7 steps to choosing the right CRM

Mar 27, 2015

Choosing the right CRM can be a daunting task. You can make the job a whole lot easier by establishing what you need and what solutions are out there.

From understanding the jargon to shortlisting your options, our seven-step guide will save you time and money.

On this page:

  1. What is a CRM and why do I need one?
  2. Get to know the jargon
  3. What do I need from a CRM?
  4. What systems are out there?
  5. Can I use an open-source solution?
  6. Cloud-based or on-premise?
  7. Custom or off-the-shelf?

1. What is a CRM and why do I need one?

If you have customers then you already “do” CRM. CRM in its most basic form is “customer relationship management” and simply describes the processes a service-provider follows when dealing with customers. Of course, for any company worth its salt, CRM is about far more than just “dealing with customers” – it means maintaining and growing healthy relationships that lead to happy customers, nurturing relationships – and ultimately, more sales.

Most of the time, when we talk about CRM, we mean “CRM systems” – software that facilitates CRM, helping us fulfil our business obligations (like supplying products or services), manage leads, and deal with our own suppliers.

Most companies find that it’s not enough to simply maintain a series of spreadsheet and an address book – what they need is an integrated solution, one that allows them to keep tabs on every area of business all within the same interface. At its best, this makes things simpler and more efficient – but if CRM is going to work for you, it’s essential that you start with the right system from the outset.

2. Get to know the jargon

Before going any further, it’s worth familiarising yourself with some of the industry terminology you’re likely to encounter when shopping for a solution or doing your research. You’re probably fairly comfortable with what CRM means by now, but how about ERP, automation, the cloud, and local applications?

A Google search will help you bust the worst of the jargon, but here are a few of the most common terms for starters:

3. What do I need from a CRM?

As when making any purchase, it’s important to start from an informed point of view. There are different types of CRM system, and having an understanding of your own needs and how far the different types of system match these needs can give you a real head start when it comes to shortlisting.

Top tip: Begin by making a list of what you hope to get out of your CRM system – for example, do you just want to record communications and transactions, or are you hoping to generate sales and take advantage of new sales opportunities? You can always revise your initial thoughts if you get inspiration from your research.

4. What systems are out there?

There are four main types of CMS:

Contact managers

Opportunity managers:

Sales-force automation

Enterprise CRM

5. Can I use an open-source solution?

Open source software is software of which “source code” (the basic code which makes up a computer programme) has been made freely available to the public. Someone wishing to use the software is therefore able to download the code and develop it into a solution which is suitable for them. Open-source CRM software is that which is built around freely available source code.



Summary: Open-source is a cheap option if you have in-house development expertise, and the capacity for ongoing support. If you’re looking for a system with complexity, you may want to consider purchasing a CRM.

6. Cloud-based or on-premise?

You will undoubtedly have heard much talk of the “the cloud” over the last few years, but what does it mean for CRM software? As a CRM shopper, the decision you need to make is whether you want a CRM which is hosted on site on your own network, or on the supplier’s servers.

In practical terms, this means choosing between:



Summary: Businesses looking for an easy-to-set-up and accessible CRM solution may be inclined to choose a cloud-based option. For smaller businesses, it can be more affordable since costs are spread out, and for businesses of any size handling a lot of data, it offers a good amount of storage.

7. Custom or off-the-shelf?

Do you simply want to buy CRM software as is, or do you want a system which is customised for your needs?



Summary: For many businesses, off-the-shelf solutions are certainly the most practical option. If you’re on a budget or a tight timescale or just want to get things moving, then it’s probably an off-the-shelf solution for you. However, they’re not as sustainable or flexible, so if you want a system built to last, then go custom.

What we offer

Here at Cambridge Software, we can meet your needs whether you’re looking for a powerful off-the-shelf system or a custom-built CRM. We will tailor your solution to your specific requirements, offering ongoing support and development so you can expand, improve and adapt your CRM as your business evolves.

Call us now on 01223 626265 to tell us what you need.

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