Markets are increasingly competitive, but software can help sales teams more effectively influence the buyer journey and close more deals. Customer service teams can leverage that same software to improve the client experience and increase their retention over the long term.
That’s the entire idea behind Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Today, CRM strategy is inherently reliant on these tools, which makes choosing the right software crucial to the corporate bottom line.
But, with dozens of software packages on the market today, how can you select the best CRM tools for your team to analyze and ultimately, select?
Characteristics of the Best CRM Tools
Your CRM strategy for selecting the right software should start with a discussion of your unique requirements for these tools. The functionality of the best CRM tools can vary significantly, so putting in the time upfront to roadmap features and departmental workflows will help you in your selection efforts. Consider these baseline questions:
- Why do you want the platform? What issues are you experiencing that necessitate the purchase?
- How and where will the platform be accessed and who will use it?
- What functionality will meet these requirements? How will the software collect and interpret prospect and customer data? How will you use that data?
Your CRM strategy ultimately should end with a recommendation for purchase. While it will likely be a complex and time-consuming decision to make, the best CRM tools have a number of characteristics in common that will allow you to weed out some of the lower-level competitors early on. Look for CRM software with robust interpretations of the following features:
Contact ManagementThe contact management features of your CRM should offer the ability to manage and synchronize your contacts efficiently by segmenting them into organized groups. This helps when automating prospect and customer marketing to aid you in closing more deals and retaining existing clients.
The contact management features should be transparent, allowing all client interactions to be visible across departments. You should easily be able to import your existing contact lists and have them sync with common third-party applications like Microsoft Office products as well as social media or other commonly used tools in your organization. This will give your teams the ability to know exactly what each department is doing with a customer at any given time.
Sales Opportunity ManagementA CRM should provide a way to quantify the sales funnel. Lead management and lead scoring methodologies are a standard CRM feature for the top platforms and can help your sales team target the right prospects and convert them to closed deals.
Dashboards and Reporting FeaturesModern CRM software should make use of business intelligence for dashboards and reporting. Data visualization tools help teams more easily forecast the likelihood of their next closed deal. Sales managers can provide corporate more accurate reporting and also use the software to improve the performance of their team. Cloud-based platforms offer end-users real-time reporting metrics and the ability to access these tools from any digital device. This shifts the entire organization in a more agile data-driven process that will have a positive impact on key business decisions — and your bottom line.
Mobile ResponsivenessOld school on-premise CRMs lacked the efficiency and convenience of today’s mobile business models. The best CRM platforms are fully responsive to mobile devices. Be sure to check the end-user experience on a variety of screens to ensure the CRM is fully ready for today’s mobile workforce.
AutomationHave you read the latest studies showing sales teams spend almost 65% of their time on activities that don’t generate any revenue? CRM platforms can take the busywork out of sales workflows by automating many of the sales processes that are holding your teams back. This can include outgoing emails, data organization, and marketing campaigns. Automating these tasks means your sales team spends their time actually selling. Data collection, data analysis, and even marketing campaigns can also automate, eliminating inefficiencies across departments. The best CRM tools were designed with this in mind.
Workflow ApprovalsSpeaking of automation, the best CRM tools create workflow approvals that push documents across the chain of command. Instead of having sales reps monitoring contract language or pushing for management signatures, workflow automation handles the process.
Data and KPI TrackingEstablishing and meeting key performance indicators (KPI) is a crucial part of developing a high-functioning and streamlined organization. One of the best features of modern CRM platforms is their ability to organize data into palatable bite-size pieces that serve as actionable insight for everyone in the organization. Quantifying and tracking KPIs is easier with a CRM and can help you spot red flags that must be managed in order to improve.
File StorageSecure yet accessible file storage is crucial for customer management software. To maximize the usefulness of client data, it must be stored but organized in a way that it’s easy to find. Look for CRM tools that use machine learning to make search and storage features more intuitive. If your CRM is in the cloud (we recommend this), file backup is automatic and constant to protect critical business data and prevent losses and security breaches.
Role-Based ViewsThe best CRM tools offer the added security of role-based administrative restrictions that tie access to the employee’s job description or role in the organization. This is an important way to mitigate the risk of data leaks (internal or external) or hacker intrusion. Look for CRM software that allows you to manage your employee’s activities based on corporate priorities to keep your customer data safe.
When you’re ready to develop your CRM strategy, talk with the team at IES. We use Microsoft software to help sales, marketing, operations, and customer service improve their efficiency and become high functioning organizations. Our team is standing by to demo our excellent line of Microsoft products, including Dynamics 365 for Sales, one of the most sophisticated yet easy-to-use CRM platforms on the market today. If you’re ready to consider what we believe is the best CRM tool on the market today, contact us for a demo of the Microsoft CRM.