You’re sitting in your office, minding your own business—maybe putting the finishing touches on a few projects. For the moment, it seems, the world is your oyster. Then your boss stops by for a friendly chat. By the end of the conversation, you’re slightly nauseous and more than a little clammy.
The powers-that-be have decided that the business is in dire need of a CRM solution. You’ve either been nominated to lead the CRM selection committee or, and this is much more likely, you’ve been nominated to handle the CRM selection, presentations, testing, training, and deployment all by yourself. And you were having such a good day.
You’re Not Alone
Whatever else happens, remember to keep breathing. For some reason, CRM selection rarely seems to be thought out and planned for well in advance. You’d be surprised to know how often CRM selection is simply dumped in some unsuspecting soul’s lap. They’re given a vague wish-list of requirements, a budget that seems to have been chosen at random, and an admonishment to get it done as quickly as possible. Well, today, making the decision has fallen into your lap—now what are you going to do?
CRM selection isn’t easy, but there are ways to make it easier. Like any business decision, if you act from a position of panic, you’re likely to get it wrong. There’s a lot of information available to help you with your selection, you just need to keep a calm, clear head while you look through it all. Rushing to fill an ill-conceived wishlist as quickly as possible will just end up burdening your company with overpriced, poorly featured CRM software that quickly falls into disuse. If that happens, then you’ll have plenty of reason to panic.
You’re Not Ordering Takeout
You might immediately search for “CRM software,” or something similar online–this is perfectly understandable. However, if you have the company credit card in hand, ready to make a purchase, back away from the keyboard! Buying the first CRM system to show up in Google is a sure-fire way to end up with the wrong software and a giant mess on your hands. Use the internet to read reviews and gather information about a few CRM vendors, not to lock your company into an expensive contract for an untested system. Once you have a working list of potential vendors, you can start properly vetting their businesses and the products and services they provide.
Due Diligence, Always
One of the most dangerous aspects of any emergency is that people forget the basics. When panic sets in, it’s easy to forget those very simple actions that make the difference between success and failure. However, in an emergency, it’s imperative that you remain calm and follow some simple best practices for procuring a solution. Learn everything there is to know about the vendors on your working list. Online reviews are a good place to start. Talk to your professional contacts—find out what system they use and what their likes and dislikes are. Finally, if time and resources permit, sign up for a trial account with each prospective vendor, this is a great way to road test the software and get a feel for how it will drive. Once you’ve done all of this, your working list should be pared down to a manageable list of reputable vendors.
Your boss may have a wishlist, but if his employees don’t use the new CRM system, he’ll be wishing he wasn’t stuck paying for it. Talk to executives, managers, and employees about their current CRM system. Are they using email applications? Online contact managers? Post-it notes and the backs of receipts? Any and all of these are possible. Your job is to find a solution that standardizes and improves CRM company-wide. And you have to do it without alienating the people who are going to be using it every day. The more information you get, the more confident you’ll feel about your CRM selection. Along the way, you also have to figure out how to work in the boss’ wishlist since, well, he is the boss.
Putting on a Show
You’ve remained calm, done your homework, and ended up with a list of qualified, reputable vendors. You’ve also ended up with a comprehensive view of what your company needs out of a CRM system. It’s time to put the two together. Contact the vendors and let them know what your requirements are. Reputable vendors will be happy to come to your business to put on a presentation of their systems. Invite some of the same people who gave you input on desired CRM features. Following the presentations, it should be easy to tell which vendor can best fit your needs. When it’s all over, you’ll come through the CRM selection emergency with the best possible system, and more than a few bragging rights.