Small businesses have the same challenges as larger firms. They want to improve how they market, sell and provide service to their customers, and they want to use CRM technology to gain an edge over their competition. Where they differ however is how they evaluate and purchase the products and services that can help them to achieve this goal.
Larger firms that have definitive roles within their organization such as a sales, marketing and customer service department spend time documenting their business requirements and traditionally provide these to the CRM vendors they are evaluating. This may include functional requirements as well as the need for professional services. For these businesses it is imperative that the CRM vendor respond to which requirements they can meet and those they cannot. These firms look at each CRM solution provider as a potential long term partner in their business and make their decision based on numerous criteria such as:
- the product’s ability to meet the majority or all of their functional requirements,
- the company’s track record for successful implementations,
- training programs that are available to reduce the learning curve,
- the company’s data hosting services,
- system reliability and up time performance,
- the support services that are available after the sale,
- and of course price.
Many smaller businesses, particularly those that do not have definitive roles, tend to overlook these criteria and look at the acquisition of a CRM system as a simple transaction based primarily on price. It is easy to appreciate why this would occur. If you have not documented specific requirements for your business you have no way to differentiate one CRM vendor from another. As a result, they all look the same – almost like a commodity.
CRM is not a Transactional Sale
CRM should not be viewed as a transactional sale. You are not buying a television or DVD player here. You’re buying a business solution that you should expect will help you become a more efficient sales and service organization for years to come. This simply means you need to take the time to document where you are as a business today, and where you want to be. For example, what improvements do you want to make to your sales, marketing and customer service operations? Then share those with the CRM solution providers you believe can meet your requirements within your budget.
Your list of functional criteria should also include any services that you think you may require to fill a gap that you may have internally. Smaller businesses for example often have limited resources in the marketing area. If you plan to improve lead generation via bulk e-mail programs and do not have the staff to do it perhaps the CRM vendor can play this role and assist you with the creation of professional mailers.
The array of services a CRM vendor can provide can often be clear differentiators between one company and another, helping to make your selection easier. The point here is clear. You do not have to document every change you wish to make and every feature you want to see in a CRM solution, but don’t go into the process blindly. Taking the time to document your needs before you make a decision will significantly improve your chances of realizing a high return on your investment.