So, you’ve decided to purchase a customer relationship management (CRM) software solution. But, don’t start calling in vendors to discuss pricing just yet. There is still quite a bit of work to be done before you begin negotiating your CRM software deal.
Once you’ve outlined your goals and objectives, defined your requirements, and built your list of key criteria, its time to turn the hundreds of CRM software packages on the market today into a “short list” of solutions that may be right for you.
There are plenty of analyst reports, buyer’s guides, industry publications, and other easy-to-find information sources that can get you started and help you identify those CRM software vendors you want to begin discussions with.
Next, you’re ready to conduct vendor interviews and/or issue a request for proposal (RFP). By asking the right questions during this process, you can quickly identify those vendors and CRM software solutions that will be the best fit for your company.
Research each vendor’s history, including financial status, mission statement, service policies, and reputation. This will help you determine which one is the right CRM software partner for you.
Thoroughly review each CRM software product’s capabilities, and compare them to those on your requirements checklist. You should also ask for a roadmap that outlines future upgrades and enhancements, so you can see how the product will evolve in the coming years.
Ask for the names of a few existing customers, preferably within your industry, or with similar needs and challenges.
Speak to several stakeholders at each customer site – IT staff, managers, and end users – for the clearest picture of how the CRM software impacted their business. And, if possible, request a site visit, so you can see how the solution is being used in a real-world scenario.
After you’ve identified the most credible vendors, you’ll want to see the CRM software solution in action. Request a demo that is customized specifically to your CRM-related needs and objectives. For example, ask the vendor to simulate one of your existing process workflows, or provide them with a sample of your own data to use. Be wary of canned, pre-recorded, or self-running demos, which tend to highlight the features the vendor wants you to see, not necessarily the ones you really care about.
Technology providers are notorious for using “vapor-ware”, or products that aren’t yet in production, during demonstrations. CRM software vendors are no exception. You may want to consider requesting a trial, since it can provide a more realistic experience, and give you a more accurate picture of how the CRM software will operate within the framework of your business.
Ask the vendor to allow you to try the solution for 90 days. During that time, make sure you attempt to utilize every feature included in your initial checklist. By this time, you’re likely to have narrowed your short list down even further, to just one or two remaining CRM software vendors. Now, let the negotiations begin!