Choosing the Best CRM System

Choosing the best CRM system may be daunting. There are hundreds of systems on the market with huge difference in pricing, functionality and ease of use. We have compared more than 35 most popular CRM systems, and keep adding more. Below you will find description of some key CRM characteristics that we recommend paying attention too. We have also developed a CRM Needs Assessment survey, please fill it in and we will send you our basic free recommendation report, that will include 3 systems that are likely to fit your needs best. We also offer and more exhaustive report that take into consideration more factors and also include a 30 min phone discovery session at the cost of $75. You can request it upon survey completion.

1. Universal VS Industry Specific CRM

All CRM systems can be devided into two broad categories: Universal and Industry Specific.

Universal CRM systems are design to fit any industry. They offer a lot of customization options, so that you can tailor them to your business process. Some of the popular universal CRMs are SalesForce, Zoho CRM, Copper, Base CRM, and more. Since 85% of CRM functionality is very similar across different industries, majority of CRM systems are universal. If you are building a system, it makes sense to expand to other areas to increase your potential market. The challenge with universal systems is that you need to spend time and resources to customize them to your needs, and in some cases some functionality unique to your industry might be missing. Universal systems usually provide a set of tools to build additional functionality, but that again requires time and resources, and is harder to maintain. Universal systems, are usually cheaper, since they have larger markets, and you are also expected to do some customization. These systems are a great fit for companies that don’t have their sales process fully defined yet, business that need more flexibility and have unique process that are different from standard practices in their industry (industry specific systems might not work for them), and larger organizations that require more control and flexibility and have resources to customize their CRM.

Industry Specific CRM systems focus on particular industry. They are designed to match a unique sales process of their industry. They offer some customization, but it is usually much more limited than the customization offered by universal systems. As a result you will be limited to functionality offered by the system, and will need to rely on CRM provider to add functionality that you might need. Some companies may be flexible in accommodating requests of their clients, but they will prioritize those that are more standard across the industry and this can be used by many clients. Industry specific systems are also usually more expensive than universal systems. If you work in the industry that has very specific sales process, and your company does not deviate much from that process, industry specific CRM might be a better choice, especially if customizing a universal systems would be very expensive. At the same time, if you have developed unique sales and delivery process for your business to gain competitive advantage, industry specific system might bot not for you, as it will limit you in your flexibility and functionality.

Each system type has benefits and drawbacks, you will need to balance both before choosing your CRM.

Universal

  • Highly Customizable

  • More Innovative

  • More Integratable

  • Investment to Customize

  • Lack of Industry-Specific Functionality

Industry Specific

  • Fit your industry process out of the box

  • Minimal customization expenses

  • Limited customization

  • Less innovative

Multi-Purpose Platform VS Single Function

Another way to group CRM systems is by the scope of their functionality: Multi vs Single Function

Multi-Function CRM systems can do a lot of different things. These systems are also called platforms. They are usually designed of multiple single-function modules that are integrated together. In addition to traditional CRM functionality, like lead management, sales pipeline tracking and forecasting, these systems also may offer many additional features: invoicing, project management, email campaign management, accounting, help-desk, website builder etc. The functionality is very different from platform to platform. The benefit of using one such platform is that you are getting integrated solution to manage all (or almost all) of your business process in one place. Using one platform is also most of the time more cost effective, since paying separately for accounting tool, campaign management, and website, will end up costing more than paying for a tool that does it all. However, these benefits come at a cost. Platforms that do many different things, usually do not excel at any. So in many case you will get tools that are not as advanced as those offered by companies that focus only on one area. In addition you are being locked into the platform. If you use many different tools, it is relatively easy to change one of them if you find a better alternative. However if you use all of the tools within one platform switching will be much harder.

Single-Function CRM systems focus only on core CRM functionality. These tools don’t try to do everything, instead they rely on other vendors to supplement their functionality and simply develop good integrations. These systems usually are easier to use, and offer new innovative functionality. However, the cost of using multiple systems tends to be higher than the cost of a platform solution. In addition, setting up all the integrations may be cumbersome. You also end up with having to deal with multiple vendors instead of one. We have spent hours trying to figure the source of integration problems between different tools, and you often end up with vendors pointing fingers at each other. With a platform solution it is at least clear where the problem is and who should be fixing it. In addition, single function CRMs are often times newer companies. As company grows, it adds more and more functionality to it’s product, and eventually may turn into platform solution. So it is important to make sure that when selecting a single-function CRM, you are getting the benefits of focus, and not simply a mediocre solution that a provider simply didn’t have time to develop into a platform.

Multi-Function

  • Cost effective

  • Manage all aspects of your business in one place

  • Single vendor to deal with

  • Lack in excellence

  • More complex and harder to use

Single-Function

  • More innovative

  • Simpler and easier to use

  • Using multiple systems is usually more expensive

  • Integrations between independent systems tend to be less reliable

User Interface (UI)

User Interface (UI) is how you and your team interact with a system. Two CRMs with identical functionality can have drastically different User Interface. A good UI can make using CRM pleasant and exciting, while poor UI can make experience very frustrating. It is critical that UI is intuitive, so that you and your team can start using a system with minimal or no training. In addition a good UI is organized around your tasks, it shows relevant information when you need it and also provides a quick action buttons that allow perform tasks quickly. It is also important that UI follows general trends in the industry, and applies similar visual language as other tools. Modern UIs are similar to one another, so when you use one tool you can switch to another and be comfortable right away. Great UI not only makes using a systems pleasant it also indicates that CRM provider is focusing on the user, i.e. you, which is critical. Another important characteristic to pay attention to is UI flexibility. Some CRM systems allow you to customize UI, so that you can determine what information is shown and which one is hidden. Such flexibility saves time when working with records.

We group CRM UIs into 3 categories: Modern, Standard, and Outdated. Modern UI, means that CRM designers follow best practices, have intuitive and easy to use UI. Standard UI means that it is relatively intuitive and easy to use but does not follow recent trends and common design language. Outdated UI is easy to spot, it feels like the system was designed in 1998 or before. It is far less intuitive, uses outdated icons, usually is overcrowded with data and heavily relies on tables.

UI Characteristics

  • Intuitive

  • Modern design language

  • Flexible and customizable

  • Aesthetically pleasing

  • Looks like a tool from the past

  • Hard to navigate

  • Too many tables

  • No customization options