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.

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.

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.

There are four key areas you should consider when determining if you need a CRM system:

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.

Salesforce Sales Cloud is the world’s #1 CRM system. Learn more about its features

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. Lucky for you, 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:

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 help your whole organisation to develop a more customer-centric approach, providing insights on where to improve your offering. And unlike even the best 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 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.

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.

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.

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:

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 9 years in a row. It puts Salesforce in its top Magic Quadrant analysis as a market leader with a strong ability to execute.

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:

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:

Great customer service is the most important part of a small business”

JULIE COLLINS | DIGITAL MARKETING LEAD

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 determine 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.

You can take a 30 Day Free Trial of Salesforce today:

By choosing Salesforce you will get:

  • The world’s #1 CRM system and market leader according to Gartner.
  • A company with 17+ years of experience in the CRM market.
  • A product that is continually improved, developed and used by a large customer base
  • Updates three times a year so you’re always on the latest version.
  • A secure, cloud-based solution that can grow and scale with your business.
  • A CRM trusted by over 150,000 customers.

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