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The Ultimate CRM Buying Guide

The Ultimate CRM Buying Guide

Understanding your customers and managing your relationships with them is crucial for business success. This is where a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system comes into play. But what exactly is a CRM, and why is it so essential for businesses, especially those purchasing one for the first time or transitioning from a legacy or homegrown system?

What Is A CRM System?

At its core, a CRM system is a digital platform that helps you manage all your company's relationships and interactions with current and potential customers. It's like a central hub where you can store customer data, track interactions, manage sales, deliver exceptional customer service, and even handle marketing efforts—all in one place. The goal? To improve business relationships, streamline processes, and boost profitability.

Who Can Benefit From a CRM System?

First and foremost, CRM systems are useful for any organization that interacts with customers - so essentially all businesses! CRM systems are also not just for large corporations with extensive customer databases either. 

Small and medium-sized businesses, startups, and even freelancers can benefit from a CRM solution. Essentially, if your business involves interacting with customers or managing a sales process, a CRM system can make your life easier and your business more efficient.

Why Use a CRM?

A CRM system is not just a tool; it's a game-changer for any business serious about growth, efficiency, and creating meaningful customer relationships. 

Here are some reasons why investing in a CRM can be one of the best decisions for your business:

  • Centralized Information

Imagine having all your customer data—contacts, sales history, preferences, and interactions—in one organized, accessible place.

A CRM eliminates the chaos of scattered data across spreadsheets and disjointed email threads, making it easy for your team to find and use the information they need, when they need it.

Since the information is held in a single place and usually “in the cloud”, the CRM provides a much needed “source of truth” for your business and increases efficiency across your teams. 

  • Enhanced Customer Service

Every customer interaction is an opportunity to build a relationship. 

CRMs help users to capture every detail of customer interactions, giving your team the context they need to provide personalized service. This attention to detail boosts customer satisfaction and loyalty, turning happy customers into repeat business and brand advocates.

It’s easy to make notes about a call you just had and your colleagues are able to see those notes so that when they next speak to the customer, they can reference what was discussed, if needed. 

Have you ever called up customer support for a company and been asked the same question by multiple customer service agents? It’s frustrating for you, the customer, but also a waste of time for the agents if they’re having to pass you from agent to agent to get a resolution. A CRM can help track these calls and make customers feel much happier when they interact with your business. 

  • Streamlined Lead to Cash Process

From initial contact to closing the deal, a CRM system guides your sales team through each step of the sales pipeline with precision and efficiency, and all tailored to your way of working. 

Track leads, manage follow-ups, and use data-driven insights to optimize sales strategies. The result? A smoother sales process that drives revenue growth.

  • Marketing Automation

Say goodbye to manual, time-consuming marketing tasks like sending out mass emails to customers about a promotion you’re having. 

With a CRM (depending on the one you select), it’s easy to automate email campaigns, social media posts, and other marketing activities. Target the right customers with personalized messages, and track the success of your campaigns in real time. This not only saves time but ensures your marketing efforts are far more effective by targeting the right people at the right time. 

  • Improved Team Collaboration

A CRM encourages collaboration across your business by providing a shared view of customers and prospects. 

Sales, marketing, customer service, and any other department can work together seamlessly, aligned by common data. This unity leads to better strategies, smoother operations, and a cohesive brand experience for your customers.

Customers don’t enjoy disjointed experiences, they want to move through your internal processes, such as from sales to invoicing, seamlessly. Imagine how frustrating it would be if you signed a contract with a sales rep only to have the invoice say an entirely different product on it. This would cause frustration for the customer at the mistake but also cost the finance department extra time due to having to re-issue the invoice. 

CRM systems can help eliminate these errors in processing with automation and a single source of truth. 

  • Data-Driven Decision Making

It’s no secret, knowledge is power and CRM systems provide their users with extensive knowledge about customers and prospects. 

CRMs are full of high quality data, offering insights into sales trends, customer behavior, and campaign effectiveness. Leverage this data to make informed decisions that steer your business towards success and growth.

  • Increased Efficiency and Productivity Through Automation

By automating routine tasks and organizing customer data, CRMs free up your team to focus on what they do best—selling and building customer relationships. 

This increased efficiency boosts productivity, allowing your business to do more with less.

Understanding Your Needs

Think of selecting a CRM system like setting out to find the perfect tool for any job; the first step is understanding exactly what you need it to do. 

Before you even start browsing through the multitude of CRM options available, take a moment to really dive deep into the specific needs and challenges your business faces. Identifying the gaps in your current processes or pinpointing the areas where customer engagement could be improved is essential.

Ask yourself, what are the primary goals you're striving to achieve with a CRM system? Ask your teams to document their biggest challenges and try not to think about them from a systematic standpoint. Simply write down in plain words what your challenges are. 

For example, if your team wants to have a better way to segment prospects and target them with email campaigns, the challenge might be something like “I don’t have any data points about my prospects, such as their company size, location, industry, etc. that will help me target them more effectively.” 

Avoid language such as “I want to use fields in a CRM system to capture data points about my prospect.” This doesn’t describe what you want to capture or why you want to do it. The “why” is very important when choosing a system, so make sure you capture it as part of the requirements gathering process. 

Understanding your needs is also not just about identifying the problems you aim to solve today but about anticipating the challenges of tomorrow. By considering your long-term business strategy in addition to your immediate pain points, you'll be in a much better position to choose a CRM that not only meets your current requirements but also supports your future growth. This foresight ensures that your investment in a CRM system is not just a temporary fix but a long-term solution that will continue to deliver value as your business evolves.

Key Features to Look For

When evaluating CRM options, consider these essential features that can benefit most businesses:

  • Sales Process Tracking: Most CRM systems have a way to track your deals, or opportunities as they’re sometimes called. This is usually what happens when a customer or prospect expresses their interest in your product or service through to the deal closure. 

  • Contact Management: A good CRM system should offer an easy way to store and manage customer information, ensuring it's always up-to-date and accessible.

  • Interaction Tracking: Interactions with customers help provide context to your team, and most CRM systems have a way to automatically track these critical interactions, including emails, phone calls, and meetings. This can prove invaluable when doing a deal review as a sales manager or when trying to predict if a customer will renew or churn. 

  • Lead Management: From capturing leads to nurturing them through the sales process, lead management is vital for growing your customer base.

  • Workflow Automation: Automate repetitive tasks to improve efficiency and allow your team to focus on more strategic activities.

  • Reporting and Analytics: Detailed reports and analytics help you understand customer behavior, track sales performance, and inform decision-making.

  • Integration Capabilities: Ensure the CRM can integrate with other tools you use, such as email platforms, social media, and accounting software, to streamline your operations.

What To Consider About Your CRM Choice

Your Budget

CRM systems come in various pricing models, from monthly subscriptions to one-time purchases. It's important to consider not just the upfront cost but also any additional expenses, such as customization, data migration, and ongoing maintenance of the system. 

Define your budget early in the process, keeping in mind the return on investment a suitable CRM can offer. Explore all options for ongoing maintenance of the system as fractional services, such as those offered by Think RevOps can often be more cost effective and provide you with better results than expecting an existing employee with no experience to manage the system. 

Your budget should also take into consideration the cost of getting the system up and running for the first time. For some large enterprises, this can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but for smaller organizations it could be a few thousand dollars. The cost depends on many factors such as how complex your requirements are, how much data you need to migrate from a legacy system and more. 

Simply put, do not only budget for the ongoing monthly cost of your CRM solution - budget for the bigger picture up front. 


Think about where your business will be in the next five years. 

Will the CRM system that you select grow with you, offering additional features and capacity as needed? 

Choosing a scalable CRM ensures that as your business grows, your system can adapt without the need for a costly switch down the line.

Questions to ask when determining if a solution is scalable are things like, how many professionals are certified on their solution, do they have any third party vendors that offer additional solutions on their platform and how often do they release new features to their product. 

A simple CRM system may not have very many qualified professionals and they may not have many additional features to release, therefore it may work if your business is very simplified and/or small, but you may find you need to switch to a more robust solution in a few year’s time if you’re planning to expand rapidly. 

User Experience

The best CRM is the one that your team will use every single day, period. The user interface should be intuitive and the system should be easy to work with, even for a beginner with no formal training. 

A CRM with a steep learning curve might hinder adoption among your team members. Consider a solution that offers extensive training and support for their tool, for example Hubspot has the Hubspot Academy and Salesforce has Trailhead and their Knowledge Base, all of which are completely free to users. 

Adoption of the solution is critical to it’s success, so having a solution that provides a good user experience is crucial. 

Security and Compliance

Customer data is some of the most important data your organization will have. Keeping it safe is a non-negotiable. 

Ensure the CRM vendor complies with relevant data protection regulations (like GDPR) and offers robust security features to protect your data from breaches. Ask your internal security team and/or data protection officer to review the documentation before deciding on a solution. 

Vendor Reputation and Support

Research the vendor's reputation in the market. Read reviews, ask for references, and consider their track record for reliability and customer support. G2 Crowd is a great website to read real reviews from customers and to see what users actually think of the system. 

Good after-sales support can make a significant difference, especially in the initial stages of implementation. See if customers are talking about any negative post-sales experiences. Chances are, if they’re having trouble, you will too. 

Remember, it’s the sales rep’s job to make you fall in love with their solution, but getting an unbiased view of what the system is really like is crucial to making a good decision when it comes to selecting a CRM system. 

Demo and Free Trial

Before making a final decision, request a demo and take advantage of any free trial periods. 

This hands-on experience will give you a better understanding of how the CRM works and whether it fits your business needs.

Ideally, the demo would focus on your specific needs. If a company offers you a generic demo and doesn’t try to tailor it to your needs, chances are their solution may not be customizable in the way you might need. 

Implementation and Onboarding

Consider the process of implementing the CRM. Ask yourself the following questions before deciding on a solution: 

  • How easy is it to migrate your existing data into the new system? 

  • What kind of onboarding and training does the vendor provide and how much of it will you need to do yourself? 

  • Do you have internal resources who can help drive adoption?  

  • How much customization will I need to do after the initial implementation? 

A smooth transition will ensure you can get up and running quickly, with minimal disruption to your business.

Navigating Future Trends in CRM Systems

As technology evolves, so does the way we manage our customer relationships. 

Keeping up with the latest CRM trends is crucial for businesses aiming to stay ahead. Let’s look at some key future developments in CRM technology and why choosing a forward-thinking platform matters.

AI and Machine Learning

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are set to take CRMs from being passive databases to active tools that predict customer behaviors and automate tasks. 

Imagine a CRM that not only organizes your data but also tells you which customers are most likely to buy next and suggests the best ways to reach out to them. This smart automation and insight can significantly boost your team’s efficiency and effectiveness.

Deep Personalization

Customers today expect businesses to understand their needs intimately. Future CRMs will use AI to dive deep into customer data, allowing for personalized experiences at an unprecedented level. 

This means sending marketing emails that speak directly to a customer’s preferences or offering product recommendations that are spot-on, making every customer feel uniquely understood.

Selecting a CRM that’s poised to embrace these advancements ensures your business is prepared for the future, ready to adapt to new challenges, and capable of meeting customers’ evolving needs. Opting for a platform that prioritizes innovation means investing in long-term success and continued growth.

Making Your Decision

Armed with detailed research and a clear understanding of your needs, you're now in a strong position to make your CRM buying decision. 

Remember, the right CRM is more than just software; it's a tool that can transform your business, creating better relationships with your customers and driving growth.


Selecting the right CRM system is an important decision for any business looking to enhance its customer relationship management. 

By carefully considering your business needs, desired features, budget, scalability, user experience, and vendor reputation, you can choose a CRM that not only meets your current requirements but also supports your future growth. 

The journey to finding the perfect CRM might seem daunting, but the payoff in improved efficiency, customer satisfaction, and revenue growth is well worth the effort.

Ready to take your CRM strategy to the next level? Contact Think RevOps today to find out how we can help you implement and maintain one of your most crucial systems to revenue growth. 


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