Episode 54

Every organization has the need for a system to manage client interactions and sales processes. This is where a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution can reduce administration, improve customer service, and help close more deals. The CRM market is very mature; in all but the most niche cases, there is an off the shelf solution that will meet requirements. However, a mature off-the-shelf market means overwhelming selection. Should we select the most popular? Cheapest? Most flexible? Best targeted to us? This blog will provide a simple framework for selecting the right CRM for your organization.

What problem are you trying to solve?

Far too often a solution is proposed before there is a solid understanding of the problem. Here are some problems that a CRM might address: we need to standardize our sales process, make sure we follow up on sales leads, identify gaps in our sales process, reduce administration time in our sales process, or open our sales data to other parts of the organization. Not every problem is a problem that requires a software solution. Recall that organizations are a mix of people, processes, and technology. Applying a technology solution to an incomplete process, or a good process that the people have trouble executing will add problems instead of solve them. Additionally, your organization might have a fantastic set of people and processes, but a new CRM solution cannot replicate what is in place one for one. For a discussion on updating processes versus custom/configured products see this blog here.

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Review compatibility with current software

When installing a new CRM or replacing an existing one, this system will likely be one of many other products already deployed at your organization. There might be business productivity platforms like Microsoft 365 Business or Google Workspace, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, file stores, and planning tools. Sales processes touch every part of the organization, so it is essential to take the time to understand how a new CRM product will interact with your current or future planned software environment.

Understand the implementation

Contrary to marketing, implementing a CRM is not as simple as buying licenses and assigning users. Some questions to ask:

  • How will existing sales data get migrated? Can the data be imported?
  • What data cannot be imported?
  • What if manual entry is the only option? Would the organization have to start fresh?
  • How does the out of the box process match with your existing process?
  • What are the costs to configuring the tool to follow the existing process versus changing the existing process to meet the standard configuration of the CRM?

CRM developers must take into consideration designing a product that will best fit many users, otherwise the solution is custom development. When you purchase an off-the-shelf product, you are buying a solution for the requirements of other organizations. For more details on product development see this blog here.

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Prepare for user adoption

By this point, I hope to hit home that updating software systems is not as simple as buying licenses. Likewise, people do not update like software. Users need to be ready, willing, and able for the implementation to be successful. Budget time for gaining buy in and training users on the new system.

Fully commit to the trial

There is only so much that can be answered through upfront analysis; therefore, experimenting with a trial is an excellent way to prepare users, understand the implementation, review compatibility, and confirm that the selected solution will solve the problem(s) that were identified. I will be the first to admit that I have signed up for many trials, left them to rot after spending a few hours clicking around. Treat the demo like the real implementation with as much seriousness as you can practically afford. Trials can be rolled into a full subscription very easily; this is by design by the software vendor. If the trial crashes and burns after a solid effort, consider the experiment as a massive success as learning the result with a no-going-back implementation would be a disaster. Now trials might not be practical for some organizations, however, I want to make clear that someone spending a few hours clicking buttons will likely yield little value compared to making a reasonable attempt to understand the solution before committing to it.