There are a lot of choices available in CRM applications. You can pay a lot of money for your sales CRM if you fall prey to slick demos and fast-talking sales people at trade shows, especially if you haven’t outlined your needs in advance.
Here are some important questions to ask — and to explore with your sales team — when you shop around for CRM applications. And, like so many aspects of business success, buying the right sales database software begins with some goal-setting.
1. What are your company’s sales objectives and what do you hope to achieve through CRM applications? How can you buy sales CRM software to help your company achieve specific objectives if you don’t know what those objectives are? Outlining your objectives, in order to pinpoint your company’s specific sales CRM needs, will help you avoid paying too much for overly complicated software with features you don’t need, or buying a package that won’t do what you need it to.
2. What features does it have? What is it lacking? These questions go hand-in-hand with the first. Remember, it’s equally dangerous to find sales management software with too many bells and whistles as it is to select CRM applications that don’t meet your needs — now or in the future. When you listen to sales pitch after sales pitch, it’s easy to think that every feature is critical. If you’ve clearly outlined your goals and objectives, it’s easier to “just say no” to those features that look so pretty but only complicate the interface or slow down the system.
3. Is it customizable? A customizable package that lets you combine multiple CRM applications into one database can be a good solution for a growing company. But make sure your software provider doesn’t charge you for each add-on or customization, as this can add up. Start with a program that gives you everything you need, and find out the real costs of future customization before you make a purchase. It’s perfectly reasonable for a company to charge for additional CRM applications, add-on and capabilities — just make sure the software is still a good value before you make the purchase.
4. Is it user-friendly? Everything looks easy when you watch the sales person demo it. They hit a key here, hit a key there, and everything magically falls into place on their 46-inch, high-def demo screen. Nice, right? Ask other customers who’ve used the CRM applications what they think, and let your sales force test it out. A 30-day free demo is nice, especially for the money you’ll be spending when you finally make the purchase.
5. Is it compatible with your other software programs? Can you easily import data? Does it link to other popular applications as an all-in-one solution to all your CRM sales needs? So this is three questions in one, but the answers will be critical to your final decision. Just as every department in your company works together to achieve greater success as a whole, your CRM applications should interface with your mailing list, marketing database, and maybe even your bookkeeping software as an all-in-one management solution. Most importantly, you should be able to import existing files from popular programs like MS Excel spreadsheets to get your sales CRM software rolling and keep it updated.
6. Is it software-based or “in the cloud?” Cloud computing is here to stay. If the CRM applications you plan to buy use software that reside on your server, you’ll have a host of additional questions to ask, including:
- Can the software run on my existing hardware, or will upgrades be necessary?
- How difficult is the software to install?
- Does it come with a back-up system or do I need to make sure I’m backing up my system regularly with a third-party back-up program?
- How many licenses will I receive with the software purchase? How much will it cost to purchase more?
- What if my employees work from a desktop system at the office and an iPad at home? Will I need two licenses for each employee?
On the other hand, if you select cloud-based CRM applications, you’ll have fewer questions. Mainly:
Do I need to upgrade my browser to access the CRM applications in the cloud? The answer is that you should always be using the latest browser, anyway, so that all your online applications will run at their best. But most online CRM applications, such as one built using Intuit QuickBase, will run on most available versions of all the popular Internet browsers, including Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer.