By Jon Robinson

Small businesses are always looking for ways to maximize efficiency in acquiring and retaining customers, and are increasingly turning to CRM software to help them in this effort. But with the hundreds of available options on the market, how do you select the CRM system that is the best fit for your business?  Following are six things to consider in your search for the right CRM system:

1. Understand your goals

Before you start evaluating the myriad of CRM options on the market, it is critical to understand your organization’s goals and objectives for the project and examine how these align with your overall business goals. Next, address the question of what you want the CRM system to do. What problems will it solve? What processes can be improved?

Asking these questions can help you narrow down your search and start the process of finding the CRM tool that is right for you.

2. Survey your team

One of the best ways to evaluate CRM solutions is to talk to the people in your organization who will be using the system. Survey potential system users in sales, marketing, IT, customer service and finance to get their input on system needs and preferences. These conversations can give you an understanding of the processes you are looking to improve, the features users think are important, and the data points the new system will need to handle.

Talking to your team will not only help you gain a clearer picture of the specific requirements needed in a CRM system but will also provide insights on the level of resources needed to train and onboard staff on the new system.

3. Determine what features you need

The next step is to conduct an analysis of the features and functionality you need from a CRM system. These systems run the gamut from very basic to feature-packed. The key to finding the software that is the right fit for your company is to realistically assess the features that your business needs and will use.

Does your company need more robust features that manage the entire customer journey and include marketing, sales, service, engagement and commerce? Or does your company need an easy way to manage contacts, schedules, notes, communications and tasks? It is important to keep in mind that a CRM system packed with features is useless if your company won’t use them or they are too complex to operate. The bottom line is that it does not make sense to invest in a system that, while feature rich, is usage poor.

4. Evaluate the integration potential of CRM options

The compatibility of any CRM solution you are considering with the software you are already using is a key factor to consider when shopping for a CRM solution. This means you will need to evaluate CRM options in the context of whether or not they play well with your other technology platforms, including email marketing solutions, project management software and email service provider.

Doing your research on the front end to determine how easily a CRM system will integrate with your existing software will save you a lot of headaches on the back-end.

5. Consider mobile-friendly options

Another key consideration for evaluating CRM solutions is the mobile capability of these solutions. It is important that you evaluate CRM systems in terms of whether or not they support the mobile device or devices used by your team.

Because your customers are predominately mobile, you will need a system that allows you to be where they are. Make sure the CRM system you select is accessible by looking at mobile-friendly options that allow your reps to quickly respond to customer needs, chase leads and prospects, and manage existing customer accounts.

6. Resist the urge to build

Many businesses look at building a custom CRM solution as an attractive option, but often once you start down that path, you wish you’d rethought the decision. Regret really sets in when you migrate your single-purpose-in-house solution to another CRM platform and experience the burdensome investment in on-going maintenance, improvements and support, as well as major expenditures of human capital. In most cases it simply does not make sense to build out a custom CRM solution. This is especially true as advances in cloud technology have driven an increase in CRM systems offering flexible and convenient platforms available for all use cases.

The key to choosing the CRM software that is the best fit for your business is to understand your goals and objectives, survey your team to determine preferences and needs, assess what features are most important to your business, evaluate the integration potential of the software, ensure the solution is mobile-friendly and resist the urge to build a custom solution. While this process takes time and resources, a thorough evaluation will help you select a system that yields maximum ROI.

Jon Robinson is the president of Lunar, a Salesforce Partner and SaaS product development company that automates and integrates technology to get more out of its clients’ existing sales and marketing. An entrepreneur at heart, Robinson has more than 15 years of entrepreneurial and leadership experience, which guides his expertise in building businesses and growing companies to reach their highest potential.

Business stock photo by Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock