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Seven Tips for Making a CRM Software Purchase Decision

Purchasing customer relationship management (CRM) software can be complex and confusing; but with these seven tips, you can choose the right solution for your business and realize rapid return on your CRM software investment.

Tip 1: Conduct a Thorough Needs Assessment

Determining which features you need – and which ones you don’t – can make it easier to choose the right CRM software package. By identifying the primary business drivers, key stakeholders, potential bottlenecks, and critical success factors, as well as any future plans that may impact your CRM software, you can most clearly understand and define your requirements.

Tip 2: Create a Vendor Short List

Asking the right questions during interviews can help you quickly identify the most credible vendors with the most viable CRM software solutions. Analyze each vendor’s history, review each product’s features and capabilities, and ask for an in-depth customized demonstration. Once you’ve identified those CRM software solutions that meet your needs, check customer references thoroughly.

Tip 3: Conduct a Software Trial

A trial will give you a more accurate picture of how the CRM software will operate in real-world scenarios. Ask the vendor to let you try the software for 90 days. During that time, make sure you utilize every feature on your requirements checklist. Although a successful trial isn’t a 100% guarantee, it will give you a more realistic experience than a demo alone.

Tip 4: Negotiate the Best Deal

CRM software negotiations have become increasingly complex. You can cut the best possible deal with your vendor if you:

  • Know what the standard discount is. Use this price, not the list price, to begin your negotiations.
  • Continue evaluating other solutions. This will let the vendor know the deal is not a “lock” and that pricing may be a factor in your decision.
  • Avoid being swayed by free stuff. Vendors may offer additional modules at no costs. Unless these are on your initial requirements list, don’t take the bait.
  • Offer to serve as a reference.
  • Negotiate reduced implementation, consulting, and maintenance costs. Or, try to get them to throw free training or upgrades into the deal.

Companies opting for hosted CRM software can negotiate lower monthly fees in exchange for longer contract terms.

Tip 5: Closely Manage Your Implementation

How do you ensure smooth installation and roll-out of your CRM software? Start by creating detailed workflows of existing activities, and then re-structure any ineffective procedures. This will help you implement and customize the solution in a way that allows for the most efficient process execution.

Before your IT department installs any CRM software and hardware, they should create an architecture diagram that illustrates where the solution will fit into your current infrastructure, and how it will share data with existing systems. This will leave plenty of time to make changes if any issues arise.

Once the CRM software is installed, it is ready to be customized and delivered to your end users. While some companies opt for “big-bang” deployments, others prefer a staged approach, to minimize disruption.

Finally, you’ll need to make the system accessible to users. If you’ve chosen web-based or on-demand CRM software, you’ll need to provide a URL and detailed login instructions. If your CRM software is client/server-based, your IT team will need to install it on individual workstations.

Tip 6: Promote Widespread User Adoption

The success of your new CRM software lies in user adoption. Involve your sales, marketing, and support staff at every step of your project, so their needs are heard and addressed from the outset. Offer them continuous training and support, to make them as comfortable as possible with the new solution. Seek out their feedback and use it when planning for any enhancements or upgrades.

Tip 7: Measure Your Success

Did your CRM software help you achieve your goals? Are there any customer-facing activities that may need some additional refining? In order to answer these questions, you need to track results against objectives. Remember that performance management is an ongoing process – key metrics must be analyzed periodically to ensure continued success.