Picking the right CRM software is no small task.

Because the CRM you choose will be a vital part of your sales, marketing, and operations, it’s critical you make the best choice with all the information you can find.

Every company has goals and challenges, and the better you understand exactly how you operate today and what your vision of the future is, the easier you can implement CRM into your business. There are many aspects to a CRM, so you need to define your requirements and find the best CRM vendor to match those requirements.

We accompany you to develop CRM decision-making tools and get access to the
resources available to help you make the best decision. It’s important to remember that one size does not fit all. There’s a reason the CRM software market has so many vendors; you get to benefit from that diversity and pick something that works for you.

Implementing a CRM solution takes everyone in your company to be onboard. While you’re considering solutions, it’s a good time to get trusted employees’ opinions on which features are important and even to help make a final decision.

The first choice you have to make in your CRM decision is whether you want your software to live in the cloud or reside on servers in your office. For most businesses, choosing a cloud service, or Software as a Service (SaaS), makes the most sense for a number of reasons. If you really must go on-premise, be aware of the costs and risks of doing so before you head down that path.

Going with SaaS
There are a lot of good reasons why you want to go with a vendor that provides Software as a Service. It’s what I (and most people in this industry) recommend for any business that doesn’t have legal or security requirements to keep servers in an office.

The advantages are:

Easy to start: With Saas, you can instantly provision your account. Vendors are set up so that the account creation process is just a matter of signing up online and paying for a subscription. The account creation process usually
takes a few minutes.

Easy to upgrade: Good SaaS providers design their networks so that upgrades are fast and painless. Most of the time, upgrades to your software happen automatically. If something significantly affects the way you see or use the system, the vendor may send you an alert or a newsletter, but the
process should be fast and easy.

Easy to access: When software natively resides in the cloud, it’s available from anywhere. If your salespeople are on the road, they can update contact records and record meetings. If you have people working from home, they can still be productive. If your managers are traveling, they can still see what’s happening with the business.

With SaaS, it’s not all about the advantages. When you can access your data from anywhere, it’s important you know exactly who can access what. You want to make sure your data can’t be exported without your explicit consent. Any upgrades to your software are also likely to be on the vendor’s schedule, and not yours.

Look at the vendor’s website. If it’s easy to navigate and find the information you’re looking for, most likely the software is also easy to use. If the website doesn’t tell you a lot about the company and its software, ask yourself why. You should be able to see screenshots of the software, get a sense of the company’s mission, and feel the cultural dedication to customer satisfaction. You can learn a lot from your first interactions with the people you talk to. High-pressure, boiler-room sales techniques turn a lot of people off, and if you feel uncomfortable talking to someone who is trying to force you to make a quick decision, listen to your instincts. Oftentimes, companies with high-pressure sales environments are driven more by revenue than customer satisfaction. Demand to be more than a number, and make sure the company’s sales and customer service teams understand you and what you need.

You should be able to get a trial account as part of the sales process. Click around and get a feel for the user interface, its speed, educational resources, and reach out to customer service and see how quickly and accurately they respond. If you feel uncomfortable about anything in the trial phase, it’s probably a sign of things to come if you sign up with that vendor. On the other hand, if you feel like the people at that company genuinely care about your experience, it’s probably something that pervades the CRM vendor’s culture.

Finding reviews that matter

Reviews can be a tricky thing. Reading reviews about software companies can be
similar to reading Yelp reviews about restaurants. Sometimes negative reviews are the result of unhappy customers who don’t know what they’re doing and are looking to blame the vendor. Sometimes reviews are written by people with unrealistic expectations.

Sometimes reviews are totally bogus (both good and bad). A software vendor can only be expected to do so much, so take those reviews in context and place much higher value when the review calls out specific advantages, disadvantages, and experiences with that vendor. If you see a general positive trend from reviews, there’s a good chance those reviews will reflect your experience with the vendor’s sales process. If you see a disconnect between what you’re experiencing and what others are experiencing. ask yourself why that might be happening. Are you setting unrealistic expectations? Have you done your homework so you know what questions to ask?

Setup: Some CRM companies charge an initial upfront cost associated with creating your account. Sometimes this setup cost is to make you feel vested in buying the software so you don’t leave. Most companies with setup costs include training and/or strategic consulting, so you’re getting value from the beginning.

Integration: If you’re buying a CRM that doesn’t include everything you need, you also need to buy third-party software and connect it to your CRM. That software likely also has subscription costs, and you also have to pay for integration, Automated integration.

Training: Every CRM requires some training to understand how to best use it. Look at hourly rates and find out how many hours it should take to onboard your team.

Support: If you or your team have questions, it should be easy to get help. If you have to pay extra for email, phone, or live chat access to support, make sure you factor that in.

Custom setup: If you want help setting up your CRM, there may be costs. Find out what is included in the definition of “support.”

Creative: If you need creative work done, such as designing an email template, building a landing page, or posting a lead capture form, there should be a given hourly rate, along with estimates for doing each.

Usage: Most CRM platforms charge on a sliding scale with your usage of the platform. These costs may be passed on to you as incremental costs for emails sent, website visits tracked, transactions processed, or text messages sent and received.

Access: If you want to use different parts of the CRM and its capabilities, there may be additional costs. Be sure to think through everything you want to use your CRM for and build in access to all the functions you need. Take all these into consideration when you’re looking at costs for your new CRM. If you’re presented with an overly complicated cost schedule, or one that is ambiguous and undefined, be skeptical.

The high cost of integrating external software is one big reason to clearly define your CRM requirements before you look for a software vendor. The CRM has capability included in every account, but you might need specific functions outside the scope of the software. If you need external software to plug into a CRM, hire a system integrator to help with making those connections. These companies come in all shapes and sizes, with vastly different recommendations and experiences. An integrator manages the entire process of piecing different software together to make all the software components of the CRM system work together.


Any requirements that you have that are not included in the CRM require selecting and managing the integration process. If you aren’t experienced with this process, you may find it to be a significant drain on your time and budget. Software developers and companies have a wide range of skills, both in development and management. A conservative rule for budgeting software development is to plan on it
three times the original estimate, both in time and cost.

Picking the right system integrator is just as important as picking the right CRM. Carefully evaluate how you intend to manage the integration between your CRM and any external software you need to connect it with. System integrators must have the same depth of understanding of your requirements and how everyone in your team will use the other software systems. The system integrator has to
know how your team uses the software, the data that is generated, and where that data must go.

Every successful CRM implementation requires an understanding of what is needed and where the information flows. This understanding is needed regardless of whether you’re integrating existing, legacy software or if you’re purchasing new software that must plug into your CRM. Be sure to have these requirements and processes defined before you pick your CRM, as your system integrator must be comfortable working with all the software platforms involved.

Assessing service and support options CRM, like your business, has a lot of moving parts. You don’t want to go through it alone, and fortunately, good CRM companies have people who can help.

The big question is, how easy and expensive is it to find that help?

Help from a CRM vendor should be available in a myriad of channels, so you want to know what is available to you, and what is included in your subscription. Determining your need for outside assistance if you don’t have any experience designing, implementing, or even using a CRM, it may make sense to hire help. If your budget allows it, hiring an expert or two could save you thousands of dollars or hours in the future. On the other hand, if you’re reasonably business savvy and have the time set aside to work on your CRM, you may be able to do everything you need with only the help of the CRM vendor. The likelihood of requiring external help also depends on the CRM platform. A complex platform that requires a lot of external integration demands more expertise, both technical and strategic. The first step in potentially hiring a consultant is to see whether you actually need one in the first place. Assess your team’s experience and desire to work with the CRM vendor to implement your CRM.

The next step is to examine the onboarding process with the CRM software vendor. Depending on how complex your requirements are, how easy it is to set up the CRM, and how much external integration you need, you may not need a consultant. Your staff and the vendor’s training team should have this meaningful conversation.

If you determine you need someone to help you with your CRM, be rigorous about finding a good consultant. This person or team should be able to facilitate discussions with your staff, help you define your processes, and set up all the components of your CRM. You and your team must trust anyone helping you to have the experience and good intentions to guide you through a potentially big change in the way you do business.

Install, customize, and make it yours.