Top 10 Questions All Small/Medium Business Should Ask Before Investing in a CRM

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When we first started our business years ago, CRM (customer relationship management) systems were simple programs that were little more than contact databases.  Your choice was Act! or… Act!.  It was a HUGE upgrade from the tickler file shoebox of 3 x 5 cards that we all knew and loved.

Fast forward a few years to 1999, and Salesforce changed the game and introduced the first true CRM.  And today, there are hundreds of CRM choices that specialize in everything from health clubs to alcohol sales.  Click here for a review of the top 40 CRMs in terms of sales.

With a dizzying array of choices, it’s hard to know what to choose – or even where to start.  To help you work through the process and narrow down your choices, we’re giving you our top 10 answers to important questions you should ask before you make the move to a new (or first time) CRM.

1. Is it easy to export my data? We know what you’re thinking, I’ve read three posts about CRM systems and I’ve never even seen this as a concern – and it’s your #1 question?

Yep.  Having been the people on the other end trying to migrate data from the coolest platform of 2002 to a new CRM system today, we’re here to tell you: this is absolutely a big deal.  Some CRMs limit the data you can get back – or simply won’t give it back at all (don’t get me started on that one).  Be especially leery of the “free” platforms.  They suck you in with a free service and then when you want to upgrade, you’ll find getting your information isn’t easy at all.

2. Is the system user-friendly for your sales team? The #1 reason systems don’t work is that teams don’t use them.  We don’t care how many features it has – if it’s not intuitive and EASY to use, it won’t be used.

Take your time and see how to add activities, update records, and watch how this data flows from screen to screen.  Always go with the system that has the fewest clicks and is the easiest to update.  Even you saving 10 seconds per entry will add up to an hour plus at the end of a day.  And keep in mind, sales people must enter hundreds of entries a day. Faster and easier is good.

3. Does it have a free trial? No free trial = don’t buy it.  Demos presented by a salesperson always look good.  The person giving the demo does it all day long; of course, he or she makes the system look super simple.

Instead, find an CRM system with a free trial, and then pick a small group of users to try the out the system and report back.  Give your testers a checklist of things where you want their feedback. See what they say.  And don’t just limit your testers to your sales team – add other departments that will need access to and use the system as well.  You’ll want their input.

4. Is it intuitive and customizable? Can you easily add, track and report out on data that’s important to you?  Will the information flow through in a manner that makes sense to your company?  It’s all well and good if you can track Facebook and LinkedIn posts, but if that’s not important to you, then who cares?

And part two of this point, how difficult is the system to customize?  If you need a developer on retainer for $3000 a month – and it takes her 22 days to make the change – will that be a problem for you?

5. Is there a mobile app companion? Many people have migrated to doing work on their phones – sales info included.  A good mobile app should be a free add-on, have the same easy-to-use build and be simple to set up.  Without a mobile app, you’re making it much more difficult to get data into the system.

6. What does it cost? There are two areas to calculate.  First, you need to consider the cost to develop the system (i.e. set it up for your business). Second, you must determine the ongoing cost for licenses.  FREE is not always better.  There are a handful of free CRMs – all of which are limited in ability or difficult to use (yes, there is a reason they’re free).

It’s OK to play a free game on your cell phone, but your CRM isn’t the place to look to save a few dollars.  On the flip side of that equation, the most expensive option is rarely a good fit either.  Those CRMs are usually the big enterprise systems trying to play down to the SMB marketplace.  They’re typically frustrating, expensive to implement and have massive issues around actually being used by sales people (adoption).

7. Does it fit the learning type of your team? Sales people are in large part visual and tactile learners.  However, CRM systems are often built by technical developers who are not.  What you get in those cases is a technical piece of art that sales people refuse to use.  Be sure to make sure the system you select is visual in nature and fits the makeup of your team.

8. Can you integrate other applications? Today, it’s critical that data can flow through your organization from application to application.  Stop and think about your tech stack just within your marketing and sales functions; you may have marketing automation, website software, dialer software, sales automation and business analytics all running independently from each other.

An open API architecture within your chosen CRM will allow you to connect and flow data from system to system.  This allows for seamless integration of data, and makes a much more robust (and complete, end-to-end) solution for your company. It will save you a ton of time and aggravation down the road.

9. Does it give you the reporting you need? The old saying goes – you’ve seen 100 companies, you’ve seen 100 companies.  While it’s true that good business practice is universal, the needs of your company are unique to your company.  You’ll want reporting that is flexible to those needs.

And again, the question is: how difficult is it to customize a report?  Some CRMs require you to take a class to learn how to build a specialized report.  That doesn’t work for us – we prefer easy and straightforward.  You never know when you’ll want to know how many deals are closed on, say, Tuesdays between noon and five o’clock!

10. Will the system grow with you? Your company is likely not stagnant. (It better not be!)  In today’s business climate, you’re either growing or shrinking.  As you add service lines, business practices and people, a good CRM system must grow and adapt with you.  If the system requires long developer time (meaning weeks or months), you’ll want to consider something simpler.

We bet we know that you’re looking for an answer to question #11 – which CRM does ECS use?  After researching and working within CRMs for years, we have chosen PipeDrive.  PipeDrive is the only CRM we’ve found that can fulfill all the questions above.  This is a robust, fully functioning system that is simple enough to be managed and maintained by our ECS team themselves.

ECS is an expert partner of PipeDrive and we have complete implementation packages that start from $1000.  PipeDrive monthly user licenses start at $12.50 a month – click HERE to see more prices.

We know that either getting your first CRM system – or taking an honest look at your existing system to see if it is fulfilling your team’s needs – is a crucial step and can be difficult to do. That’s where we fit in. We provide the fresh eyes and the input you need to work through some tough decisions.

If you’d like to chat about CRMs or PipeDrive or have ANY question at all about this topic – feel free to contact either of us:  Don Marks or Bill Morrow or call us at 610-310-6707.