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First of all, what does it mean to be orphaned by your CRM vendor? 

In short, it means that your CRM vendor sold you on a CRM product and for one reason or another (which weCRM-Orphan-Left-behind.jpg talk about here) forgot about you.  Are you feeling left behind?

Of course, it’s no secret that choosing the right CRM vendor can be a difficult decision to make, especially if it is not approached with a clear strategy. There are so many things to consider. There is determining your own business needs, but there is also the task of figuring out what you should look for in a vendor to determine if they are able to meet those needs. This is the first step to avoid finding yourself orphaned by your vendor, like so many other businesses. 

Here are 5 key steps you must do before choosing your CRM vendor to avoid being orphaned.

1. Define your vision.

It’s not enough to have a general idea of what you want your CRM system to do. The most valuable is having a vision. This means defining strategies and goals that you want your CRM system to achieve and how you will measure its success. Here are some questions to ask yourself to get started with developing your vision and turning it into reality.

  • Why are we implementing a CRM system?

  • What needs of our customers are being underserved and need improvement?

  • What are our goals?

  • What tools will help our employees provide a remarkable customer experience?

  • What do we want to achieve?

  • Who within our business will be responsible for helping us achieve our goals?

 

It’s vitally important that all members of your business that would work directly with the CRM answer these questions. This helps to ensure that you have a broad view of the needs, concerns, challenges, and even barriers that could affect CRM success.

Once these questions are thoroughly answered, you should have a clear picture of the current state of your business as well as the clarity to develop realistic expectations, which we’ll talk about next.

 

2. Set expectations so your vision is realized.

Expectations are critical. Establishing expectations will reduce or eliminate any possible conflicts. There should be a direct correlation between what you expect based on the vision communicated to a potential vendor and the process and deliverables promised by a potential vendor.

Expectations go both ways. The more defined your vision, the easier it will be to articulate your expectations to a potential vendor to ensure that they know what they can expect from you. It also makes it easier to gauge whether a potential vendor has the capability to meet your expectations. Below are five general areas of expectation to consider.

  • The role that both you and the potential vendor will play

  • The process your CRM implementation will follow

  • The scope of the project and turnarounds

  • Vendors ongoing availability

  • What application and data integrations will be used now and in the future

 

There will be additional areas to consider in terms of setting expectations such as user and customer experience, reporting, software customizations, and more. Begin with expectations for the type of relationship you and the vendor will have and the plan set forth to meet the rest of your expectations, will serve as the foundation for eliminating the possibility of your business becoming a CRM system orphan.

 

3. Determine the type of documentation that the vendor has.

Have you ever gotten a new piece of technology and when it started to malfunction (whether a user error or not), you couldn’t find the user manual? Remember how frustrated you felt? I think you would agree that that’s not an experience you want to have with your CRM system when it affects the entire operation of your business. This is why it is critically important that you determine if a vendor has documentation that covers important aspects of a CRM system by asking the following questions.  

  • How was the system set up?

  • How was the system configured?

  • What is the best way to support users?

  • What integrations are tied into CRM such as email, ERP, and marketing automation?
  • How were user, sales team and departmental security permissions designed?
  • Where do I find printed, video, and online help along with FAQ?

 

Understanding these kinds of core aspects makes using a CRM system’s capabilities as smooth as possible and ensures continuity of knowledge. Here are just a few.

  • Learn how to enhance your business with the system capabilities

  • Quickly access information about the basic features

  • Get acquainted with the most used solutions

  • Get answers to the most frequently asked questions by users

 

Without this documentation, I think it immediately becomes clear how easy it would be to encounter challenges and have nothing to reference when attempting to problem solve. Challenges can then quickly be compounded if your CRM vendor has forgotten about you.

 

4. Determine if there are best practices.

As a new user of a CRM system, best practices are a necessity because they serve as a guide to getting the most out of your CRM system.   

Best practices should address system features and functionality of your CRM system, how to maintain clean and quality data, the importance of continuous communication with users and non-users, customer communication, and the necessity of ongoing training amongst others. Some common best practices that a vendor should have in place are such items as the ones seen below. 

  • Use Your CRM System – instead of resorting to more familiar systems, make sure that the CRM system and all of its important features are used and understood across your business.

  • Integrate with other applications used daily such as Outlook Email, contacts, and calendar. Data entered in one system updates the other automatically.  See Infor Xbar in Outlook as an example.
  • Begin tracking leads immediately – avoid delaying using the system to guard against compromising leads or worse missing out on capitalizing on quality leads.

  • Automate where possible – integrate email, ERP,  and marketing automation systems into CRM to help sales and marketing collaborate. Consider automated workflow and alerts to stay on top of what is happening

 

But it shouldn’t just stop there. Be sure that ongoing training and support is available when you have questions. And further, determine if there are any out-of-the-box issues to look out for that directly affect the user experience.

 

5. Pilot the CRM system with users.

We all test-drive a car before we buy it, so it only makes sense to pilot the CRM system with those who will use it on a day-to-day basis. As important as piloting the CRM system is, even more, important is that you use your actual data along with the way you normally work. This way you’ll be able to make sure that the system works properly before going live. Thus, giving your potential vendor an opportunity to fix any problems that might exist.

Let’s face it; investing in and adopting a CRM system is a very important decision for your business. It is a decision that you really can’t afford to get wrong. Aside from the headache that can come with choosing a vendor that doesn’t best fulfill your business needs, finding yourself without the support and resources needed for CRM success, can be disastrous for your business. Ultimately you will likely feel the pains of CRM systems and effectively become an orphan. With that in mind, let’s quickly review the 5 considerations. 

  • Define your vision

  • Set expectations based on your vision

  • Determine the type of documentation the vendor has

  • Determine if there are best practices

  • Pilot the CRM with users

 

Implementing a new CRM system is a fundamental change to your business and will become one of your business's most important assets. So be vigilant in making sure you have a vendor that can be a value-creating business partner and advisor in ensuring that your business has CRM success.

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