Free Trials of CRM Software Can Be Practically Worthless
Ok, management has decided that they need a CRM solution to streamline business processes and enhance internal communication and you have been chosen to investigate the options available. Like most people you have very little experience in this area so you Google CRM software and click on one of the myriad of lists that pop up such as; Top CRM, Best CRM or Top 40 CRM’s. Of course, the companies presented in these guides have all paid a fee to be in them so they are not necessarily the best solutions for your business, but it’s a start. So far, so good.
Next, you click on the ones that have met your initial criteria (which more often than not has not yet been defined). Perhaps you will just select one or two low-cost ones, a mid-priced offering, and a high-priced solution and compare them. With a single click, you can download a free trial and test them all out. This is great and is easier than you initially thought. You now have four free trials to review. But without specific criteria on what the company is looking for the CRM system to do, how can you possibly determine which one is best suited for the business? You can’t. Now what?
My advice! Just stop what you are doing because all the free trials in the world will not get you closer to making the right decision. Instead, force management to define what they want the CRM system to do. Is it to consolidate, manage, and share customer data; automate the sales process; build brand awareness via marketing campaigns; or perhaps manage projects? Without clearly defined requirements you are just wasting time. You could download 20 free CRM trials. It doesn’t matter. They are practically worthless at this stage of the decision process.
Don’t Make CRM a Beauty Contest
Ever heard the saying ‘people buy with their eyes?’ It is true and especially in the software industry. I cannot begin to tell you how many people have indicated that they like one product because it looks easy to use or another one because it has colorful graphs or icons. Some people are so enamored with this that they lose sight of what they are trying to achieve and end up selecting a solution that looks good and is easy to use, but does not address their business requirements. In many instances, they have no documented requirements so the decision is based simply on cosmetic appeal and price.
The Right Approach
Selecting CRM software without taking the time to document what you are trying to achieve, or choosing one product over another due to aesthetics or cost, will result in a failed implementation. To ensure that this does not happen to you I recommend the following:
1) Document your business requirements and do not even look at a CRM solution until you have this fully vetted.
2) Check to see if the solution provider(s) have addressed similar requirements with businesses your size or in your industry.
3) Have the CRM solution provider do a demonstration or walk through of their product to illustrate exactly how they will address your needs. Any vendor who refuses to do this should be removed from the selection process.
Do keep in mind that for some low cost or freemium vendors, they cannot afford to interact with every customer, nor do not have the resources to do so. This should be a red flag all on its own because CRM software is people intensive and you cannot expect to realize the maximum value from the software without assistance from the software provider. In fact, you should make this a key component in your decision process. Quality customer service is as important as selecting a quality product. Hope this helps you with your decision process.