I’ve been involved with buying a new CRM software four times. Each time we did our research, spent quite a bit of money (last one alone cost more than $30k) and yet failed to get what we had wanted. Later, as co-founder of a CRM startup I’ve talked to dozens of people looking to get new software to manage sales and relationships, and seen many of them make similar mistakes. But I’ve also seen some get it right after some trial and error. Here are my observations on the things that need to be decided before even starting to compare different CRM alternatives:
1. What are you trying to accomplish with new CRM?
The answer is almost always less obvious than it seems. One thing it is most probably not is “manage relationships with customers”, this would be like buying a computer for “computing”. But what is the outcome that you want?
Do you need to easily track purchase and service history in order to provide better support or do you want a better overview of key activities before a sale is made? If you need your customer service just to know transaction history then many solutions will do, but if you’re looking to increase sales efficiency you probably want things like advanced reporting and good overview of your sales pipeline.
2. What is your sales process like?
What steps need to be completed before a sale is made? Describe the most common way of getting customer, often referred to as sales funnel or pipeline. For example: Idea > Qualified lead > Meeting agreed > Needs mapped > Proposal presented > Verbal yes > Agreement signed.
Why that is so important? If you’re serious about growing sales you’ll probably want to track your sales pipeline by stage. If a stage is missing from your CRM or you have pre-set stages that you actually don’t use in actual sales work your teams will start to use the software less as „we don’t sell like that“. Good CRM software can be tailored to your sales process.
3. What sales steps are critical?
Once you have mapped your sales process you can go one level deeper. What are the most important steps for you? Is it meetings arranged or proposal sent? Also, how many times per day or week should your team do them? A successful company I know has a sales strategy that boils down to a simple „100 new meetings a week“ mantra.
If you know what to focus on, make sure the CRM can handle easily deep diving into that sales step or process.
4. How would you like to see and share important metrics?
I once asked a sales manager how many meetings his sales reps are doing each week. His answer was: I must ask our secretary to look it up from the CRM software, but even that might not give an accurate answer because some sales reps don’t record their activities. Very often software is not used because key metrics are not agreed upon, or it is too difficult to get to them.
And so sales people record their activities only every now and then, and what’s worse, neither them or their manager knows whether it was a good, ok or bad day relative to average or other team members.
Decide how would you like to review and discuss sales metrics each day or week. If you feel it’s important to use sales data in a weekly meeting or for everyone to review it each morning, make sure the CRM solution can deliver it.
5. How would you like to integrate CRM into daily routines?
By studies, one of most common cause of low CRM adoption is that people are able to do their jobs without it. And this can be a real problem. Think from the users perspective – why should they always use their CRM? Can it be simpler than using one’s own spreadsheet or notes? If not, would you need extra incentives? I know managers who (successfully) announced that sales meeting are held only on CRM data and if someone’s meeting notes had not been entered, it was treated as if the meeting never happened. Harsh as it may sound, it worked for a common goal.
6. Last but not least, how can CRM software help sales people?
Have a think about the challenges your salespeople face, and whether CRM can solve some of them. For example if some of them tend to get to disorganized and easily lose their focus, choose a CRM that can help to do that. It is a lot easier to integrate business tools into daily routines if it scratches the itch of non-managers as well. Adapting CRM often fails because it’s makes the life of managers easier but creates more work for people doing the actual work.
In conclusion, if you’ve thought through how you want to use CRM software, it’s a lot easier to pick one. Start the process only after you know the routines it needs to support. Otherwise you may end up in a situation where a piece of software dictates your team’s sales processes – which is a bad place to be in.
This article was published in ThinkAboutCRM.com