Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) can carry a lot of the workload for business and sales processes. A CRM solution along with its native marketing integrations open up amazing opportunities for small businesses and large enterprises to thrive. Now more than ever, businesses need to expertly manage prospects and existing customers with great care. Using a CRM platform with the right features is an essential part of that strategy.
Having deployed dozens of different CRMs — and interviewed over 500 companies about their CRM needs — we know firsthand that there are many features and functionalities you must consider before buying and implementing a CRM system. Check out the results of our latest survey to find out more.
In the end, it comes down to two key points. To select the right CRM, you need to: 1) know all of the available CRM features and 2) know what specific CRM functionality your team and organization needs.
To cover the first issue, below is our CRM features list for your perusal. We’ve also built a convenient CRM checklist. Keep in mind that not all platforms are going to have this full list of CRM features so you need to define your requirements and do some research.
Note: This CRM features & functionality list is in no particular order. It’s just a compilation of the many different features available across dozens of the top CRM platforms.
This feature allows you to segment your contacts into groups to organize them. You’ll be able to gather crucial customer data and bolster your marketing strategies when introducing new products.
Sales Team and Customer Opportunity Management
Quantifying the opportunities that your sales team has with customers is a relatively new feature. You can now locate the customers that are most likely to convert using this technology and improve your sales process.
Lead Management for Determining High-Quality Leads
This technology allows a business to determine the best customers to follow up with based upon demographic and psychographic factors. Work smarter, not harder when it comes to chasing down leads.
Reports and Dashboards
Users can view statistics in a highly visual, engaging perspective using customized reports and dashboards. These offer real-time data updates and a platform that can be accessed from various portals, improving ease of access for a variety of personnel.
Customizable Home Screen and Layouts
The user interface (UI) of the program is flexible enough to accommodate the visual perspective of everything including the home screen. Layouts can be changed and customized to fit customers’ preferences. The more intuitive the design, the more likely it is that clicks will convert to purchases.
Create better sales campaigns in the future by analyzing the hard data of past campaigns. Collect data from social media, polls and website traffic, then analyze it—all with the same software.
Take customer relationship management on a remote device using mobile CRM programs and apps. Staff can also receive valuable alerts about a CRM program that is being managed from a centralized location on a mobile device.
Sales Force Automation
Your CRM software has the ability to automate certain aspects of your sales including outgoing calls, follow-up campaigns and the organization of data for more effective campaigns. This allows your employees to devote their man hours to more complex tasks.
A large part of customer relationship management is determining a metric for success. Forecasting lets you know a benchmark by which you can determine whether your results are actually on par with your efforts. You can also use this data to determine where you need to direct future efforts.
Do business with the best associates through the collaboration features within your management program. You can attract more sales by putting together people who work well by the numbers.
Email Client Integration
You can now gain all of the automation and the organization of a dedicated email client inside of your CRM user interface. Don’t depend on Outlook or IBM notes—find a CRM that will do double duty for you.
Workflow and Approvals
One of the ways in which your company will instantly increase its efficiency is by optimizing workflows. CRMs can facilitate optimization by automating processes like data collection and analysis, marketing campaigns, and other tasks that were previously done manually. They also often offer reporting and analytics to help users identify problem areas in order to improve them.
CRM solutions offer the ability to organize leads lists by geographic location and assign them to respective sales representatives. Divide and conquer!
Your CRM program will organize your sales and customer data into manageable chunks that can be used to inform all of the other data that you need to make decisions. You will be able to quantify measures that otherwise would have no data to consider.
CRM Data/File Storage
In order to maximize the organization of data, it must be properly stored. You gain a proprietary method of data storage so that the CRM program can pull up the data in an efficient manner. There will also be safeguards to protect and backup this important data to prevent losses and security breaches.
Files Sync and Share
CRM software functions as the synchronization platform for many of your outside programs. Because of the sharing features that CRM has, you can view all of your feature set from one platform.
Inside Sales Console
The platform for increasing sales performance through a more efficient UI is known as the inside sales console. CRM systems offer optimized UI and data analytics to further streamline and improve the customer experience.
Sales Performance Management
With this platform, a manager can easily see what aspects of the sales team are performing well and which need improvement. Data can be organized by salesperson or by other data. By identifying problem areas, they can be more efficiently addressed. You can also manage the performance of sales partners from the platform.
Marketing Automation Integration
Marketing automation allows you to more efficiently and strategically target audiences that are likely to be interested in what you’re selling. A good CRM platform (like Pardot, Hubspot, or Marketo) will allow you to control the terms of automating parts of your marketing program selectively.
The chat feature is priceless to a modern user. By integrating a chat program like Olark or LivePerson directly from your CRM software, you can chat with employees, partners and provide customer support from the same UI.
Call Center Automation and Integration
Control your call center from your CRM UI and integrate any third party program into a single platform. The fewer different systems you use, the less likely you’ll be to get confused and lose information via translation or transfer.
Web Analytics Integration
Integrating web analytics doesn’t just allow you to collect data on who is visiting your website. It analyzes that raw data collected, identifies problem areas, suggests ways to improve and provides insights into the way your user base interacts with your website. CRM systems will provide a way to collect and access these statistics from your UI.
Customer support features like FAQ pages, chatbots and email correspondence is becoming increasingly automated as AI databases improve. Control the output of your customer support features from your UI. Gain support not only from downloaded FAQs but also from real-time message boards and online FAQs and chats.
Web-Based/Cloud-Based CRM or On-Premise CRM Deployment
On-premise CRM systems use a network of highly-customizable onsite hardware and software systems that require software licenses to store customer data. Cloud CRM solutions exist on remote servers where software updates, security measures, hardware upgrades, backups and more are managed by the CRM software service provider. You can choose which works best for your needs by visiting this handy comparison article.
Product Level Quotes
Keep up with quotes for the products that you sell individually. Find out which products are doing well with customers and where sales are lost. Access this information from handheld devices, desktops and more.
Control what different users see within your CRM. This allows you to manage your employees’ activity based on level and keeps your customers’ data safe.
Updates come more quickly when all programmers can add to the system. Attach your CRM applications to various platforms that extend capabilities. You can also create embeddable web forms without hassle.
Test functionalities and strategies before rolling them out. This will prevent customer frustration, improve conversion rates and help you make educated decisions and actions.
Attach other programs to your CRM software for added functionality. Integrate CRM data into SQL-based reporting environments.
Manage your entire sales campaign from a single UI. CRM software combines analytics tools with data collection software and gives you and your employees access to it from numerous access points.
The more customization, the more CRM flexibility available. Will the software grow with your organization? Does it have the capability to adapt to and integrate with existing software used by your organization? Can it incorporate desktop productivity tools? Can it change when you need it to? If you answered no to any of these questions, you may need to find more flexible software.
Increase your efficiency by connecting your enterprise resource planning into your CRM apps. Manage accounting, payroll, HR and more, all in one place through a combined CRM solution.
Email Marketing Integration
Social Media Management Integration
Dedicated SMM efforts can be managed from the CRM UI. Integrate management platforms like Oktopost and Hootsuite to streamline your social media management and allow multiple team members to work together from different access points.
Case Management/Customer Satisfaction
Manage each customer case individually and efficiently to improve customer satisfaction levels. Track, close and reopen existing cases with this useful feature. Online case management also allows you to manage any confidential information in a secure environment. You can ensure that your customers’ and leads’ sensitive information is kept away from prying eyes. This is an essential feature because it helps you avoid cybersecurity issues. The last thing any business needs is to get in trouble due to data security issues.
Collaboration Software Integration
Increase your ability to collaborate within your organization through integrations with popular collaboration software. This prevents communication from being strung over email and text messages and offers superior search capabilities.
We wanted to know more, so we asked over 500 companies in the market for CRM software what features they wanted in their CRM platforms. Here’s what they said.
- Buyers are looking for features that improve the communicative and collaborative capabilities of their organization both internally and with their customers.
- They want integrated, automated, comprehensive CRMs with features tailored to their individual needs.
We asked our survey participants what software features they want in their CRM solutions, and these were the most frequently requested:
Buyers Need Education
Intriguingly, many buyers asked for specific elements of marketing automation without asking for Marketing Automation specifically. For example, 8 percent of respondents asked for campaign management or tracking capabilities. Of that group, 48 percent asked for only campaign management with no mention of marketing automation. Marketing automation functionality including campaign features was important to 26 percent. Then 23 percent asked for campaigns and marketing automation as distinctly separate features.
This suggests that buyers are fundamentally confused about what is typically included within standard sales force and marketing automation functionality and how to communicate about what they need.
While 14 percent of respondents requested basic sales force automation, others requested only specific elements of sales force automation functionality, or requested sales force automation and a feature that what would be included in any sales force automation package.
Here’s an example: of the 13 companies who said they wanted forecasting, 76 percent didn’t mention salesforce automation, just listed forecasting and other typical sales force automation functions as areas of interest. Then 24 percent said they wanted forecasting and also wanted sales force automation, suggesting some buyers don’t know the difference.
Looking at the buyers who requested reporting capabilities reveals a similar dilemma. The fact reporting was requested by 22 percent of users and analytics by 8 percent goes back to the root of buyers’ desire for better understanding of their business. But many respondents used reporting and analytics interchangeably, which isn’t exactly correct. They’re similar, but have some key differences.
People want to be more educated about what’s happening in their business and want to know how to make it better. But there is still some basic education that needs to happen among business owners and operators to accurately determine what they need from a CRM.
Hopefully next year there will be fewer buyers shopping for new CRM solutions because their previous solution was improperly implemented or didn’t suit their needs.
Buyers Value Communication
Communication makes and breaks relationships in our personal lives, and it should be no surprise that the same is true of business relationships. Buyers want to improve their relationships with their customers, and having better communication (both internally and externally) is one way to accomplish this.
A contact management system gives colleagues access to the same database, promoting collaboration and communication between marketing and sales teams. Communication and collaboration were cited as significant needs by 36 percent and 38 percent of users, respectively, which helps explain the popularity of the contact management feature.
Keeping track of contact information can also help streamline otherwise complex processes. Contact management functionality focuses on storing and organizing customer data like phone numbers, emails, addresses and communications with those contacts. It helps sales teams contact leads at the right stage of the sales process, and only contact them the appropriate number of times.
Buyers want it to be easy for their users to collaborate: 10 percent listed a user-friendly interface as a top requirement. If their teams are struggling to properly implement the tool, then what’s the point of having the tool, right? This also ties back into the need for education. 2 percent of users reported that their previous CRM solution was improperly implemented or too confusing to use, which is a pretty significant number.
Users want a tool able to communicate and integrate with other tools they use. Whether those tools were email, an ERP, other CRM systems or a website, interoperability was a big bonus for most respondents. Integration removes steps in the pipeline process, prevents data duplication and consolidates customer data and sales processes.
Buyers value centralized management, communication and ease of use, and it seems like they aren’t finding it in the CRM software they’ve been using.
Getting everyone on the same page and fostering collaboration between marketing teams, sales teams and customers was one of the main concerns for most categories.
Buyers Need Automation
Remember how buyers were confused about what marketing and sales automation would give them? They still asked for these features and the functions related to them in huge numbers. 40 percent of respondents asked for marketing automation by name, and 14 percent wanted general sales force automation features.
In fact, the top 2 through 6 features — marketing automation, contact management, reporting, pipeline management and sales force automation — were all automation related.
Automation is valuable for more than just convenience, and buyers know it. It saves businesses time and money by taking over repetitive tasks and freeing up employee time. It makes them more efficient by optimizing workflows (which was a feature requested by 12 percent of respondents). And automation promotes brand consistency and outreach standardization.
A consistent brand and stable outreach is important to success, and buyers are realizing that one of the best (and easiest) ways to ensure streamlined and consistent outreach to leads is to utilize marketing automation. Marketing automation is especially popular with growing businesses because it standardizes elements of the sales process. Standardized email templates (requested by 2 percent of buyers), customizable fields (requested by 2.8 percent) and campaign management (requested by 4 percent) are all marketing automation features that focus on standardizing customer interactions.
We’re well into the 21st century — buyers don’t want to be doing tasks by hand that have been successfully automated.
In the next few years, any business that isn’t doing sales force and marketing tasks with assistance from some kind of automation tool will be behind the pack — and the same goes for any CRM program that doesn’t offer them.
Here’s a breakdown of the companies we surveyed.
Every company was either purchasing their first CRM tool, updating to a new CRM application or downsizing from a current CRM system:
The companies looking to update were currently working with outdated, clunky platforms or had their data spread out across too many systems. These buyers wanted to consolidate disparate systems, organize their data and get everyone on the same page.
For the companies downsizing, they felt their CRM software was bloated with too many features. Most of these users also cited affordability as a major concern — they felt they were overcharged for services and features they didn’t use.
Desired Price Range
CRM software typically falls into several price categories ranging from $50/user/month to $250/user/month. The companies we surveyed are divided into the following categories for their desired price range:
The realistic consumer in the $50-$200/user/month category have a huge variety of options to choose from. 12 percent of these buyers wanted to stay between $50 and $100/user/month, and 16 percent were comfortable with the $100-$200/user/month range. These companies value a balance between features and affordability.
The user base hoping to keep their costs under $50/user/month were cost-conscious, typically smaller businesses or nonprofit organizations. Many users we surveyed in this category described their needs from a CRM technology as basic, valuing practicality over versatility.
CRM platforms come in three formats: on-premise, cloud-based and hybrid.
About a third of respondents said they’d be open to either on-premise or cloud-based CRM options. These people want to keep their options open and learn more about what specific vendors have to offer. If you’re one of those people, check out this article to learn more about the pros and cons of both deployment methods.
The 2 percent who prefer on-premise options unanimously cited their security concerns as a main motivation. On-premise CRM solutions tend to be more secure than those in the cloud — the more networks data has to travel through, the more vulnerable it is.
A few users were curious about hybrid systems. They cited their reasoning as wanting the best of both worlds, and who can blame them?
Despite their differences in size, budget, and situation, these companies largely agreed on what features were must-haves in a CRM. The analyst team at SelectHub thanks them for their participation.
Buyers want CRM software to manage their relationship with customers. The most desired features all came back to improving those relationships and making the process more streamlined.
Buyers need ways to manage client information, interactions and movement through the lifecycle through contact management, interaction tracking and pipeline management. They want to implement higher rates of automation into their sales process by automating workflows, sales force activity, and marketing functions. And they want an integrated, all-in-one system that their users and customers can navigate easily.
Here are some key takeaways:
- CRM vendors should consider focusing on buyer outreach and education in their sales process in order to reduce buyer confusion and make sure they’re giving customers exactly what they need. Buyers need to be proactive about gathering information on exactly what features they want so they can be correctly matched with the right CRM system for them.
- There is also obviously a significant market trend of buyers needing a comprehensive single software solution. While certain industry-specific software may be great for solving problems, buyers want to handle everything — marketing automation, contact management, email campaigns, reporting, analytics — on one platform. Integration and centralization were both in the top 11 most requested features, so vendors should be aware of this as they develop their products for 2019.
- Automation is in. From consistency in branding to more efficient workflows, buyers know they can be running better and smoother businesses. Automating marketing and other sales force tasks are becoming an expectation rather than a luxury, and within a few years any CRM system that doesn’t offer at least some basic marketing automation and sales force automation functionalities are going to be left in the dust. So will any business that doesn’t implement a CRM with these features.
CRM software should help you make your business better, and that’s really all the buyers want.