9 Considerations When Selecting a CRM Platform

Selecting a CRM platform not only requires a lot of planning, but – when CRM tools are used properly – they can be a critical driver to your company’s success. According to VentureBeat’s Winter 2015 State of Marketing Technology report, users spend more time per year in CRM and other sales force automation tools than in any other martech category.

This means it’s not only important to pick a CRM platform that works, but one that can grow with you over time.

Here are nine basic considerations before starting your selection process:

1. Align on strategy and process. The right CRM tool won’t help your company’s strategy. Rather, a CRM platform can help automate your existing strategy through notifications, proactive renewals and more. Before you begin your selection process, make sure to document your strategy and process with all the stakeholders.

2. Suite or specialized tools. Depending on your needs, your company might be best suited to a specialized tool that focuses on one area, such as sales force automation, marketing automation or customer support. If you have needs in a few areas, a CRM suite might be the way to go.

3. Company size and customer base.  Smaller companies tend be best suited for a solution that can handle standard use cases without customizing so that it is easy to implement.  Larger companies often desire a tool that accommodates a wider variety of use cases, and also is more customizable.  

4. Budget and customization needs. CRM platforms have a wide range of price points, from free or freemium offerings for small businesses, or millions of dollars for enterprise-size corporations. One key factor when determining your budget is the degree of customization required.  The more customization usually means a higher initial price point and higher maintenance costs.

5. Industry. B2B and B2C companies tend to have different sales processes.  So understand how the software you are considering has solved the problems related to your industry in the past.  In addition, there are many industry-specific CRM tools on the market for you to consider.

6. Sales channels. Many CRM tools will generally focus on one of three types of sales structures: direct sales, channel sales and direct to customer.

If you sell through a direct sales force, then a traditional CRM platform might work for you. Companies that sell through distributors or reps should look at CRM tools with partner management functionality. Companies that sell directly to customers might be best suited for tools that contain an e-commerce platform and/or call center tool.

7. Mobile support. Many organizations rely on mobile sales teams, who generally do business on their smartphones and tablets.

While CRM vendors will vary in their ability to support these sales professionals on iOS, Android and Windows operating systems, you’ll want to assess their mobile capabilities – whether it’s an app, or a mobile web experience. Reviews in the App Store as well as the Google Play store will help you.

8. Other integrations. While many data types will be visible in your CRM platform, it will generally start out somewhere else – in ERP software or a customer service tool.

Make sure you understand which data sources your CRM will need to connect to, and make sure they’re compatible, or that the vendor offers an API. This will prevent you from needing a lot of custom work on top of your software purchase.

9. Partner ecosystem. Many larger CRM suites (e.g. Oracle, Microsoft, Salesforce) have extensive product and partner ecosystems; if you use any of the products in this ecosystem, chances are the CRM products you’re looking at have integrated with them as well.

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