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Must-Have CRM Features

A customer relationship management platform (CRM) is one of the most important pieces of software that a company can have. From small businesses to large enterprises, CRMs help you organise and analyse customer behaviour, interactions, and a wide variety of data throughout the customer lifecycle. 

Altogether, as the name implies, a CRM can help you improve how you manage customer relationships, as well as managing leads. Ultimately, that can drive sales and profit growth. But how do you know if your current CRM solution is cutting it? Is it time to upgrade your current CRM solution? 

To make your decision easier, in this article we’ll lay out important features to have in a CRM. While the top CRM systems and relevant CRM recommendations still depend on factors such as your company size and your intended use cases, knowing what features to look for can make your decision easier.

What are the most common features of a standard CRM system?

The highly competitive nature of doing business today requires companies to expertly manage prospects and existing customers with the utmost care. You don’t want to miss an opportunity to close a deal, nor do you want to give existing customers a reason to switch over to your competitors. 

A good CRM can help you avoid these issues and deliver better customer support/customer engagement that fuels growth. So, as a baseline, look for CRMs that offer the following features:

Contact management

Before diving into the more nuanced features of the top CRM systems, you need a tool that covers the basics well. A CRM should help you easily store and manage contact information for leads and existing customers. Think of it as a better version of an address book. 

A CRM should help you organise your contacts into relevant groups, such as sorting by industry or new vs. existing customers. From there, you can optimise areas like marketing strategies and customer engagement. 

Lead management

Going a step further than contact management, a CRM should also help you track leads throughout the customer journey. Not only do you want to know their contact information, but you want to know where they stand, such as whether they’re a cold lead or whether you’ve already provided a demo to the prospect and have almost closed the deal. 

Many CRMs help you visualise this lead progress. Knowing how deals are progressing can help you then develop more relevant sales and marketing strategies, as well as benefiting departments like finance, as they can get a sense of what revenue might be in the pipeline.

Sales and marketing analytics

Nowadays, CRMs are typically more than just databases. They help organisations optimise their lead and customer outreach with the help of sales and marketing analytics. 

For example, CRM software might provide analytics like lead conversion rates to help you figure out if you’re on the right track with your marketing and sales pitches. Other metrics, like tracking the number of customer interactions, can help you determine if you’re doing enough to retain customers.

What are the must-have CRM features?

Beyond the baseline features listed above, odds are you’re going to want even more features in your CRM. Especially as customer demands have changed and the way companies work has shifted, such as with the use of more cloud-based tools that can interact with one another, a CRM should ideally have additional features such as:


Customer support/customer engagement

A CRM today often helps with more than just direct sales and marketing activities. Many platforms also have built-in customer support/customer engagement features or at least integrations with these types of systems, such as help desk software. 

For example, a CRM might offer ways to manage customer support tickets that are tied to the accounts you have saved in your system. That way, customer support staff have a better understanding of specific customers, and sales staff can also be aware of customer issues. A CRM tool can also help with customer engagement in various ways, such as by helping you personalise emails to customers based on their past interactions.

Payment processing  

To save yourself and your customers’ time, look for a CRM that can process payments or easily integrate with a tool to do so. That way, you can stay organised and efficient, such as when sending a proposal to a prospect that can then be accepted and paid for right away. Or, if you have a product or service that requires sending out renewal notices from your CRM, being able to process payments directly can pay off.

For example, here’s how one of the top CRM systems, Hubspot, explains their integration with payment processor Stripe:

“HubSpot's native quotes allows a sales rep to easily create a beautiful, trackable quote they can send to their prospects. By integrating with Stripe, sales reps can get paid right from their quote, eliminating the needless back and forth of purchase orders and finance departments to get paid.”

Email functionality
In the past, users had to log out of their CRM accounts and log in to their email to view new messages. But today, CRMs often have email integrations that can enable you to view messages, create email templates, and even send emails, either to specific customers or to whole lists as part of an email campaign. 

Many CRMs integrate with email platforms like Outlook and Gmail, and they also can often link up with email marketing tools like Mailchimp. That way, you can save time and stay organised managing contacts, messages, and email marketing data.

Integrations with other platforms

In addition to email, a CRM today should be able to integrate with social media networks, customer service platforms, accounting tools, and more. 

For example, Method:CRM touts itself for its ability to integrate with the accounting platform Quickbooks. That way, users can sync things like their contacts, estimates, and invoices between the platforms, which can save time and keep things organised. 

You also might want to integrate your CRM with advanced tools like an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, so if that’s the case, look for CRMs that have robust integrations.

Reporting capabilities 

Related to the analytics features that many CRMs now have, you ideally want a platform that provides reporting capabilities, similar to a Business Intelligence (BI) tool. 

Being able to generate reports that visualise data is important for the efficiency of your sales, marketing, and customer support teams. Management also often now expects to receive data-driven reports, so a good CRM should make it easy to share insights. 

Automation

Another important feature nowadays is automation within CRM platforms. Given the growth of data, the number of customer engagement channels, and the overall speed of business in 2021/2022, being able to automate more operational tasks frees up time for strategy and high-value interactions.

For example, a popular CRM like Salesforce offers a number of automated features, such as creating automatic email alerts for deals above a certain amount so that the right staff gets notified, as well as automatically assigning tasks to different team members as a deal progresses to new stages.

Why is it important to select the correct CRM for your business?

Having a CRM with these features isn’t just a nice-to-have. Increasing customer expectations and new ways of working mean that companies now need CRMs that increase efficiency and strengthen customer/lead interactions. Having the wrong CRM for your business, such as one that can’t integrate with other platforms your employees and customers regularly use, can stand in the way of you closing more deals and providing a great customer experience. 

If you’re ready to explore your options to upgrade your CRM, Software Advisory Service can help. We're a technology consultancy using procurement best practice and data insights to save companies time and money. Our goal is to make business technology procurement simple, transparent, and cost-effective. Click the button below to book a consultation at your convenience. We won’t charge you anything, and we won’t share any of your project details without your explicit approval.


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