Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce Blog

Investing in CRM in 2017? Before you buy, talk to an existing customer.

Today's blog post was written by Ariel Upton, Marketing Manager at Sonoma Partners.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions (if you want to make a change, do it – don’t wait for the magical January 1st date), but we see a flurry of interest in reviving an existing CRM system or investing in a new one at the beginning of each calendar year. While some of this interest can be attributed to replenished budgets, a portion of these inquiries are fueled by newly established sales and marketing goals that need to be actualized.

Whether 2017 is the year you deepen the use of your existing deployment, or invest in CRM for the first time, I highly recommend seeking out existing customers before you sign the dotted line.

Talking to other people in your industry to learn how they use CRM is an invaluable experience that can help you shape the course of your project.

When vetting potential CRM implementation partners, any reputable consultancy should be able to provide you with customer references. These reference meetings, which usually take place over the course of a 30-minute phone call, will provide you with a high-level understanding of their experience working with said firm and the highlights of their project.

While these customer reference calls are a good start, they cannot replace the information you garner from a face-to-face conversation with another person in similar shoes as your own.

In our experience implementing custom CRM solutions for professional services firms and manufacturing companies, we’ve uncovered that our customers and prospects are most interested in talking with other people in their industry to share their experiences with CRM deployments. These conversations give them the opportunity to exchange notes on successes and failures and walk away from the conversation with practical strategies for enhancing their deployment. Better yet, the discussion gives them an ‘ah-ha’ moment or two that helps them think about CRM in a whole new light.

Having witnessed dozens of these face-to-face conversations in the past, I can pinpoint two topics that help people make better decisions regarding their firm’s CRM deployments:

  1. Industry Impact
    No two CRM deployments are exactly the same, but deployments within particular industries can look very similar. If you’re an Accounting or Management Consulting firm, it’s highly likely that you can compare your CRM wish list with another firm of your size. If you’re an industrial equipment manufacturer, you can make a safe bet that what you’re looking to accomplish is on your competitor’s radar. In no way am I advocating for giving away your company’s secret CRM sauce, but having lively discussions with multiple other companies within your industry can give you a realistic view into the realm of the possible.

  2. Partner Relationship
    There’s no better way to determine what it’s really like to work with a consulting firm than to speak with a sample of their customers; and not just their shining stars who usually get flagged for the aforementioned reference calls. If you’re spearheading a CRM initiative and investing your company’s time, resources, and emotional willpower, you want to make sure you’re hiring an implementation partner that’s going to help you realize your goals the first time around. A huge number of our new clients come to us with CRM triage projects, and a lot of these failed or stalled attempts at implementing CRM are caused by issues with their original partner. Save yourself from having to engage in the selection process for a second time and do as much research as you can to ensure that you select the right partner from the start.

So how do you move beyond the formulaic reference call and get in front of other existing CRM customers?

Customer-headlined events. Realizing how important it is for our prospects to speak with our existing customers we’ve committed to hosting events that bring people together to discuss their existing, and future, CRM deployments. Whether it’s a luncheon with a customer speaker or a three-day event with multiple customer panels, seek out these types of events and attend them. Spending a couple hours of your day, or a couple days of your week, could be the determining factor in the overall success of your CRM initiatives in 2017.

Are you interested in talking to existing CRM customers within your industry? Contact us to learn more about our 2017 events.

Topics: CRM Best Practices