Buying a customer relationship management (CRM) package is one of the most monumental decisions your firm will ever make. Choosing the right one can mean the difference between the success and failure of your CRM initiative.
But with hundreds of CRM companies out there, how do you find the vendor and the solution that are right for your business? Asking the right questions during the interview and/or RFP process can help you quickly identify the most credible CRM companies with the most viable offerings, and help you make a smarter, more informed purchase.
Thoroughly analyze each vendor’s history, including financial status, mission statement, and reputation to determine which one is the right partner for you. While this information will be easy to obtain on your own for publicly-held CRM companies, you’ll need to do some digging to learn more about the ones that are privately owned. However, most CRM companies, particularly those with a solid background and a promising future, will gladly provide you with plenty of relevant data.
Request a list of features for each product, and conduct a close side-by-side comparison of the various solutions you are considering. Ask for a roadmap of future upgrades and enhancements, so you can understand how the CRM companies plan to evolve their solutions in the coming years. You should only seriously consider buying from those CRM companies that can deliver all the functionality you need.
Most CRM companies will be willing to let you speak to existing customers within your industry, or with similar needs and challenges. Ask for a list of references that includes both current and former customers, and speak to several types of users to get the most accurate picture of how the solution has impacted their business. And, if possible, request a site visit, so you can talk to users face-to-face and see how the product is being used in a real-world scenario.
Seeing the application in action will provide insight into what each of the CRM companies can really offer. Ask vendors to conduct demonstrations that are customized specifically to your needs and objectives. Be wary of canned, pre-recorded, or self-running demos, which tend to highlight the features the CRM companies want you to see, not necessarily the ones you really care about.
CRM companies always put their best foot forward during a demonstration. But, demos don’t necessarily reflect how the solution will work once it is installed in your own environment. A software trial can offer a more realistic experience, provide a more accurate picture of how the application will operate within the framework of your business, and give you a glimpse into what it will be like to work closely with each of the CRM companies you are evaluating. Beware of CRM companies that won’t let you trial their software – any vendor with a solid solution should be confident enough to let you try it out.