What to Look for in a CRM: 7 Features AEC Firms Can’t Do Without

13 Aug

While many companies offer Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions, most don't really make sense for Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) firms. Sifting through all the options can be overwhelming. Do you know what to look for in a CRM?

We’ve been providing AEC firms with our industry-tailored CRM since the 90’s, and we’ve learned that most need at least seven crucial features.

1) A Central Information Platform with Key Metrics - Your CRM should integrate accounting, marketing, and business development data into one location that’s accessible from any device, anywhere. Each user’s dashboard should be customizable so that they see only the information that they need. Metrics on Leads Created, Opportunity by Stage, and Hit Rate should be available and updated in real time.

2) Quality Control - An effective CRM will provide the highest level of security for your data. Firm administrators should be able to set permissions so that sensitive information in the CRM is only accessible to the appropriate staff. To keep data safe and accurate, the best solutions also offer versioning and deduping technology: versioning to roll back any data that’s corrupted or deleted; deduping to keep your contacts and companies free from repeat entries.

3) Essential Integrations - Nobody wants to re-enter data into another system. If your CRM has the right integrations, you won’t have to. Serious contenders for your business should integrate seamlessly with your financial and lead generation systems, your email client, and publishing programs like Adobe InDesign. Integrations like these only make sense in context of broad quality control as described above. Every connection should meet rigorous security standards and firm administrators must control permissions to ensure everyone is seeing only the data that's relevant to them.

4) Custom Reporting and Search Functions - Powerful integrations can put all the right data into your CRM, but it's also important to be able to find the specific information you need with ease. For that reason, your firm needs a solution that includes smart search and custom reporting functions. These features should enable users to search for, work with, analyze and export all business intelligence with just a few clicks. When you evaluate CRM systems, make sure the vendor you choose offers these tools and that they're easy to use.

5) Industry Specialization - Why deal with a vendor who doesn’t speak your language? AEC firms need a CRM system with industry best practices built in. Specialization means the right fields are easily available. It means a CRM built for a project-based businesses, one that understands you’re selling experience and services, not individual products. It means a team of implementation specialists who know your needs because they have years of AEC experience. If a CRM vendor doesn't offer this kind of specialization, be sure to ask what that's going to mean for implementation at your firm. Odds are you're looking at spending a lot more time and money before you can actually start using your system.

6) Mobility and Scalability - The CRM industry is headed towards cloud-based solutions, something we’ve been onto for a while. Cloud storage frees organizations from worrying about whether their IT departments and infrastructure can handle the CRM and support it as it grows. Cloud-based technology also makes your data available on the go, allowing your team to have deep business intelligence at their fingertips whenever they need it.

7) Proposal Automation - While not often considered a standard CRM function, proposal automation is the perfect compliment for your firm’s CRM. By leveraging the current information about resumes and project lists that’s stored in your firm's database, proposal automation eliminates hours of work for marketers. All the time saved allows them to focus on writing strategic proposals and winning more work.

Of course, part of the reason we wrote this post is that Cosential has all of these features and more. But these really are the features that keep our clients coming back. Don’t take our word for it, hear what they have to say about us!

   

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