An Essential Guide to Cloud-Based CRM Software


Increasing numbers of businesses are recognizing the importance of adopting a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to manage prospective sales leads and support existing clients. Nigel Robinson, Director at explains what people need to think about before jumping in.

Why cloud-based CRM software?

Towards the end of the last decade we saw a proliferation of new cloud-based CRM software providers entering the marketplace and this principally came about because portable devices became truly mobile with the introduction of Internet access. Businesses were no longer constrained to desktop software and the appeal of being able to access client records while on the move was obvious. There are essentially two good reasons to adopt a cloud-based solution. The first is that businesses no longer have to worry about installing software across their inventory of desktop, laptop or mobile devices. This means there are no IT resource or hardware issues to consider, which has tremendous appeal to hard-stretched businesses. The second and most compelling reason is that users can access their client database on a 24 x 7 basis, from any device and from any location where 3G/4G or Wi-Fi is available.

Five of the most important things to consider when buying CRM software

1.      Think about how you intend to implement the CRM system

It is surprising just how many businesses that embark on a CRM system have very little idea about how to implement the system. It is typical that the initiative is driven by the business owner or a senior person within the organization, but it is vitally important that unless they possess the technical know-how, they identify someone that can facilitate a successful implementation. They will also need to nominate someone to act as the system administrator and this person will be responsible for managing a number of key activities, such as maintaining the system settings, adding new data fields and creating new user profiles, etc. Many CRM system providers will be happy to train key users and to facilitate training programs for the other population of users, but it is important you seek clarity about what role they are willing to play in this process, if at all. Unwary businesses might not know that some CRM providers charge additional fees for training and getting involved in setting up the system.

2.     Be clear about what the CRM system is going to deliver for your business

There is no question that CRM systems will provide increased focus to your sales drive, improve the quality of your service delivery and enable you to maximize cross-selling opportunities to your existing customer franchise. But unless you are clear about how you intend to exploit these opportunities from the outset, you are unlikely to achieve your business goals.

Many companies will implement a CRM system with very clear Return on Investment (ROI) criteria. The simplest approach is to think about what additional profit you hope to achieve as a result of implementing the CRM system. In simple terms, the ROI formula can be expressed as follows:

ROI = (Additional Annual Profit – Annual System Costs) /Annual System Costs

For instance, if you expect to increase profits by £36,000 p.a. And the annual cost of the system is £10,000 p.a., then the ROI is:

(£36,000 – £12,000)/£12,000 = 2

Essentially, an ROI of 2 means that every year you expect to cover the cost two times over or put another way, you are anticipating your annual outlay to be covered within just 4 months.

3.     Establish clear objectives for the people using the CRM system

Having thought about how you expect to cover the cost of your investment in a CRM system, you need to establish very clear guidelines and objectives for your people to follow. The most successful companies will introduce a series of measures within their CRM system so they can monitor their return on investment. Some businesses will identify a series of ‘triggers’ that sales or service personnel can pursue as a cross-selling opportunity. For example, a company that sells a product may ask their staff to try and up-sell extended warranty cover. By monitoring the relative success amongst peer groups not only introduces a competitive spirit, but will help you frame a structure to reward your most successful people.

4.     Ask your shortlisted CRM providers what their policy is in relation to future price increases and if software updates are free-of-charge

Having invested the time, cost and energy into implementing a CRM system, the last thing you want to see is the annual costs increase year after year, particularly if you view this as a long-term strategic platform. There are CRM providers that offer fixed price contracts for life and this can prove to be highly attractive over a number of years. Although it is the norm with cloud-based CRM systems, make sure that your provider includes free software updates for the tenure of your relationship.

5.      Find out whether your preferred CRM provider will offer free on-site site support for your implementation

Whilst it is true that many CRM providers will provide telephone and e-mail support, there is no substitute for face-to-face help during the important set up phase. A number of the smaller CRM system providers will be happy to fully configure and set up your system, so don’t be afraid to ask for this service to make sure you achieve a successful implementation.

Nigel is a Director and CRM Analyst with Serenity Applications Limited, based in Newbury, Berkshire. For further information, please visit