How to choose the right CRM: 15 essential requirements

How to choose the right CRM: 15 essential requirements
choose the right crm requirements

You have finally decided to put an end to the tons of incomprehensible spreadsheets, to the post-its stuck anywhere on your desk and to the thousands of emails sent weekly to your collaborators. The decision is made: it is time to adopt a software to manage your customers data and the sales team, commonly known as CRM (customer relationship management) and start using it in a serious way, with commitment from the entire sales team.

Choosing the right CRM, however, is a serious matter. Although it is not entirely true that a CRM is forever, it is certainly a choice that will impact your business and your company’s processes for quite a while. On the other hand, each CRM is different from the others: the main differences are in the general approach to customer management and sales, the ease of use, the possibilities of integration and the pricing plans.

The perfect CRM exists

Finding a CRM that reflects all the characteristics of your business is not easy, but thanks to the growing possibility to customize the software according to your needs, you can get very close. Of course, if you stop at the information on CRMs websites, you won’t get the full picture of what they offer, their real pros and cons and the comparison between them. To perform an adequate analysis, you should test the solutions first hand through trials (where possibile) or at least talking with the vendors in your shortlist, verifying how each of them responds to some key requirements.

Start asking yourself these three questions to be sure to know your needs before the analysis:

  1.  What’s your main goal in adopting a CRM? It could be better managing your customers data, or having higher control on your sales team, or even finding a way to sell more.
  2. Who and how many people will use the software? It’s vital not to force the new tool on them, but involve them from the start, understanding their needs and asking for their advice.
  3. Which are the application and systems the CRM should integrate with? Create a list of the applications you actually use: from the space where your business data is stored, to the email provider, etc.

Before starting the evaluation, in fact, you should have in mind the complex framework in which the new software will necessarily fit.

Let’s start the CRM interview!

Let’s now see the 15 essential requirements on which to check each of the CRM you have identified, impartially and comprehensively.

1. Goals monitoring.

The CRM should be your weapon to improve your sales results and help you achieve the results you desire. How are sales targets considered in each software you’re evaluating? Psychologists say that the first way to achieve your goals is to see them written down and confront yourself every day with them, while the Management by Objectives approach proved the benefits of putting results first. Therefore, the software should give adequate space to the comparison between the monthly/annual objectives of both the individual and the whole team, and what had been achieved so far by the team. Then, the total revenue forecasting should be weighted according to the win probability, to give a better idea of the achievable results.

2. Setup and data entry.

Setting up your CRM should not takes ages! Find out how you can faster import the data during the setup: whether through uploading Excel files or directly integrating the CRM with the address book of your phone. After the setup, however, how easy it is to add a new client? Check if it requires many steps to fill in or if it’s a quick and easy process, and if all the fields to classify clients which serve your industry are available.

3. Mobility.

Your CRM should follow you wherever you are: at the office, during a client visit and even on your couch. What versions are available and for what devices? The web version is a must have, since it allows access from any computer or device without having any application installed. In addition, it is not enough to know that there is a mobile application: you must verify that the application is fully integrated with the smartphone (phone book, calls, notifications, etc) and that it offers all the comprehensive functions of the whole CRM, not just a part of them.

4. Proactivity and productivity.

Your CRM should become your personal assistant, so it must act like one. As well as notify you when it’s time to call the customer or send an email, it should offer you appropriate advice at the right time. For example, when you hung the phone after a call with a client, the CRM should ask you if you want to add a note about it, and if you would like to set a follow-up reminder for that customer, so as to be sure not to forget about it. Then, when it’s time for the follow-up, the CRM should offer you the notes and files about the customer, enabling you to recover quickly the most important information. This way, you can save time, while being more efficient and consequently more productive!

5. Integration.

The CRM should integrate with the apps and services you use every day, so as to facilitate your work and make the most of the overall information you collect. For example, it must provide integrations with data storage applications in the cloud, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, and with apps for managing notes, like Evernote, so you can synchronize all the data on your customers. In addition, it must be integrated with online calendar services and with email providers. If you use other software for your work, as for exaple team collaboration apps (Skype, Slack, etc), you can even look for a CRM that is integrated with them. Alternatively, you can discover whether it’s possible to use an application that integrates more systems with each other, such as Zapier or IFTT.

6. 360° Activities overview.

As a sales manager you know how important it is: in addition to having an overview on the data of your customers, a CRM must give you the ability to track the daily activities of your team and the results achieved by each of them. The Actvity Based Selling approach, in fact, is proving increasingly effective: to properly plan and constantly carry out all the activities leads to better results. Facilitating the monitoring of the activities, the CRM should offer a dashboard or a feed where you can see what each team member is doing right now, such as the email they are sending, the ongoing phone calls to customers, the meetings, the new notes and so on. This will avoid duplication of activities, such as calling twice the same customer, and you are always aware of your team’s activities.

7. Motivation.

Selling requires enthusiasm, passion for your work and confidence in the product/service you offer. Having a motivated sales force is vital: thus, even the CRM can and should help, valuing and sharing the positive results achieved by the team and by individual members. Receiving a notification when a colleague has won a major deal must push others to do their best, creating an atmosphere of positive competition. This aspect is often left in the background, but it is of great importance to ensure the success of the entire new CRM adoption process: people will be motivated to actually use the CRM and fill in the data about their activities, to share  their results with their team!

8. Useful statistics.

Every single activity, each piece of data about a customer and each new step in the buying process could become an invaluable source of information for your company. The CRM must collect these data in a structured and customizable way, and should offer clear statistics and valuable insights to help you read that data. For example, to know the customers sources of acquisition – if they came from the website or thanks to a promotional campaign – allows you to calculate the conversion rate of each source and figure out where to invest more in the future. Similarly, it is very important to have statistics on the conversion of the different stages of the buying process, on the activities that bring more results and on the work of individual team members.

9. Scalability.

In addition to verifying that the CRM is adaptable to the actual size of your team, you have to figure out if it would be able to follow your growth. How adding more people, more sales units and even distributed teams would affect the CRM flow? In particular, it is important to verify that you can divide the team into more complex hierarchical structures creating multi-level teams, such as independent units that share the same data and results. Another important feature is the possibility to assign different privileges depending on the user role.

10. Flexile price.

The price should be scalable as well, and obviously it must be in line with your budget. It should be always possible to add more seats to your team, and if possible to decrease the cost per user as the number of users grow. Similarly, since it could be possibile that you will need to add or remove features when you’ll be more aware of your exact needs, make sure that the CRM offers different plans and that switching is always possible.

11. Client service.

You never know when you could need to ask some question or to solve a problem. To speak with a human being in the event of problems, you should not rick to lose a day’s work! Check if the CRM offers an adequate customer service (and what are the conditions depending on your plan), as well as if they provide an area with frequently asked questions to solve more standard situations independently.

12. Training.

Do not underestimate the effort needed by your team to learn how to use the new CRM! You don’t want your employees to lose several work days before being operational and start using the software correctly. Ask the CRM vendors if there is the possibility of online or on-site training (depending on the size of your team), and verify if there is an online section with video tutorials to learn the basics of the tool. Even the organization of periodic webinars is very helpful to learn how to make better use of the CRM, to get familiar with it and to maximize the full potential of the instrument.

13. Design.

The eye wants its part: if you have to use it every day, your CRM should not give you headaches, as the complex old software did. The interface should be nice and clean, and the user experience must be designed in a smart way, without requiring many clicks and searches to find the information you need. Try to navigate yourself in the tool to understand if you feel at ease or not… use your instinct!

14. Customization.

Il A CRM is like your shoes, it has to adapt to your business! Indeed, every sector and every business is different, with different sales processes, objectives to be achieved, customer acquisition methods, and so on. The CRM should not be immutable but it should allow the customization of many aspects that reflects your team’s way of working and make more sense. First of all, you should customize the steps of the sales process and the nature of the goals you want to achieve, distinguishing between monetary and quantitative targets. In addition, the CRM must provide a customizable tag system, so as to leave you free to filter clients, negotiations and notes by type or key element.

15. Data Export.

Your CRM should not tie you for life. The data are yours and you have the right to export them whenever you need to rework them or to import them into other applications. The export must be simple and the data should be sorted and cataloged in standard files. Asking to see a data export file might seem an awkward question, but if you do not ask it, in the future you might regret it bitterly!


If you are worried that there are too many elements to consider to choose the right CRM, think that it’s worth it: the better your choice, the more satisfied your sales team will be, and the longer you won’t need to go through this whole choosing process again!

If you have any questions or concerns in the evaluation of the above described requirements, do not hesitate to contact us and we’ll try to help you. Good job!

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