It’s said and done – a CRM is coming to your organization. But now that you set out to find your CRM consultant, you are likely to face the challenge of bringing down all the cacophony of demands you have heard from your fellow stakeholders. As any CRM system brings together users of diverse background and responsibilities, you simply can’t do without overcoming their conflicting opinions and lack of CRM awareness.
If it’s your first ever CRM project, there can be no rule of thumb. It means someone would just have to go through all ups and downs of this bumpy road for you, so that you could adopt only best practices and avoid possible pitfalls of hiring a CRM consultant. Worry no more – below is our careful selection of the requirements specific to CRM consulting in particular. We are not looking into technical competence; nor are we interested in such delicate matters as price and location, for these are the go-to criteria that should always be there. Instead, let’s turn to the ones that are the easiest – and most expensive – to overlook.
1. User convenience first
Your sales and marketing teams are going to question your decision to deploy CRM software anyway. To erase any doubts, your CRM consultant will have to enthuse them about the new system by means of its exceptional and transparent usability.
The logic behind this criteria is simple. If your system is inconvenient to use, the ones who were supposed to reap its benefits would sabotage it instead, retreating to their spreadsheets and notepads and cutting on your expected ROI every single day. On the contrary, loyal CRM users who are fully aware of the system’s functional capabilities will consistently maintain both the quality of data and their operational efficiency.
There should be no guesswork. When tapping into prospective consultants’ proposals or portfolios, watch out for any signposts on their ability to raise user buy-in rates and go beyond default interfaces.
2. Evangelizing out-of-the-box features
CRM platforms haven’t appeared out of the blue. Behind them, there are years of thorough, expert thinking, and it actually comes at quite a price (read, license fees). To get the most of your chosen platform, your CRM consultant is to leverage its out-of-the-box functionality by all means, and only go beyond it when the genuine features are exhausted.
It doesn’t only take to know the ins and outs of the target platform. It also takes the ability to think conceptually in terms of your real-life business environment and user convenience. It helps twice as much to stay within meaningful limits of customization if your prospective CRM consultant has a vision that’s not overridden with technocracy. As a guiding principle, technology for technology’s sake is only good for… in fact, it can never be good. Without the business-first attitude, CRM functions will be just a preset configuration of buttons and forms not aligned with your actual needs.
3. Inherent understanding of sales
Sales are the spine of CRM, both as a discipline and a technology, and you are not here to educate your CRM consulting vendor about them. Having a tech professional with the background in sales or presales is a dream come true, but realistically you would want someone who can see your sales cycles inside out and correctly translate it into the CRM functionality at the same time. A wrong understanding of your sales specifics is likely to result in inadequate CRM workflows or missing functionality.
Instead, a knowledgeable consultant will not only avoid these undercurrents but also help you minimize the project duration on both ends by skipping an educational stage that leads up to the actual project start and by avoiding possible rework of the system due to the inconsistencies identified during the system adoption.
4. Expertise in your niche
Customer relationship management – every word in this term means something different for different industries, and these distinctions must find their place in your CRM system. To get it right, your prospective CRM consultant should have a decent understanding, both in theory and practice, of your niche requirements. To identify the level of their industry awareness, scroll through their portfolio, ask for briefings, look for professional catchphrases and their context in their materials. Once onboard, a well-versed consultant will bring in positive spillovers from combining their technical and business expertise to deliver a tailored solution geared towards a fulfilling service.
5. CRM theory is everything
Beyond your prospective CRM consultant’s technical supremacy, there should always be a solid CRM theory as well that stems from the consultant’s solid practical experience. This will ensure you get the solution that does push your business forward according to the hands-on principles of the trade, not just assumptions.
In our practice, we apply the 4-stage CRM maturity model that thoroughly explains the entire journey from the basics of customer bookkeeping up to the ‘CRM nirvana’ of strategic relationship management. With it, we are able to identify a client’s current stage and map out the expected progress to provide an informed, goal-oriented CRM consulting that so far has been bringing notable results to our clients.
When picking a CRM consultant, it’s easy to overlook some critical requirements that have nothing to do with the obvious price, location, IT experience and scale. Here, we have come up with five criteria that impact the system’s adoption at an enterprise, define its effectiveness and generally shape the success of a CRM deployment.
These criteria should find their way into your RFP and guide your decision-making when considering CRM consultants’ proposals. This will help to avoid that painful error-and-trial method that is known to cause so much trouble for non-tech companies dealing with software engineering vendors.
This article originally appeared on ScienceSoft Blog and has been republished with permission.