In this day and age, having a customer relationship management (CRM) system is essential. Whether you’re a small business starting out with managing your leads, or a large scale enterprise looking to get a 360-degree view of your customers, there is something for everyone. But with so many options out there, you may find yourself wondering what you really need and what questions you should be asking to select a solution that’s right for you.

If you’re considering a new CRM solution for your business, here are 15 questions to ask yourself before you make the decision.

1. How big is your organisation?

Do you have a team of 5 or 50? Size matters when it comes to choosing the right solution for your business. As a startup with no customers, you might find that you can manage everything you need within a spreadsheet, whereas if you’re a large enterprise it’s likely you will need a solid CRM from day dot. The larger the organisation, the more likely it is that you have a variety of different business units that need to utilise your CRM, which means added complexity. The more complexity you have, the more flexibility you will need.

Smaller organisations will likely want to be able to “self-manage” to a certain point, so systems that are less flexible may be more appropriate as you start out as they are easy to set up and change. Enterprises will have more requirements when it comes to customisation, security, data controls and licensing, so it’s often better to look at a solution that is tailored to your organisation’s size and complexity.

2. Are you B2B or B2C?

Different CRM solutions are often optimised for different business models, so make sure you do your research about whether the solution is tailored to your business model. Many CRM solutions are “pre-configured” for B2B models – so if you are B2C you will have to work around some standard features that may not be relevant to your business, meaning you may not benefit fully from your investment.

3. What is your existing ecosystem?

Think about what technology you already have. For example, you might already have your Office Productivity or enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution with Microsoft, and it may seem straightforward to use a Microsoft CRM solution. However it might not provide the right fit for your industry or business model right out of the box, so in the long term, your total cost of ownership (TCO) may be higher than another solution that looked expensive from the outset, or you may not be able to deliver the customer experience you need.

While this is something to consider, we wouldn’t recommend you choose a solution purely based on this. The fit with your organisation and business model is more important than the ease of integration with existing tech.

4. What does your customer journey look like?

Have you got a clear understanding of your customers journeys and the paths they follow to purchase? It’s essential to understand this so that you can ensure your CRM is well-equipped to manage every step of the journey. If you’re a larger organisation, think about where your leads may need to get passed between departments – from marketing to sales, for example. How does that process look, and does your CRM allow this? The better you know your customer journey, the easier it will be to find a solution that will smooth the way for your customers and internal team.

5. What are your offerings, and how complex are they? 

Do you offer a product or service? Do you have a single product or many products? Are your products all individually purchased, or are there dependencies between them (such as if you buy a sink for your new home, would you also need the taps)? The more products you have, the more likely it is that you have complexity and dependencies in your sales process.

If the sales processes are different between products you will likely need a more complex set of logic and business processes to support the process. In this instance, simple entry-level solutions are unlikely to work; you’ll need something that is fully configured and that is setup using “metadata” (data that defines your specific process). Where dependencies between products exist you might need a CPQ (Configure Price Quote) feature – again, a more complex requirement that will need custom processes tailored to your business needs.

6. What channels do you utilise for acquisition and service?

Is digital a key channel for your customer acquisition? If your answer is yes, you’ll need a CRM with a highly-integrated marketing engine that links tightly into your website or e-commerce engine. This will enable you to not only target customers you might want to sell to through digital advertising, but also track the sale from end-to-end – right through service and delivery. Some solutions don’t have this level of integration between modules, meaning you might not be able to achieve a true 360-degree view of activity.

7. What channels do you utilise for service?

When it comes to serving your customers, the key is to provide customers with a self-service help channel to enable you to drive a lower cost to service; but then also be able to ensure an amazing experience when they do need to actually speak to someone. A service solution that supports proactive service driven by a knowledge base with the ability to connect deeply into an IP-based telephone system and take call transcriptions automatically, can really make a difference. Recently Salesforce integrated their solution with AWS’s Connect cloud call platform and it’s a game-changing experience.

8. Which industry do you operate in?

Some CRM solutions have deeper capabilities for certain industry verticals that you can purchase off the shelf, while others don’t have industry capabilities, meaning the dashboards you see may be too generic for your business process. For example, if you’re a law firm you may choose a CRM solution that is tailored to the law vertical, where the dashboard has relevant information particular to law practice KPIs such as billing and utilising the number and strength of personal relationships, which are essential for success in the legal industry.

If you can find a CRM which is tailored to your industry, choose that – otherwise you’ll end up spending too much time reinventing the wheel, rather than spending time on innovation or areas of differentiation for your business. 

9. Does it have the ability to integrate easily?

Your CRM should be the go-to place for anything to do with your customers and place for you to build a profile of who your customers are. However, not all data related to your customers will be in your CRM but instead will often be in line-of-business applications – and therefore being able to pull that data in real-time or on a regular basis is key. Look for CRMs that have a modern set of APIs across all the data you may need for your business, not just a selection of data. The APIs should enable any experienced developer to ensure data can flow between the systems. Some CRM solutions like Salesforce also have enterprise integration solutions like Mulesoft as part of their offerings.

10. Is there room to grow?

You might only need to organise your sales process right now, but think about what you might need in 5 years. Will you offer a new service, or have future marketing needs that need to be integrated? You don’t want to look for another solution to meet those needs, as a critical piece of a CRM strategy is the ability to have a 360-degree view of customers and to scale out to new business processes; you need departments to be able to see all integrations across different customers. Look for a solution that will give you room to grow.

11. Does it have powerful analytics and dashboards?

For a CRM to really work for your business, you need powerful reporting and dashboards that enable people to drive their daily activity. They should be able to see the data and key insights to know what work is required and achieve it. Making sure it’s user-friendly is also essential – you want a platform that’s easy to use so that your team will use it every day.

12. Is there a local ecosystem of providers and contractors?

How many people have the skills needed to implement your CRM locally? Is the right talent readily available? It’s all very well choosing a CRM solution that’s big overseas, only to find that there aren’t any contractors or providers who support it in New Zealand. It’s good to establish some trusted providers on the ground who are experts and come well recommended before locking in your CRM. Even if you don’t need the help to implement now, it’s likely that later down the line you will need this support.

13. Self-configure or partner configure?

Are you looking for a DIY approach, or do you want to call in the professionals? While some solutions may be able to be configured by your team, these are usually systems that are suited to smaller businesses. Others require significant knowledge and certifications to ensure success – often suited to larger businesses with more complex processes. Here, you’d be best to enlist a professional organisation to help you.

14. Do they have local support and a community of users?

Ensure the CRM solution you’re looking at has New Zealand-based support systems and staff – there’s nothing worse than implementing a new tech solution, only to find their support staff are in a different timezone and it’s tricky to get the help you need, when you need it. 

It’s also wise to research if there are other companies like yours also using that CRM solution locally. Once you are up and running you’ll likely have plenty of questions, so having some local user groups and communities where you can share and learn from other organisations is really helpful.

15. What licensing model and plans are available?

Every CRM solution will have a different way of licensing and a variety of plans available to suit your business. It’s essential to compare what’s included across each solution, and what your business really needs right now. If you’re likely to need to upgrade your plan soon, make sure you look at the next tier up. Is it the right fit? And can you upgrade at any time, or are you on a fixed-term plan? Be thorough here, and spend time talking to their sales team to establish what’s right for you – there’s no need to be paying for a solution that includes integrated email marketing capabilities, for example, if you’re not going to make use of them.

Now that you’ve got all the questions you need, it’s time to start your research. If you need a hand and you’re looking for a provider to help you work through all these questions, as well as take care of the end-to-end implementation of your CRM solution, we’d love to help. Find out more about our Salesforce CRM solutions here.