7 critical questions you must ask before choosing a CRM

by Steli Efti
choosing-a-sales-crm

Think you found the perfect CRM for your fast-growing company? Not so fast. Before you pull the trigger today and regret it a few months down the road, you need to ask yourself a few make-or-break questions.

Let me paint a quick picture for you:

It’s three months into the future—exactly three months since you paid for an annual subscription to this new CRM software that some salesperson recommended on a growth hacking webinar.

At first it seemed perfect: well-designed landing pages, a beautiful UI, a knowledgeable salesperson who offered you a “killer, one-time-only deal”...

perfect-sales-crm-happy

But now you’re three months in, and this CRM is completely wrong for you and your team.

  • It doesn’t line up with your goals.
  • It doesn’t have the specific features you need.
  • It doesn’t integrate with your other tools.
  • It can barely measure anything that matters.

And now you’re stuck with a frustrated sales team that doesn’t want to use the CRM you paid big bucks for.

So what do you do now? You have three options:

  • Force your team to suffer through this ill-fitting CRM
  • Eat the costs and pay for a new CRM
  • Fire everyone and hire a sales team that’s used it before

I don’t know about you, but all three of those options seem pretty terrible.

Here’s the good news:

The future doesn’t have to look so ugly.

If you do your research and ask the right questions today, Future You will be more than grateful—and so will your sales team.

sales-team-1

So what are these must-ask questions?

I’ll be breaking down each one here in a bit, but if you want to jump ahead to one specific question, here’s the list:

  1. What is our #1 most important goal?
  2. What features are MUST-haves?
  3. How will we get our team to adopt the CRM?
  4. What tools does our CRM need to integrate with?
  5. What metrics will we track in our CRM?
  6. Will we outgrow this CRM at any point?
  7. What type of customer support can we expect?
evaluate-sales-crm

How to evaluate a CRM before buying

The last thing you want to do is whip out your credit card and buy a CRM that doesn’t align with where your company is and where you plan to go.

If you want to make the right decision the first time (and save plenty of cash by not having to switch CRMs in a couple of months), you’ve come to the right place.

Here are the seven questions you absolutely must ask yourself (and your team) before deciding on a CRM for your company:

1. What is our #1 most important goal?

Without a doubt, the most important question you need to ask before choosing a CRM is what you’re actually trying to accomplish with a CRM.

No doubt you have plenty of reasons to use a CRM—increase sales team productivity, keep track of opportunities in one place, more effectively track key sales metrics… You could easily create a mile-long list.

But if you evaluate a CRM with all of these reasons at the front of your mind, you’ll never find the best CRM tool for your company.

That’s why it’s critical to identify the #1 goal for your new CRM.

Do you want your CRM to...

You can keep secondary goals in mind, but if you don’t have one thing pegged as the most important, you’ll always find a way to poke holes in the CRM tools you’re testing.

2. What features are MUST-haves?

Different CRM tools have different feature sets. Some tools are focused on calling, others are focused on email, and others are a blend of both.

You want to find the CRM software that best compliments the way your sales team works today (and will be working in the future).

For example:

If you’re investing a lot of resources into cold calling, the more calls your sales team can make per day, the better. So a CRM with a built-in calling feature that can speed up the cold calling process would be great for you.

 


Or if you’re focused on cold email outreach, you probably want a CRM that offers faster email sending with features like automatic follow-ups, templates, bulk sending, etc.

sending-email-sales-crm

Map out what your sales workflow looks like today, identify where you invest the majority of your resources, then find a CRM that aligns with these two things.

3. How will we get our team to adopt the CRM?

Here’s the hard truth:

If your sales team hates using your CRM, they’re going to use it as little as possible.

They’ll manage email conversations in their Gmail inbox, they won’t track phone calls, they won’t add info about any leads or deals—your customer data will be incomplete and inaccurateAnd it'll be much harder for whoever is running the sales team to make a data-informed decision.

Obviously, that’s not an ideal scenario. Your CRM is supposed to empower your sales team to work faster and get more results. It’s not supposed to be a constant thorn in their side.

Before you choose a CRM, come up with a plan for getting your sales team to adopt it and get the most value from it.

Of course, at the end of the day a great onboarding plan will do squat if you choose a CRM that doesn't work for your team.

(Pro tip: One of the best ways to get your sales team on board is by actually talking to them about the CRM.)

4. What tools does our CRM need to integrate with?

What’s worse than thinking you found the perfect CRM only to realize it doesn’t integrate with your email marketing or live chat tools?

Not realizing this until after you’ve paid for an annual subscription.

Here’s how to determine whether the CRM you’re looking at has the integrations you need:

  1. Make a list of every tool you use that will need to integrate
  2. Find the CRM’s integrations database
  3. Search for each tool on your list
  4. If there’s one you can’t find, see if the software offers an API you can connect through

The more tools you can integrate natively without a developer or confusing custom connections, the better.

That being said, you also want to check if the existing integration actually does what you will need it to do. Sometimes a CRM might offer an integration with a software tool that just enables a minimum set of features, but is practically useless for the specific use-case you have in your company.

sales-crm-integrations

5. What metrics will we track in our CRM?

Your CRM should make measurement and reporting completely painless. If you can’t track the metrics that matter most to you within your CRM, you’ll wind up wasting hours taking the manual-measurement path.

That’s a poor use of time.

Every hour your sales team spends manually exporting and analyzing data is an hour they’re not following up with potential customers.

First, identify which sales metrics matter most to you.

Then figure out if the CRM software is capable of measuring these metrics without you manually creating every report.

6. Will we outgrow this CRM at any point?

If your team is small, it can be tempting to go with the most lightweight and low-cost CRM you can find.

Sure, this approach might save you some cash in the short term, but what happens when your sales team triples in size within the next 12 months?

That lightweight, low-cost CRM won’t cut it anymore. Your needs and goals will change and it’ll already be time to upgrade.

You’ll have to transfer all your lead and customer data to the new CRM.

You’ll have to train your sales teamagain.

You’ll have to update all your workflows, integrations and automations.

When you’re choosing a CRM tool for your current team, make sure you’re also thinking about the long term. Best case scenario is finding a CRM that works no matter how large or small your sales team is.

But there's also a flip side to this: Choosing a CRM that you'll grow into... eventually. I see a lot of startups and SMBs choose with the most prominent CRM out there: Salesforce.

Even though they're not yet at a stage where they actually need Salesforce, they're thinking goes: Well, eventually this company will be so big, we'll have thousands of sales reps, and then we'll want to move to Salesforce anyway.

But what they're not considering how heavy a CRM that's "too big" can weigh on a small sales team. It's kind of like a college student taking on a mortgage for a 5 bedroom mansion because eventually he plans to live there as he grows older. 

7. What type of customer support can we expect?

It’s late on a sunny Friday afternoon and one of the most important workflows in your CRM breaks. You try to figure out what happened, but no dice—you’re stuck and you need to fix it ASAP.

Does your CRM have a support team ready and willing to help out?

Will they sink their teeth into your problem right away and get you up and running, or is it one of those “responds in 3–5 business days” situations?

Don’t underestimate the value of a great customer support team—otherwise you’ll be kicking yourself as soon as that “Thanks! See ya in 3–5 business days” confirmation email hits your inbox.

“The Close team has been a real partner in helping us get the most out of the Close CRM. We have had numerous business aspects that we've wanted to attack using Close, and they do a tremendous job of listening and coming up with solutions. For example, we needed help with our custom fields and data structure. They were quick to offer best practices that saved us a ton of time. We were working through how to use the bulk email sequences. They were at the ready walking me through some examples specific to our business. We needed to better integrate an electronic signature tool. They were my first call for recommendations. What I like the most, they have really gotten to know me and our business. I don't have to get them up to speed on what we do, just the particular issue we are trying to solve. If you've got business challenges in your sales organization that you are thinking through (and really, who doesn't!), these guys excel in understanding what you want to accomplish and proposing effective solutions.” - J.T. Allen, President and CEO, myFootpath

“The Close team has been a helpful resource to our team. As we leverage Close to manage our pipeline, they've worked closely with us to understand our business and ensure we get the most out of the CRM. Their expertise in Smart View optimization has offered clearer insights into lead funnel and faster follow-up. Further, their knowledge in integrating other tools through Zapier has brought great value to our team.” - Amanda Mullet, Sales Operations Manager, HomeLight

happy-customer-support

Now Over To You

All companies are not created equally. You have different goals, different processes, different ideas of what success looks like—so why would you go with a one-size-fits-all CRM without really doing your research?

Don’t find yourself regretting your CRM purchase three months in just because you didn’t ask the right questions before pulling the trigger.

Here’s a quick recap of the seven most important questions to ask before you choose a CRM:

  1. What is our #1 most important goal?
  2. What features are MUST-haves?
  3. How will we get our team to adopt the CRM?
  4. What tools does our CRM need to integrate with?
  5. What metrics will we track in our CRM?
  6. Will we outgrow this CRM at any point?
  7. What type of customer support can we expect?

Map out your goals, write down the features you need most and choose your key metrics before you start exploring the CRM landscape.

And if you want to jump in to give Close a try, start your 14-day free trial (no credit card required) today and see for yourself why thousands of salespeople around the world use Close to scale their sales process and convert more customers.

TRY CLOSE