What to think about when you start your CRM search?

Updated: Apr 14

There is so much information around about CRM, over the past 12 months we have seen an influx of “business consultants” giving advice on which systems to use, telling people to buy certain devices to ensure access to their chosen database, telling people CRM must do this or that…

The truth is each business has a slightly different set of requirements and as such the world of CRM is not a one size fits all environment.

With that in mind, I have created a checklist of thing I believe you need to consider before making a decision and wherever possible before you begin your search. Let's get started.

Be clear on your business needs

Make two lists, a list of the items you need and a list of wish list items. When you begin looking into solutions and providers this list will keep you focused on what's important to your business, meaning you won't get distracted by the extra features or special offers.

Plus having a list, you can share with shortlisted providers often means proposals are more accurate and that costings can be delivered much quicker and with fewer questions.

Think about how you want to access the CRM

As I mentioned above some solutions are only available via certain devices, think about the devices your team use PC, Mac, Phone (operating system) and or Tablets, it is important to make sure you will not lose any features as a result of the device you will be using – some CRM systems do have restrictions.

Try before you buy

Ask for a free trial, most CRM providers are happy to offer this. Testing is important, enter some test data and see how the system handles this and if you find it usable.

And remember the timing of this testing is equally important, testing too early may mean that you may miss out on some all-important questions, my advice is to plan to test the systems you are most interested in a month before you are ready to purchase, this way your test system can often become your live system. Meaning you won't lose any of the tests you have completed.

Make sure that your decision is not just based on the technology.

It is important to consider all the people who will be using the CRM system when making your decision. If you are unsure if a CRM system may be too technical for some of your users get them to use the trial version.

Ask providers about customisations and views that may help the users.

Think about training needs, does the provider offer training and support, if so in what areas, to what level and what is the cost for this.

Consider change management

Some employees may be resistant to change. Keep people informed and be open to answering their questions.

In smaller businesses getting sales staff who are resistant to sharing information in on a demonstration is a great idea, whereas in larger organisations a presentation to the team can be a huge help when it comes down to managing change.

Think about the long-term costs

Most CRM systems have an annual or monthly cost, make sure that you understand any ongoing costs and the level of service that you will be paying for.

Low start-up costs can sometimes mask an overall higher cost down the line, as costs can change after the 1st year. Double-check this before entering into any agreement.

Stay within the Law - GDPR

GDPR affects all businesses your CRM should assist you in being compliant and if you go for a “Cloud” option you need to check the security of the data centre where your data will be held, to ensure this also meets compliance requirements.

Not all CRM systems have data centres in the UK. It's worth checking, especially if your company has extra policies in place.


Often people think that CRM needs to do everything, that is not always the best solution.

This is true of many features but in this case let's take text messaging for example, not all CRM solutions come with a text messaging function, primarily because this incurs costs from external providers, yes, some high-end solutions will offer this but at a premium cost.

Likewise, you can integrate CRM to work with a text messaging provider but composing the texts within CRM can be expensive.

Another more cost-effective solution may be simply to use a text provider who can accommodate pre-configured messages, and automate them via a CRM field can be a much cheaper option and save the end-user time.

Try to be open to suggestions from experienced suppliers.

What features need to be built into CRM vs what can be or is better as a secondary piece of software that simply needs to feed information into CRM?

Do you need your CRM to talk to other existing software? If so what are the options available and the costs associated with this?

Consider the training

I have touched on this already but training is something that again is offered in various ways. Many of the click here or buy now CRM providers only offer video training and help guides, so if you want a person to deliver your training this is something you need to check before making a decision.

Can your provider offer you the options that you want and need? Do they offer Onsite training, Online sessions, Webinars etc?

Look into how the CRM provider manages the onboarding process

Do you get any aftercare support? If so, check the level of support that is offered matches what your business will need. If not ask if this can be negotiated?

There are various options available from a few £ per month per user to customised support programs.

Think about the level of technical support you will need

Both during the setup and installation process, if you are opting for a self-hosted solution, also think about any ongoing technical support.

If you are paying for integrations does the cost cover aftercare support or reconnection? if you need to then compare the levels of service that different providers offer.

Put a team together

This doesn’t have to be a large team but you will want someone within your business to drive the project, collate information, take part in demonstrations, calls, meetings, workshops etc. most CRM projects will also need someone to help the project manager to round up team members internally when they are needed, send meeting invites etc. to ensure that the project stays on track and is a success.

Considering a bespoke build?

A fully bespoke CRM build can be costly, if you are thinking about a building CRM system, I urge you to also think about what that means long term. The initial investment is often very high and ultimately unless you have a developer on staff this will inevitably become outdated and stop functioning if things like your server need updates in the future, eventually, your CRM will no longer be compatible with updated operating systems and you may need to rebuild.

You can buy off the shelf CRM systems and these are not always suitable however, most CRM providers offer some level of customisation and it is always worth looking at this before you commit to a bespoke build as updates and upgrades are often either included or are much cheaper long term.

As you can see there is a lot to take into account, not all may be relevant but it is all worth considering, if you would like to discuss any of the above in more detail or would like to know how we support these areas please feel free to get in touch for your free CRM consultation call.

Final Thoughts

If you found yourself wanting to make notes and answer some of the above questions we have created a workbook style ebook to help make this as simple as possible, to download the FREE download and get started click here.

If you still have CRM related questions this article is part of a series, dedicated to the CRM Basics you can read the other articles here.

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