CRM Software Selection Quick Start Guide

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Customer relationship management (CRM) software provides many benefits to a business, from making the sales department more productive to building customer retention. CRM software is widely used, with Gartner projecting the market at $23.9 billion and proclaiming it “the heart of digital initiatives.” A CRM system handles many critical processes for your business, especially in the sales department therefore CRM software selection requires researching, sourcing, validating and performing due diligence before you sign a contract.

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The CRM software selection process requires in-depth research, analysis and collaboration. Here are the steps we recommend in this quick start guide to selecting CRM:  

CRM Requirements Gathering

A CRM solution may have the longest list of features or use the most cutting-edge technology, but it can be a poor choice for your organization if it doesn’t meet your requirements. That’s why step one in your CRM purchase should be to establish the key requirements your CRM must meet before you start evaluating solutions. Some core features to consider when gathering your requirements include:

  • Contact Management: Contact management is the entire point of a CRM, so this requirement revolves around making sure the contact handling is sufficient for your current work processes. CRM software may have email auto-response integration and follow-up reminders, along with the ability to display key information on each lead.
  • Sales Pipeline Visualization: This feature shows a visual representation of the sales pipeline, as well as where all contacted leads are in their customer journey.
  • Reporting: The CRM’s reporting feature can cover everything from sales figures to marketing ROI. These reports provide concrete data essential for optimizing sales and marketing efforts, identifying poor performing areas and revealing response rates for different parts of the marketing and sales funnel.
  • Predictive Analytics: This analytical tool parses historical and big data to make predictions on sales and marketing efforts. It can identify the optimal times to contact leads, which lead demographics are likely to convert at different parts of the customer journey and other useful business intelligence.
  • Marketing Automation Integration: Sales and marketing work hand-in-hand, so creating a closer relationship helps to optimize both departments. Many CRM solutions integrate with popular marketing automation tools for a seamless experience.
  • Lead Management: This is another critical CRM function that allows your sales department to nurture leads, qualify leads and use a lead scoring system to determine the priority of contacts.
  • Cloud or On Premise: The Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud model for CRM provides many advantages for companies, including reduced upfront and maintenance costs. However, on-premise solutions don’t rely on vendors, avoid potential network latency and may offer better data security.
  • Mobile: Mobile access to CRM software is useful for sales staff in the field, allowing them to access critical lead information and make lead contact notes directly through a smartphone or tablet.
  • Social: Social media provide many data points on potential leads, but not all CRM systems integrate this data into the lead’s contact notes.

More CRM features for your consideration are available in the Massive CRM Features List.

Preliminary Research

Once you identify your CRM requirements, arrange the list by priority. While some solutions offer everything on the CRM features list and then some, they won’t necessarily be the right solution for your business. Look through available content on the CRM vendor’s website, social media channels and industry authority websites to determine whether it passes the first impression test.

Find out how organizations are leveraging CRM technology in this Gartner report.

Informal Inquiries

Talk to your colleagues and industry contacts about what CRM software they use. Get recommendations from clients following your social media channels, and ask LinkedIn groups what they think about your prospective selections. You may learn about benefits you didn’t know the solutions offered or hear horror stories that drive you away.


If you welcome or require requests for proposals for your software solutions, create a CRM RFP that covers your must-have features, establish the ideal work flow it fits into and discover potential vendors you may not have encountered on your first research sweep.

Tech Evaluation Scorecards

Create an evaluation scorecard prior to requesting any demos or signing up for free accounts or trials. Use these scorecards to compare each solution for its suitability for your organization. Sample criteria include:

  • Ease of use
  • Security
  • Priority features
  • Wanted features
  • Price
  • Scalability
  • Flexibility

Request for Demos

Once you create a tech evaluation scorecard, reach out to each vendor for a demo. For SaaS options, you most likely have access to a free trial or free account level. Run tests based on real-world use cases that the solutions will have to handle throughout day-to-day business operations. Use the scorecards to narrow down the vendor selection to the most suitable options.

Create CRM evaluation scorecards quickly and easily using SelectHub. Start your free trial with a free CRM requirements template.

Business Case Review

Conduct business case analyses to determine which system is the most advantageous. You have a few ways to conduct this analysis, depending on your needs. Some companies focus on the total cost of ownership, while others want to know how well the system improves sales ROI.

Vendor Viability and References

Vendor viability is a critical part of the decision process, especially if you’re using a cloud-based solution. How long has the vendor been around, and does it have clients that are similar in size to your business? How responsive is its support? If you’re dealing with a cloud-based solution, and you find countless complaints about slow response time, you’re not going to do well in a disaster recovery situation. Ask for references, and cast a net across your professional network to see who else has used the vendor. Determine whether the use cases the other companies worked with are close to your own. To compare top CRM solutions see SelectHub’s CRM Software Analyst Report.

A CRM solution is a critical part of your sales process, enabling you to stay on top of customer relationship building, lead management and lead follow-up. The right solution provides countless productivity benefits, so it’s important to do your due diligence and get exactly what you need for your company.

Whether you’re choosing Salesforce or, Infor CRM or SugarCRM, going through a formal CRM software selection process is critical when evaluating a new CRM.

As you consider your own CRM software selection process, start with our free CRM requirements template to best evaluate your specific CRM needs:

Get our CRM Software Requirements Template

SelectHubCRM Software Selection Quick Start Guide

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