According to analyst firm AMI-Partners, mid-sized businesses spend more than $1 billion dollars annually on CRM applications. For many of these companies, however, choosing the right solution from among the hundreds of CRM applications available can be a daunting task.
If your small or mid-sized company is evaluating CRM applications, you should focus your efforts on solutions that align with the size of your company, as well as your business needs. Additionally, you should take the following six factors into consideration before making a purchase decision.
Before you can compare CRM applications, you must determine which features and capabilities you need to solve your problems and achieve your goals. Talk to key stakeholders–including your clients and staff in customer-facing roles–to identify the processes and interactions that need to be improved and the tools required to make those improvements. This will enable you to build a comprehensive, accurate requirements list prior to starting your search.
Because many mid-sized businesses are working within tight financial constraints, finding the right balance of affordability and functionality in CRM applications can be challenging. Determine how much you can spend before you begin talking to vendors. Only those vendors who can deliver the features you need, within your price range, should make it on to your short list. Don’t let over-eager sales reps talk you into high-ticket CRM applications that go way beyond your budget–chances are, they include more features than you really need.
If, after researching numerous CRM applications, you find that what you need simply can’t be found within your budget, you may want to consider choosing a hosted solution. Hosted CRM applications are more affordable for small and mid-sized businesses because they eliminate the large upfront investments associated with on-site systems.
How much strain will the CRM application put on your IT team? Do you have enough staff to handle both implementation and ongoing maintenance? Do they have the right skills and training to support the project? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then an on-site CRM application may not be right for your company. Consider hosted or on-demand CRM applications instead, which minimize IT burden.
How well will the CRM application fit within your current environment? Can it be easily integrated with your ERP and other critical business systems? Be sure any CRM application you choose will enable you to continue leveraging your existing investments and won’t negatively impact the other technologies you rely on.
Does the vendor have experience working with companies that are similar to yours? Do they offer products and services designed specifically for your industry? A vendor who has an understanding of your business can help you structure your solution and your processes to maximize the value of your CRM application.
How intricate are your sales and service models? How many departments will be impacted by your CRM application? Do you need to make the CRM application available to external stakeholders, such as business partners and customers? Gaining a thorough understanding of the activities and processes your CRM application will support will help you determine what kind of solution (i.e. which modules and features, how many users, etc.) will best fit your business needs.
By carefully assessing these six areas, before you begin evaluating CRM applications, you’ll have the insight you need to choose the solution that’s best for your business.