3 Tips for Finding the Right CRM Vendor

Modern Distribution Management has an article and interview video with 3 tips for selecting the “right” CRM vendor:

Picking the right tool and the right vendor is the most important first step to effective use of a customer relationship management, or CRM, system, according to Mark Dancer of Channelvation, featured in MDM’s recent episode of Executive Briefing. You have to pick a solution that is aligned with how you want to use CRM.


You can also check out these online CRM resources with additional tips for selecting the right CRM product and vendor:


Sales Question and Answer #21 – Dropped the Ball

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.

Article By Dave Kahle

Q. If you dropped the ball with a customer, how can you redeem their trust again?

A.  By “dropped the ball”, you can be referring to two different situations.  First, it was your company who messed up.  Your company didn’t fulfill the promises you made.  Or, second, it was you.  You didn’t do what you said you would do, or you somehow personally violated the customer’s expectations for you.  Regardless, the remedy is similar.

You must make a personal, heartfelt and detailed apology, as soon as possible.  And you must do that to everyone who is impacted by the problem.  If the problem was your company, apologize on behalf of the company.  If the problem was you, personally apologize.

You do that first, because that eases the tension in the situation and acknowledges the impact on the customer.  Remember, you are building a relationship with these people, and, as in all relationships, sometimes things don’t go quite right.  An apology is a great way to clear the air.  Most people will tend to accept your apology and not hold it against you.  Everyone makes mistakes.

Now comes the hard part.  While most people will accept your apology, they won’t necessarily forget the infraction.  It’s like catching one of your teenagers smoking dope.  He may ask for your forgiveness, and you may give it, but it is prudent for you to watch him carefully for the next few years.  You can forgive, but you are wise to not forget.

Same thing with your customers.  It’s one thing to forgive, it’s another to forget.  They won’t forget quickly or easily.  So you have to earn their trust back by your actions, not your words.  You’ve got to consistently do what you say you are going to do.  Your company must, time after time, do what you say they will do.

Regaining trust is, in most cases, a long term project.  It’s much easer to lose a customer’s trust than it is to gain it.  Your actions, consistent and reliable, backed up by your heartfelt interest in the customer, will, over time, win them back.

You’ll find this encouraging.  A number of years ago, a study was done on two different buying situations.  In the first, a company bought from a new vendor, and everything went well.  The company delivered as promised.  In the second, a company bought from a new vendor, and there was a problem with the purchase.  The sales person inquired, discovered the problem, apologized and fixed it.

The researchers went to study in which of those two situations was the customer more likely to purchase again the second time.  Interestingly, those customers in the second situation were far more likely to buy again.

If you’ve been following me for any time, you know why that is – risk!

The vendors in the second situation were now viewed as lower risk than those in the first.  In other words, the customers now knew how the company would respond to a problem.  Since they now had proof of the company’s commitment in a worst case scenario, they felt more secure in purchasing again.

For those companies in the first situation, they still did not know how the vendor would respond if there were a problem.  So, those vendors were still a higher risk than the others.

Now, I am not counseling you to intentionally cause a problem.  But, what I am saying is that a problem with a customer is not the end of the world, and, if you handle it correctly, can be a spring board to a more secure relationship in the future.

Are You Price Sensitive or Value Sensitive?

Makes No CentsWhile the economy limps along the computer software industry is doing fairly well perhaps due to the continued growth of software as a service.  Software as a service (SaaS) allows businesses to begin utilizing a variety of software applications quickly and efficiently.  With software as a service there is no hardware to purchase or software to implement.  Both hardware and software is provided, managed and maintained by a third party solution provider.

This new approach to licensing and delivering software as a service offers several immediate benefits to customers.

  • Software as a service implementations can often be operational within a few hours.
  • There is no large cash outlay to purchase hardware and software.
  • There are no IT infrastructure or resource requirements. Both hardware and software are maintained by the service provider.
  • Your organization can spend more time on managing and growing your business.
  • You are not locked into one solution. Most companies only ask for an annual contract.

One software segment that has seen a significant rise in software as a service is Customer Relationship Management software (CRM).  CRM software helps businesses manage their relationship with their customers by automating the internal business processes that impact sales and customer service. The explosive growth of this sector has encouraged dozens of companies to enter this space with product offerings ranging from free to more than $200 dollars per user per month.

There are a plethora of solutions to choose from depending on your functional requirements and whether you are price sensitive or value sensitive.  The reason I use these terms is because I have seen many companies look for a CRM solution based solely on price. If there is a free solution, great! They will start with that and see how they do.

Value sensitive shoppers are first and foremost looking to solve a business requirement and will focus their energy on selecting a few products that address their needs.  They will then compare pricing with the objective to get the best deal for a product that they are confident will solve their problem.  These companies are smart to do this and here’s why.  The CRM software sector is so competitive that the difference between a free or very low cost solution can be just a few dollars more per month.  Is it worth trying a free CRM that you will most likely end up throwing out six months down the road, or one that will actually address your business requirements? Value sensitive companies are finding and selecting these CRM solutions and you can too as long as you place value in front of price.

Image “Makes No Cents” by jDevaun on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

It’s Time to Upgrade from Contact Management Software

calendar Februar 2013 , KalenderThere was a time long ago when contact management products like ACT!, Goldmine and Maximizer provided good value for people looking to manage contacts, their calendar and their activities. But limited functionality, troublesome synchronization of data, and lack of mobile access has now made these products obsolete.  The good news is that there is a completely new generation of products available that are affordable, and offer so much more than traditional contact management systems.

One product that has become a very popular choice among the SMB sector is Commence CRM. Commence is a web based CRM system that operates online via a cloud computing environment, which means there is no hardware to purchase or maintain and no software to worry about upgrading every year.   Commence CRM takes client management to a whole new level, enabling you to not only manage accounts and contacts but also sales, leads, projects, documents and customer service.  Unlike contact management systems that simply manage contacts, Commence CRM is a customer management solution offering departmental functionality to improve how you market, sell and provide service to your customers.

Another significant advantage to using a product like Commence CRM is that the solution is browser based, which means you can access your data 24/7 from any device including a PC, Apple Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android device.  Commence CRM is simply the next step up for companies looking to manage more than contacts, notes and history.  Migration to a product like Commence CRM is quick and easy with a minimal learning curve.

If you are still using one of the older traditional contact management systems it’s time to take a look at a new generation of client management system like Commence CRM.

Image by eagle1effi on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

CRM Competitors Invade Salesforce.com Territory

Trying to gain groundNow that the enterprise CRM market has become saturated, CRM solution provider Salesforce.com has set their sights on the small to mid-size market. But they are running into some stiff competition in this sector.

Salesforce.com has done an excellent job at building their brand and creating name recognition.  How have they done this?  With a lot of money and some tricky marketing.  The problem is that they have a cost structure that’s not really designed for small to mid-size enterprises.  Let’s face it, Salesforce.com was designed for enterprise level companies that have unique business requirements – features that people simply had to pay dearly for if they really required them. I am referring to things like multi-language and multi-currency support and the ability to support several thousand users.

But small to mid-size companies often do not require this, and if you compare the features you get in the Group and Professional Editions to competitive CRM products you will discover that Salesforce.com can cost twice as much or more.  You see, when people evaluate Salesforce.com they tend to focus their energy on what they will be getting when they should really be looking at what they are not getting.  Here are just a few examples you will find right on their pricing page.

  • For $25 dollars per user per month I see that I get Dashboards. That’s great, but if I want customizable dashboards, well that’s $75 dollars per user. Tricky marketing I would say. The problem here is that many of Salesforce.com’s competitors offer customizable dashboards as a standard component of their product for a lot less money.
  • What about role permissions or security settings?  That’s also part of the $75 dollar per user per month Professional Edition, but a standard feature in competitive products at half the cost.
  • Want graphical reporting? No problem, $75 dollar per user per month. But once again, half the cost with competitive offerings.

So what am I getting with Salesforce CRM at the Contact Management or Group Edition level?

  • How about limitations with the number of users you can have.  The Contact Management and Group Editions are limited to only 5 users. Add a sixth and you have to upgrade to the next edition and pay much, much more – really?
  • Perhaps it’s world class customer service that’s attracting you.  The website says send an e-mail and you can expect a response within 48 hours. Of course you can also pay if you want to talk with a human being.  So much for customer relationship management!

So what is it about this company that makes people buy?  Is it the badge of honor once bestowed to companies like IBM in the 70’s?  I really don’t know, but it does look as through the path to winning the small to mid-size community may be a bit more difficult for Salesforce.com.  These are savvy businesses that have learned to do a lot with very little, and are more price sensitive than enterprise corporations.  With strong competition coming from companies like Microsoft and Commence CRM at half the cost, the water may get a bit choppier for Salesforce.com in the months ahead.  We will have to wait and see.

Image by Nathan Rupert on Flickr under Creative Commons license.