Selecting a CRM solution? Here's the key considerations and questions to ask

We are often approached by clients considering implementing a new CRM platform. Whether you are starting from scratch or migrating from an out-dated system, this article will provide you with a brief reference to the kind of questions an organisation should be thinking about to ensure success.

Leena Foote

Leena Foote

Selecting a CRM solution? Here's the key considerations and questions to ask

Selecting a CRM solution? Here's the key considerations and questions to ask.

We are often approached by clients considering implementing a new CRM platform. Whether you are starting from scratch or migrating from an out-dated system, this article will provide you with a brief reference to the kind of questions an organisation should be thinking about to ensure success.

What is CRM and what functionality should we expect?

A Customer Relationship Management platform’s central role is to provide a single source of truth and management environment for the data about customers and prospects of the organisation.

We’ve often found that the organisations that get best results keep things simple. So what should you expect? Typical functionality varies from tool to tool, but will normally include:

  • Customer contact database: name and address details, plus other relevant information about contacts.
  • Contact tracking: Tracking, notes and references for the interactions an individual has with the organisation. Basic tracking enables sales and service staff to keep notes on calls and emails. It often extends into tracking the life of the lead including interactions on the company website, with marketing emails, digital media and social media engagement.
  • Lead management: Enables a contact to move through the sales funnel and be assigned to the right people in the organisation to action opportunities, requests and support requirements.
  • Data integration: Often the CRM platform needs to connect to other tools and databases to ensure the data contained remains accurate and current. Open-API functionality that makes accessing and sharing data across systems helps with this.
  • Email integration: Email syncing will be required if you are looking to keep track of outbound and inbound emails from team email accounts to contacts.
  • Document management: Provide a media library including commonly used documents to be shared, uploaded or stored. This could include the ability to create, personalise and share things like quotes or proposals.
  • Sales Funnel integration: One or more sales pipelines specific to the organisation’s needs where a contact can be moved from stage to stage as required.
  • Automated workflows: The ability to automate repetitive tasks and trigger specific communications, notifications or reminders (and see marketing automation below)
  • Marketing Automation: Marketing automation includes a range of functionality that enables everything from segmented and dynamic triggered email to web integration, campaign management, dynamic landing pages, personalised forms, social media management, digital advertising and content marketing. This may be a core part of the CRM or additional functionality as part of an extended tool or linked application.
  • Reporting: The ability to run analysis and generate routine reports for everything from contact engagement trends, to sales and marketing.
  • Forecasting: The capability to assess the value of work in the pipeline and generate projected revenue and sales forecasts.

What are the key questions we should consider to get clarity on CRM requirements?

We recommend writing a Business and User Requirements Specification document. This defines what success looks like. It includes the purpose, goals, needs and parameters for a successful implementation. It covers requirements at a business level (organisational) and a user level (by the type of user and the level of access required).

Stake holders in this document who should be consulted or contribute include sales, marketing, customer service and product teams as well as IT.

1) What is the core purpose the CRM platform needs to serve?

This may sound like an obvious one to start with, but defining the objectives for the platform sets the foundation around which a strategy for success can be built. It provides clarity to inform who will use the platform, how they will use it and what inter-connectivity will be needed.


  • Define the core business outcomes desired, including the main objective and secondary objectives. Like all good objectives, be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

2) Who does the CRM system need to serve and how it will help them?

Many people in the organisation will need to access and use the CRM system. Getting clarity on who will use it, where and how is vital.

  • List the departments, teams or people within the organisation who need to access the CRM platform. Define how and where they will use it.
  • What tasks will they need to undertake, and what functionality will be required to enable success.
  • For each user or user type, define the reporting that will be required and the frequency of these reports.
  • Note how many users in the organisation need to have access to the tool, as this may impact licence costs

3) What data should it hold and what processes does it need to manage?

Data about customers and prospects is a valuable company asset that can become a critical resource for the organisation. A well-structured CRM system can become the central source of truth about customers, so put some careful thought into the data that needs to be held about them.

For each contact, think about these core data sets:

  • Contact data with contact details (addresses, email, phone etc) for the Organisation (Account) and the individuals within the organisation (Contacts).
  • Transactional data including the history of purchases and other transactions
  • Communications data capturing communications sent, received and responses to those comms
  • Engagement or Experiential data describing things like contact preferences, customer feedback, satisfaction and other derived data that may inform the potential risks and opportunities for each contact.

These data may be currently held, derived from other accessible sources or acquired (for example, through surveys or during normal day-to-day customer contacts).


  • Define the entities needing to be managed. Is it a person, an organisation or an address? It could also be an opportunity or project workflow, a product or a service, or a combination of these.
  • Create a list of data requirements, including critical information (must haves for all contacts); useful information (data that would be helpful to have for all contacts) and non-critical data (other data we should keep track of when available).
  • Source, merge, purge and clean all existing customer data. This provides benchmarks for current data populations.
  • For critical data, benchmark current population based on cleaned data, then set targets and implement an action plan to acquire missing data.

4) What other systems, platforms or databases does it need to connect into?

Starting out with clean, current customer contact data is one thing, maintaining it is a far bigger challenge.

As much as possible, you want to limit the opportunity for duplication of records within the business to make your CRM system the single source of truth about your customers. This will often mean building integrations between the various tools and platforms used across the business and automating APIs to share and update data in a timely way.

Examples include quoting systems, billing info, accounting packages, ERP and company websites. You’ll need to understand the level of synchronisation that is required and the timing of data feeds. Do you really need updates in real time, or would nightly, weekly or monthly updates be better?


  • List out other tools and platforms that hold customer data.
  • For each application, identify what data needs to be shared, the timings required and the processes needed to integrate with the CRM system.

5) Based on 1 to 4 above, list out the functionality required in your CRM system.

  • Create a functionality score card, split into ‘must have’, ‘nice to have’ and ‘other’ functionality.
  • Define a weighting criteria for the score card that will help you compare like with like.

For CRM success, simple and iterative is often best!

There are many CRM platforms out there with technology that promises the earth. A good, well designed user-interface certainly helps (and let’s face it, some CRM tech fails on this front), but ultimately success is often less about which platform you choose and more about how you apply it within the organisation.

Try not to get over ambitious in your requirements. By all means, go for a future proofed implementation but get the basics right first. Don’t forget to work through your technical support requirements. Include KPIs and budget for customisation, ongoing development, technical support and training.

Aim for an iterative implementation with a platform that enables you to build out the basics first. You can prioritise development of additional functionality over time.

For further reading, we found the following useful:

Leena Foote

Leena Foote

Marketing Technology Manager
Leena is a CRM and marketing automation consultant. Her background supporting the likes of British Airways in the UK before moving to NZ as a Sugar CRM and Salesforce support specialist.
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