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Make your business work smarter, Integrated Business, Executive Buy-in, CRM Buyers Guide,

15 Min Read

How to Choose CRM Software - Starting Point Guidelines

A CRM systems responsibility in CRM selection

Success-with-CRM-FoundationLet's start with the core beliefs for the reality about CRM - Customer Relationship Management software.  The software itself is the technical component of your CRM system for acquiring, retaining, and developing profitable customer relationships. But the software is not the starting point. 

A CRM system's responsibility is to automate and enhance productivity in creating and maintaining customer relationships.

CRM revolves around the development of the customer relationship which takes time and resources to be effective.  This is especially true in a B2B- business-to-business environment, in higher trust requirement areas, and in generally higher-priced offerings.  This is where our CRM offerings shine.

Managing customer relationships can be a daunting task but also a very rewarding one. With the right strategy and tools, your whole business can become more engaged in delivering value to your customer in every conversation. Luckily, there's business software that will help you.

Here are starting points to consider when selecting the right customer relationship management software for your business.  Shameless promotion: An experienced business management consultant with expert knowledge of CRM systems design and implementation can greatly help guide you through this process. 

Recommendation:  Download our CRM Buyer's Guide containing Insight to help savvy buyers make a well-informed CRM buying decision.

The Times they are a changing...

What-it-not-CRMWhen your list of contacts has outgrown your Rolodex and you begin to forget important client details, it may be time to implement Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software into your business operations. When you have multiple employees communicating with multiple people at prospective and current customer organizations, it is time to implement CRM. 

Shared knowledge cannot be wasted.  From basic contact management software to tracking and managing sales or tweets on Twitter, CRMs offer many levels of the organization to deepen customer relationships. The ROI may not only result in increasing sales but should also yield better customer experiences. Our CRM guidelines will help you determine your customer relationship needs, which will help you in your selection of CRM software.

How to Choose CRM Software: Why Invest in a CRM?

The term CRM describes strategies, methodologies, software, and often, Internet capabilities designed to help businesses manage customer relationships in an organized fashion. While CRMs have traditionally been seen as an automated way to track and maintain client contact data, today's CRMs are smarter, faster, and highlight the most up-to-date computing technologies available. From there the CRM can be the tool you use to set and measure sales goals, measure customer service, and devise, deliver and track e-mail marketing campaigns. CRMs' importance in the marketplace has also grown. By having everyone –sales, marketing, and customer service– on the same page the company becomes more effective and efficient (and hopefully more profitable) by matching customer needs with company offerings.

Helpful video touching on the all-important implementation process


Creatio (formally bpm'online) CRM Switchbpm'online video testimonial - watch now
A single version of the truth

A small business will often have people working across all three channels: Sales, marketing, and customer service.  CRM systems become that single version of the truth –you know who your customers are, what products and services they bought from you, and what products and services they might be interested in going forward. You may even know how one person is associated with another or other businesses.  Know which of your contacts are good references and which are the best source of referrals. In essence, you can develop different links to various contacts within your customer's businesses- always a good thing in an ever-changing business environment.

Beyond managing customer relationships, if a small business owner needs to keep track of other pieces of customer information such as contracts, invoices, and e-mails, for example, then, a CRM system comes in handy in such situations as it helps you aggregate all customer-related information in a single place.

If small business owners frequently personalize and e-mail customers manually, or they have no idea of the status of each customer in the pipeline, then that's another sign they'll need a CRM system.

360 degree view of customer

We find that our most successful clients can better manage their business with a smart assessment of qualified sales opportunities using opportunity management. They can identify which opportunities are going to generate future revenue by product/service offering, by industry, by sales rep, and by geography.  Opportunity management is used to identify which opportunities are stuck and moving too slowly through the sales/buying process so you can determine if they are really qualified, is there a new competitor, is our product quality value in the market dropping, and so forth.

Essentially, says Barton Goldenberg, CEO of ISM, a Bethesda, Maryland-based CRM strategic advisory company, CRMs offer "business functionality at your fingertips that will save a ton of time for front-line personnel."

Potential Obstacles

Although there are many reasons to invest in a CRM, there are potential obstacles to successful usage. One of the most important factors on the road to success is employee buy-in. "Fifty percent of the initiative is people," said Goldenberg. There has to be "a willingness and commitment of a company to be structured in your sales, marketing, and customer service approach," before implementing a CRM.

Short of the threat of job loss, to encourage employee buy-in, Goldenberg suggested a top-down approach whereby management sets the example in using the tool. Also, he suggested creating a "CRM Champion," someone who is the go-to employee (not the boss) who really understands the system. Further, Goldenberg suggested offering rewards and incentives to help employees overcome the fear and concern of learning the new system.

Among other roadblocks to CRM success, the next major challenge is the cost. It can cost anywhere from $500 to $2000 per user per year to implement a CRM. "The CEO needs to understand the cost of CRM goes beyond simple licensing, rather it encompasses the license, training, and whatever business process changes they need to make", says Goldenberg. 

Learn the factors affecting CRM Pricing and implementation, here.

Also review the 18 Requirements for Business Success with CRM to get your organization in the best place for a well-used, high valuable CRM system.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in December 2012 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


What is Next:  Contact Dick (269)-445-3001 for a no-obligation strategy call on your situation and improvement options.


Related Resources:

Success - Intersection of Business Development and CRM

8 Ways to embrace change and receive increased CRM Value

15 actions to achieve better CRM user engagement and adoption

Understanding the Value points for CRM in Your Business

People First CRM articles

Topics:   Make your business work smarter Integrated Business Executive Buy-in CRM Buyers Guide

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