Buying CRM: How to make informed decisions every step of the way

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It’s easy to buy a new CRM system. But not so easy to buy one with confidence that it’s the best fit for your businesses’ needs.

The buying process is a complex one – from establishing the need for a new system and conducting requirements gathering, to assessing the alternatives through comparisons and demos.

Fortunately, MyCustomer has pooled our best practice advice in a handy timeline so that you can progress along the path to purchase with complete confidence.

Step 1: Do you need a new CRM system?

The vast majority of large organisations have a CRM system in place these days – certainly the successful ones do, anyway. But that doesn’t mean they have the best CRM system for their needs.

In some cases, problems will surface somewhere along the line, and this provides a catalyst for change. But for many others, there is uncertainty about whether their current CRM system needs changing. Should they stick to what they know, and use the system that they have become accustomed to, warts and all, or change vendor and leap into the unknown?

If you’re unsure about whether or not you should buy a new CRM system, why not take our handy test to find out. It covers the key questions that you should ask yourself about your current system and will help you decide whether you should stick or twist.

Take the CRM test

Step 1.5: Do you need a CRM consultant?

Many organisations decide to employ a consultant to help them choose and implement a new CRM system. Certainly there are many benefits to hiring an expert to do the heavy-lifting. But with CRM being such a big investment, you’re placing a lot of faith in that person – so you need to make sure that you make the right choice!

If you would like some advice about how to select the best consultant for your requirements then there is some handy advice in the following article:

Select a CRM consultant

Step 2: Requirements gathering

If you’re going to going to conduct the vendor selection process in-house rather than bringing in a third-party, you’ll need to scope out your CRM requirements.

Understanding requirements up front means there’s less risk of selecting an inappropriate technology platform, it makes procurement more efficient because vendors can provide firm pricing up front, and it also makes for a quicker implementation, with much less risk of scope creep where new requirements arise part way through the project.

So who should take responsibility for the requirements gathering and what should be factored into your plans when building the detailed requirements list? Find out in the following piece:

Requirements gathering

But be mindful of making some of the common mistakes associated with requirements gathering. You can find advice on how to avoid these pitfalls here:

CRM requirements gathering: pitfalls to avoid

Step 3: Pulling together a vendor shortlist

Once you have outlined your requirements, you can cross-reference solution functionality and the services offered by vendors to find a good fit. But there are other factors to bear in mind, and wider research can be valuable.

For instance, user reviews and surveys can provide some useful steer from those that have already implemented the systems you are considering. You can find a summary of some recent studies into user feedback here:

What is the most user-friendly CRM solution?

There is also the little matter of the costs associated with the solutions, as well. For some reference to the costs of some of the leading CRM solutions, look here:

How much does CRM cost

There are also other costs associated with CRM that need to be taken into consideration, but that are often overlooked. This can be problematic if these aren’t factored into your equations when working out your budgets. Here is a reminder about some of the hidden costs:

What are the hidden costs of CRM?

Step 4: Vendor demos

Once a shortlist of vendors has been drawn up, traditionally the next step is to undertake demo sessions to help single out the best solution. Demos enable organisations to learn more about how the CRM system can add value and how it can address specific challenges, as well as providing a better understanding of the solution’s UI.

Demo sessions also enable organisations to learn more about the vendor themselves, including how they have helped other customers, and helps the company to develop a closer relationship with the vendor’s team, and check that the two groups can gel.

For advice on preparing for a CRM demo, you can read this:

Preparing for a CRM demo

And advice on making the most out of your CRM demo on the day can be found here:

How to make the most of your CRM demo

Step 5: Make a decision!

After following these steps, it’s now make-your-mind-up time. Here are some other key considerations to bear in mind when vetting vendors for the final decision:

Select a CRM solution

About Neil Davey

ND2

Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.

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