Six Tips to Select the Right CRM System: Evaluate Products and Providers
Once you have identified a few CRM systems that meet your requirements, you can begin the vetting process to select the right CRM system for your firm.
Tip 4: Direct the Demonstrations
It’s essential that the CRM demonstrations allow you to make an informed decision and adequately and accurately compare systems, features and pricing. It’s also important at this phase to again involve your users. CRM systems have a reputation for being notoriously difficult to implement, and the last thing you want is to be responsible for unilaterally selecting a system that then doesn’t meet user expectations. This can also help to make them more invested in system success.
It’s also important to structure the participation and demonstrations so you maximize the benefits. First, it can be helpful to thin the field of participating CRM providers to a manageable number. Next, select a group of users to participate. It can be good to choose users from different groups such as professionals and administrative, so you get some different perspectives. Participants selected must have the time and inclination to participate and must be willing to sit through all of the demonstrations so they can accurately compare all the systems. Finally, you may want to prepare the users by sharing the requirements and/or roadmap with them and asking them to be prepared to ask any questions they may have.
You should also prepare the providers. First, let them know how much time they have. A typical CRM demonstration can take between 1 and 2 hours. Also let them know who will be participating and what their needs and interests are. If you have professional or business users who have limited time for demonstrations, it can be helpful to direct the providers to spend the first 30 minutes to an hour of the demo on the features that are most relevant to those users. Then they can step out and the rest of the time can be spent showing you the more detailed back-end functionality. Finally, be sure to leave at least 15 minutes at the end of the demonstrations for questions.
Tip 5: Check References
Before making the final commitment on a CRM system, it’s important to make sure you go through a thorough vetting process. It’s important to make sure you get all the information you need before finalizing your purchase. First, ask the CRM vendor for references you can speak with. But don’t stop there. Talk to other companies or organizations in your industry who have used the software. Be sure to ask open-ended questions that will help you learn not only about the software, but also about other important areas. A few good questions to ask include:
- Would you recommend the software?
- Has the system performed as expected?
- What were the biggest challenges with the implementation?
- Were there any unexpected costs or delays?
- What do you wish you had done differently during the selection and implementation?
- How was the service after the sale?
For a comprehensive list of good questions to ask before finalizing the sale, check out our CRM Reference Checking Questions Document.
Tip 6: Final Selection Steps
Once you have selected the right CRM system for your firm, there are still a few additional important details that require attention. You will want to have a formal scoping call with the provider to be able to accurately gauge the actual cost. The final price can vary depend on a number of variables including:
- The number and types of licenses
- Additional modules or software needed
- Professional Services to implement
- Ongoing annual subscription or maintenance costs
- Any proposed integrations
- The types of training and materials
- Data conversion and/or quality
If the price is an issue with your system of choice, there are also options. First, there may be room for negotiation. Alternatively, you can do a phased rollout to spread the costs over time. Some firms prefer to start the rollout with Marketing and power users and then rollout to a small pilot group. Then additional groups can be added in later phases over time.
Finally, remember that, in any sale, you are not finished until the paperwork is done. After the price is agreed upon, you will need to review the contract or agreement. While these documents may look official and final, in fact they are often open to negotiation, so it can be beneficial for you may want to modify some of the contract terms. For instance, if the software is new to the market, you may be able to get a discount or arrange a beta test at a reduced rate. Additionally, instead of paying the entire invoice up front, you can often negotiate payment terms that are stepped over time based on the satisfactory completion of key deployment steps. This can enhance your chances of CRM success by aligning your CRM vendor’s success with yours.
One Last Tip: Don’t Do It Alone
Selecting the right CRM system can be a daunting process. Most people have never been through the process before – and few want to repeat it. So remember, you don’t have to do this alone. At CLIENTSFirst, we have helped hundreds of firms successfully select and implement CRM systems.