Today, small and mid-size business owners are using open source CRM software to help streamline their business processes with the expectation of generating more sales opportunities. Open source CRM solutions should be able to manage existing customers, facilitate prospecting, generate online sales leads, launch and track marketing campaigns, analyze customer needs and preferences, integrate with existing applications and provide secure access to company data from any computer with an Internet connection and a browser.

Here are a few keys to selecting the right CRM solution:

• Ensure the CRM software you choose has the ability to capture all relevant customer and sales related information. At a minimum, your CRM solution must be able to easily record all interactions with your customers. One of the major benefits of CRM software is in its ability to help collect, store and share data to all appropriate areas in your business — in real-time.

• Before you deploy a CRM tool you must first understand your existing sales and marketing workflow. Your CRM tool must be able to integrate with your existing processes or your sales and marketing team will not use it.

• It is imperative to understand the level of customization you will require. Do you have the required technical skills on staff to implement modifications? Does the CRM tool provide an API (application programming Interface) for extending the platform? Will custom changes prevent future upgrade options? Answering these questions in advance will save you time and money later.

• Determine if the CRM tool can integrate with applications used by your staff. For example, you must know whether the CRM tool can share or exchange data with your email client (e.g. Outlook or Thunderbird). You must also know if the CRM tool provides an easy to use import or export function for data mining and other sales analysis functions.

• Determine the level of support you will require. Most open source providers make their money on service and support rather than software sales. Therefore, you should investigate the various levels of support provided by the open source vendor.

• Research the level and quality of third party extensions. Quite often companies are able to find free or low cost extensions and avoid the expense of internal development. Third party extensions can add needed functionality and save your business time and money. For example, third party payment modules have become a necessary component for accepting electronic payment at the point of sale.

While there are many open source CRM products to choose from here are my top six:

1. SugarCRM
2. vtiger CRM
3. SplendidCRM
4. CentricCRM

Be sure to test drive multiple open source CRM tools before deciding which open source CRM application to deploy.

Source by Ricky Bracken