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The Ultimate First-Time CRM Buyer's Guide

So you've decided to get a CRM software. Congrats! Determining when it's the right time to get a CRM can be a momentous decision in itself. 

You've cleared one major milestone, but then you're faced with a second, even bigger hurdle -- choosing which system in particular to adopt. How can a first-time buyer sort through the bells and whistles to parse out what features are truly necessary? 

If you're a CRM newbie attempting to navigate the sometimes confusing CRM landscape, don't go it alone. This guide can give you perspective to separate the essential from the extraneous. 

8 Must-Have CRM Features

Before all else, a CRM system should be useful to its end users: sales reps, managers, and leaders. Choosing a CRM system with the following eight features will both enable and empower a sales team.

1) Contact Management

A choosing a CRM system without contact management capabilities wouldn't really serve much of a purpose. All CRM systems allow sales reps to create contact records and store prospect and customer information. However, the best CRM systems reduce and streamline contact data entry as much as possible. Judge this feature with ease of use in mind.

2) Deal Stages 

Most CRM systems can be customized to operate on a specific sales process. Whether your company has three deal stages or 15, you should be able to program these levels into the software and attach associated values. 

It should also be easy to move a deal along the sales process, from one stage to the next. In HubSpot CRM, advancing a deal is as simple as dragging and dropping:

processhubspotcrm

3) Daily Dashboard

Reps need to be able to see certain data on a daily basis, such as their progress to date against quota, how many deals they have in their pipelines at which stages, and what tasks they need to complete. Similarly, managers and leaders need to be able to view these categories for the aggregated sales team. Evaluate this function based on visual appeal and simplicity.

4) Task Management

A rep who has to toggle back and forth between several different systems to view and complete their daily tasks is not a happy rep. CRM systems that include task management capabilities streamline salespeople's day-to-day workflow, and help them keep on top of their follow up.

5) Content Repository

According to Docurated's State of Sales Productivity 2015 study, salespeople spend 31% of their time hunting for or creating content. If that doesn't strike some fear into your heart, I don't know what would. To cut back on wasted time searching for content, look for a CRM system with an embedded content repository. Not only can sales reps save the collateral they send to prospects most frequently in an easy-to-locate place, they can also file away customizable email templates so they're not reinventing the wheel with each new contact. 

6) Automated Data Capture

One of the primary reasons companies decide to adopt a CRM is to keep better track of customer and prospect touches. But beware: Many CRM applications require that sales reps copy and paste their emails into the system, or upload call recordings. And these extra steps can become maddening for salespeople making 50 or 100 calls every single day. To ease this pain, HubSpot CRM automatically logs calls made and emails sent from the system, and posts them in a timeline-like view on a contact's record page:

hubspotcrmemail

7) Reporting  

A CRM system is only as good as the insights it provides. Be sure that your CRM provides reporting features that make it easy to export and distribute the trends the system reveals.

8) Mobile

Mobile capabilities are especially critical if you have a field sales team. Tying reps to a CRM system that can only be accessed via laptop is bound to annoy them if they're constantly traveling. The majority of CRM systems today allow salespeople to log on to the application from mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones -- make sure the ones you're considering do as well.

9) Integration with Marketing Automation

If your company uses marketing automation software, make sure the CRM you choose can be tightly integrated with it. After all, the underlying concept of "customer relationship management" is to provide a complete lifecycle view into each prospect and client. A gap between marketing automation and CRM can lead to lost information and opportunities. 

Hopefully this checklist can help you buy not just your first CRM system, but the one that's ultimately the best for your company.

By the way, if you're into the CRM part but not so much the "buying," HubSpot CRM is totally free. All you have to do is sign up and go.

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