How to Choose a CRM System: 15 Things Which You Must Look for

Last Updated:Tuesday, November 14, 2023

In this article, we will look at 15 pieces of advice on how to choose a CRM system to streamline your successful business. Since having a CRM is essential nowadays, you really should not take choosing the right CRM lightly.

These points do not need to be followed in exact order, and some will be more relevant to your needs than others. That's why you need to get a clear idea of all the factors and considerations regarding a CRM system for your business, and lucky for you, here is where you'll learn about them all. 


Choosing a CRM for your business?

We understand that there is a myriad of options out there when shopping for CRM systems, from such famous vendors as Salesforce, HubSpot CRM, and Zoho to enterprise-level apps like Sage, MS Dynamics 365, SAP, and NetSuite, to a plethora of tiny niche-CRMs. 

Whether you’re choosing a CRM for a small business or an enterprise, it’s important to consider various factors.

So, which CRM to choose? Before you can answer that, let's move on to the 15 CRM points you must take into account before making a final decision.


Here’s how to choose a CRM system

These 15 points for CRM software selection criteria have been thoroughly researched and compared to many other articles that also offer useful tips when shopping around for a new CRM vendor. 

Remember, there probably won't be a single CRM provider that suits absolutely each and every business need of yours. 

What is crucial to keep in mind when selecting a new system to be the right CRM software for your business or organization is to consider most of the factors we are covering here today. 

But you don't need to feel bad if you do not have the ability to strictly adhere to each point in the process of choosing your customer relationship management software solution. Just do your best, and everything will work out fine.  

Oh, and let’s not forget; if you’re still not familiar with the definition of CRM system tools, make sure to get acquainted with the basics. 

Now, let’s get into our main methods for how to choose CRM.

1. Select CRM software that meets your business needs

This first point may sound obvious. But always start your process of buying a CRM by making a list of your specific business requirements. 

In other words, what processes do you hope to make more efficient? What gaps in your business process are you planning to plug? Make sure that the CRM you opt for is aligned with your company or business goals, both in the short and long term. 

When thinking about a top CRM for small business or a large enterprise, there are different things to consider for choosing contact management, sales and marketing, and customer service tools that often make up the bulk of CRM features. Beginning the journey of comparing one CRM platform to the next is always about taking the time when identifying your CRM needs, objectives, pain points, and long-term mission.

2. Select CRM solutions that have the right amount of scalability

Our number two point to consider when choosing a CRM is all about how these tools help your business grow. This is the topic of scalability. 

Remember, one of the key benefits of using customer relationship management tool is to grow your contact and customer network because only from there can you begin to think about sales and profits. Let us say you are starting out as a small team, a startup, or a small business - you don't intend to stay small forever, right? 

So what you want out of a new CRM software is one that is appropriate for your small-sized operations but that can be easily scaled up in terms of its features and functionality as your network expands and your business operations grow. You may not need unlimited users right off the bat, and you surely shouldn't be expected to pay for that until your sales, marketing, and customer support teams become big enough to warrant it. 

3. Choose CRM tools by getting feedback from your team

A super important question to ask yourself, when deciding which CRM is best, is who will be using a CRM on your team. The point here is to involve every single team member who will be learning and using the CRM system. Get their input and feedback in the decision-making period. 

Some questions you might field to your team include how familiar they are with CRM tools, how eager they are to learn new software, are they more data oriented, visually oriented, or natural language oriented. 

When finding the right CRM, keep in mind that not everyone has the same opinions and skill sets. So get a team meeting together, whip out the whiteboard and marker, and start taking notes from future CRM users.

4. Pick CRM platform that is compatible with your software stack

The next big thing to keep in mind on the topic of CRM implementation is your current SaaS ecosystem. No single bit of software exists and functions as an island to itself. So consider what pieces of software you and your team are already using, and make sure that whichever CRM app you choose is compatible.

For instance, medical staff might be using EMR, EHR, or PHR software. So, they must ensure the CRM they choose is compatible with their current system. They should also learn the differences between EMR vs EHR vs PHR to make a well-informed decision.

One of the ways to approach this issue is through integrations. A lot of amazing CRMs integrate with other apps through native integrations, or through third-party connector apps like Zapier. Often, native integrations work more smoothly, so keep that in mind.

Another thing you might take into account is shopping for a CRM made by the same brand or vendor as other apps you use, which makes it easier to integrate their functions.

5. Select a CRM that facilitates migration

You may already have a lot of your customer data on some other platform, for example, on a Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet tool, or possibly with an older CRM you want to replace. To save you time when implementing a new CRM, consider if the new system has tools to help with data migration. 

Try and pick a CRM solution that offers automated features to import data and convert it so that it is readily available in the new CRM platform. The last thing you want is to lose access to customer data when importing and migrating it to your new CRM.

6. Choose a CRM experience for ease of use

Our next important point when helping you make the right choice for a fresh CRM solution is user-friendliness. Now, this is not to argue that easier is better in all cases and in every context. To identify your needs when it comes to ease of use, consider how skilled your team already is with similar software and how eager and able your team is at learning new tools. 

If you have experienced users on your team, you can forego some simplicity for more advanced features. Ultimately, it is a balance. It is also likely, for example, that your sales team will have different skill levels than a marketing team or customer service team. 

7. Pick a CRM that is specific to your industry

As you peruse and compare vendors when looking for a CRM system for your business, another one of the important things to remember is your industry or sector. Many top CRMs are not industry-specific, though some might advertise their specific value related to your business or industry. 

Meanwhile, there are other CRMs that will offer specific features you need for whatever industry you are in. For example, some industry CRMs include hospitality, medical services, accounting software and financial services, e-commerce operations, nonprofits and governments, personal organizations, and tech startup companies. 

8. Select CRM software that includes your key features and functions

This easily could have been our first point when picking a new CRM system: Tools, features and functionality. It is similar to the above point when it comes to industry, but in this case, we might think about the core features that CRM offers related to different company departments. 

For example, there are quite a few CRM tools geared for sales departments, like sales process and pipeline management; while others are meant for marketing teams, like email campaigns; finally, customer service activities have unique features, like a shared inbox and multichannel communication. 

Other tools that are more universal include things like workflow automations. Which teams use the most workflows can vary from business to business. 

9. Choose CRM system for customization 

Some CRM apps are ready to use right out of the box. Other CRM systems require a high degree of customization and personalization. 

These days, the ideal CRM platform is probably a mix: ready to go but with the ability to personalize some tools, templates and workflows. You need to make sure that the CRM you opt for has the right amount of customization that fits your business objectives. 

This means that you'll need to understand who on your team requires more bespoke tools and to what degree they can handle the customization process themselves. You should also ensure that not everyone is customizing too much without sharing their changes to help you stay on the same page as your whole team.

10. Pick CRM solution that fits your budget

Budgets are a key factor when considering buying anything, be it a house, a car, a vacation, and a CRM platform. 

Obviously, knowing your budget is something you should have in mind right off the bat, which is why this list is not exactly something you have to do in step-by-step order. CRM adoption can be pricey, and it can be affordable.

 Some budget factors include the number of users on the platform, the number of workflows you run per month, how many advanced tools you need, and what level of customer support you hope to enjoy. You can also save money by paying annually instead of monthly. 

11. Consider mobile, web, and desktop versions when selecting a CRM

These days, most software is web-browser SaaS, meaning to access it and use it all you need to do is visit the vendor's website, log in from there, and use the tools right inside your web browser. If this is enough for you, great. But when choosing your new CRM, consider if you will be using other versions. 

First off, mobile CRM apps are very useful, especially for sales reps on the road. Does the CRM have a dedicated mobile app or just a responsive interface? And if the latter, how good is the design? 

Some users like to have a desktop app, which you download from the internet and can, therefore, sometimes be used offline or at least won't get slowed down on bad bandwidth days.

12. Decide between on-premise or cloud-based CRM

Our point number 12 follows naturally from our point number 11. Whereas above the decision was between web, mobile, and desktop, here the choice is between a cloud-based CRM system and one that you host on your own hardware, aka, on-premise CRM. 

Most CRMs today are cloud-based, and this is probably what most companies and businesses want. You don't need to have your own servers and upkeep them; you don't need to worry about security and can access your data from anywhere. 

Almost all startups and small businesses will inevitably opt for a cloud-based solution. Most enterprises might want an on-premise CRM, as they have the infrastructure and expertise to handle things like servers and security.

13. Choose CRM solution based on customer service

Here, we are not talking about your customer support department and the CRM tools they will use. Instead, this is about the customer support options made available to you by the CRM vendor. 

Often, the range of customer service begins with self-service, FAQs, video tutorials, and a knowledge base. From there, you can sometimes get support via email or web forms where you have to wait for an answer. 

At the most premium level of customer service, there is the phone and live chat support, which can be during limited hours or even 24/7/365. Clearly, the level of customer service you need must be balanced against the budget, and that CRM's offer degrees of support based on which pricing tier you subscribe to.

14. Take into account demos, free trials and onboarding offered by CRMs

A lot of CRM solutions offer free trials, with many vendors also offering their CRM free of charge (with option to upgrade to paid plans, of course). This is an excellent way to test out the tools and ease of use to see if it is the right CCRM for you, although it could add some time to your shopping period, which will only set you back in terms of full adoption. 

Another option is to check out some of the best open source CRM. Open source software is most often made freely available to the public, so you can find some pretty neat options there as well.

Likewise, you can also ask the vendor of a CRM if they offer live demos where sales staff can walk you through the platform's features and also let you ask specific questions, like how the pipeline works or how to set up workflows. 

Another thing to consider is if the CRM vendor offers special training and onboarding services and if those are free or only available with premium plans. 

15. Select a CRM that meets your compliance and security needs

As a business owner looking to optimize your time and resources in managing your customer data and overall business performance, it might be easy to get lost while just thinking about what your CRM tools can do for you. 

But you must not neglect two other important factors: compliance and security. GDPR compliance is a huge deal, especially if you manage customer data for people who reside in the EU. Many CRMs are readily GDPR compliant. 

Another point is that CRMs offer various degrees of security, which is crucial as you are trusting them with your company data as well as your customers' data. A lot of CRM options on the market offer degrees of security based on your subscription package. 


Our conclusion on what to look for in a CRM

Hopefully, this article has given you much-needed insight into how to select a CRM and some CRM best practices that will make the adoption go as smoothly as possible. 

Whether you need better sales process and pipeline management, more personalized marketing campaigns, wilder customer support channel availability, or a versatile integration library, when you put the time and effort into researching and choosing CRM tools, you’ll save time and money in the long run.