Choosing the Right CRM

  • With, you can only access your data via a browser. Act! is a hybrid solution; you can access your data via a browser or you can access it offline via a program you install on your Windows computer. With Act, you can host your own database if you have a web server or you can use a third party hosting company. With Salesforce, your data can only be hosted on the Salesforce servers.
  • With Act, you can create Groups of people that can be dynamically populated based on specific criteria. These groups can be used to help automate your follow-up process. They also allow you to easily market to specific segments of your database.
  • Act has very robust and easy Office integration. With a couple of clicks, you can create a mail merge document to Word or Outlook. With one click, you can export a list to Excel. These functions do not exist in Salesforce without addon products or custom programming.
  • Act’s pricing is a fraction of the cost of Salesforce. You can have your Act! database hosted for as little as $400/user/year.

This is truly the million dollar question! Working with a consultant that understands the true functionality (not just what the CRM company says) of each CRM can be an easy way get through this process. CRM Total Solutions has been doing this for over 12 years and has honed a very specific, methodical process for identifying which CRM is right for you. Specifically, we conduct an in-depth requirements and discovery session to go through each part of your business that needs to be tracked by the CRM. Once this is completed, an Executive Summary and details functional requirements document is created for you to review and circulate with your team. In addition to this summary and details, a comparison matrix is provided where each of the key features needed is ranked for each of the CRM softwares that would work. This gives you the ability to see which CRM is truly the right one for you.

No.   Wow, that was a short answer! The reason I say No is that you really won’t get a good idea of what the CRM can do as you don’t know how to navigate it or take advantage of the functionality. Once any CRM is implemented, our recommendation is Training. Training to make sure your team knows how to use it and also consistently uses it so the data has true meaning.

The short answer is that you don’t. And I wish that I could say something different than that. Each CRM company lists some feature that their product “does” but frankly does either poorly or constantly breaks. Working with a third party consultant is a great way to cut through this as you will get the real truth about the functionality, not just what the CRM company wants to tell you.

While looking at the feature set of each CRM is important, the most important thing you can do is to figure out what you want the CRM to do. Sitting down with your team and identifying what you want to track, what reports you need and how you intend to use the CRM is key to determining which CRM is right. CRM Total Solutions can help with this process as we have honed a methodology of identifying all of these key functions.

Choosing the right CRM from the start is absolutely critical.  Each CRM writes the code for their software differently and moving from one CRM is both costly and time consuming, although not impossible. 

CRM Customization

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No CRM is perfect. No CRM will give you 100% of what you want. That’s one of the reasons we provide a matrix of the features you need ranked by CRM so you can figure out the trade-offs. But the cool thing is that all CRM’s have add-on products that are provided by third party software developers. Some of these add-on products are mission critical to the successful implementation of your CRM.

I’m sure you have heard the old expression GIGO – garbage in, garbage out. There will be information that you need to capture that is specific to your business. If you don’t have a specific custom field in your database to capture that, each person will put that data wherever they can. I’ve seen people use the Address 2 field or Country field to keep track of secondary email addresses, for example. The reasons you should customize the database is to data is entered consistently in the right fields. This is critical for reporting as well as database mining – aka. Looking up the data you need.

There are lots of add-ons for any CRM. But for us to recommend one, they have to meet our stringent requirements. For us to recommend an add-on, it has to meet three criteria:

– The product must be really good. While no product is perfect, the add-on has to be very good.

– The tech support has to be outstanding. That means quick responses and an effort to resolve whatever the issue is.

– Great “bedside manner” – in life, things happen and how people handle it and respond – are they flexible, do they listen and understand the business needs, etc. That’s what bedside manner means.

I get asked this question all the time and it is a hard one to answer. Requiring people to enter information into any field can certainly help ensure they fill it out. But you can also end up with the “keyboard slap” – that is where the user just hits any key on the keyboard to put data in so they can get past this and on to what they need to do. So, if you do need things mandatory, please be very discretionary about which fields and limit that list as much as possible.

The first thing is to sit down with your team and understand all of the information you want to track and how that data should look. Is the field a drop down? If it is a drop down, is it a multi-select drop down or just single select? Do you want to limit the values of the field to just the drop-downs or allow users to free-form type something? This is one area where we strongly recommend that you outsource to an experienced consultant. While you can learn how to do the actual customization by watching a YouTube video or reading the manual, having an expert will get you a much better solution.

Yes, you can. Customizing your CRM is pretty easy to do – you first have to add the fields to the database and then you add them to the layout. It’s a two step process. This is something we typically do for our clients as the time it takes for you to figure out how to do it, it’s just easier to have us do it. But more importantly than the customization is the proper setup – one of our core strengths is understanding your requirements and then architecting and building out the database.

CRM Features

Yes. And, you should determine if you also want to keep it in your own environment as well as there are benefits to both. There are lots of great benefits to doing so – you can access it via your browser on any computer, you can use your smart phone or tablet. By having it in the cloud, you also have someone else backing it up for you so in the event of a catastrophic event, your data is safe.

Category: CRM Features

Not an embarrassing question at all! Everyone says Cloud but a lot of people don’t really know what it means. Cloud simply means that your database is located on someone else’s server and not in your own environment/network.

Category: CRM Features

This is a great question. The idea of having your data in the Cloud sounds so modern and since everything seems to be moving to the cloud, you may just assume that is what you need. And there are huge advantages to the Cloud – someone else is assuming the responsibility of the servers, the security around the servers, managing any installations/upgrades to the software, backing up your database, etc. But there are also advantages to having your data on your own server where you can use a CRM that is Windows based, like Act! Any application that you put on your computer will have more functionality than a browser solution and that can improve performance and make you more efficient. Act! is also a great solution as you can have Act! in the Cloud AND Act! on your server, which gives you the best of both worlds. You can also have remote databases so if you want to still access it via the desktop application, you can do that too.

Category: CRM Features

What I mean by this question is – do you just need some/all of your contacts from your database to sync to your native Contacts on your phone? And same question for calendar – is that all I need? Just to see this information. Or, do I want more of a “mini-database” on my smart device? So, I can clear activities on my phone, add notes from the meeting and that will sync back to my database. Or, when I make a call or send an email from my phone, do I want to have that information in the database? Each CRM can manage this differently so understanding exactly what you need is important.

Category: CRM Features

Off-line means no Internet connection. So, that would be times like when you are on a plane or in an area without Internet. If you need this, Act! is a great solution as you can have an off-line syncing remote database. Ok, that was a lot of words – break it down for me. Off-line: so you can get into the database without Internet because there is a copy of the database on your computer. Syncing: that means this copy of the database would sync with the main database to give/receive any changes made. Remote: ok, so that’s kinda obvious right?

Category: CRM Features

Currently, there are no CRM’s that have software that you can install on your Mac. Having said that, you can still use any CRM on your Mac but it has to be browser based. Almost all CRM’s work with Safari or Chrome. But there are limitations to that – one of the key features most people want is to integrate their CRM into Outlook so you can attach emails, create contacts or activities from an email and that will automatically show up in your database. There are no CRM’s that natively provide a solution for Mac’s.

Category: CRM Features

CRM Reporting

This really depends on the CRM. But in general, each CRM provides some standardized reports and report templates. Starting with those and making changes – like adding some of your custom fields, is usually the best and easiest way to get the kind of report you need.

Category: CRM Reporting

Usually the best place to start is to look at all of the spreadsheets you are currently using to track your business – activities, pipeline, contacts, etc. Most of my clients want to replicate these reports and have them automated by the CRM.

Category: CRM Reporting

Ok, they say there are no dumb questions, but this might be an exception to that. Reports are a critical part of your business – reports will tell you the status of your pipeline, the activities of your team and what is happening with the relationships with your clients and prospects.

Category: CRM Reporting

CRM Training

On-going training is super important – to teach new functionality about the software and to continue to get people to have their CRM be where they keep track of everything they need to do and who they need to do it with.

Category: CRM Training

The number of ways that people can learn how to use a CRM is overwhelming – manuals, videos, online tutorials, etc. But what I have found is that people need personalized and customized training. All training should be hands-on. It’s one thing to watch someone else do the keystrokes but it doesn’t become learned behavior until each person does it themselves.

Category: CRM Training

On-Going Support and Maintenance

Maintaining your database means a few things – is it being backed-up on a timely fashion? Is database re-indexing happening to maximize performance? Are you annually archiving old information so your database is more relevant to what is happening now and not what happened 10 years ago.

At CRM Total Solutions, we view ourselves as partners in your business. Your success is our success.   We work quickly and efficiently to resolve your technical issues. We also support your overall CRM eco-system so can support any add-on products as well. This is important as the CRM vendors will not support any integration with add-ons. And all CRM vendor technical support is a “break-fix” support. That means they will provide support if something breaks and needs to be fixed. But they don’t provide support for things like “how to”.

Almost all CRM vendors provide technical support for their products. Depending on the CRM, that support may be dialing an 800# and waiting 20 minutes for someone to answer and then spending an hour or so on the phone as they try to help. CRM Total Solutions provides on-going support for our clients and we pride ourselves in a quick response time for our clients. We also know the software really well so can typically resolve the problem quickly.