The decision to move from a plain contact management program like
Outlook to a more robust CRM solution is about more than just choosing
a new application. It’s about solving an issue in your business. Are
you losing customers? Not getting enough referrals from your current
customers? Before you rush out and sign up for the hottest new
software, take some time to think through your needs.
According to CRM expert Brent Leary,
the biggest mistake small business owners make when choosing a CRM
solution is not doing the work up front. “They think buying the
software means they’re done, but CRM is not just software – it’s a
We asked Brent for some tips on how to choose the right CRM solution.
Identify the issues.
What are the challenges you and your employees are facing? Every
company’s list will be different, but some common/universal issues
- Are you losing customers?
- Is your customer information centralized (or in a bunch of different applications, spreadsheets, and files)?
- Can anyone who interacts with a customer access their history?
- Are there any outstanding issues with this customer?
- How much business have you gotten from them?
- What products do they like?
- What marketing have you done to them?
- Is your sales force doing the right kind of sales activities?
The answers to these questions can also help you determine what kind of
reporting or dashboard you need the CRM solution to produce.
There are so many choices that just doing the research can be an
overwhelming task. Beginning with a few software comparison sites can
give you an idea of the options available, and features you might not
have thought of. Some good websites to get you started are Vendorguru.com, DestinationCRM.com, and InsideCRM.com. An independent local expert is also a good option, and can be especially helpful when you get to the implementation phase.
Get customer feedback.
Because CRM is not just an application, but a solution to a business
issue, you might want to make sure your customers will be happy if
you’re changing the way you interact with them. While you are trying to
solve what’s NOT working, be careful not to ditch what IS working.
Often the best suggestions come from customers – after all, they are
the ones using your products and dealing with your employees on a
regular basis. Asking your customers for their buy-in also shows your
commitment to serving them well.
Get social, but have a purpose.
Social media is great for interacting with customers and prospects, but
it’s important not to lose track of the nuts and bolts of the sales
process. “Social CRM” – integrating blogs, podcasts, video, community
features, Twitter, etc. are great ways to build content, because
prospects are out there looking for help. You have the opportunity to
show up with that help or information they need.
However, it’s key to make sure that once you start the conversation,
you have a way to get those prospects into the CRM system so they enter
your sales funnel. Capture their attention with content, but make sure
you engage them enough to at least get their contact information. Then
you can do more, like adding other qualifying questions to your contact
form that help your team prioritize the prospect and identify where
they are in the sales process (e.g., hot leads vs. mailing list)
Choose vendors – not just software -carefully.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices of CRM solutions, take some time
to talk to the vendors. Pay attention to how responsive they are during
your research and selection process. Ask them about best practices –
“how should MY company best use your software?” Remember that you
aren’t just buying the software, you’re buying the service and support
that this vendor will provide as well. If anything makes you
uncomfortable, don’t buy it.
Some solutions (and their sales pitches) are so slick and exciting
that it’s easy to get caught up and think that “this one thing” can
solve all of your problems. The key to remember is that software is
like any other technology – it’s just a tool. CRM software can help you
implement your strategy, but you still need to create that strategy.
Laura Leites, Assistant Editor, Smallbiztechnology.com