How to choose the best CRM solution


Finding the right Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to help your sales team with contact management, sales management, and productivity is crucial to success. Getting this piece of your strategy right can set off a chain reaction that cuts costs, saves time, and can even boost morale.


What to consider when looking for a CRM solution

Here are some of the main questions you need to consider when trying to choose the best CRM system for your business, and how to turn the answers into a clear decision.

1. Determine the problems you need to solve

The best CRM system for your business depends entirely on what you need it to do. The first step in choosing a CRM system is to be clear about what you want to achieve, and which problems you want it to address. Pinpoint and analyse any weaknesses in your sales and marketing process, and then consider the impact on your wider operations.

The basic functionality of any CRM solution should include:

Contact management– You need a system in place to manage contact information—that isn’t centralised in your top salesperson’s inbox. This needs to be accessible to your entire sales organisation so everyone has the most up-to-date information. If a member of your sales team leaves, the rest of your team should be able to pick up where they left off.

Opportunity management– Make sure all elements of the sales process are transparent within your organisation so you can more easily see its impact on the rest of business. Key deals and their progression need to be top of mind. If deals are not progressing, it should be easy to identify which steps need to be made.

Reporting, forecasting and analytics – Informed managers make better decisions. Give them adequate tools to run the business profitably and efficiently. Key to this is staying on top of targets and knowing when or if they and their team will hit them.

Sales management – Decide what the benefits to your business would be from having a single system that can handle territory management, performance management, coaching, workflows and collaboration. If the benefit outweighs the cost of a CRM, make the investment.


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2. Get a CRM system that supports your size and growth plans

You need to plan for where you are now, but also for where you think you’ll to be in the future. On-premise systems don’t typically allow for fast growth. By the time they’re fully implemented, you’ve outgrown them. Not all businesses are the same, so look for a CRM system that grows and adapts with your business at your own pace.
Small businesses – Do you need the system to scale as you grow? If you are a small company with a handful of users, any new system you introduce must be affordable now and flexible in the future, so you don't have to start from scratch and learn a new system when you expand. Imagine the benefits of never having to change system after growing from 20 users to 20,000!

Mid-sized companies – Because you’re competing with bigger players while also defending your position against newcomers and disruptive startups, the sales force automation features offered by CRM solutions can be a lifesaver for mid-sized companies. Find a CRM that can help you escape the squeeze from huge pressures on time and resources; one that can remove the repetitive administration tasks from sales and free your team to focus on winning deals.

Large companies – Most large companies likely have a CRM system in place already, but it may be time to upgrade. An updated system will better meet your needs and evolve with your business, which most likely encompasses more than just sales. Luckily, CRM systems have evolved as well.

Marketing automation, customer service solutions, business intelligence and a platform to build virtually any functionality you require are all part of a modern CRM. Your CRM vendor should be a close partner, working with you on the implementation you need, including scalability and customisability, so you can achieve your goals.

Salesforce is a scalable solution for every size of business, from startups to market-leading enterprises. See which edition will be the best fit for your business.

3. Consider other areas of your business that could benefit from an upgrade

Many companies start their CRM journey in the sales department but soon discover that the benefits of better customer information can be felt elsewhere, too. For example, connecting your customer service solution to your CRM can not only help improve the customer service team but help the whole organisation to develop a more customer-centric approach and can even provide insights on where to improve your offering. And unlike standalone service desk software, an integrated CRM system can help you join up those insights with sales, marketing and beyond.

IT can benefit as well. With a cloud-based CRM, the provider takes care of maintenance, backup, and security, freeing up time that your CTO and team would normally spend overseeing routine installations and upgrades.

You might be surprised at how far a CRM system can be integrated into your business. Think about whether a wider solution that integrates otherwise siloed systems could improve how you work – linking marketing to sales or service, or supply chain to production and delivery.


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4. Decide if you need an on-premise or cloud CRM

A key decision you'll need to make is whether you want a cloud-based, online CRM solution or a system that is hosted on your company servers. This depends not only on the type of business you are currently running, but on the type you want to be running in the future.

Trends are moving toward cloud-based CRM solutions as businesses become more mobile, global, and adaptable. Built-in backup and disaster recovery, low capital costs and cross-platform compatibility as standard are typical of quality cloud-based CRM systems.

By contrast, on-premise CRM systems mean you are dependent on busy sales staff remembering to update the system when they return to their desks. A cloud-based system is more intuitive, with the capability to be updated via apps on mobiles or tablets from anywhere a data connection is available. This way your sales staff can file an update easily at the end of every meeting, reducing backlogs.

Another consideration is if your company uses a mix of both PCs and Macs. With on premise solutions, the best CRM for Macs won't necessarily work best on PCs and vice versa. So a cloud solution, which works equally well with both, could be the answer.

Define your criteria and research solutions

Based on your answers to these questions you can now define your requirements. Start by prioritising and categorising your needs thinking about your pain points.

Must-haves: What is essential to you in your new system for it to be a success?
Example: A cloud-based CRM system provides flexibility to grow the business.

Should-have: Important, but possibly not as time-sensitive as business critical must-haves.
Example: Seamless mobile functionality is a plus, but not absolutely essential.

Nice-to-have: These are likely to be things that would make everyone's life easier, but would not break the business if not included from the start.

Example: The ability to create as many business apps as you would like.
These will serve as a baseline for your CRM system requirements.

Now you have your list of criteria you can see how well the available systems compare. You'll need to make sure your potential solution has covered off your must-haves and hopefully most of your should-haves. The best CRM systems are likely to also offer many of the nice-to-haves too. Rule out anything that doesn't match your key requirements.

Four actions to take when deciding on a CRM

Now you need to drill down into the detail of your shortlisted solutions to see what best fits the requirements you gathered at the start. There are a number of different assets available to you to help you make your decision:

1. Analyst and Expert Reviews

Dig a bit deeper and see what the pros have to say. Gartner Group is one of the world's leading technology research and analysis firms and has positioned Salesforce as a leading system for 15 years in a row. It puts Salesforce in its top Magic Quadrant analysis as a market leader with a strong ability to execute.

2. CRM reviews

There are a number of respected and crowd-sourced review sites focussing on business software systems – with the reviews written by users of the systems.
If you investigate a product using one of the larger review sites you can see that many of the products have hundreds of ratings – so the sheer volume of reviews gives you some assurance as to the consistency, honesty and value of the opinions. If there are only a handful of reviews, be more careful about the weight you place on them.
At Salesforce, we are confident that if you take a look at some of the well-known business software review sites you will soon see that our customers value our services. See for yourself and check out our CRM reviews on:

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3. CRM case studies

Case studies are also a great way to gauge if a CRM is right for your business. They set out the problem a customer is trying to solve and how their implementation of a solution has helped them. Looking at case studies from companies which are similar to your business, perhaps in business size or industry, can be a good indicator of whether a particular CRM solution is right for you.
Check out some Salesforce case studies:

4. Test out your Shortlist with a free trial

Take a free trial so you can explore the CRM. It's the best and easiest way to find out if it does what you need and determines how simple and intuitive it is to use.
Work with an expert from your CRM solution provider. They will act as consultants to ensure you have the right implementation and functionalities you need, as well as make recommendations on how you can improve your CRM. Use this combination of a hands-on trial and expert guidance to choose the best CRM solution for you and your business.
Having explored the detail of what the various systems offer, how easy they are to use and how well they might integrate with any of your internal systems or processes, you're likely to have a firm favourite.

That’s a lot of info!

Here’s what you should take away from this article:

  • What should I look for in a CRM solution? When deciding on a CRM solution, you need to find one that addresses your most pressing needs, and fits with your business’s size and growth plans.
  • How should I define my requirements for CRM? When thinking about your CRM requirements, consider your pain points and prioritise your needs, then rule out anything that doesn’t align with them.
  • What are the best resources for choosing a CRM?  Before choosing a CRM, make sure to read reviews, check out CRM case studies and speak to colleagues about their experiences.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the best CRM software for my business?

Choosing the best CRM software for a business depends on what problems that organisation needs to solve immediately, and what it ultimately wants to achieve. Businesses need to choose a CRM that fits their size and growth plans, addresses their biggest pain points, and provides long-term flexibility.
The most popular CRM is cloud-based CRM technology. Modern businesses have prioritised mobility, flexibility and agility, making cloud-based CRM platforms the top choice for the majority of today’s organisations. Cloud-based CRM solutions also offer cost-effective scalability, cross-platform compatibility and remote access.

What should a good CRM system have?

A good CRM system improves sales forecasting, increases customer loyalty, enables more accurate sales reporting, and maximises ROI on marketing activities. A good CRM system should provide these features:

  • Contact management
  • Opportunity management
  • Reporting, forecasting and analytics
  • Sales management

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