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Strategy for Selecting a CRM Solution

4/11/18 10:00 AM

 crm-stategyDo your homework

Often times I get asked by potential CRM customers what CRM system they should buy. My answer is usually, “It doesn’t matter.” If you are going to choose the CRM system without doing your homework, any system will work equally as well, or as poorly, so just pick the cheapest. However, if you are going to do your homework and make the decision that best fits your company, you have a long way to go before choosing the CRM system that makes sense. So if this is the case, then what should you consider before purchasing a CRM System?

Things to consider

The first thing you should consider when purchasing a CRM system is the goal of purchasing this system. Is the goal to track your sales force? Is the goal to make your sales force more productive? Is the goal to maintain your customer base or to raise your customer base? If a year from now you were trying to decide if the purchase was successful, what would be the criteria you would use to say this met your needs?

Next make sure you have your management team bought into the process. This is more than just saying they have signed off on the budget or funding. This means that they truly believe a CRM system will benefit the company in order to achieve the goals mentioned in the previous paragraph. The management team needs to own this system and support it throughout the company. They need to be users of the system and the information it provides. They need to demonstrate the discipline that this system is an integral part of doing business.

Related: 5 Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Issues Manufacturing Companies Can Avoid

Once the management team is bought in to the idea of a solution, build a CRM steering group to help you through the process of choosing and implementing a CRM system. This team should include at least one person from each of the stakeholder groups. CRM spans marketing through order fulfillment, it is not just sales, so make sure all of those groups are represented.

Next, start to determine the necessary functionality of the system for each group. It is important that there is a benefit to using the system for each group, or they won’t use the system - Sales is particularly tough here. It is easy to come up with a lot of benefits the company will get from a CRM.

  • Centralized data
  • Reduction of disruption due to turnover
  • Visibility into forecast
  • And many more

However, none of these really benefit the individual salesperson. In order to insure adaption, there has to be a reason for the salespeople to use the system.  Some examples are:

  • Data organization
  • Marketing automation providing high quality leads
  • Insight into the order fulfillment process making it easier to answer customer request
  • Insight into order fulfillment process giving the salespeople an understanding of where they currently stand toward goals, and a roadmap for places where they can find revenue when they need to close more business to achieve those goals.
  • Answers to how the customers’ relationship is going with the customer service function; the last thing a salesperson wants is to be blindsided to an issue when they walk into a customer.

Prioritize this functionality into “must have” and “nice to have”. Typically many organizations either go after the “nice to have” which is a risk for failure, or never get to the “nice to have” and that reduces adoption.

A budget for your CRM purchase

Once you have itemized your needs, address a budget. There are really two ways of accomplishing this. Top down based upon a number management gives you, or a percentage of sales. Or bottom up where you address all the pieces that make up the CRM system and the associated cost with each. Even if you do the top down it is still important to understand the cost of implementing CRM. The cost of the software is just a small piece. Here are a few items to consider when implementing CRM.

  • Hardware for the individual users
  • Location of the sever/database (on premise or in the Cloud)
  • Security
  • IT expertise and availability
  • Support
  • Training
  • Cost of software

Integrating CRM

Another item to consider and understand is integration to other systems. You are most likely going to have integration to your email system. For most CRM solutions this is a given. You may also have integration to your back end ERP system. Often times this is a critical component of the overall CRM solution. Staying within a one vendor strategy for ERP and CRM can contribute to a successful CRM implementation, however it isn’t mandatory. Most ERP integrations include a one way flow of fulfillment information from ERP to CRM.

  • Quotes
  • Orders
  • Shipments
  • Invoices
  • Receivables
  • Payments

Typically going from the CRM to the ERP system are Accounts/Contacts and Quotes.

The CRM solution

Once you have determined the above, it is time to determine the CRM solution. Many of the decisions you have made above will narrow down the choices for your CRM solution.

Related: Infor CRM Review: Overview, Features & Implementation

It is fairly easy to set out a list of must haves and infrastructure needs and then narrow down the solutions that fit your needs. Some people will do an RFP which can be a fairly lengthy process. Some people will narrow down the solutions to two that best meet their needs based upon research, and then do a bakeoff-type of selection. Having an implementation partner that is product agnostic as part of this selection process can be a tremendous benefit.

Make sure to vet the solution properly. Most references a vendor provides are going to be positive. Make sure you have a list of questions that will bring out specifics about the implementation. Ask questions about timing and delays and what caused these. Ask questions about how they are measuring the utilization of the CRM and how they are measuring the success. Try to get an understanding of how they prioritized their implementation. These types of discussions will uncover issues and will help you avoid the typical answers that come with any reference call.

See CRM software in action

Check out companies using CRM

Once you have isolated the solution you want to implement, consider a site visit to a company already using the product. These are sometimes difficult to coordinate because everyone is busy these days. But a site visit can often bring out other concerns you should be aware of.

Select an implementation partner

Once you have arrived at this point, you should then negotiate the acquisition of your solution with the provider. Be aware of the provider’s public reporting cycles which typically get very aggressive near the end of the month/quarter/year. Work with the provider to select an implementation partner or use the one that helped select the solution, and then you are ready to begin you CRM implementation.

Visual South has experience in assisting hundreds of companies in the selection and implementation of CRM. Contact us if you'd like to talk.

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Sean Mohan

Written by Sean Mohan

Sean Mohan is Vice President of CRM for Xtivia. Sean founded Strategic Sales Systems, which was focused on implementing CRM solutions. In 2013 Xtivia acquired SSS. Sean and team have implemented more than 250 CRM systems over the last 20 years.