How to Choose CRM Software
In case, you’re not clear on what a big deal CRM is start with this article before delving into CRM software: What is CRM? A Beginner’s Guide.
In theory, you can do CRM with spreadsheets or even just bits of paper, but it would be very difficult. Unless you can count your customers on one hand or you have a one-step delivery process, you’ll need some sort of CRM software.
As mentioned in “What is CRM”, the software involved is what most people are talking about when they say CRM. Choosing that one piece of software tends to be where people spend the most effort and so get the biggest headaches.
Relax! Choosing a CRM is easy.
There are two principles to frame this whole process.
1: This is not as big a commitment as it feels
The time to learn how to use it, the hassle of switching if you don’t like the one you choose, and of course the actuals £s, can make choosing a CRM feel like a big commitment.
Free trials aside for a second, any CRM worth its salt charges monthly these days, so that’s a one-month subscription at most. As for switching systems, there are a few simple steps we’ll cover later that make it a doddle.
That just leaves learning how to use the thing. Most CRMs have great support teams and mountains of online how tos. If you have a question, someone online has already or can answer it! Accept there will always be a learning curve. There are also companies (like us) that can help you get over that hill.
As we’ll talk a bit in a moment, in the long term, your CRM usage should be careful and considered, but, in the early days don’t be afraid to make mistakes and try things out. It’s much easier to learn limitations and undo mistakes when you have 100 records then when you have 1000!
2: All CRM Software are basically the same
Every CRM has its own quirks, but the basic building blocks of every CRM are the same. Record data, sort, organise customers. Please don’t misunderstand me, choosing a CRM is a big deal, but there is no one perfect CRM for you, which brings us nicely to …
Step 1: Find the Perfect CRM Software For You
There will be several CRMs that are a good fit for you. Although before you even think about software, you need to define what you’re looking for. Really take time to understand precisely what your organisation needs a CRM to do. What do you need to record and how do you need to manipulate it.
If you provide an appointments based service you will probably need to record the date of the last service time to perform some action after a set amount of time from the date of the last service hi I notice you I notice it’s been a year since your last car cleaning would you like to book another one.
Not everyone has the skillset to do this, and that’s ok; consider hiring someone to guide you through.
Step 2: What integrations does it have?
Alongside its actual features, the integrations are key in a CRM. If a CRM doesn’t provide invoice management can you link it to something that does?
Can this CRM update your preferred calendar? And so on.
A CRM will either provide no integrations options at all, the ability for you (note: very technical) to create your own, or ready-made integrations. Most commonly, you’ll get some combination of the last two. There’s usually a page on their website listing integrations.
Pro-tip: there are also tools that can read emails (commonly called email parsers), so if your software sends an email notification an automation platform can act on it!
Step 3: Free Trial
Pick a software, any software, just make sure it has the features you need. Now, in whatever way you prefer, make a mess. Try to break it. Just find a button, a menu, and click it. The wonderful thing about learning to use digital tools is that you can’t do any damage. Whatever you do can just be deleted and start again. You can do whatever you want without accidentally drilling through a water pipe or welding your hand to a car.
Take advantage of whichever resources suit you; the support team, online how tos, or even just your own moxie. Use the specific requirements you identified in step 1 as goals. Try to do those things.
Again, this is something some people enjoy and others idea of hell. If this sound like torture to you.
Step 4: How do I leave?
This is a really tricky question, but an important one to ask. By the time you reach this stage, you should be very confident in choosing this CRM. That said, things change. Before deciding to use a CRM for more than a month or so, have an exit strategy out how to leave.
The best way to ensure a tidy break up with the CRM is to do step 1 properly. Know how you are going to use the CRM before you start using it. If you do then you understand how your CRM processes work.
This makes it infinitely easier to transplant those processes from one CRM to another.
From a technical viewpoint, find out early on what your export options are. Ask the support team to demonstrate or just try it for yourself. Make sure the data comes out in a useful format (a structured csv usually). Also pay attention to what is missing. Are notes exported fully? What about the files attached to the notes? And so on.
So, there you go 1,000 words-ish. Choosing a CRM is a very individual process so I could write 100,000, but it wouldn’t be very helpful to you. Like most things in life, the trick is to take a step back, stop for a moment, and get prepared. Or hire someone to do it for you. That usually works, too.