If all you need is basic management of your customer contacts, activity, and sales leads for a dozen users, virtually any customer relationship management application will handle your requirements. However, if you need to serve 100 or more users, require remote access, or have special workflow needs, selecting the right CRM software will require more homework on your part.
Shopping for a CRM system can be far more complicated if you require integration with other applications. Not all CRM applications can be easily linked with all accounting and other business applications. It may make more sense to ease into CRM by first investigating CRM applications that easily integrate with your current applications software.
If you can’t find CRM software that’s suitable for your needs, you may broaden your search to include CRM applications that do not already have prebuilt integration capabilities but will let you add these on. However, don’t forget to factor the time and cost for CRM integration work into your purchase decision.
More complex CRM applications can be more costly to implement since they take longer to configure and install. You’ll likely need help from the developer or an authorized reseller to get a complex CRM system up and running. The quality of support you receive from a reseller can make quite a difference to your overall satisfaction with the solution. Check local references to find out about the support levels of the vendors you’re considering.
Some CRM applications are sold in modules while others are sold as integrated applications. For modules, check that all the capabilities you require are included in the modules you plan to purchase. There are no industry standards for the capabilities included in each module, so they will vary by developer. Module-based CRM systems let you pick and choose which customer relationship functions you wish to automate. You may purchase just the modules you require now and add others at a later date.
When you’re evaluating integrated CRM, see if you can switch off menu items that lead to capabilities you do not intend to use. It’s easier to train your staff if they aren’t confused by superfluous options.
Finally, determine the maintenance and support charges for the CRM applications. Typically, they will run about 10 to 20 percent of the initial license cost each year.
The following is a list of some CRM system vendors:
ACT! by Sage: ACT! is a venerable packaged CRM solution available in several editions, all aimed primarily for use by small businesses. Add-on integration options are available for Intuit QuickBooks and some small business accounting packages from Sage.
Goldmine: Goldmine is a family of CRM products from Front Range Solutions suitable for small and midsize businesses. Some solutions integrate with Microsoft and Intuit products.
Microsoft Outlook with Business Contact Manager: Microsoft Outlook with Business Contact Manager is a basic CRM packaged solution aimed at small businesses that’s included in some Microsoft Office 2007 suites. It can integrate with Microsoft Office Accounting (formerly called Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting).
NetSuite: NetSuite offers a complete business management solution, which includes NetSuite CRM+ as well as integrated accounting capabilities. It’s available only as a hosted online service. It’s aimed at small to midsize businesses.
QuickBase: Intuit’s online database service offers several CRM options, along with several other business applications. It’s aimed at small, midsize, and large enterprises.
Sage CRM: Sage offers both packaged and online hosted CRM solutions aimed at small to midsize businesses. A 30-day free trial of the hosted solution is available. Integration with some Sage products is supported.
Salesforce: Salesforce offers a comprehensive suite of CRM applications in several editions, aimed at businesses with five users and up. Some editions and add-ons facilitate integration with third-party accounting applications. Salesforce is offered only as a hosted online service.
Surado: Surado offers a suite of CRM solutions for small, midsize, and large businesses.