Neal Benedict
May 26, 2016

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is today “ubiquitous”.  Recent data suggest that 90% of companies with more 11 employees have deployed a CRM.  That number drops to below 50% for companies with less than 11 employees.  However, the fact that companies have implemented a CRM doesn’t necessarily mean that they have successfully deployed or even selected the CRM wisely.

This post will attempt to help those who are yet to implement a CRM or those looking to replace their current package.

Before we begin I want to clarify that I am looking at this through the lens of Sales Force Automation (SFA). CRM is much broader than this, but in my experience when people discuss CRM they are generally talking about SFA.

Before implementing a CRM you should first understand the goals you are trying to achieve.  The suggestions below, while not exhaustive should be included in those goals.

Goals of CRM

  1. Contact Management – you should have the goal of having a safe and consistent system to capture clients and prospects that are transparent across the organization.
  2. Opportunity Management – you should have the goal of managing all opportunities in a system that reflects your sales process as well as your clients buying process.  (Many companies confuse CRM with the sales process.   They aren’t the same and I cover that in this previous post Aren’t my CRM and My Sales Process the Same Thing?)
  3. Client Management – you should have the goal of having full visibility and understanding of what your clients currently buy (and will buy) and why.
  4. Forecasting – you should have the goal of understanding and more importantly of accurately predicting revenue.
  5. Reporting (dashboards) – you should have the goal of building and implementing key metrics that allow senior leaders to make strategic decisions based on clear and concise sales data.

Each of these goals when implemented along with a CRM can bring measurable benefits to a business however we will need to pick those up in a future post.

Now that you have your goals for CRM defined, how do you select a suitable CRM system? I suggest you consider the following as you begin your journey.

Criteria for Selecting Your CRM

1. Business process

This is critical in any CRM selection process. The CRM software needs to be flexible enough to reflect your clients buying process and your sales process. It is less than ideal to build your business process after you purchase a CRM. Do this upfront prior to considering the type of system or the vendor of your CRM. Don’t confuse process with your CRM, they aren’t the same.If you want more detail, see the post I wrote on this topic. (link above)

2. Ease of implementation

If it requires a protracted implementation and significant training you should count that in the cost. Also consider opportunity cost.The longer it takes to implement and get your sales team using the CRM the higher the opportunity cost. Complexity doesn’t always correspond with value.

3. Integration

You already have other systems in place such as marketing automation, accounting software or email. To get even greater value from your CRM you should consider your integration needs. Most small businesses don’t need extensive integration, but you should put some thought into it before selecting a CRM.

4. Scalability

It’s possible to implement a CRM solution and simply deploy sales force automation. Small businesses may only need a way to prospect, create contacts, manage follow ups and complete the sale. Most CRM systems have modules that allow you to scale from SFA to account management and client services. However, consider your need for additional modules before you select your CRM. Don’t pay for what you don’t need.

5. Web vs. on-site

There is no question that Cloud-based software has been growing at a rapid pace. Close to 50% of the CRM sold is now cloud-based software.  There are advantages to cloud software such as lower upfront cost, shorter implementation time and (generally) ease of making changes. However, if you have concerns about data security, ease of integration and total cost of ownership, on-site software may be a better fit.

There are of course other factors to consider such as training time and costs, price, mobility, ease of use, etc. Selecting a CRM is a daunting task for any business and for small businesses even more so.