Todd Martin

Todd Martin

Sales Strategy

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7 Questions to Ask When You’re Looking at CRM Solutions

June 18, 2014

Choose your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution carefully.

Todd Martin 061714 image 1What’s the most popular Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application in use today? If you said “email,” you’d be right. Many businesspeople live in Outlook or Gmail or whatever their preferred email client is. By taking advantage of their integrated apps, extensions, portability and customizability, you can cobble together a reasonably effective CRM solution for your team.

The operative word there is “cobble.” It makes more sense to me to implement an application that was built from the ground up to accommodate very specific customer service and sales needs.

As a sales executive, I need thorough, easily-accessible information about my customers and prospects, what they have bought from me, any problems that have prompted them to contact us, and what they might be interested in buying down the road. I have to be able to see when they’ve interacted with anyone else in the company, and be able to share pertinent details with my team members.

A Changing Landscape

I’ve been using CRM solutions for years, and I’ve learned through trial and error that you don’t want to commit to a particular application until you’ve established that it will meet your needs in a number of areas – and that
you’re reasonably certain that it will continue to do so for years. Moving data from one website or piece of desktop software to another falls somewhere in the difficult-to-impossible range.

You don’t have to go through this soul-searching when you commit to word-processing software or spreadsheets or presentation managers. The lion’s share of the business world uses Word, Excel and PowerPoint. But you have numerous options when it comes to CRM solutions, especially now that so many companies are trying to dominate in the area of cloud-based social CRM, websites that incorporate your social network feeds in addition to standard contact management.

So do as much research on your short list of candidates as today’s web-savvy customers do on your products and services.

Start with these seven areas and branch out if you need to. Do you need/does it have:

  • Email connectivity? Can you at least import your contact list from your email client? Some CRM systems have more sophisticated email integration. Explore the possibilities.
  • A web component (if desktop software)? Some businesses still feel safer having their valuable customer data stored locally. But if you choose that route, are there options for connecting to related web-based data?
  • Integration capabilities? What other applications can be easily connected?
  • Scalability? Are there multiple versions with increasingly complex capabilities? Or will the solution at least be able to grow with you as your product and customer base expands?
  • Team collaboration tools? Absolutely critical, if you work with a team. Can you share files, messages, scheduled meetings, etc.?
  • Mobile versions? It goes without saying: You must have at least limited access to your CRM data on the road.
  • Social connectivity? This isn’t a must-have unless you want to be able to bring social feeds into the application.

Implementation Issues

Once you’ve decided on a CRM system, there will be other things to consider, including:

Training. How much will your team need? Can it be done on-site, through virtual classes, etc.? Does the software company offer it, or will you need to enlist the aid of a consultant?

Continuous support. Are you expected to go it alone once formal training is done, or is there an expert support contact?

Hardware. Are your PCs and mobile devices up to the task? Will you need to upgrade some?

Ongoing upgrades and maintenance. If you go with desktop software, who is responsible for dealing with upgrades, operational problems, etc.?

Yes, that’s a lot of questions, and it will take time to sort through the candidates. But not as much time as you’ll waste if you buy a CRM system that doesn’t fit.


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