Today’s guest blogger is Bryson Engelen, a Sales Engineer at Sonoma Partners.
Companies usually evaluate CRM systems every 4-5 years: the average tenure of a CIO. This means your CIO (and his or her team) may have never done a CRM evaluation before, and if they have, only once or twice. This lack of experience is often the root cause of a long, painful, costly, and inefficient CRM evaluation. We’ve witnessed hundreds of CRM evaluations and have compiled a list of common tragedies. If you’re vetting a CRM system be sure to file these scenarios under the “what not to do list.”
- Do not: spend exorbitant amounts of time and money gathering your staff in a conference room to gather CRM software requirements
- Do not: begin your evaluation process without a well-documented and clear understanding of your business process
- Do not: come to the table without an objective sense of your needs because you will get mired in the tactical rather than the strategic
- Do not: focus on generic CRM requirements
- Do not: assign leadership of the CRM evaluation to someone unfamiliar and uninformed about the CRM landscape
For these five reasons, and dozens more not listed, I can tell you from experience that your internal staff should not be alone leading the charge on the selection of a CRM platform for your business. While your staff is critical to the process, they likely need expert guidance while navigating this complicated decision. If you want to get the best possible results in the most efficient manner, we strongly recommend that you hire a 3rd party consultant to help lead the CRM evaluation process.
Hiring a consultant? You may cringe at the thought! The truth is that the money you spend on hiring a CRM consultant to help you evaluate your CRM purchase decision will save you a considerable amount of time and money in the long run. The best, and smartest, choice you can make is to hire a CRM implementation consultant as soon as you know you need to update or change your CRM. A highly qualified and seasoned consultant brought into the CRM evaluation process at the beginning can save you time, money, and anxiety, plus ensure you end up with a good implementation.
Here are a few reasons why professional CRM consultants are almost always guaranteed to do a better job than your internal staff.
- A CRM consultant has years of CRM expertise and they thoroughly know the marketplace.
Benefit: You don’t have to spend money training your internal resources who in the end will only know a fraction of what a CRM consultant has learned over many years.
- A CRM consultant can bring best practices and helpful experiences from other industries to your business.
Benefit: This will lead to a better CRM system design.
- A CRM consultant can objectively define and document your business processes.
Benefit: This will help you gather better requirements and consequently guarantee a better CRM implementation.
- A CRM consultant will discover how your staff ACTUALLY does their job, not how managers THINK they do it.
Benefit: This will lead to a more user-friendly (and used) CRM.
- A CRM consultant can help you prioritize and weigh your requirements based on your actual processes, not generic CRM requirements.
Benefit: This will prevent you from asking for requirements that don’t apply to your business.
- A CRM consultant knows the current CRM landscape and can suggest platforms that are strong today and have a good roadmap for the future.
Benefit: You won’t purchase a platform that peaked five years ago.
- A CRM consultant can evaluate if it’s better to integrate a CRM with a current tool you love, try to custom build a specific functionality into the CRM platform, or use a pre-built third party integration/solution.
Benefit: With a CRM consultant you receive a custom solution that satisfies your business needs.
- A CRM consultant can prioritize the proper amount of time to run a thorough evaluation, instead of asking your internal staff to do their “regular” jobs plus the CRM project!
Benefit: You can be confident you conducted your CRM evaluation with the utmost due diligence and efficiency.
Involving a CRM consultant from the beginning can be a lifesaver for you and your project. During a good implementation you will go through a process called Discovery, where your business processes will be reviewed, documented, and estimated by a CRM consultant. You will pay a CRM consultant to do this at some point during implementation. Why not do it before you select a platform and maximize the benefits of Discovery to guide you to the right platform in the first place? We often find as we get into CRM implementations that the customer needs something completely different than what they thought they needed during the CRM evaluation because their internal resources couldn’t effectively define their requirements and processes. Of course, by that time they have already chosen a platform and we have to do some creative problem solving. You avoid this headache altogether by hiring a CRM consultant to engage in Discovery before or during your CRM evaluation.
You may think hiring a consultant at the beginning of a CRM search is putting the cart before the horse, but engaging in Discovery early on allows you to find the right horse, build the right cart, and not have the passengers pull the cart along. While some customers hire the CRM Consultant they used for Discovery for their implementation, never feel obligated to do so. Consider the Discovery an audition for the implementation. If it turns out the Consultant you used for your CRM evaluation isn’t a good fit for you, you still get help in the process, decent documentation, and you won't have spent a ton of money on a bad fit.