If you have ever had to review the marketplace for a CRM for your business, it is quite possible that it left you with a headache.

The sheer amount of viable choices is astounding. However, before you become overwhelmed by the amount of choice and features, it is worthwhile taking a step back to assess the needs of your business and the outcomes you are expecting to generate by the use of a CRM.

What actually is a CRM? A definition.

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and represents a framework for the management of the relationships and interactions your business has with prospects, leads and customers. CRM has become synonymous with the software systems that have been developed to manage customer data. And these CRM Software systems, apart from storing customer contact details, can improve your sales pipeline efficiency (automating and collaborating) and its effectiveness (enhanced communication and better analytics).

Given the above, you need to firstly ask your business. “Do we need to apply a CRM framework?” And if so, then what CRM Software system is right for your business.

Start with a needs assessment to determine the decision-making criteria that’s right for your business by asking questions like:

  • How many employees are required to access the system?
  • Are you already using software to manage leads? If so, what’s working and not working?
  • What are your key requirements?
    • > Marketing: to create, publish content, nurturing marketing qualified leads
      > Sales: to manage contacts, lead flows, valuing the pipeline and tracking customer communications
      > Customer Service: to provide continuous service and support for existing customers
  • What is the timing of implementation?
  • Will you require your CRM to integrate with other systems? E.g. email or accounting systems?
  • Do you have the technical and change management capability to implement internally? (Particularly among sales and marketing teams)
  • What level of workflow customisation do you think will be required?
  • What training and change management is likely to be required?
  • What security and privacy features do you require?
  • What budget is available?

Using the answers to the above questions will help you create a ‘triage’ decision matrix (essentially the criteria ranked by order of importance and fit).

What will success look like for your business?

Pretty soon you are going to buried in detail, so it is worth spending time reflecting what your business will look like once the CRM is successfully implemented. How is your sales team organised? What conversations are they now having? How is your sales team working with Marketing and the business as a whole? And what are your prospects and customers saying about your business? Oh, and you should also set yourself some realistic growth targets while you are reflecting on your future success state.

Assign project responsibility to ensure buy-in and avoid risk

Choosing the right CRM for your business is an important task because the downside of getting the decision wrong will see the business ‘tread water’ for some time or at worse, slide backwards. Set your project champion up for success with a clear project description that includes the needs assessment and success outcomes detailed above. Your project champion should be empowered to create a team of sales and cross-functional team members who are tasked to work within time and budget frameworks set by management.

Try before you buy

Almost all CRM software systems offer a ‘freemium’ Service. This may not allow access to all of the features you require however; it will allow you to assess the user experience and the fundamental features of the CRM. Don’t limit the trial to one CRM. Using the needs assessment you should now be able to pull together a ‘triage’ matrix of the likely options. 

During this time you will get to know the CRM Software provider and or their recommended integrator. Through this working relationship you will be able to assess their responsiveness and technical expertise. Remember, this provider will be working with your business for some time in the future, so investing the time to educate them about your business requirements is time well spent.

Top Tip: Most CRM software companies will have lots of glossy testimonials on the websites. Review these, but go further. There are plenty of user groups and forum sites where you can start to acquire rich qualitative insights. Make direct contact with other companies within your network for independent assessments and seek interaction with the sales staff of the CRM software companies, as they are highly knowledgeable. Keeping the CRM software providers at a distance is not a good idea.

Place CRM at the centre of your digital transformation

CRM is all about customer centricity, so when thinking about the digital transformation your business and sales channels; CRM is the place to start. It is a key to a whole range of customer centric strategies such as inbound marketing. Or it maybe you are thinking about the next step in the integration with other business systems to produce a holistic view of the business from a single customer to the aggregation of channels and geographies. Whatever the stage your business is at, matching your internal capabilities with outcome expectations is the final step for choosing the right CRM software. This last step will lay strong foundations for successful CRM implementation and encourage the right behaviours from the most important assets your business possesses – your people and your customers.

Take sales enablement assessment CTA