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18 Questions to Ask When Choosing a CRM for Advisors

Date: August 25, 2021

There are a ton of amazing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions out there. For financial advisors, software like Redtail, Wealthbox, Advyzon, Junxure and others offer features and tools that were designed specifically with advisors in mind. Before you get inundated with all these different features and capabilities, as most of these CRMs are very powerful, take some time to get a clearer picture of exactly what you need your CRM to do. Here are some questions every financial advisor should ask when choosing a CRM.

1. If You Currently Have a CRM, What Specifically Don’t You Like About It?

If you’re already using a CRM, the best place to start is by evaluating exactly what it is that led you to consider changing to something new. It’s important to be specific here because you want to make sure that you don’t end up with the same or similar problems after you switch. Moreover, you want to make sure that the frustrating parts really do outweigh the benefits enough to make it worth switching. Is it really worth going on a CRM shopping spree or does it make more sense to just stick with it?

2. What Features Are Important to Your Team? What Are Their Biggest Pain Points Right Now?

Ask  your team what features matter most to them in a CRM. What are the manual processes your team is currently doing and how might they be automated? For example, if your team is manually pulling a list of client birthdays every month, a CRM that can automatically alert you to upcoming birthdays could eliminate that manual process.

To answer this question, it helps to review all the processes your team currently does manually and identify the ones that are the most tedious or time consuming. Then, think about how that might be automated and look for a CRM that offers that kind of automation.

3. Will You Use Your CRM for Sales or for Service? Both?

The specific features your CRM needs to have depends on how you plan to use it. If you’re using it primarily for service, for example, making sure that the workflow management and task creation processes work they way you want will be high priority. On the other hand, lead tracking and follow-up notifications would be higher priority features for advisors using their CRM mainly for sales. For advisors who want a CRM that can do both, you’ll need to examine all of these features and think about how your CRM should fit into your team’s workflow.

4. What Are the Must-Have Integrations for You?

Which other apps does your CRM absolutely need to work with? Even after you identify these must-haves, remember that not all integrations are built the same way. The app’s integration with RedTail might not work the same way as its integration with Wealthbox, for example. 

Just because you see the logo on the integration page doesn’t necessarily mean it will integrate the way you need it to. Some integrations are more superficial, offering only the most surface-level integration while others, like Pulse360, are much deeper and aim to make the user experience as seamless as possible.

So first, identify which integrations you need. Then, define what kind of integration you’d like and check the CRM’s integration page to see whether and what kind of integration it offers with your must-have tools.

5. Is Syncing with Your Email Important?

Syncing your CRM to your email can help you keep track of follow-ups and communications but not every financial advisor needs their CRM to do that for them. If you do want your CRM to sync with your email, think about what specifically you want that syncing to look like.

For example, do you want the CRM to automatically attach emails you send out to the relevant contact record to keep your communications organized and easy to track? Do you want your email to pull up a client’s contact record automatically when you start an email for them so that you have all the relevant information for that client in front of you?

6. Do You Need It to Connect to Zapier?

The popular app integration tool, Zapier, has helped many financial advisors streamline their workflow and automatically integrate the tools they use. If your CRM can connect to Zapier, you could integrate with your email, calendar, spreadsheets, and other software. However, do you really need to? If a particular app’s integration with Wealthbox, for example, is already robust enough that you don’t need to connect those apps to it with Zapier, this might not be as important. 

So, consider what specifically would this connectivity allow you to do? What would you need it to do? Once you’ve identified what you would do once connected to Zapier, test out this process. Put a Zap together to see if the CRM and the second app work well together. Does it really save time? Is there error reporting when it fails? 

7. Is Power or Ease-of-Use a Higher Priority for You?

In an ideal world, you could have a super powerful CRM that’s also really intuitive and easy to navigate. In reality, however, more power tends to mean more complexity. Some of the most powerful CRMs require users to have some knowledge of coding in order to customize it to their liking. Salesforce, for example, is one of the most powerful tools out there but you’ll almost always need to have a developer on your team to help you harness that power.

Given this reality, advisors need to seriously consider where their priorities are. Do you need something that’s ready to use right out of the box, so to speak? Or do you want something that you can code to your exact preferences so that you have the most powerful, tailor-made CRM possible? 

8. How Important Is Mobile Functionality?

Some advisors might never need to access their CRM from a phone or tablet. Others will. The answer to this question really depends on where your CRM fits into your practice and whether you need on-the-go access. 

If you do need mobile functionality, think about what specific features you would need to ask from your phone or mobile device. Even CRMs that offer mobile functionality don’t always offer the full functionality you get from their desktop version. So, if you plan to use the mobile version, make sure it gives you access to the features you need to access from your phone. 

9. Do You Need a Role-Based System That Hides or Displays Information Based on Team Role?

For larger advisories with a staff, you often don’t need or want all members of the team to have access to all of your client’s information. If you don’t want everyone who has access to the CRM to necessarily have access to every client record or every detail of that record, the ability to set role-based permissions like that can help keep your workflow organized and in one system while protecting client privacy. 

10. Will You Use the CRM to Create and Manage Workflows?

Workflow management in a CRM helps you keep track of all the steps involved in a task and avoid letting things accidentally slip through the cracks. You can create an onboarding workflow, for example, that lays out all the steps for your client onboarding process. Then, when you’re onboarding, you can track where you are in that process and what your next steps are. 

A robust workflow management system is usually most important for larger teams, where keeping track of who’s handling what steps and when across a large pool of clients and prospects can get difficult without some kind of systemization. For solo advisors, it might not be as necessary until you start to grow your practice. 

If you do need the ability to create and manage workflows, make sure you explore how the CRM handles this and whether that will work for your team.

11. How Easily Can the CRM Keep Important Things Top of Mind for Your Team?

Most CRMs have a dashboard that provides a big picture view of things like upcoming tasks, email digests, and other important information. How customizable is that dashboard? Can you get it to display the information that’s most useful for your team to have on that front page?

When you look at a contact record, what does the quick view show you? Does it show upcoming birthdays or other important information that helps you maintain that relationship and provide personalized service?

12. Would You Run Reports on Your Activity? Can the CRM Run Customized Reports?

When I was in the field, I would periodically pull up all of our clients and run a report of the number of meetings we had with each one. I’d then segment them to quickly spot which clients didn’t have enough meetings and which ones had too many. Then, I’d use that report to plan out the next year’s calendar to keep it balanced and make sure no client was feeling neglected or ignored. 

If you run similar reports on your activity, having a CRM that can run customized reports based on the specific data you use to make decisions for your practice could be an important way to automate that.

13. How Important Is Creating Custom Fields? What About Custom Filters?

Even when a CRM is designed specifically for financial advisors, it can’t be expected to know exactly what information you need to store or what the most useful filters will be for you to search through that information later.

The option to create custom fields and filters can give you the flexibility you need to tailor the CRM to your specific advisory practice. Even if a CRM offers custom fields, make sure they work the way you need. For example, do you need filters that work across contact records? Do you need fields that are reportable? 

14. What Data Will Need to Be Migrated? Does This CRM Make that Easy?

I have migrated between three CRMs and what I’ve learned is that there is always a chance something doesn’t fit quite right. To make this process less of a headache, it’s better to know in advance what data you need to migrate and how easily the new CRM will handle that data. This way, you already know ahead of time if you need to make other arrangements.

A good way to figure out how the new CRM will handle the data is to start with just one or two contacts. Migrate those and see if the data fits the way you want it. If not, can you adjust to the way the CRM handles it? And involve the CRM team, such as Redtail CRM, to help you evaluate.

15. Will You Be Importing Data on an Ongoing Basis?

For one-time data migrations, it might make sense to overlook a clunky process that made bringing the data over frustrating. As long as it works smoothly once the data is there, it’s good. However, if you’re planning to import data regularly, especially if you’ll be importing from different sources, a seamless, stress-free process for doing so will save you a lot of frustration in the future. 

16. Can You Export to CSV?

In my experience, the ability to export data to a CSV is a must-have. As financial advisors, we love slicing and dicing data in Excel so the ability to quickly export that data from your CRM allows you to do this with ease. If the CRM doesn’t have this ability, make sure it at least has the ability to generate reports with the same analytical capabilities. 

17. Do You Want to Track the Professional Relationships (like CPAs and Lawyers) of Your Clients?

A lot of CRMs allow you to add professional relationships to your client’s contact record so that you can keep track of their CPA, lawyer, and other relevant professionals. However, some can even go deeper, allowing you to view a specific CPA or lawyer and see all of your clients that currently work with them. That functionality can help you see which professionals it would be worth deepening your relationship with.

18. Do You Want to Track Number of Referrals Provided By Each Client?

Client referrals are a critical part of a financial advisor’s practice. Keeping track of where your referrals are coming from is a useful way to identify the clients who are becoming a center of influence. Showing your appreciation to the clients who are bringing in referrals can strengthen that relationship and potentially encourage more referrals. If that’s an important feature for you, check how the CRM handles it.

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