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5 Features to Look for in a CRM Solution

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Customer relationship management (CRM) solutions can do much more than organize contacts and act as a digital rolodex. With the right features, CRM software can also help you boost sales by keeping an eye on customers, from lead prospect nurturing to closing the sale and maintaining customer loyalty. It can also save you tons of time and money through sales force automation.

Here are five features to look for in CRM software.

CRM software can make your life easier by automating your workflow. Look for software that lets you set up custom rules and comes with sales force automation to help you and your team be more productive.

By using rules, you can set your CRM software to automatically perform a specific action based on triggers or events, such as these:

  • When a potential customer fills out a contact form on your website, the CRM software automatically directs the message to the right sales rep or department.
  • When a sales rep receives a message, the CRM software automatically sends an autoresponder to acknowledge the message.
  • If a lead, prospect or opportunity doesn't respond to your message or proposal, the CRM software automatically sends a follow-up message after a preset amount of time, such as 48 hours or two business days.
  • When a sales rep makes calls or sends messages to a contact, the CRM software automatically logs hours and keeps track of all communications.
  • As sales reps complete tasks, the CRM software automatically reports them to supervisors and upper management for performance reports

Workflow automation features can also take the time and leg work out of tedious sales tasks, such as order processing, order tracking and inventory control.

Looking for a CRM solution? Check out our article on the best CRM software.

No two businesses are made alike, so the best CRM software can cater to your business's unique needs. Some CRM solutions let you pick and choose which features to include in your package, and some also allow you to customize basic areas, such as with the abilities to add contact fields, choose which data to show on your dashboard and create custom reports. You can also customize using extensions, plugins and other add-ons to expand your software's capabilities.

If you need even more customization to truly tailor the software to your business, many CRM software providers offer more advanced options using APIs. This gives developers access to all technical specs and coding for full customization of your software. The API also allows you to integrate the software with existing business solutions your company uses to streamline processes.

Connecting your CRM software to other solutions you already use can save you tons of time and money. Most CRM programs offer third-party software integrations – the key is choosing one that's compatible with the software you use and easy to implement. For instance, popular CRM software Salesforce has its own marketplace called AppExchange, where users can easily connect Salesforce to solutions such as QuickBooks accounting software, MailChimp email marketing software and DocuSign electronic signatures.

Here are a few things you can do with the right third-party integrations to make your life easier:

  • Run CRM software straight from Outlook, Gmail or other email clients so you don't have to keep switching between apps
  • Automatically sync sales and order information with your POS system and accounting software to eliminate manual data entry
  • Automatically build email lists and launch email marketing campaigns from either your email marketing software or CRM software so you don't have to open both
  • Back up and sync data with Dropbox, Box.com and other popular cloud backup storage services

Note that, depending on your software, some integrations may require IT administration.

CRM software can help you acquire and retain customers by providing excellent customer service. Look for the following capabilities that will allow your sales reps and customer support team to perform their best:

  • Gives you a 360-degree comprehensive view of customers that shows everything there is to know about a customer from the first point of contact
  • Automatically tracks all points of communications from lead acquisition to closed sales and sales histories
  • Logs all incidents, website visits, purchase histories and other activities for future reference and to keep all reps on the same page
  • Uses customers' first names to personalize all correspondence
  • Has unique reference numbers for each account, customer and help issue
  • Automatically sends customers acknowledgments of their inquiries and messages so they don't feel ignored
  • Supports premade email templates and call scripts that answer the most common questions

Some CRM solutions can make this even easier by integrating third-party apps such as the Desk.com support platform, SurveyMonkey feedback forms and the RingCentral business phone system.

CRM software is a great way to track employee activity and performance. Choose software that provides employees with their own accounts where they can individually keep track of hours, tasks, meetings, sales numbers, goals and other items. The software should also give supervisors and upper management access to dashboards that let them view individual employee goals, completed tasks and other metrics of productivity. This can help managers write employee performance reviews, create incentives and reward strong employees, and identify those who are struggling and address areas of improvement.

Sara Angeles

Sara is a Los Angeles-based tech writer for Business.com, Business News Daily and Tom's IT Pro. A graduate of the University of California, Irvine, she has worked as a freelance writer and copywriter for tech publications, lifestyle brands and nonprofit organizations in the Southern California area and throughout the U.S. Sara joined the Purch team in 2013.