile CRM so the sales team can receive campaigns and alerts on smartphones. Look for a system that also has an email client integration feature. All important things for your market.

That makes it easy to call up previous interactions when a customer calls for support. These types are essential.

8. Make Sure the System is Compatible with your Current Software

The software needs to be compatible. Cloud computing allows you to buy a service. This can make the solution seamless. Compatibility means easy document sharing, email tracking and even a live chat.

9. Make Use of the Free Trial or Demonstration

Test drive a customer relationship management tool with a free trial. Some of the industry leaders like HubSpot offer one. The demonstration can show your business what functions and features the solution has. Not only that it can show your sales team how they get delivered.

10. Think About How the Features will Improve Your Sales and Lead Management

Any system you choose needs to boost sales and lead management. First off, crm success depends on getting your team squared away. Look for a demo that provides training. Automation is great to improve business operations. But not too much.

Dont forget about the human touch. Closing calls shouldn’t be automated. Good features will align your marketing campaigns and sales teams.

11. Prioritize Programs that Let You Customize Communication Systems

You should be able to integrate three departments to customize CRM software. Customer relations, sales and marketing should come together under one banner for businesses.

A good CRM solution can be turnkey or built from scratch. Custom development can cater to a company that has specific needs. Look for a solution that can answer any questions.

12. Make Sure the Price is Right and Compare Prices

Getting the right crm system is about comparing the prices and features. Finding a website that will help you with analyst reviews like this one is helpful. You can also check prices manually. Begin by deciding whether you want a cloud or on premise CRM. Comparing prices means looking at different features. Data migration, customization options and email integration are three. Don’t forget to compare what support for mobile devices costs.

13. Avoid Hidden Costs

Any small business wants to get the most for their money when it comes to a CRM solution. That’s why you should look for these hidden costs.

  • Avoid opportunity costs. These can include the cost of outside consultants. Make sure you’re not paying for any unused crm licenses.
  • Customization can be difficult without an internal IT team. Integration across all business departments is the challenge. Some estimates place the cost here at 40 hours.
  • Implementation can be another hidden cost. Cloud-based systems could need a consultant. Avoid this cost by selecting the right CRM system.

Find one that does this for you.

14. Make Sure You Can Easily Use the Software

Looking for a user friendly CRM tool is important. Find one that has a detailed statistics and forecasting dashboard. That makes it easy to gauge team members’ performance. User friendly CRM options also include combining team collaboration, project management and client communication.

Any solution that’s easy to use should have a high user adoption percentage. Design items for any CRM need to work seamlessly with implementation. Document and email tracking should be easy to use. Any mobile app capabilities should be the same.

15. Look into Integration Opportunities

A good customer relationship management (CRM) tool needs to work with the rest of your technology. In a nutshell, that means it needs to connect the CRM software with third-party applications. The best have automated tools that don’t need a lot of code.

Integrations with the phone systems are important. Likewise for CRM integration with chatbots. Don’t forget to look for a product that can work with your email system.

16. Think About Your Customer Service Needs

A crm should work in both the marketing and customer service areas. Make sure the one you’re thinking about can scale up and down with your business. A good CRM solution will also let your sales team have instant access to customer information.

A good product will also list your marketing tools. Especially which ones have been used on each customer. That way you won’t double email marketing and other efforts.

17. Choose a CRM System which Will Help Improve Customer Relationships.

A growing business has an expanding customer database. One of your business objectives as you grow is better customer relationships. That’s why good contact management is a feature users favor. Others include:

  • The ability to track interactions
  • Good email to follow up leads
  • Integration with other platforms
  • Sales automation

Customer retention is affected by the kind of CRMs you choose. Here are some numbers to back that up.

Features to Look for in Customer Relationship Management Software for Small Businesses

A CRM software for small business needs to have some special features. Each of the following items is important to help them get and keep customers.

Integration with E-Commerce Platforms

E-commerce CRM platforms focus on customer experiences and sales. These should be able to store and record customer data like traditional CRM tools. However, they need to look at other metrics like the products and services customers are interested in.

Click through rates and conversion rates are important. Look for opt-in tools pertaining to email subscriptions.

Call Center

Call center CRM solutions provide employees with client history and information instantly. They get relevant information in real time. Look for a company that can deliver all the information on a single screen.

Artificial Intelligence

Looking for a CRM that makes good use of artificial intelligence is a good move. It can help salespeople improve their relationships with customers. For example, AI can use predictive algorithms and analytics to help convert leads.

Data Interpretation

Bad data can do companies harm. In fact dirty data is responsible for disruptions in sales pipelines. A company can even experience reputation damage because of it.

Any CRM product should be able to help you make sense of the numbers. Even after they’ve been analyzed, collected and presented to your small business.

Cloud-Based Collaboration

With this feature, your Internet connection provides access to business information. The data is hosted in the cloud on servers located there. This is a secure CRM feature. However, you’ll only want to grant access to a limited number of employees.

GDPR to Manage Customer Data

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation surrounding data protection. It seeks to give people control over their personal data so companies and CRM’s need to be aware of it. CRM’s need to be clear about data collection and how long they store information.

These regulations were brought into effect starting on May 25, 2018.

Accounting Software

Professionals like accountants and bookkeepers can get a lot from good CRMs. These work well for accountants who are looking to monitor and nurture client relationships.

Here are some CRM choices that outline good features

CRM Software Features Small Businesses Do Not Need

There are many different CRM packages available for small businesses. Most of the features are useful but some don’t matter. The following are items aren’t really bad for business, they just are necessary.

Project Management

Simply put, there are some differences between CRM software and project management software. The project management tools deal with projects that have budget restraints, clear deliverables and starting and ending dates.

CRMs offer users other functions like customer support and visitor tracking. CRMs focus on long-term customer goals. Project management tools are for projects with start and end dates.


The CRM tool with too much automation does away with the personal touch. Salespeople need to know how to gather the information and when to reach out personally. Companies can use automation for marketing to drive in customers. But deals need to close with direct human contact.

Lead Scoring

Some CRMs offer lead scoring tools. These work by assigning a number value to each lead. This system isn’t for everyone. Other CRM’s move leads through different stages where you get more information.

However, salesforce has a custom lead score tool. You can choose a unique formula to get good information.

Email Marketing Campaigns

A small business looking for a CRM might be tempted by email marketing campaigns. You don’t need both. Combining the two tools means that you can send automated alerts when a call gets scheduled. A good CRM has email marketing built-in.

You don’t need to set up separate email marketing campaigns. Good features include being able to set conditions like wait times before an email gets sent.

How Much Does CRM Software Cost?

As you might expect, the cost of CRM software varies greatly. A quick survey reveals you can get one at the low-end for $12 per user per month. The costs go up to $49 per month for up to 25 employees. The other end of the scale is $130 per user per month.

What does a good CRM look like?

A good CRM has features that you need and others that you don’t. There are differences to choose from right at the beginning. On-premise or cloud-based solutions are two of the early decisions to make. Taking advantage of the free trial is a great way to get started. That way your business will get to see what features they need.

Avoid hidden costs and look for other items like user-friendliness. Checking off the boxes we’ve listed here will help you make the right decision.

How long is a CRM contract?

Consider subscription rates for cloud-based software. And or an initial licensing fee for something you use on-premise. A contract for your CRM also needs to include fees and pricing. Contracts start with the installation and end when they are complete. Watch out for being trapped in a continuous cycle with automatic renewal clauses to avoid common CRM problems. These come in time frames usually 60 or 90 days in advance.

Don’t forget to ask for a copy of any vendor’s agreement. Usually, the contracts last for a full year. But they can be charged on a per month per user basis.

What are the top 5 CRM systems?

Choosing the right CRM system means taking into account everything we’ve listed here. Once you understand your budget and needs, you can start shopping. Following are five of the industry-leading CRM systems to give you a good starting point.


This tool offers integrated business analytics has a big drawing feature. It also promises users can manage automation and offers real-time data. They even have a specific customer service CRM package.

Zoho CRM

Small businesses can archive their data for quick disaster recovery with this tool. Synchronization is also possible with other databases.

HubSpot CRM

This one is an industry leader for several reasons. It includes the standard sales, service and marketing features. But HubSpot also adds website management tools into the mix.


Salesforce is another industry leader with an excellent CRM package. The company has advanced analytics that updates records and share dashboards.


Calculate your average conversion rate with this CRM. You also get real time reports.

What is the best CRM strategy?

This is basically a business plan focusing on improving sales and the customer experience. It looks after different features like customer service, marketing, and sales. A good CRM strategy will provide a good map of your sales pipeline You should include a customer persona and start with your company goals. Include your entire team so your strategy makes it easy to identify and track good leads with solid CRM best practices.

Image: Depositphotos

This article, “How to Choose the Right CRM System” was first published on Small Business Trends

Source: Small Business Trends

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