11 factors that'll help you choose your sales CRM

Choosing a sales CRM: 11 factors that’ll help you decide easily, and faster

Written by on August 22, 2017

Imagine you invest in a tool for your business.

A new investment is always exciting, but at the end of the day, it’s a matter of ROI. Like any other investment you make, you want the best deal out of this one, too.

Now imagine you earn an ROI of 771%.

Even for imagination, that number is a stretch, right?

Fun fact: it’s real.

771% is the ROI you get from investing in CRM. For every dollar you spend, CRM pays you back with $8.71.

It explains why businesses, irrespective of size, industry, and target audience, want a sales CRM.

But here’s the catch. Every sales CRM promises to help you close more deals and manage relationships with your customers, but no two CRMs are the same.

Just like your business.

Your business has unique needs, and so does every other business out there. Plus you come from a certain space when you start hunting for a sales CRM:

Perhaps your previous CRM wasn’t the right choice.

Or you’re switching from Excel.

Probably this is your first sales tool ever, and you want it to be the best.

With all these variables, how do you find “the” CRM that works for you?

There’s a hack for that.

Think of a cheat sheet, with a list of factors to evaluate CRMs. Let’s call it the CRM Cheat Sheet—one comprehensive list you can use to quickly knock off CRMs that don’t fit your needs, and drill down to select that one CRM.

But why are we talking about this? Because we’ve been there.

We’ve gone through the grind of picking a CRM, realizing it didn’t fit, dusting ourselves off and making a different choice. So we decided to take the lead and create a cheat sheet, so we could share it with the world and help others streamline their CRM hunt.

1. Easy to set up and use

Does a sales CRM need admins to run it for you? Will you need a few weeks to understand the CRM before you actually start using it? Or, worst of all—would you need an external consultant to help set up your CRM?

Give it a pass.

CRMs were built so sales reps could focus on prospecting and selling. Figuring out how a CRM works is not the best use of your reps’ time. Unfortunately, many sales managers pick a CRM on their own and thrust it upon their reps. The result is an expensive tool that ends up with poor adoption and lower team productivity.

For their part, sales reps are pretty clear about their preferences. 55% of reps prefer ease of use above any other CRM feature, according to Inside CRM.

Most CRMs start you off with a free trial of the product, usually ranging from 15 to 30 days. This can be invaluable, especially if you’re a small business figuring out how to manage your sales. Use this period to let your team explore the CRM, and get their thoughts:

  • Is the user interface intuitive enough to capture new leads from channels like email?
  • Do you need to manually keep entering leads’ / contacts’ data?
  • How often did your team feel they needed support?

If your team can sign up, log in and find their way around the sales CRM in a few days (rather than a few weeks), you have a straightforward decision to make.

2. One package for everything you want

What you want: one tool to capture leads, send emails, make calls, manage deals, create reports and track customer journey end-to-end

What you don’t want: switching between your email client, Excel file, calendar and phone in the course of one interaction.

Reality: 59% of sales reps use too many sales tools, according to an Accenture survey.

Solution: Look for a sales CRM that gives you the essentials: built-in phone, email, reporting, and lead scoring. Find out if they work for specific use cases in your business—can you send bulk emails to run sales campaigns from the CRM? Can you buy phone numbers and place calls instantly from the CRM? This is another reason why you should make the most of your free trial period—you’ll get to explore every aspect of the CRM.

3. Managing your deals from one screen (not multiple tabs)

One of the key differentiators between Excel and a sales CRM is the ability to visualize your pipeline. You can list your deals in Excel, but there’s no way to quickly get the context behind each deal—the conversations you’ve had, the people you’ve contacted, the number of deals you can expect to close this month.

With CRM, you get all this and more.

You look at one screen and find out exactly how many deals are new, up for negotiation, won, or lost. CRMs usually present this information in a “pipeline” view—your deals are arranged in columns from left to right, with each column representing a particular deal stage, thereby capturing your entire sales pipeline. You can also send emails and make calls right from the pipeline. If your business has varying sales process for different markets/products, you’ll love the multiple sales pipelines that CRMs offer.

4. Generating reports, quickly and precisely

Reports, the lifeblood of every sales manager. You want to analyze and forecast your sales; every rep on your team needs to know what they’ve done right and where they can be better.

But how do sales CRMs make it easy for you to generate reports? When you sign up, you start off with a set of template reports. They work for the common use cases, but you also have options to create custom reports. And if you want to see multiple reports on a single screen, ask for dashboards.

5. Studying your customer’s behavior

“Data is the new oil”, declared Clive Humby, a Sheffield mathematician, back in 2006. Businesses began to recognize that the digital consumer left behind a trail of behavior data; if businesses had to keep up, they had to catch on. Websites and apps were redesigned to capture this data at a granular level.

It didn’t take long for CRMs to jump right in.

When a CRM helps you track your customers’ behavior, you gain invaluable context into your customer’s end-to-end journey. This in turn lets you create relevant conversations with your customers. And relevant conversations can be the difference between a lost deal and a new deal.

Here’s an example of how sales CRMs can get you granular lead data in seconds. Someone steps into your website, looks at your Feature and Pricing pages, and fills out your webform. The next instant, they pop up as a new lead in the CRM, with their activity on your website neatly captured in a chronological timeline! Bonus: you’ll find their social profiles automatically added to their profile in the CRM. Sounds smart? We’re just getting started.

6. Automating repetitive tasks

Currently, salespeople are only spending 35.9% of their time selling. A major chunk of reps’ time is spent on mundane tasks and manually entering data into the CRM.

In an ideal world, automating everything except calling would be perfect 🙂 But wishful thinking aside, these are some of the automations you should look for in your sales CRM:

  • Bulk emailing
  • Automatic call logging
  • Workflows—setting up actions based on event triggers (e.g. changing prospect’s status to “customer” when deal is won)
  • Assigning leads to sales reps by territory

7. Customizing the CRM, because, well, you’ve bought it

In the SaaS era, customization is king. You’ve bought the CRM; you want to make it your own. This is also a good opportunity to find out if the sales CRM pays attention to details. Letting you change the default language in your CRM, from English to a local language, can be crucial in countries where English is not the vernacular. The general ability to modify CRM functionalities—in line with your B2B/B2C business demands—is vital to adoption.

8. Integrating with your favorite apps

The aim behind integrations, of course, is to bring multiple tools under one roof, so you can get more apps to collaborate in lesser time—without too much effort from your end. For instance, Zapier, the workflow automating service, helps you build connections between your CRM and your daily apps. If your CRM integrates with Zapier, you can open up your business to a whole galaxy of inter-app collaborations. So when a lead is created in your sales CRM, you could set up a workflow to automatically receive notifications on Slack. The possibilities are endless—and exciting!

9. Selling on the move, with mobile CRM

In a survey, 65% of companies who enabled mobile CRM achieved their quotas, versus the 22% of companies who achieved quotas without a mobile CRM. This significant gap is likely to increase, considering that sales is no longer restricted to a desktop CRM: 81% of reps said they access their CRM using multiple types of devices.

So when you’re evaluating, (i) find out if the sales CRM has mobile app versions (preferably on both Android and iOS), and (ii) check first-hand if the mobile versions are as good, if not better, than the desktop counterparts.

10. Support that comes from real human beings

A sales CRM can have exactly the kind of features you’re looking for. Without proper support, though, you’d think twice before buying. Two points to consider here:

  • How human does the support team sound? Are they treating you as just another “ticket”, sharing a support article and walking away? Or do they go that extra mile to resolve your queries?
  • On which channels do they support? Just email? Both email and chat? What about phone? Which channels are free and which are paid?

11. Price that fits (and doesn’t make you fret)

On average, businesses spend $150/user/month on their CRM, with 61% spending over $50/user/month. But that’s only one part of the story; businesses also end up investing in other tools for lead scoring, marketing automation, and user behavior tracking, because their CRM doesn’t come with these functionalities.

In other words, businesses spend on a CRM plus a bunch of other tools, and they’re forced to do the juggling act.

While choosing a sales CRM, you want to stay nimble and let the software do all the heavy-lifting. You also don’t want to spend an exorbitant amount in the process. Finding this balance between crucial features and affordable pricing is hard, but not out of reach.

With the “freemium” pricing model, you get a bunch of features for free; you pay for any additional features you might need. In the CRM space, the freemium model revolves around the number of reps in your team. Some CRMs keep it free forever for 5 reps; some allow for 10.

The freemium model works for you on two levels:

  • You don’t pay for features you won’t use.
  • You can experiment with the CRM when you’re still young, and find out if it’ll be a good fit as your business scales.

So there you have it. 11 factors to look for in your sales CRM. The kind of package that ensures you keep your sales together.

New to the CRM world and looking for quality information? You’ll find news, research articles, and reports here:

Want to compare CRMs? Get user reviews and detailed descriptions here:

Just one more thing…

Want to check out a sales CRM right away? Try Freshsales.

HiveXchange, CovalentCareers, Planned Giving Marketing and Hyperverge have reported increase in revenue, faster sales cycles and higher pipeline visibility after using Freshsales. They’re businesses from diverse industries, and they add strength to the 5,000 member-Freshsales family.

P.S. We’re only a year old, so we’re always trying harder to make you happy 🙂

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