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How do I pick the right CRM for my business?

By Richard Wu, CRM Practice Manager, Arbela Technologies
  1. Create a short list
    Like buying a car, picking a CRM (customer relationship management) is one of the larger financial decisions you will make as a business leader. Would you buy a car from a niche company with limited distribution and support for your day-to-day driver? Probably not, unless you have a fascination with the "romantic" experience of owning an AMC Gremlin, Yugo, or DeLorean. All business systems, like cars, can have their quirks and when you really need support, you want a company and community that will be there. Usually the bigger the name the better. This is a time where the saying "too-big-to-fail" is a good thing. As with the auto market, there are really only two in the CRM space: Microsoft and Salesforce -- just like Honda and Toyota are synonymous for reliability. Similarly both "platforms" are well supported and come in endless variations. Also like cars, both Microsoft and Salesforce have many partners who sell add-ons to provide your CRM with that something special while going about your day-to-day.
  2. Involve the sales experts. Your team!
    If you aren't the driver who is using the car the most, then make sure you ask the other drivers. Make sure your teenager (millennials) have a say, but also make it clear that your spouse (experienced sales team) is happy. Make it clear that any system has to be reliable (supportable) and safe (data security). At the very least, your team should at least see the system before it is purchased to start the excitement that something new is coming. It's taking the whole family to an open house. It really is a boost in energy that something new is coming.
  3. Make it about the user's benefits
    Yes, you will get the trend analysis and forecasting you always dreamed about, but let the others know that they will get their needs met as well. For sales it is fairly simple -- a CRM system will help YOU make more money or reduce the effort of making your goal.
  4. Involve the team in testing
    Don't just let you, your vendor, or IT do all the testing. Wouldn't it be odd if film studios only asked the director, producers, and movie theater distributors if a movie was any good? Yes, it would be, which is why test audiences are used. Unlike a movie though, if the screening goes badly you can still make changes in the CRM. Sadly, for the movie industry they just beef up the celebrity interviews, keep the press away, or send it straight to DVD.
  5. KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid!
    Nothing really annoys a user than 100 fields of which half are required to save the record. Actually starting a car involves complex electronics, batteries, sophisticated ignition timing, and safety checks, but the reality is that all the user has to do is turn a key (or push a button). Your system should be the same. Short of putting it in gear, pressing the gas pedal, and steering, there shouldn't be more to it. Your CRM should follow the same principles. Calm down, go for a walk, and resist the urge to ask for every little detail and definitely don't make it a mandatory field.
  6. Train and reward
    If you involved your team for testing, training is actually pretty easy because they have been using the system even before it went live. Train in steps, not all at once. Give them weekly homework and follow up with office hours. Recognize team members on calls, who are really progressing. Make it fun. Again, make it about them.
  7. Make it a roller coaster
    When you board a roller boaster and strap in, there is no going back. You are in it until the end. When a CRM is deployed, let the team know, it's here to stay. If they want to get paid, enter in the opportunity. If they want more leads from marketing, make sure they qualify contact information for the leads they have and follow up. If they want to get off instead of riding again, unfortunately, that might have to happen. Business systems are a reality of today, as it will only progressively become more of what we do. Let your team know that nothing is perfect, but they have a say in how the system evolves. You want them along for the ride!