When it comes to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, there is
a multitude of products that you can choose from. There is the ‘off the
shelf’ CRM software, such as Goldmine and ACT, that you can purchase at
most computer stores and install yourself, the large CRM vendors such as
Salesforce and Microsoft CRM that you will need a dedicated IT consultant
to install and configure for you, and then you have the many software
packages written specifically for the property industry (such as we provide), all of which are
designed to meet the needs of a property business ‘out of the box’.
So with all of these choices, how do you choose the right CRM system for
In this article we will look at how to ask the right questions, identify
your key requirements and, ultimately, how to choose the right CRM software
Step 1: Get a core team of people together
Implementing a CRM system is a company wide initiative. It will impact
everyone from senior management down to your receptionist, so it is
essential that you get a team of people together to not only run the
project, but also so that you have involvement in the decision making
process from each area of your business. This team will be responsible for
creating the original brief, reviewing all products and, ultimately,
selecting and implementing the CRM system.
By ensuring you have a team involved in this process, you also ensure that
you immediately have several key people in your business who have ‘buy in’
on the whole process. Change management is an issue whenever new software
is implemented in any business, and the implementation of a CRM system is
no different. These team members should represent your core agents for
change within the business and will assist with driving implementation from
the inside out.
Step 2: Identify and write down your CRM objectives
Generally the search for a CRM system starts due to an actual or perceived
failing in the business. It is essential that you clearly identify what
that failing(s) is and document it. You then need to look a little broader
within your own business to try and identify other opportunities for
improvement that can derive from the implementation of a CRM system. You
are, in effect, trying to derive the core objectives of this project. Here
are a few of the key objectives from CRM projects we have been involved
with in the past:
(a) Improve customer service by tracking all interaction with our
(b) Capture all customer data into a central company owned database so
that it can be managed and protected (from staff change over).
(c) Ensure every lead is captured (never lose another customer!)
(d) Improve sales through implementing better sales management
(e) Improve business decisions through capturing sales and marketing data
and being able to analyse this.
Step 3: Shortlist your preferred CRM vendors
The project team will probably already have a few CRM products in mind. It
is important to ensure that you genuinely consider at least 3 options. This
will ensure you are exposed to a range of features and also pricing and
Creating your shortlist is one of the most important steps in the entire
process. So how do you know you are short listing the right products? Here
are a few questions you should consider that will take you in the right
(a) Do we have the resources to configure and extensively customise our own
If you elect to purchase one of the off the shelf or large US CRM vendors
products, you will need to heavily customise it to ensure it includes
property centric features. Generally this requires either having your own
IT staff inhouse or bringing together a team of external consultants to
manage this for you.
If the answer is yes, then shortlist the systems that have the ability to
be extensively customised. This will preclude many but not all ‘property
specific’ systems that generally do not have the ability to be customised
in any significant way.
If the answer is no, shortlist software systems that have been built
specifically for the property industry. They should ideally meet your needs
‘out of the box’ without any customisation.
(b) Does the software have the features to meet your identified
You need to do a short initial review to bring down the number of systems
you will shortlist. This can be a simple analysis of the features promoted
on the CRM Vendors website or brochure and comparing this against your
objectives. Eliminate any products that clearly fall short.
Step 4: Product Reviews
In reviewing each of the shortlisted products, it is essential that you go
through the following process:
(a) Product Demonstration
Obviously you will want to get a demonstration of the software. Be careful
however that you drive at least some of the demonstration itself. Some of
the most successful CRM companies don’t necessarily provide the best CRM
software — but they certainly can sell it the best. The demonstration you
will get is probably the same as all of the preceeding demonstrations the
sales consultant will have supplied, so it should look slick and
To ensure that you get a very good review of the product however, you need
to ensure that you are specifically shown how the software will address the
issues you have identified that are important for your business. For
example, if you run a commercial real estate business, ask to be shown how
you will manage lease reviews or perhaps how to generate reports that show
rate per sqm/sq ft returns, or if you are involved in project marketing,
ask to be shown reports that would be supplied to Developers or perhaps how
your would track project specific KPI’s.
When reviewing your shortlisted systems, try and rank each on a scale of 1
to 5 in being able to meet your identified objectives.
(b) Consider how user friendly the software is
The number 1 reason that your CRM project will fail will be because your
staff do not use it, and the number 1 reason they will not use it is
because it is not user friendly. It is essential therefore that you choose
a CRM system that is easy to use.
(c) Consider implementation time
The less upfront customisation your system requires the more quickly the
implementation process can be completed. Ask your CRM vendor how long the
implementation will take and what factors may increase or decrease the
amount of time needed.
(d) Consider product development
You need to analyse and understand the CRM vendors vision for their own
product. How will they be developing it over time? Is it going to be
enhanced into the future or are they going to replace it with another
system? Can you have input into feature enhancements in the future?
When you purchase a CRM system you are not just purchasing a product you
implement today, but you are also selecting a CRM vendor that you hope to
do business with over the coming 3 to 5 years. Your investment needs to
grow over time, and the only way this is possible is if the CRM vendor
continues to improve the product. It is essential therefore that you select
a product with a clear upgrade path for the future.
(e) Evaluate technical support
You need to know that you will receive support for the ongoing use of your
CRM system. Here are a few questions to ask regarding support:
* Do you have a SLA (service level agreement) with customers?
* What hours does your support desk operate?
* Do you have user manuals, answers to frequently asked questions, online
training video’s and other self-help resources?
* What charges or service plans are involved?
(f) Cost Analysis
Last, but not least, you need to consider costs. Obviously you want the
very best CRM system for your business but costs are always an issue. Look
at the total cost of ownership for each CRM system. This should cover all
upfront and ongoing costs over the timeframe that you believe you will keep
your CRM system. Generally this would be a 3 to 5 year period.
Step 5: References
You should ask your preferred CRM vendor for some references. If they are
as good as they tell you they are, they should be able to point you towards
a number of similar businesses that are using their product that you can
Step 6: Try and get a Fixed Price Quote
Unfortunately the IT industry doesn’t have a great reputation for being
able to deliver projects on time and on budget. Good CRM vendors have a lot
of experience in successfully delivering CRM projects, and the good ones
will have enough confidence in their product and skills to provide a fixed
price quote in most instances.
Choosing the right CRM system for your business is not an easy process. It
needs to be done methodically and with careful planning, as it is a
decision that will impact on your business for the next 3 to 5 years.
Did you know that Brightfox is one of the world's leading providers of CRM software and online marketing solutions for the property industry. We have a suite of software applications to suit individual agents, small, medium and large agencies, multi-office agencies, property developers, investment networks and retirement village developers and managers. We would welcome the opportunity to show you how we can help your business, so please do not hesitate to contact us.