There is no perfect CRM system. Never has been, never will be.

No matter which CRM system you buy, you’ll need to customize. Likely use only a small fraction of its features. Focus on what’s most important for your organization and sales process, based on how your customers buy. Higher adoption and usage is more important than stretching the team to use more features.

Increasingly, CRM managers can customize their instances with an endless supply of apps that either modify or enhance what CRM can do, or create seamless tie-ins with other systems (marketing automation for example).

And although we’ve come a long, long way in a short amount of time, there are still a few high-level features & capabilities I’d like to see enabled for CRM to make them more accessible, valuable and productive for B2B sales organizations.

Here’s my short list:

1. Fewer features, not more
I sometimes compare a good CRM system to Microsoft Excel. You won’t use 90% of the features, nor will you probably need them. But wouldn’t it be easier if you could just turn those features off? Make it so that your users don’t even get distracted or intimidated by them? Some CRM systems such as are focusing on building more usable CRM that specifically features less options, but I’d think even could make it so that some hard-wired features, buttons, fields and more could simply be hidden or deleted at a greater scale.

2. Better integration with marketing systems
I continue to be impressed with how well the marketing automation and email systems (Marketo, Eloqua and Vertical Response in particular) have integrated with and even other CRM systems. But those are far from the only core systems marketers use. Integration between and GoToWebinar, for example, is still primitive. I realize much of this work still lies at the feet of the third-party solution providers (to create connections and apps for the and general CRM community), but if they don’t put a greater focus on this, more marketers will likely start to migrate to providers that do.

3. Better marketing campaign and ROI reporting
Fundamental CRM architecture clearly puts a focus on sales vs. marketing, but even years later there’s very little innovation (with in particular) to create better, more accurate and intuitive marketing reporting. This needs to go far beyond measuring inbound leads and conversions. Most marketers are touching leads with multiple campaigns, channels and efforts in unison or parallel. Where’s the causality? What’s really working? Thankfully, companies like Full Circle CRM are actively working on solutions that address this now.

4. More focus on helping organizations customize and successfully launch
Every organization is going to be different, granted. But there are similarities to how an inside sales team might set up their CRM system, similarities for how a manufacturing organization might do the same, and so on. Without creating massive services organizations, I’d love to see more templates and guidelines for how new CRM customers can set-up & launch their instances. Yes, consultants could create these. But I’d be surprised if they didn’t help the CRM software providers themselves help convert more prospects into customers, by making it clearer what the specific path to success looks like.

5.Intelligent to-do’s (based on customer & prospect activity)
For most CRM system implementations, task-setting is manual. But shouldn’t CRM be smarter than that? Shouldn’t it be able to observe prospect activity (within the company’s Web site or marketing systems, or even across the social web) and create tasks accordingly? This may be no small task to build, but would certainly make CRM more intelligent, and more action-oriented.

Not a complete list of needs, but a good starting point. What is (or would be) on your list? What do you wish your CRM system could do for you?

  • Here’s my short-list for CRMs:

    1. Stop treating “leads” and “contacts” so differently that we need to do everything twice. They are the same thing, just in different stages.

    2. Enable us to maintain field sets based on persona rather than database. In other words, I would like to tag a contact “Partner Prospect” and see fields that are different from those tagged “Former Employee.”

    3. Forget mandatory fields. Instead, let us close the record when we need to, but keep track of what we need to return to later. Pester us until we do it.

    4. Stop trying to do everything like the other CRMs do it. Where is CRM innovation?

    5. Don’t force us to choose between Contact and Account when assigning an opportunity. There are too many reasons why both are good options. So figure it out.

    (My bonus wish would be your #1 item. Did someone really request all these features?) 😉

    David Diamond
    Director of Global Marketing
    Picturepark DAM

  • Eric Gockel

    There’s a thin line separating the basic CRMs from getting into Marketing Automation territory. We’re looking to spec out the next phase of our CRM, and want to address your #1 wish, fewer features. Perhaps a hybrid CRM / automation app?

  • Nikhil

    CRM needs to be customized as per organizational needs its true. Always choose a CRM with high level customer satisfaction.