How do you make the Right CRM Decision in a Commodity Market?

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Learn How in this Report

Ok, you are looking for a CRM solution for your business.  You have surveyed the market reviewed and tested a dozen or more CRM software solutions and you are still not comfortable in making a decision.  In fact you’re frustrated and you are not alone.

The CRM software sector may be one of the most competitive in any industry. There are literally hundreds of CRM solutions available from desktop programs that run on your personal computer to cloud based ones that operate over the Internet. What’s most troubling is how hard it is to differentiate one from another.  Other than price and term of contract they all seem the same.  I understand and hear this every day.  As an executive of a leading CRM solution provider I can assure you that every CRM solution is not the same. Certainly most CRM solutions offer similar functionality. That’s a given, but there are other things to consider during the decision process other than features and price.

Outlined below are “7 Points to Consider before Making Your CRM Decision”.  I hope you find this valuable and that it helps you to make the best CRM decision for your business.

1) Select a mature solution provider

With today’s economic uncertainty, it’s extremely important to select a solution provider with a trusted reputation and long-standing track record for delivering high quality products and services in your industry. There are no guarantees today, but a company that has been in business for a decade or more with an established customer base is clearly a safer bet than the one that’s just getting started.  It’s also a good idea to research the vendor’s customer base and ask for references that can discuss the provider’s commitment to quality customer service and product enhancements.

2) Know your requirements beforehand

Don’t make your selection of a CRM solution a beauty contest. Take the time to document the core requirements that you are looking for and make sure you fully understand the workflow of your internal business processes. Smaller businesses tend to lose sight of this during the evaluation process and become too focused on cosmetic appearance and price. As a result, they are often disappointed in the product’s inability to support the unique business requirements that were not part of the initial demonstration.

3) Where’s my data?

Your customer information is your lifeline. Without it you’re out of business. Don’t be afraid to ask where your data is being hosted and by whom. Most vendors utilize a third party service to host your data. Ask who they use and check into the company’s track record for performance and reliability. You may also want to inquire about backup and recovery along with their procedures for obtaining your data should you discontinue the service. This is one of the most important yet overlooked aspects of your CRM decision process.

4) Scalability

Your business is going to grow. If you didn’t believe this you wouldn’t be in business.  I stated earlier that there are a myriad of CRM product offerings available. I didn’t say they could all meet your current and future business requirements.  In fact, many are designed for very small businesses and will not perform well when pushed to higher levels of utilization.

Make sure the product incorporates a comprehensive set of applications even if you are not planning to utilize them today. Furthermore, make sure the solution you select has been proven to perform at two to three times the current number of users you plan to have.

5) Back-end integration

While this may not be your top priority, CRM is the front-end to all backend processes and sooner or later you are going to want to integrate customer data with your accounting or ERP system. Make sure the vendor you are most interested in offers an application programming interface or API that enables back-end integration.

6) Select a partner not a vendor

If you have made a decision to implement a CRM system because you are committed to becoming a more effective sales and service organization, then you need to select a partner to assist you not a vendor.  A partner will provide you with a proven implementation plan and best practices to ensure that you realize the maximum value from their solution. A vendor will sell you their solution then suggest you send an e-mail if you require help. CRM is not a toy or an electronic gadget that you simply plug in the wall.  You will require professional assistance from the CRM provider in order to maximize the value of any CRM solution.  Make sure you select a partner who has a solid track record for providing this level of support.

7) Stay away from free

Nothing good comes out of free. Not good products and not good services.  A world class product from a trusted solution provider who can…

  • protect your data with a reliable hosting service
  • provide a high level of performance
  • offer scalability and growth
  • enable back-end integration
  • and partner with you to ensure your business objectives are met

… isn’t cheap and doesn’t come free.

This is an important decision for your business and the difference between a top rated trusted solution provider and a low cost one may be just a few dollars a month.

About the author: Larry Caretsky is President and CEO of Commence Corporation, a leading provider of cloud based online CRM software. Comments about this article may be sent to sales@commence.com.

Image by Tom Magliery on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

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