Closing Time

Shopping for a CRM? Expert Advice for Choosing the Right CRM For You

Few software tools are as mission-critical as your CRM.

Whether you’re a startup, mid-market, or enterprise business, choosing the right CRM solution is easier said than done.

With over 850 options currently available in the market (according to G2), deciding which is right for you can be an overwhelming decision.

Whether you’re upgrading your company from Excel spreadsheets or simply looking for a new CRM, you’re not in it alone.

In this episode of Closing Time, CRM consultant Vanessa Hunt will guide you through the CRM selection process, explain why legacy CRMs like Salesforce aren’t for everyone, share the common mistakes she sees companies make, and help you find the best value and fit for your organization.

Watch the video:
Key Moments:
The Crowded CRM Market

If you’ve helped purchase a CRM recently or are currently in the market for one, you’ve likely seen G2’s quadrant grid. With so many available options, it becomes difficult for buyers to discern which CRM suits their specific business needs. One wrong decision could cost their business thousands in resources, time, and expenses.

G2 grid of CRMs

To make sense of this noise, Vanessa recommends defining clear requirements before initiating the search. Insightly’s State of CRM survey of over 500 B2B go-to-market leaders revealed that improving workflows/processes (50%) and improving customer experience (45%) were the top priorities driving a company’s consideration of a new CRM. Defining your priorities and requirements establishes boundaries and constraints,  allowing buyers to focus on CRM solutions that align with their specific needs and existing systems.

Differentiating between CRM platforms is important, as each may offer unique features and functionalities tailored to specific industries or organizational structures. Buyers must critically analyze their business requirements to find the CRM that best complements their existing processes and workflows rather than opting for a one-size-fits-all approach. Evaluate factors such as cost, scalability, and ease of integration with other business systems. Customizability, data security, and customer support are also essential elements that buyers must weigh when making their decision. Try grouping your ideas into the following categories: important features, costs and licensing, scalability, integrations, and support. 

Furthermore, seeking peer reviews, industry insights, and expert opinions can aid buyers in understanding the real-world experiences of CRM users. These resources can provide valuable perspectives and help identify potential challenges and benefits associated with each CRM platform.

Identifying Your Company's Needs

Asking the right questions during your CRM selection process will help understand your requirements and narrow down your search. Ask yourself two primary questions:

1. What struggles are my internal teams facing?

2. What things are negatively impacting my customers?

When building requirements, it’s beneficial to consider the specific functions or departments that are leading the charge for a CRM. Is it the sales team? RevOps? Marketing? For example, if the focus is on improving lead generation, the marketing features of a CRM would be a primary consideration. On the other hand, if customer service is a concern, features related to contract management and addressing customer complaints would be prioritized.

Different departments may require unique CRM functionalities. Sales teams may need robust pipeline and opportunity management features, while others might need niche capabilities like project management or customizable pipelines.

Moreover, involving key stakeholders from various departments in the decision-making process is vital to ensure that all relevant perspectives are considered. Collaboration between teams will help in finding a CRM that meets the collective needs of the organization and streamlines operations across different functions.

2 Types of Buyers: Transitioning From Excel to CRM vs. CRM to CRM

Upgrading from Excel spreadsheets to a CRM or choosing a new CRM that better meets a company’s needs involves distinct considerations. While more people now have experience with cloud-based CRMs, a significant portion of businesses, about 30% of Insightly’s customers, still rely on spreadsheets for managing customer data. 

For those transitioning from spreadsheets, familiarity and ease of use are the primary factors driving their preference. However, as the business grows, spreadsheets become less efficient, unable to handle large volumes of data, leading to a need for a more scalable solution like a CRM.

While transitioning from spreadsheets to a CRM is one step, moving from one CRM to another is more complex due to the need to unlearn established habits. However, this group has a well-defined set of needs, as they know precisely what they want to avoid based on their previous CRM’s limitations.

The process of decision-making varies significantly between two groups. Those who switch from spreadsheets may find it harder to adjust to a more significant change in behavior. They may not fully understand the importance of a CRM and may be unsure about their exact requirements. Although spreadsheets are flexible, some users may be reluctant to give them up, without realizing the benefits of a powerful CRM, such as task automation, sales pipelines, workflows, and configurable pricing quotes. Conversely, companies with prior CRM experience have more specific requirements since they have learned from their previous system’s shortcomings. In either case, CRM systems significantly improve the efficiency of go-to-market teams and streamline processes across different departments of businesses of all sizes.

Is Salesforce Right For You?

The adage “no one got fired for buying Salesforce” reflects the perception that Salesforce is a safe and reliable choice for many businesses when selecting a CRM. However, while Salesforce is a prominent player in the CRM market and offers robust capabilities, it may not be the best fit for every company or specific needs. Some companies might find Salesforce too large, bloated, or expensive, making it less suitable for their requirements.

Vanessa considers various factors when guiding individuals away from the assumption that Salesforce is the obvious choice. Businesses must assess their available resources, whether they plan to have an internal team to support the CRM, or rely on a partner or supplier for assistance. Some companies may prefer a CRM that requires minimal hands-on administration, making options like Insightly more appealing.

Salesforce is known for its advanced capabilities and comprehensive features, making it suitable for enterprises with ample resources and dedicated personnel to manage the system efficiently. However, for companies with limited resources or those in between small and large enterprises, a simpler and more cost-effective CRM solution might be a better fit.

Considering the level of support needed is crucial, as CRM solutions with higher license fees often provide better support and documentation. For companies seeking a CRM that offers robust assistance and comprehensive resources, Salesforce could be a suitable choice.

Overall, businesses must carefully evaluate their specific needs, available resources, and preferred level of CRM support before making a decision. While Salesforce might be the right choice for some organizations, there are alternative CRM solutions like Insightly that offer a balance between functionality and ease of use, making them more suitable for certain businesses. Making an informed decision ensures that the selected CRM aligns with the organization’s objectives and contributes to enhanced customer relations.

Top Two CRM Selection Mistakes

Selecting the right CRM involves an artful balance of research, involvement, prioritization, and execution. The top two mistakes Vanessa identifies are rushing the selection process without involving the right people and going too slowly once the requirements are clear.

Rushing the selection process can lead to hasty decisions and overlooking crucial factors. Involving key stakeholders across departments (sales, marketing, operations, and finance) from the beginning is essential to ensure all perspectives are considered. However, it’s also important to be flexible as stakeholders may change due to personnel turnover or business dynamics.

Conversely, going too slowly can hinder progress and delay implementation. Once clear requirements are defined, companies should avoid getting bogged down in distractions and focus on moving forward with the implementation. Adequate resources and a well-defined project team with assigned roles are vital for effective execution. You should also ensure a balance between decision-making authority and input. Having too many decision-makers can lead to confusion and indecision, while gathering input from various team members is valuable without necessarily having them all on the project team.

Moreover, Vanessa highlights the importance of using the MoSCoW technique (Must-Have, Should-Have, Could-Have, Won’t-Have) to prioritize requirements. This helps delineate boundaries and expectations for the CRM’s functionalities – ultimately helping to avoid these common mistakes, make well-informed decisions, implement the CRM efficiently, and leverage its full potential to enhance overall business performance.


If you’re shopping for a CRM, you know the market is flooded with options.
We’ve got an expert here today to help you ask the right questions
on this episode of Closing Time.
Thanks for tuning into Closing Time the show for Go to Market Leaders.
My name is Chip House.
I’m CMO at Insightly CRM and today. I’m super excited to be joined
by Vanessa Hunt.
Vanessa is an expert in CRM and she has over 20 years
of experience in this field.. Welcome, Vanessa.
Great to meet you, Chip.. Thanks very much for having me.
Yeah, it’s super great to have you.
And, you know, it’s such a crowded space that we’re
in, you know, so Insightly has been in the CRM space about 11 years.
And we’re going to pull up a graphic here on the side of the video
and show the G2 quadrant grid
that shows all the different CRMs that they’re tracking.
And you can see it’s quite a crowded space.
You can hardly make heads
or tails of who’s in there, you know, thankfully, we’re happy
that Insightly is in the upper right quadrant, you know,
and so you can kind of make us out there
as one of the top leaders.
But, you know, where does a buyer start to make sense of all this noise?
Yeah, it’s a good question, actually.
And one of the things I find
is that most people come to me when they’re already confused.
So they’ve started out that journey looking for a CRM themselves.
And, you know, it’s just like going in a bookstore.
It’s full of books.
You know, you’ve kind of got to tune
into what you really need and what you’re looking for
rather than just saying, I need a CRM, what shall I get?
So one of the things I think that’s a really good place to start
is actually being really clear on your requirements before you start.
So you get some kind of boundaries
and constraints to where you should be looking.
So you’re not looking at the whole landscape of CRM,
but you’re able to already, you know, zone in on those ones
that are really key to your needs and your requirements.
And that might be driven by the financial system
that you’ve got or the email client that you’re using.
So there might be some specific things that already help you limit
the number of CRMs that you should be looking at. Right.
So you’re going to start out with a set of requirements.
And, you know, I don’t know,. I would assume that you’ve worked with
a lot of RFP’s
with different organizations as they’re looking to find a CRM.
But you know, what are some of the top things
you would be asking your client
as they’re kind of building their requirements?
Yeah, it’s generally driven by team and also by
what the main pain points are that, you know, and that’s a very
common phrase.
But you know, what are the things that are really
causing you issues internally as a team working together and
what are the things that are really impacting your customers.
So generally it helps to start, you know, function by function
and predominantly you’ll find it’s one particular department
that are kind of leading the chase, if you like, for CRM.
So if they are really looking at, you know, improving lead generation,
then obviously they’ll be looking
at the marketing features first predominantly.
Other times it might be, you know, issues with customer service,
not following up on contracts, maybe having lots of customers complaints
that they’re trying to help alleviate or mitigate.
So they might come from one end of those
kind of features or functions for CRM.
But equally it might be, you know, just general sales management,
sales operations where they’re struggling.
So they need really powerful features
you know, at the heart of the CRM in the kind of pipeline
and deal and opportunity management,
but equally it could be a really niche feature or
just something like project management that they need to add, or
they might come for a CRM,
but actually they need a membership management CRM.
So looking for those kinds of flavors of CRM before you start
is helpful too.
That makes a ton of sense whether you’re in sales or CS.
I mean, you’re building your needs set around
how you’re going to interact with customers.
What data did you need to track?
What’s your day to day function for supporting or prospecting
into a set of customers?
And so you’ve been doing this for about 20 years.
And so how has this changed?
You know, how has your work changed in the past several years?
And then especially in the last few kind of post COVID?
Yeah, I think at the very start of my career,
I worked in a lot of call centers.
So it was very much focused on, you know, high volumes,
high transactions, high numbers of transactions.
Yeah, the whole call center space, you know, big,
big roll outs with hundreds and hundreds of users
and very much driven about operational efficiencies.
And I think really over the years,
you know, there was then a kind of a transformation where we saw,
you know, would be sales managers or sales leaders
who would kind of lead the
chase for CRM,
marketing would have their own tools and be working, you know,
independently of sales.
And sales and marketing were quite separate.
And then probably in the last 5 to 8 years,
you know, definitely seeing a merge, as you would hope,
between sales and marketing teams working together and seeing, you know,
that it’s not just marketing, you know, chucking over a lead to sales
and off they go.
But actually, you know,
focusing more on account based marketing
and really just working more together.
So to get the best out of the data and the insights out of that data.
And then there was always this kind of function of sales operations.
Again, you know,
typically in a large corporation, you’d have, you know, the sales team
supported by people internally who do a lot of the data work.
And actually I think we’re finding that, you know,
salespeople are expected to do a lot more themselves,
you know, with social media working online.
And so the tools have become much more user friendly for
salespeople who would perhaps less technical to use them.
And then that’s really also made a transformation.
I think sales operations has really been re rebranded
I think as RevOps recently.
And I think that kind of seeing SalesOps
not just as a supporting or a cost base, but seeing them
as a revenue generating team has been a fundamental change.
So, you know, the lay of the land is much more interesting
because actually people are collaborating more
and teams are expecting to get data from one another.
So the value of that data is also so very high
and then determines that we need to be working
even more efficiently together to get the best out of the data we have.
A lot of those are very positive things, right?
When you think about the teams working together,
they’re looking for a more unified kind of platform where
they can function together across their organization.
And also, I 100% agree that Ops has become a RevGen team, right?
And so them having a vote as to the CRM
selection is critical.
So one of the things that sort of as you were talking to, I was thinking
more and more people have used a CRM in the past,
you know, recently probably versus say 20 years ago.
People’s experience with cloud. CRM was probably just not that high
because they hadn’t been around that long.
And so I would assume that that’s pretty significantly different.
But it makes me think about
still about 30%,. I would say, of our business
comes from companies, even in the mid-market
that are still on spreadsheets,
they’re still managing all their customer data on spreadsheets.
So I’m kind of curious what kind of stats you see on that.
But also it’s sort of two different buyers, right?
It’s two different need stats for those that are new to CRM
moving from Fred’s spreadsheets and those that are very,
familiar and transferring data from a competitor
and trying to optimize what they were doing before.
Can you talk us through that?
Yeah, I think yeah, to your point, they’re very
they are quite different because people that use Excel
and spreadsheets and are familiar with those,
they really like the usability
and the ease of use of Excel and the fact that you can have
as many different things on one line as you like,
and that can work to a certain degree until you get to a size where,
you know,
you don’t just have ten or 20 transactions that you want to look at,
you know, you’ve got hundreds or thousands or millions even.
So part of it, I think, is due to
just the scale of your business and your ambition for growth,
where you kind of outgrow your spreadsheet.
And then for those companies that are using, you know,
something like an access database or an ACT database
and have been doing so for many years, you know,
they’re actually pulled down by the performance of that database.
It’s become so huge over the years
with all the transactions that they then have issues with
you know, it just not being fast enough and quick enough for them.
And there’s a concern about, you know, data loss, etc..
But then when you’re moving from one system to another,
the change in behavior is almost, you know, much,
much bigger, you know, from Excel to a CRM, you know, is one step.
And and that’s kind of doable.
But if you’ve already learned certain habits because you’ve had to
wait, you’ve had to work a certain way because the way that that CRM works,
it’s almost more difficult to unlearn those habits.
But equally, you’re very clear on what you don’t want your
your new CRM to do because maybe you’ve had issues
with your previous one.
So the requirements are much clearer,. I would say, whereas it’s a lot more
yeah, a lot more vague when you’re moving from Excel to a CRM
and you may not
quite know why you’re doing it because you don’t yet see the value
of all these different data structures and the fact that you can develop,
you know, very sophisticated reports and analytics from that information,
but equally that it’s in a way
that makes sense to many people across the team,
not just the financial team.
Yeah, I think some people that are on spreadsheets are just,
you know, addicted to maybe the flexibility of it.
They can do whatever they want.
But also, I don’t think they really know what it’s like to use
a powerful CRM that is providing tasks and pipelines and workflows and
configure price quote or, you know, whatever those technologies are
that just make go to market teams way more efficient.
And so I want to
I want to come back to something that you also talked about
is the consolidation that’s happened
in the last several years as more and more teams move
to more of a platform approach to serve marketing, sales, customer
service, ops across teams, and ideally with a single view of the customer.
If you can have that.
You know, I think that resonates
because, as Gartner says, a lot of companies have,
you know, SaaS app just like expansion
50, 60, 70 and 80 SaaS apps at their companies.
And so what’s driving the consolidation
and what do you think the benefits are and how do you guide buyers
to find the right platform.
Yeah, I think back to your points actually about COVID.
You know, I think, you know, obviously there were there’s been a big impact
on the budget that people have available for technology
and rather than the Internet
that we said was going to change everything
and people were going to work from home,
I think it was COVID really that really changed things
for us.
And companies saw that they had to have that flexibility
of having a hybrid workforce or people working from home
and therefore how integral the systems were to the business.
But alongside that, you know,
I think a lot of people recognize that there were lots of applications.
You know, some people were using Zoom, some were using Teams and actually
forcing people, you know, as a team to use the same
the same best breed applications became more important.
And then certainly with the economic climate now,
you know, companies are questioning what are we paying for,
What is the value that we’re getting from these specific tools?
And I think, frankly, it was just because people didn’t
whereas now, you know, the conversation is much more open.
Well I use this for project management,
I use Trello for this.
I use, you know, another tool.
If every user has got one app that they’ve chosen
for a particular reason,
in a team of 20, you could have 20
or 30 apps that are being used across the business
and people just don’t know the functionality of the CRM
or the marketing tool that is being used
where there could be some alignment or overlap.
So it’s just coming back to being really clear about, well,
how do we work, why do we use the tools we use
and are we getting the best out of all of them, or can we
consolidate them into a lesser number, which then has a bigger impact
on training and onboarding because, you know, users don’t have to choose,
don’t have to
learn how to use 20 apps, you know, they learn how to use five really well
for example, so when I’m working with a business, I’m
looking to see what you know, again, what’s at the heart of that business?
What is it that makes them different and what are their,
you know, company competencies that they need technology
to support to enable them to serve their customer better?
So we’ll switch gears here a little bit.
But there’s the old adage that. I think you’ve probably heard where
in the business space, nobody was ever fired for choosing IBM.
And in the CRM space,. I think you would say
nobody was ever fired for choosing Salesforce.
But the fact of the matter, you know,. Salesforce probably isn’t right for
every company, for every specific need, it might be too large,
too bloated, too expensive maybe for a lot of different companies.
And so, you know, how do you guide
people past that decision who might be considering, hey,
I feel like. I’m just going to choose Salesforce
because it seems like the obvious choice.
How do you guide people to pick what’s right for them
and what are the main deciding factors?
Yeah, I think that is important.
I think, you know, there are certain platforms
where yeah, if resource is no issue.
Yeah, absolutely.
You can do, you can do anything and you know that you can make it work.
But yes, I think it’s also important to consider the culture
of an organization and also whether you plan
on having an internal team to support that CRM
or whether you’re going to run with a partner
or a supplier who’s going to support you,
or whether you just want someone that you phone when you’ve got an issue.
So it really depends on how hands on you want to be with the CRM.
And I think that’s where, you know,. CRM is like Insightly, you know, very,
very neat because, you know, it’s not onerous
to learn the admin side of using that CRM.
And, you know, on the Salesforce side,
you know, it helps to have somebody that’s actually
really got a role in the business and is really going
to learn the ins and outs of administration of Salesforce.
But if you’re a company that’s kind of in between,
you may not need somebody to have a full time admin role.
So I think looking at the CRM, how you’re going to support
it. And again, one of the reasons you pay higher license fees
is because you get better support and you get better documentation.
So, Vanessa, you’ve done this for so long
and worked with so many different companies.
So I’m wondering if there’s commonality
to the errors you see companies make when they’re selecting a CRM.
So what would you say the top two mistakes are?
Yeah, I think the first mistake would be
just rushing without the right people involved.
So making sure that you’ve got, you know, your stakeholders from
the outset is really, really important.
And sometimes that evolves.
You know, people leave a business, people join,
and so that the selection process can take longer than you planned.
So I think allowing for that time and allowing for, you know,
the different teams that need to be involved is very important.
On the other
hand, also going too slowly can be an issue.
So once you have made your requirements very clear
and I use something called MoSCoW, it’s used by business
analysts, you know, must-have should-have, could-have, won’t-have
being able to define and prioritize your requirements
and knowing absolutely you know, where those boundaries are of
what you do expect your CRM to do or not do.
And then just getting on with it.
Sometimes companies you know, get
you can get distracted by, you know, what’s going on in your business
and all the reasons why you need a CRM
are stopping you from actually getting on and doing the implementation.
So having enough resource and manpower and being really clear
about people’s roles on that project team is also important.
So, you know, have. I got responsibility for making it
happen or do I need to be executing and be in the team doing it?
And that a very different kind of role.
So not having too many chefs
and decision makers, but equally, you know, the balance
of making sure that you have got everybody’s input,
but they don’t necessarily all need to be on the project team.
So I think moving fast enough to get the value quickly
and then the more that you learn allows you to
then see what the other possibilities are from the CRM.
So yeah, it’s, it’s an art rather than a science.
Yeah, well that’s great advice from somebody who’s done a number of these.
So, Vanessa, that’s all we have time for today,
but thank you for sharing your expertise with us.
It’s really been great having you.
Thank you.
It’s been really good to chat.
So thanks very much for having me on the show.
Oh, yeah, we’ve enjoyed it for sure.
And thanks to all of you for tuning in to Closing Time.
Remember to click like, and subscribe, by ticking the bell.
And that way you will make sure you don’t miss any episodes and
we’ll see you next time.

You may also like:

See all episodes
Top 5 Go to Market Challenges in 2023 and How to Overcome Them
CRM Best Practices to Generate More Sales - Show Me You Know Me!
3-Step Playbook to Drive Revenue with Account-Based Experience (ABX)