How to choose a CRM for your Small Business?

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Sales in the last few years has become omni-channel and multi-channel. Businesses no longer rely on one or two sources for lead generation and new customer acquisition. The multiple sources or channels need to be aligned and synced for improving results and conversion. It has also become easier than ever before to interact with customers and prospects using multiple channels. Data collection, integration, analysis have hence become critical for success in sales. This has made CRM (customer relationship management) software immensely popular in the last one decade. There are plenty of options available, both free and paid. How to choose a CRM for your small business?


The first step when your start your research for a CRM for your small business?

While the overall lead management and sales process remains more or less similar for every business, each firm may have a few steps unique to the way their team functions. These steps and processes are usually the results of years of following a particular way of work. These steps also could be the best practices which cannot be ignored. One of the major reasons of failure for any new software or technology implementation is the non-compatibility to existing system and processes.
Hence, the first step is to create a simple flow chart (process flow) of the existing processes: lead generation, enquiry management, sending proposals and quotations, follow-up mechanism etc. For each process and step, list the source of data or input. It would be very useful if a small checklist can be created to check the completeness of each critical step in the process flow.
The flow chart, data sources and checklists will help you prepare the list of features required in the CRM. This list can be used to evaluate multiple options and choose the most suitable CRM for your small business.

Key points to consider when selecting a CRM for small business

Once you have the flow chart and the list of features ready, you are all set to evaluate the available options. While evaluating various CRM software, you should consider for the following:
  • Nature of your business: this is one of the most important. Do you run a B2B business or B2C? Do you sell online or offline? Does your sales rep visit the clients? Do you sell directly to end users of your product or service or do you sell via dealers and channel partners? While there are CRMs that can be customised and used  by all types of businesses, it is a good idea to select a CRM designed for a particular type of business. This avoids making unnecessary and too much customisation.
  • Employee skills: Employees are your primary customer when selecting a new CRM system. Their ability to use the system will impact the overall ROI and expected improvement in the sales process. CRMs range from simple to complex based on required features and integrations. It is recommended to include one or few of the team members in the selection and evaluation process
  • Objective: while the major feature of a CRM remains managing customer information and the sales cycle, each business may have a different objective to implement a CRM. Some may want to increase the productivity of their sales reps. While others may need a system to improve conversions, or automate parts of the process. Some may want to improve the level of customer experience during pre and post sales. Define your objectives and choose a CRM that best fits the needs of your business.
  • Integrations with third party systems: You may be using other software for other functions of your business – HR, marketing, manufacturing, project management etc. Most modern CRMs can easily be integrated with other popular software and tools. However some may require support from the technical team. The additional integration cost and all future technical support needs to be considered in the budget while evaluating the CRM
  • Budget: This is usually on top of the list. The good news is that there are several FREE options available that provide the same features compared to the paid CRM software. Hubspot offers a FREE CRM for small businesses.
These are few important points to consider while selecting a CRM for your small business. I personally recommend using a spreadsheet to manage leads and customer information for a few months before you decide to switch to a CRM system. This helps you clearly identify the unique needs of your business, segment your customers and address the data collection challenges.
Feel free to write to me if you have any specific questions.

By Nitesh Verma

Founder - Business Management Blog. I am an independent business strategy consultant, helping companies take data driven business decisions. My mission is to find and implement simple solutions for complex business problems.


  1. I have mentioned Hubspot as a recommended option, irrespective of whether you are looking for a FREE or paid CRM. If you are working as an individual sales person or a freelancer, another great option for FREE is Strek – It easily integrated with Gmail.

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