I recently had a few experiences in my personal life that got me thinking about Microsoft CRM and consulting firms. With the weather getting warmer here in Chicago, my family and I are getting ready to enjoy some time out in our yard so we decided to purchase a swingset (for my kids) and a new BBQ grill (for me!). While neither of these purchases were nearly as important as selecting a CRM platform or a consulting firm, I think that some of my experiences as a customer definitely apply to CRM customers as they navigate through the platform and vendor selection process.
BBQ grill sales and CRM sales....not as a different as you might think
As I mentioned, we needed to buy a new BBQ grill for our house. Of course we started by researching the different grills online and trying to decide what fit in our budget and met our needs. We were very disappointed with the lack of information about these products online, either through a retailer's website (like Home Depot) or the manufacturer's website. Most websites had a "glamour" photograph of the outside of the grill, but they didn't have any photos of what the grill looked like inside and the types of shelves they had. So instead we had to go and physically visit stores to see what these products looked like. Bummer.
While at the stores, we asked a few questions about the different grills. At Sears, I asked the sales person "Can I convert this grill from a propane tank to a natural gas line if I want?" This conversion option is known as "Dual Fuel". His response was that none of the Kenmore grills can be converted to Dual Fuel. Disappointed, I walked over to a grill and there was a giant sticker affixed to the front of the grill saying "DUAL FUEL READY"! When I pointed that sticker out to the sales person, he mumbled something about this must be a new version or something like that. Annoyed at this guy's ignorance, I decided he had lost my purchase.
At Lowe's, there are several grills that feature a new cooking technology called infrared. Instead of cooking the food with a flame, the grill uses infrared heat technology to cook the meat. This was new to me, so I asked the sales guy about it. He explained to me "Oh yeah, infrared grills are the BEST. The meat cooks evenly and perfectly, and it seals in the flavor. All grills in two years will use infrared to cook". Wow, that sounded great. I was a little nervous about this new technology but the sales guy made it sound outstanding. Then I asked "So, have YOU personally ever cooked with infrared?" His response "Well no, but some of the other guys read that it was great." I was annoyed again. I know it is this guy's job to sell stuff, but I find it appalling that he's hyping up this great new technology and he doesn't have 2 seconds of experience actually using it! Again, they lost my sale.
So bringing these two BBQ grill sales experiences back to Microsoft CRM sales, I want to encourage all prospects considering a Microsoft CRM purchase to make sure you're working with EXPERTS when you're evaluating the product. At Sears, the sales person told me just flat out wrong information about the product. At Lowe's, the guy was recommending something he had no experience with. I am involved with the sales process at Sonoma Partners, and we've heard about similar experiences from our customers about working with other CRM consulting firms. Some places tell prospects that things aren't possible (WRONG) while some other firms selling Microsoft CRM don't even use it internally (NO EXPERIENCE). Shocking, but true.
Swingset installs and CRM implementations...not as different as you might think
So while my BBQ grill experience got me thinking about CRM sales, we also purchased a new swingset for the kids and that prompted me to consider CRM implementations. We ordered the swingset in the middle of February, but it was installed last week. Since we purchased it in the middle of winter, they gave us free delivery and installation. When the swingset installers arrived, three guys jumped off a truck and immediately went to work. As you might guess, there were about 1,000 parts and most of them looked really heavy! Without barely speaking a word to one another, these three guys had the swingset installed, working, the job site clean and they were out of there in about TWO hours. I could not believe how fast it went. All of my neighbors said, "wow that went up fast". Of course if you think about it this really shouldn't be a surprise , because these guys install the same swingsets again and again every day as a team. All of them know exactly what their role is and where all the parts fit...even the tricky ones because they've done it 100 times before.
As I watched the installers, I was thinking "how long would this swingset install have taken me to do by myself?!?" I am guessing it would have consumed my entire Saturday and Sunday to get it installed, and the final product probably would not be as sturdy as the professionally installed swingset. I am also imagining having that bag of unused parts at the end wondering where I should have used them! That's never a good feeling. Installing the swingset by myself would have also been complicated by the fact that I have other responsibilities on the weekend. I have to mow the lawn, watch the kids, cook food, etc. Squeezing in time for a massive project like the install would have negatively impacted everything else I am also responsible for.
This swingset installation process definitely reminded me of Microsoft CRM implementations. Customers will say "Oh, we have Joe in I.T. He can install and implement Microsoft CRM for us so we don't really need any consulting help". Meanwhile, Joe in I.T. already has 50,000 other things to take care of and he's probably never deployed a CRM product before. Given enough time and energy, Joe probably can get the software up and running but will the final product be any good? Since he's new to CRM and distracted by other responsibilities, it's highly unlikely. Having Joe in I.T. install Microsoft CRM for your firm is like trying to install a giant swingset by yourself. It might actually work out ok, but the odds are really stacked against you.
By hiring an outside consulting firm to install and implement Microsoft CRM, you're getting a dedicated team of experts who've installed Microsoft CRM for many different customers. They know all the nooks and crannies of the software, where all the "bodies are buried". They also work on a team where everyone knows their role and they're good at what they do. Almost as importantly, they're focused on the implementation. Unlike Joe in I.T. who must hop to put out fires on a daily basis, an outside firm won't get bogged down by other responsibilities.
So in summary, I really have just one point to make...make 100% sure you're working with experts when you're evaluating and implementing a CRM software product like Microsoft CRM. If you don't have the experts on your staff (and most customers probably don't), make sure you really check out the consulting firm you're working with. At a bare minimum ask them:
- Do you use Microsoft CRM internally? Ask them to show you.
- Ask them how many Microsoft CRM installs they've completed from start to finish in the past 12 months. If they say 5 or less, run for the hills.
Remember, while making a purchase mistake with your grill or swingset will cost you just hundreds of dollars, making a mistake with your CRM vendor selection will cost you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in wasted money and effort.