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How do we choose a CRM system for small business?

The largest companies can choose the largest CRM platforms, but what's left for small- and medium-sized businesses? How should they choose the right systems?

There are a number of contact center and CRM systems in the marketplace at a variety of price points and capabilities; so many, in fact, that organizations often struggle when it comes time to decide which one to acquire.

The bottom line is an organization must balance price with value when choosing a CRM system for small business. That involves assessing the functionality required for the business and deciding whether anything above and beyond is worth the incremental cost.

When an organization is considering software, it is critical to define the business requirements or capabilities needed both immediately and in the future. A multistep approach like the following should be taken when selecting a CRM system for small business:

  1. Develop a matrix identifying all the potential business requirements or capabilities in consideration for the next three to five years. Include columns for the priority and time frame of each item.
  2. Complete the matrix, identifying the priority of each requirement or capability -- high, medium, low -- and the timeline needed to achieve each one -- current, < 1 year, 1-3 years, 3-5 years.
  3. Forward a copy of a blank matrix to all the vendors being considered. Have each vendor complete the matrix with the requirements or capabilities currently in its CRM system for small business, as well as an approximate time frame of when future items will be available.
  4. Eliminate vendor proposals that cannot support features in the required current column.
  5. Identify the proposals that support the minimal number of current business requirements or capabilities, provide a solid roadmap for those items that will be required in one to three years and identify pricing.
  6. Consider eliminating proposals that provide requirements or capabilities beyond what is required, both currently and in the next one to three years. A review of proposed pricing may help identify outliers.
  7. Move ahead with those vendors identified in step 4 and attend demonstrations, check references, etc., to select the CRM system that best meets your small business needs.

There is no reason to overspend and acquire a CRM system for small business that includes unneeded bells and whistles. Only a structured approach to choosing CRM software will ensure that an organization acquires a cost-effective CRM system. 

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