A guide to CRM requirements gathering and key features

Before committing to a CRM system, you need to be sure that it’s going to do what you need it to. And before you can be sure of that, you need to know what your requirements are.

This is an incredibly important step in finding the right CRM for your company - while different systems might seem pretty similar, the functionality they offer can vary significantly. Reviews are helpful here but every organization is different, and what may work incredibly well for one business may not be so good for another.

A well-planned requirements gathering exercise is therefore essential in CRM selection success. Get this wrong and you'll end up with an ill-fitting CRM that drains your resources and offers no tangible benefit to your organization.

Below, we examine how to identify your CRM requirements, and which features you need to meet them. We’ll also examine some of the advanced features CRM systems can provide.

 

Identifying your CRM requirements

Work through the steps below to identify your CRM requirements and map them onto the CRM features you need - spending time here will pay dividends further on, so don't rush.

What do you want to achieve?

First, consider why you want a new CRM system. You need to identify what issues you’re experiencing with your current system, and how they’re impacting your organization. You might find that using a CRM requirements gathering template or questionnaire will streamline the operation. Start with a wide lens and look at the business problems you are looking to solve first.

Once you know what outcomes you need, you can identify what you need to improve. What do you need to change? This will vary from business to business, but you might consider:

  • Efficiency: are your sales team bogged down in admin, for example
  • Performance tracking: are you unsure how effective your current methods are due to difficulty measuring them?
  • Sales volume: do you simply need to make more sales?
  • Access: is your team stymied by the fact that they can't access key customer data and notes on the move?

Whatever it is, quantify what you want to achieve as succinctly as you can. This will help you map out your feature requirements further on in the process. 

The principle of looking at the business case first then implementing technology to achieve the outcome is particularly clear in this case study on British Airways' post 9/11 CRM implementation. The airline needed to make drastic savings at a challenging time to do business. They may have been using technology which is very dated by today’s standards, but they succeeded in stripping out considerable costs and dramatically increased the company’s margin.

What stress will the system come under?

Many organizations forget to take into account how many people will be using the system, and how much data it’ll be storing. It’s better to over-estimate slightly and have the additional capacity, than find yourself having to upgrade in the near future, with all those additional costs.

How will it be accessed?

As well as knowing the number of users, you need to look at how and when those users will access the system. The deployment method (cloud or on-premise) you choose will have an effect on how you budget for new software, the implementation services you require and how easy access to the system is, so weigh up your requirements very carefully here. 

Consider:

  • Do all your staff work from one office, or do some visit customer sites?
  • If they’re working remotely, what devices and operating systems are they using?
  • Can you afford to replace the existing devices, or will any new system have to dovetail with your current ones?
  • Where do you want your CRM system to be located?
  • Would you prefer to have the system installed on your own servers, or would a fully managed, cloud-based system suit your needs better?
  • If you want to self-host will your servers cope, and what backup procedures will you need?
  • If going down the SaaS route, what is the supplier’s average downtime, and what happens if you lose connectivity? 

Which functionality do I need to meet my requirements?

Once you have absolute clarity on the issues above you can start considering features. Starting with the mindset "I want the system to have xyz features" before being crystal clear on how they will meet your requirements will only lead to you spending money on features you don't really need and missing out on those you really do.

Use this CRM requirements template to map out and prioritize your CRM feature requirements

Functionality is probably the most important part of setting your requirements. You know what you need your CRM to do, so the next step is identifying how it’ll achieve it. This will require a CRM functional specification document, but before you can create one, you need to understand the core and advanced functions.

 

Core CRM features

Customer relationship management is often seen as only being relevant to sales and marketing. After all, they’re the ones who have the most contact. A CRM system, however, is about information, which is vital throughout an organization.

For example, data gathered in the sales process can be vital for account managers, accounts or legal departments. So many organizations have multiple CRM’s and this can slow down productivity and mean missing out on some potentially beneficial synergy between departments.

Marketing CRM feature sets

Marketing is one of the most important applications of any CRM. Being able to target your marketing is crucial for the best results and a good CRM allows you to keep the information up-to-date. Matching the most relevant products or services with the needs of your clients improves engagement, increases sales, and maximizes return on investment. 

Specific marketing features to look for include:

  • Marketing lead management
  • Email list management
  • Email list segmentation
  • Campaign management
  • Social media management
  • Event marketing and webinars
  • Lead generation tracking
  • Lead scoring
  • Integration with marketing automation software

Sales CRM feature sets

Sales are the lifeblood of business, so it’s not surprising that another core function of any CRM system is maximizing sales.

Find software with the features you're looking for with our free online CRM comparison tool

There are a number of features that help you do this; some of the most common include:

  • Contact management
  • Sales performance management
  • Sales collaboration tools
  • Sales forecasting
  • Lead management
  • Lead assignment rules/lead routing
  • Custom pipelines
  • Product level quotes

Customer service

Happy customers are repeat customers. They want to be listened to, have their needs understood, and problems put right. Not only does customer service keep your clients happy, it also provides invaluable information to support the marketing and sales functions, plus strategic decision making.

Organizations often fall down when a client goes from being a prospect to a customer. A salesperson will have often learned a lot about the needs of the customer but if this isn’t recorded effectively and passed on to the account manager looking after them it can be a jarring experience for the customer. Whereas if an account manager has clear notes to pick up where a salesperson left off it can be a phenomenal experience, and this is all about capturing and accessing the data systematically.

In terms of specific functionality, here are a few basic features to get you started

  • Case management
  • Online support environments
  • Call center automation
  • Customer support automation
  • Team inbox
  • SLA management
  • Scenario automation
  • Custom ticket status

Business reporting and analytics

If you don’t know where your organization is now, you can’t plan for the future. That’s why a core feature of a CRM system is the ability to produce reports. Sales reports are obvious, but a good CRM system will also allow companies to track workflows and identify problems for better planning and performance.

Graphical representations are a great way to quickly understand current and past performance and spot trends. The possibilities here are extensive - the list below is just a sample of the reports available. 

  • Pipeline/deal regression 
  • Discount effectiveness
  • DOA (dead on arrival)
  • Leads by source
  • Leads by offer
  • Contacts by lifecycle stage

 

Advanced CRM features

Advanced features are almost endless in the current market but here are some key ones that are offered across the board.

Planning, scheduling, and collaboration

Whatever its size, an organization is a team made of many parts. It needs to work together, which means knowing who’s doing what, when. Automated scheduling with reminders can help make sure everything in the business flows as it should, while shared access to work means that everyone has relevant information at their fingertips. There are many messaging tools for company communication which are outside of the CRM space like Slack but there can be real benefits from keeping intra-company communications in the system to help track workflow.

VoIP

This can manage all calls, showing the key details for easy management. For those organizations with high call volumes who need up-to-the-minute information, it can prove invaluable.

Social media integration

Unless you live under a rock, you’ll be well aware of the importance and pervasiveness of social media now. It’s something that organizations neglect to their peril. Integrating your social media with your CRM allows for more efficient management of the company’s public image and engagement.

Industry-specific workflows

Each industry has its own needs so many CRM systems focus on specializing in one industry - Guestware in the hospitality industry and Contactually for real estate are great examples of this. As well as industry-specific feature sets (reservation management for hospitality CRMs, for example), these will offer integration with essential industry software, like Zillow for real estate. 

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Doug Haines

About the author…

Doug Haines has worked on a variety of CRM implementation projects and now writes on a wide range of topics. He is a regular contributor to Discover CRM

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Doug Haines

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