6 steps to choosing the right CRM

6 steps to choosing the right CRM

Posted on
May 6, 2022

Step 1: Set objectives for new software

Before you start thinking about which software to buy, you need to know what problems you want it to solve.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you work out why you’re buying it and what you want it to achieve.

What do I want the software to do?

Consider your business goals and how new technology can help you achieve them.

Knowing exactly what you’re looking for will give you a clearer idea of what software you need, and the features it should include. If you think about your three main pain points, there’s bound to be technology out there to address them.

For example:

  • You may get a good volume of visitors to your website, but could you increase sales by using e-Commerce software that lets them buy directly from you?
  • Do you want to maximise sales opportunities? Maybe productivity and sales are strong – but you want to track them better to understand where there are dips.
  • Do you want easier ways for your teams, who are based in locations across the UK, to share information and work on documents together?
  • Do you want to coordinate your communications with customers? It could be that Customer Relationship Software (CRM) software will mean you can offer a better, more streamlined customer experience.
  • Perhaps you want your business to work more efficiently. Do you have various processes on different systems (such as customer orders, stock-level data and delivery details)? Would replacing them with one, more efficient set-up save time and help make sure you always meet your delivery deadlines?
  • Do you want to automate tasks such as reporting and invoicing, sort payroll, file tax returns more easily, and match transactions to your accounts with one click?

Set yourself some measurable goals that will make your business more efficient, or reduce the burden on you, then explore how software is likely to help you achieve it.

What’s worked and what hasn’t with software I’ve used before?

Have you tried software in the past? Did it help you achieve your goals?

If not, think about why it didn’t work to help you avoid having the same issues again. What barriers did you come across last time that you wouldn’t want to repeat? Keep this in mind when looking at the features new software could offer.

For example, perhaps the tech you’ve introduced before didn’t integrate well with your other systems, which meant it caused as many problems as it solved. Or perhaps your team didn’t use it as you expected them to because they couldn’t access the right training. Now’s the time to learn from past experiences.

Whether you’ve had problems with installation, implementation or adoption of new technology in the past, these are important factors to plan now.

You’ll need to work out how much you can do in-house and where you might need some extra support. This could include:

  • Who will install the new software? Will the software company support you in this or will you need to do it yourself? If, for example, you’ve struggled to transfer data from old systems onto new ones in the past, perhaps you’ll want more external support this time.
  • Will you need any help with training your team? How many people need training, and will it be different for some job roles? If you have staff based in various locations, would online rather than face-to-face training be more practical?
  • Are there people in your business who could champion the change and support those who need more help?

These might seem like big considerations for early in the process. But understanding the pros and cons of previous software you’ve used will help you to identify how much time, effort and money you need to reach the objective you’re now setting.

Is there anything else I need to think about at this stage?

Now you’ve got a clearer idea of what you want to achieve – and if you’ve used tech before, the pitfalls to avoid – take one last look at any other obstacles you might face.

These could be things like:

  • Would integrating new software cause issues that might affect your ability to trade until they’re sorted, or reduce productivity?
  • Will you be introducing new ways of working or services? Could delays in setting them up affect your customers?
  • How will the new software work throughout your business? Will you install the software all in one go, or in stages?

Step 2: Write your requirements list

Once you have a clear idea of what you want software to achieve, you can start drawing up a list of the features and functionality you need it to have.

Use the checklist to draw up a list

As there’s lots of information about different software products out there, creating a shopping list will help you compare different options and make it easier to decide which one is right for your business.

Having your shopping list to hand will also help when you start talking to suppliers about what you need and which product is right for you.

We’ve created a downloadable checklist so you can draw up your shopping list – it breaks the process down into 5 stages. This helps you to consider everything that’s needed before deciding on which product suits you.

Each section includes questions to encourage you to think about all the scenarios you might face when implementing new technology.

The 5 stages included in the checklist are:

Your budget and the software features you want
Starting with what problems you want the software to fix and the features it must have, this section covers what budget you’ve set aside for it – and the plans you’ve made for ongoing and unexpected costs. We cover this in step 3 Calculate your software budget – so you can always come back to this.

Your team and customers
This section focuses on the impact new software will have on your team, customers and business. It also considers what training you’ll need to provide to make sure that everyone is able to fully adopt the new tech.

About the software
This section invites you to think about how the software needs to work; how many people will use it, the features you need, and compatibility with other technology you’re using.

Security
These questions reflect on your existing level of cyber security and whether you need extra measures for protecting your business and customer data when implementing new software.

Support and roll-out
Lastly, this section looks at the level of help you’ll need when installing and implementing your new software. This covers extra costs you may need to factor into your budget, such as for maintenance and ongoing IT support.

Download your Shopping List Checklist (PDF 296KB)

Step 3: Calculate your software budget

Budgeting for new software goes beyond what you can spend on it. New tech must also meet your business needs for your team to successfully implement it and give you value for money.

We’ve created two checklists to help you understand the potential financial benefits and savings, plus the financial costs, you need to consider before deciding which software product you want to spend your money on.


Don’t forget to think about the medium and long-term costs, as well as your initial spend. This will help you decide if this is an investment you can, and want to, commit to.

By drawing up a budget you’ll avoid getting surprised by extra costs after you’ve committed to buy your chosen product.

Consider all the costs

The costs for new software aren’t always limited to the initial price you pay for access to the technology itself.

It can include additional services offered by the supplier, as well as getting your team trained to use the new system.

Additional costs from the supplier could include:

Initial set-up costs:

  • Licence fees
  • Installation
  • Training
  • Compliance (such as GDPR and health & safety)
  • Project management
  • Consultancy fees and paid-for advice

Ongoing costs:

  • Software licence renewals and upgrades
  • Cloud service subscriptions
  • Hardware leasing
  • Upgrades
  • Maintenance
  • IT support

Many software suppliers also include different payment options, such as monthly or annual subscriptions, one-off payments or pay-per-licence.

Monthly subscriptions are a great way to go beyond an initial free trial to test a product and see if you like it. This gives you more time to try out features using your real business data. And you can cancel the following month if it’s not right for you.

Annual subscriptions are often cheaper, but they will tie you to the product for longer. This could mean that you lose any cost benefit if it turns out the software isn’t a good match to your business.

Are you considering software that’s pay-per-licence? If so, be realistic about how many people will need to use this tech regularly, and factor that into your cost calculations.

Download your Software Costs Checklist (PDF 184KB)

Consider the benefits and savings

This section considers the potential return you’d get on your investment from new software.

The downloadable Software Benefits and Savings Checklist (PDF 181KB) will help you calculate the benefits, potential cost savings and hours saved per week you’d get from investing in software. It covers these main areas:

  • Staff – freeing up time so your team can carry out tasks that help to increase the business’ performance, productivity and efficiency.
  • Quality – spending less time checking things and correcting mistakes.
  • Customers – improving service levels, leading to higher customer satisfaction.
  • Sales – increasing sales and generating more new business leads.

Example of assessing costs versus benefits

Imagine someone in your team makes a mistake inputting customer data on a spreadsheet. This results in emails about a promotion campaign not reaching that customer until someone has found the problem and manually fixed it.

What are the costs to your business? Would your business miss sales opportunities until someone corrects the mistake? Are there labour costs associated with fixing the mistake, plus a manual check that there aren’t more errors of the same nature in your mailing list?

Perhaps you want to adopt a software that automatically checks the format of email addresses, and centrally stores customer data. That way, potential errors are highlighted in the system. Plus, as more members of the team are likely to see it regularly, any mistakes are more likely to be spotted sooner.

Assessing how many staff hours are spent on admin-heavy tasks like this, versus the cost of the software, is an example of weighing benefit savings against cost.

Step 4: Buy software with confidence

Once you know what you can spend on software, it’s time to talk to suppliers, get quotes and trial some products.

Understanding exactly what each supplier’s products offer is vital to ensure you buy the one that best suits your business needs.

If the technology is entirely new to you and you have contacts in your industry, talking to them can be a great place to start. If they’ve bought similar software before, they may be able to tell you about their experiences – both the challenges and successes.

Always do your own research and try to use a broad set of resources to get a more accurate idea of the software you’re considering investing in.

To help you stay focused on what you’re looking for, check back to Step 1 Set objectives for new software and your checklists from Step 3 Calculate your software budget.

When you’re ready to start talking to suppliers, following our 4 steps below will help guide the questions you ask.

1. Fully explain your needs and budget

  • Tell them exactly what you need from the software. They’ll help you confirm which product best suits your needs, based on your budget.
  • Check they understand your business needs. The right supplier will understand your specific needs, and how their product can offer practical solutions.
  • Can the software be adapted to suit your needs if necessary? Find out what their software can and can’t do for your business. Can it be tailored to suit your business operations? If so, find out what the costs would be.

2. Get quotes and identify all software costs 

Get a quote from each supplier. This will give you a more accurate idea of what you’ll need to pay, rather than relying on what’s on their website.

Pricing can be confusing, so it’s essential that you understand what you’re paying for. For example, there may be an initial one-off payment, subscriptions (such as monthly or annual), and perhaps set-up fees to consider. Suppliers also often offer add-ons that cost extra – before you pay, make sure that you need the extra features.

3. Trial the product

Trialling software before you commit to buying is a good way to understand how the product will work for your business. And it means that your team can give you valuable feedback. Trying out the technology may answer some of your questions too, such as exactly how many people will need to use it.

Make sure you:

  • Test the right product. If you’re interested in buying the basic version, make sure you don’t trial the premium option. This avoids you getting used to functionality that wouldn’t be available in the version you’re considering.
  • Get feedback from your team. Test the system using your business’ data and find out from your team what they like and don’t like about it.
  • Understand how suppliers can support implementation. It’s worth getting an idea at this stage what support and training the supplier can offer, to help with installation, integration and training your team on the new software.

4. Final questions before you buy

Based on all the information you now have, it’s time to ask yourself a few final questions before committing – to make sure you’re making the right choice in terms of features and value for money.

Here are some things to consider based on the information you have from the supplier:

  • Are you happy with the agreed payment term? Whether it’s annual, monthly or a one-off payment.
  • Have you read the fine print on any package deals on offer? Make sure you only pay for what you need. For example, licences may offer support packages and extra features – but do you need them?
  • If software extras and add-ons are at a discounted price, how long is the discount for? Consider whether they’re worth the full price. If not, avoid being tempted by a bargain.
  • Are you buying a basic package now, with a view to perhaps upgrading to a premium version in future? If so, check the terms of the contract and what the costs would be to do this.
  • Is the software scalable? Does it provide your business room to grow over time?
  • What (if any) IT support is included with the software licence? Is support offered outside normal office hours, 7 days a week? How long are response times? Is support offered via phone, email or in person?
  • If other support is included as standard, what exactly will this be? For example, it could be:
    - installation and configuration
    - integration with other software or systems
    - user manuals and workshops
  • Can you haggle a better deal than what they’re offering? This could include the supplier waiving set-up charges, for example, or including free installation support.

Step 5: Making new software work for your team

There are lots of potential challenges when introducing new technology into your business. Here are some tips to help ensure that getting buy-in from your team isn’t one of them.

New software might improve processes and bring huge benefits to your business, but there may initially be some resistance from your team. Change can be challenging. And not everyone in a workplace embraces change, especially if they feel that the current way of working is fine as it is. Others may feel that their jobs are being threatened.

Involve your team from the start

It’s important to get everyone involved at the earliest possible stage. Ask them for their feedback via a questionnaire. Get their views about the existing systems and processes, and find out what they think works and what doesn’t.

Champion the benefits

Highlight to your team the benefits of the new technology. For example, it might simplify and speed up some of their tasks – such as automatic data generation. If they’re looking for the same benefits as you, they’re more likely to support the new technology.

Communication is key

Good communication and training can also help remove that uncomfortable feeling of the unknown. This will help empower your team to adopt the new software more successfully.

Make it clear that your team is vital to the software’s success. If they embrace and fully adopt it, it’s more likely to deliver the benefits it promises.

We’ve created a downloadable checklist to help you make sure that you’ve asked yourself all the questions you need to.

Each of the 5 sections in the checklist includes questions that cover all aspects of implementing new technology successfully:

1. Understand your team
This section focuses on who in your team the new software will affect and how. It also invites you to consider the levels of training needed.

2. Prepare your message
Plan how you’ll showcase the new software. As part of communicating the change to your team, highlight the benefits it will bring. Remember, the earlier you get everyone involved, the more likely they are to support it.

3. Schedule training
The questions in this section consider how you’ll organise training. Whether this will be delivered in-house or by a supplier, and your plans for the longer term.

4. Implementation and integration
This section is designed to help you arrange moving all your data from the old system onto the new software. For example, who’ll be doing it and what time and resources they may need.

5. Going live
Finally, this section highlights all the details you need to consider for a successful and stress-free launch day.

Download your Introducing Software Checklist (PDF 261KB)

Step 6: Get your money’s worth

With your new software in place, it’s time to review whether it’s achieving everything you wanted it to, or whether it needs improvements.

This involves going back to what you wanted the new technology to achieve - and comparing it with the benefits you’re seeing now.

Does the software do what you want it to?

Revisit the goals you set in step 1 Set your objectives for new software, plus your Shopping List Checklist from step 2 and Introducing Software Checklist from step 5.

With the technology in place, you can now compare these lists with how the software is working. How well has it integrated with your business’ other systems and processes? Is it working how you expected it to?

Complete these reviews each month in the first six months, then quarterly.

Is the software working for your team?

It’s important to get your team involved in the review process. Aim to do this 2 months after the software has been implemented. Then again 6 months after implementation.

This will give you valuable feedback and answer many questions around whether it’s working how you expected it to. If so, that’s great. If not, holding a ‘lessons learned’ workshop with your team will help you find out why. It will be an opportunity to:

  • Share knowledge and views
  • Raise any issues
  • Identify if more support or training is needed
  • Review the implementation process
  • Identify what went well and what could have gone better
  • See if the new software has had a positive impact on your business
  • Raise any surprising benefits or unexpected disappointments – this will help when it comes to upgrading or renewing your software.

Useful questions to ask in this session include:

  • Is everyone who should be using the new system doing so?
  • Is the software user friendly?
  • Is everyone comfortable using it? 
  • Are they using it the way you intended? 
  • Do some team members still prefer the old system?  If so, why? Are there changes you can make to the new system to address this?
  • Are you able to contact support services quickly and easily? Do you need more support?
  • What impact has the new software had on the team? Has anyone’s role changed significantly – whether for better or worse? 
  • Are there any issues? For example, skills shortages that you hadn’t been aware of?

Are you getting value for money?

Does the software have all the features you wanted from it? Are you getting all the benefits it promised? Check it against your shopping list to make sure you have all the requirements you need.

Or have the costs crept up? If so, are you paying for features that you needed initially but don’t now? Or are you paying for extras you expected to need but don’t?

This review process is an opportunity to make sure you’re getting the best possible price. For example, if you’re happy with the technology, look into whether changing your subscription plan would be cheaper. Committing for a longer time is likely to be cheaper; you might want to switch from a monthly to an annual subscription.

What if the software isn’t working for you? Does it need a little more time for people to get used to it? Or isn’t it achieving what you want it to? Talk to the supplier about any issues you’ve got. They may have some ideas for solutions.

If that’s not successful, see if you can cancel or change the product to something more suitable.

Only by thoroughly reviewing how your new software is working for you and the team, will you know how successful your purchase has been.

This article was originally published at Help to the Grow: Digital and has been reproduced here under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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