What CRM Features are a Must for Your Business?

Do you know what features your CRM tool should have in order to help make your business run smoothly?
January 19, 2022
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Customer Resource Management is crucial to every growing business. With such a tool you can improve efficiency and customer retention, enjoy greater customer satisfaction, increase sales productivity, and be better prepared for forecasting and reporting. Although these elements might not be terribly important to a small startup, in order to effectively compete with other businesses in your sector, you’ll need every bit of help you can get.

That’s where the CRM tool comes in handy. CRMs are all about helping you effectively manage all aspects of customer relationships. Beyond simple data, it’s about simplifying and empowering the interactions between your staff and customers in such a way to help make your business grow faster and more reliably.

If your company is still depending on spreadsheets to better wrangle this data, it’s time you step up to the world of CRM. With a good CRM, you can take hundreds (or thousands) of spreadsheets and migrate them into a single, powerful system that is better capable of using data to your advantage.

But what features should you look for in a CRM? Let’s dive in and find out.

Types of Available CRMs

Before we get into the features you’ll want to look for, you might need to know what types of CRMs are available. Let’s figure this out.

Hosted Services

The first type of CRM is one of the most widely used and is hosted by a third party. These tend to be incredibly powerful tools with tons of features and are hosted on scalable platforms that can grow as you need. Hosted CRMs include Salesforce, Zoho, Agile, HubSpot, PipeDrive, and Insightly. 

One big benefit of the hosted solution is that the third party does everything for you, from hardware management, storage, networking, everything. All you do is configure the system for your company and get to work. 

The downfall of the hosted option is the cost. If you’re a small business on a tight budget, the hosted option might be too much.

Open-Source

Another option is to go with an on-premises, open-source solution. Although these tools might not offer all the bells and whistles of a hosted option, they are considerably cheaper and you can rest assured your data isn’t being shared with anyone.

Although much more cost-effective than the hosted option, the open-source path does come with a bit steeper of a learning curve. You’ll need the IT staff to install and maintain the deployed solution.

Custom CRM

Finally, there’s the custom CRM solution. This would be designed and developed either in-house or by an outsourced development company. The biggest benefit of this type is that it is custom-built to your exact specifications. The downfall is that it will probably have a much larger up-front cost than the other two options. On the plus side, once you’ve paid for it, it’s yours.

Must-Have CRM Features

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the features you’ll want for your business.

Contact Management

This is probably the single most important feature for your CRM. However, don’t think of this as a simple contacts tool (like you might find on your mobile device or MS Outlook). CRM Contact management is so much more than just names, email addresses, phone numbers, and birthdays. 

CRM Contact Management is all about relationships. This means it can save a wider range of business data, which includes various interactions (such as those for B2B), activity tracking (to organize sales and marketing), and in-depth analytics and reporting on contacts. 

These types of multi-point interactions make it much easier for your sales and PR staff to track the interconnectedness of clients, customers, staff, and suppliers.

Content Management

Your business relies on content. This can be in the form of materials you send out to clients, internal documentation, web content, emails, whitepapers, and forms. You don’t want to have all of that content saved on various servers and desktops because that would be a logistical nightmare.

Instead, you’re going to want a CRM that includes a built-in CMS feature, so you can manage that ever-growing trove of documents in one, convenient location.

Automation

You need automation and a good CRM tool will include features that make it possible to automate at least some of the workflow. With solid automation, your sales and PR people can be automatically updated as something changes in a relationship (such as a customer purchasing a product). 

Automation makes just about every facet of the CRM platform more efficient and reliable. Without automation, you’re going to have to depend on staff to constantly monitor every step in the pipeline. Given how busy your employees already are, that’s a big ask. Let automation handle much of this.

Dashboards

Observability is key. Your staff is going to need to have an at-a-glance, real-time dashboard so they can see where things stand. Even better, you’re going to want a CRM tool that makes it possible for your admins and your users to create customizable dashboards, so users only see what they need to see.

Sales Pipeline

A sales pipeline offers a snapshot of where prospects stand at any given point of the process. These pipelines keep you apprised of how many deals sales and PR staff should expect to close during a period (week, month, quarter, or year) and how close those staff members are to reaching sales quotas (if applicable). 

This is an important feature that allows those in control of the process to keep tabs on how everything is progressing (or not).

Reporting

Reporting is vastly important and should not be overlooked. With great reporting, you can know exactly what’s going on with your business, how the staff is performing, how sales are going, what areas have become problematic, and if your company will meet any given goal for a period.

Reporting should be highly customizable and user-friendly. A good CRM tool makes it very easy for anyone to build a report on data either housed within the system or imported from another source.

Task Management

Finally, task management should be considered a must for any quality CRM. Your users need to be able to manage that deluge of tasks they’ve been handed. Some CRM tools include project management features, such as Kanban boards. Those are the types of CRMs you want to look for.

Consider this: Task management might be fairly simple when you’re looking at a single user who only has to keep track of a few tasks a day. But when you’re looking at dozens or even hundreds of users with a growing mountain of tasks to manage, your CRM tool better is equipped to handle such serious demand. 

Without a high-quality task management feature, you might as well not even bother with a CRM, as all the other tools available to the platform will be rendered useless as your sales and PR teams become buried in the management of tasks.

Conclusion

This should be thought of as a baseline list of features you should look for in a good CRM tool. You shouldn’t have any problem finding an off-the-shelf CRM that offers all of these options. If, however, the CRM you’re currently looking at fails at any one of these items, move on to the next option. You might have to pay a bit more to gain each of these features but, in the long run, it’ll be worth every penny.

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