Look for the Right CRM Company Not Just the Right Product
By Larry Caretsky
Small to mid-sized companies looking for a CRM solution for their business often go about the process with a laser focus on features, functions and price. They traditionally create a committee or team of people to lead the project, give them a budget, and tell them to go research and find the best product. The team lists all the requirements then investigates which company offers the functionality they need and at what price. This sounds like a rational approach, but the team may be missing one of most important components of the decision process and that is selecting the right company as their partner. What are the criteria for selecting the right company? Well it may not be exactly what you think.
Selecting a CRM Vendor
Typically the decision team will look to see how long the company has been in business, are they a well-established player and how well rated is their product. This makes good sense, but equally important (and often overlooked) is the experience level of the vendor’s support staff and the services they provide. Sure, it is a comfort factor to know that the company has been around for a decade, and spends a lot of money for the top three placements on Google searches. However, what I want to know is how experienced are they with ensuring that my firm gets value from their solution. What level of support do they provide before, during and after the sale?
Training and Support
If you are looking to automate your sales, marketing and customer service processes you will require a robust CRM offering, and the more robust the product the more services you will require. Commence CRM, for example is designed for small to mid-sized companies that need this level of functionality. Several other CRM solution providers offer this as well. Regardless of which software you select it is the level of services that will ensure a high return on your investment. I am not referring to service as simply answering the telephone when you call. I am talking about value added services that are provided by professionals with experience in sales, marketing, and customer service.
Ask yourself if the solution provider can provide guidance on creating the proper sales structure for your business, automate the lead generation and qualification process, establish processes and procedures for service ticket management, integrate their CRM solution to disparate systems, and get people properly trained. This is a critical component to your decision process that as I stated earlier is too often overlooked. Here is an example of why this is so important.
Working with Third-Party Consultants
I think it is fair to say that Microsoft is well known in the CRM industry. They have been in business for decades, spend millions on marketing, and have a comprehensive product, but here is where they come up short. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is sold and supported by value added resellers, i.e. business partners. The company does not have expertise in sales, marketing and customer service disciplines’ and as such, they rely on their channel partners for this. Some of these partners are probably very good and can add value to the implementation, training, and customization of the product; but there are an equal number of them that cannot and that is a problem. I am not picking on Microsoft here. I am simply using them as an example of a company that on the surface appears to have all the right components. They are big and well known, have been in business for many years, spend millions in marketing and have a comprehensive product. However, if they cannot provide the value added services you need to be successful with the software, the rest is almost irrelevant.
Comparing CRM Vendors
CRM software from leading providers has become somewhat of a commodity. While each firm tries to outdo the other with a unique feature or two, the fact is that the core functionality offered by these companies is pretty much the same. This is why selecting the right company with solid experience and an array of value added services is so important. If you are looking for a CRM solution for your business, don’t overlook this. My recommendation would be to look for what is referred to as “pure play CRM software providers” which means this is all the company does, or look for solutions that are industry specific where the company has a high degree of experience in your industry.
About the author
Larry Caretsky is the president of Commence Corporation, a leading provider of CRM software and best business practices for improving sales, marketing and customer service. Caretsky is considered an expert in sales automation and has written numerous articles on the subject of CRM. These may be viewed on the company’s web site at www.commence.com.
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