How To Buy CRM Software Like a Pro

CRM can streamline your business operations like administrative, marketing, sales and customer service, and, in effect, increase your company’s productivity, efficiency, and the ultimate goal: profitability. Whether it’s keeping recurring customers or creating new ones, cutting workflow costs or turnaround time, addressing customer concerns, looking for market insights, or keeping everyone in the company on the same track, CRM software will help you achieve these goals.

But just as businesses vastly differ in size, operations, nature, and dynamics, so do CRM solutions. All of a sudden, choosing the right CRM software for your business is muddled with bells and whistles that are as fascinating as many of them may not fit your business. How to choose, then, the right CRM software?

It’s as simple as starting with these two questions that can at once narrow down your choice of vendors:

Do you need a CRM solution?

If you only have 1-3 employees running the show you probably won’t need CRM software. A contact management solution, one that helps you store and retrieve contact details plus calendar features, may be enough. However, many CRM vendors offer contact management as free entry-level module. Search for vendors that offer freemiums (with limited features unless you pay for more; not to be confused with free trial). If you anticipate doubling or tripling your business operations soon, now’s the time to have one foot inside CRM and a freemium, rather than a standalone contact management is better.

What do you need CRM for?

CRM solutions run the gamut of business operations as we’ve mentioned earlier. We all want to get the most out of a CRM solution, but ask yourself—what’s my priority goal for it? Automate the sales process? Improve response time of customer service? Qualify leads? Time track employee performance? Organize my contacts? Knowing your top priority makes it easier to see which CRM software match your priority spot on.

You now have a clearer idea how CRM fits your business; you can even shortlist the vendors with these questions:

  • Can I get a free trial?
  • Do I need an online solution (SaaS, cloud-hosted, web-based) or on-premise software hosted in my server?
  • How will I be charged? Monthly? Per user? Fixed one-time license fee?
  • Will the vendor help me install the system and how much help do I expect?
  • Can I call the vendor when I have technical problems?

The devil is in the details, so read on to understand more how CRM software are packaged, sold, and deployed. To help you buy the right one, let’s break down CRM software in three areas that you need to look at:

Main Functionalities

These are usually packaged as separate modules and sold as a bundled product or add-ons. These modules are the MAIN FEATURES, each one addressing a specific strategic business operation.

Analytics or Business Insight

The module helps you evaluate sales and marketing metrics by collating various data, such as, customer profiles, purchases, feedback, complaints, service turnarounds, etc., to look for trends or patterns and bottlenecks or opportunities, also called insights. Some of the common tools are:

  1. Custom Graphs and Charts – visualizes the insights based on customer, sales, and operational data through charts and graphs.
  2. Custom Reports – useful when you need to furnish documents to customers or employees with varying information requirements.
  3. Dashboards – helps you see the big picture—charts, graphs, document links, brief profiles, sales summaries, etc.—in one place. This is helpful when making a tactical decision on the spot.
  4. Pipeline Reports – Tracks lead processes and your sales staff’s performance
  5. Sales Forecasting – Helps you set monthly, quarterly, or annuals sales quotas or targets
  6. Sales Reports – Allows you to see if quotas are being met or not and why.
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Sales Automation

This module, often the main CRM feature, helps your sales staff become more efficient (that is, sell more) by helping them follow the right leads, collaborate closely, and fast track cumbersome administrative processes. Here are the common tools:

  1. Billing/Invoicing – Set pre-set invoices to auto bill your clients after closing deals
  2. Contact History – Keep tab of your interactions with each client
  3. Contact Management – Keep a record of customer profiles, notes, relevant files, past conversations, social media signals, etc. and consolidate these data in one place
  4. Contact Scheduler – Manage schedules to alert you of important meetings with customers, clients, suppliers, etc.
  5. Contract Management – Keep your contracts in one place
  6. Customer Database – a database of your customers’ information
  7. Lead Management – Helps discover profitable customers and calendar follow-ups
  8. Lead Tracking – keep tab of the status of your leads
  9. Quote Management – set auto conversion of quotes into sales orders and follow the status in every stage
  10. Territory Management – helps you identify, optimize and manage sales territories

Customer Service

One of the main features of CRM also, the module helps you address customer inquiries or concerns fast to close deals, manage expectations, or prevent issues Will Birmingham be run by trusts? Does fantasy hinder children’s rationality? Is Kirstie Allsopp right about having babies before university? The US online college cleared to take Iranian students Why arts students are complaining A snapshot of the private lives and politics of young US elite Julia Gillard says invest in education to tackle poverty How will the former England captain take to life in the Brazilian rainforest? Jack lives in a small village with his Ma and Daisy the cow. to escalate.

  1. Bug Tracking – alerts you to potential problems in your product or service so you can address it fast
  2. Call Center Management – Gives you integrated phone capabilities for inbound or outbound calls
  3. Case Management – Keeps a record of your customers’ issues, customer rep’s communications, and profile history to improve quality of case handling
  4. Customer Self Service Portal – Allows your customers to search answers, updates, or access knowledge base about your product or service by themselves
  5. Customer Service Integration – integrates a customer service feature into the CRM to help you monitor your staff’s interaction with customers
  6. Customer Support Tracking – Implement ticketing to track customer queries
  7. Knowledge Base – a content bank about your product or service, tips, solutions, FAQs, etc. to help customers find answers


This module, usually an add-on, aids you to improve daily business operations with the following tools:

  1. Multi-Currency – lets you bill global customers in their currency and get paid in your currency
  2. Multi-Language – lets you implement CRM in the language of your international teams to ensure clear communication between headquarters and its offices
  3. Time Tracking – Keep tab how long each customer rep spends with a client to manage customer acquisition cost for outbound, or manage customer concerns for inbound.


The sub-features can be sold as part of a module or an add-on to enhance a module’s main functionality. You can call them extra features that can spell the difference between two CRM software products with seemingly equal functionalities.

Productivity – tools that help your employees do their job faster and more accurately. Look for features like creating templates for processes and reports or web conferencing.

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Marketing – set your outreach campaigns in auto mode including email and SMS marketing and social media campaigns

Collaboration – tools that allow your diverse, dispersed teams to work closely together by sharing information either horizontally or vertically

Third-party integrations – allows your CRM to work with other popular productivity or management software or file formats that you may already be using or use in the future

Non-feature factors

These are not integral to how the CRM software performs, but are nevertheless critical to your buying decision.


The pricing model for CRM solutions can be as follows:

  • Fixed one-time licensing fee; you pay and that’s it (upgrades, add-ons, server, I.T. support staff excluded though). This is usually applied to on-premise CRM, that is, you buy the software and install it in your server/computer.
  • Subscription per month. The software is hosted by the vendor in the cloud and you’re given access as long you keep paying.
  • Subscription per user. The price depends on the number of employees using the software, whether it’s is installed in your server/computer or cloud-hosted by vendor.
  • Combination of two or all; you pay a minimal license fee then a monthly subscription per user


The CRM software can be installed in your server/computer or accessed via cloud (web) from the vendor’s server

  • On-premise/client-server means the software is either downloaded or bought as a CD and installed in your server/computer. The pros are you keep your data in your local computer and, often, on-premise CRM solutions have more robust features. But keeping your own server and an I.T. staff to manage it is expensive for small and medium businesses.

On-premise CRM is usually used by large enterprises with a full technical department.

  • SaaS (Sofware as a Service) is also called cloud-hosted or web-based CRM because the system is accessed through the Internet. The pros are you can access the system wherever there’s an Internet connection, and the initial costs are minimal because you don’t need a server and I.T. staff to use the system. But in turn you have to upload sensitive data in the vendor’s servers, that is, put your information outside the company. SaaS CRM is popular among small and medium businesses.


Whether it’s on-premise or SaaS CRM, your data needs protection from external (hackers) and internal (unauthorized employees) threats. These are the features to look for when assessing a CRM software product’s security:

  • Data Encryption – time-tested protection for sensitive data like credit card information and user-password credentials
  • Field-Level Security – allows the manager or authorized employee to put firewalls in specific fields that you don’t like other employees to see
  • Group Creation and Management – ability to create or disband groups, or add or remove members
  • Password Management  – gives you control over your staff’s passwords
  • Roles/Organizational Hierarchy – Assign roles and give permissions to authorized employees, while blocking unauthorized users
  • Security Admin Profiles  

A Final Note

Make sure that your vendor or an authorized reseller will help you install the CRM software or guide you on how to access the cloud system either via email, call, chat or knowledge base. Moreover, expect that glitches will happen, so go for a vendor with technical support, either offered as a separate subscription or inclusive in your CRM package.

Good luck!

Category: CRM Software

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