How A Consultant Can Help You Find The Right CRM

Finding The Right CRM Solutions For Your Business

Don’t let Vendor Hype Take You Down The Wrong Road

To identify the right CRM solutions for your business, you first need to understand what CRM is. Customer Relationship Management is a way of doing business, and it requires a strategy from which you will define processes that can be supported by people and software. Where most folks get it wrong is by confining CRM to the sales organization, or customer service or marketing. The fact is, each of those areas is a critical part of CRM, and there could even be an impact in some of your back-office groups as well.

Let’s assume you’ve developed a well thought out CRM strategy for your business, and you’ve also added, removed or modified processes, so the remaining functional parts of your business support the strategy. This is the right time to be thinking about CRM solutions; and not before.

It’s just not possible to take a set of software features and work backward to a CRM strategy.

CRM Solutions Breakdown

It’s tough to know why you found this page and what CRM solutions you are looking for. Maybe you don’t even know. CRM solutions have a few characteristics that define them. First is how they are delivered to the end-user. On-Demand solutions over the web are really hot right now. But there are still very good reasons for sticking with the client-server model. Another thing about them is related to their market. For instance, B2B and B2C have completely different customer types. And then the vertical market plays a role. And of course, the real differentiator is then left to the CRM strategy.

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a term you may have heard thrown about. The marketed benefit of CRM solutions delivered this way is low total cost of ownership (TCO). I won’t go into this argument because I’ve it’s not my debate, but the On-Demand nature of this delivery makes it a much simpler process to access your data no matter where you are (as long as there is an Internet connection). And since the application resides on a server, the cost to administer the platform is theoretically much lower.

Some of the newer web-based solutions now have disconnected clients that allow users to access and work with data even when they are not able to connect to the Internet.

While this may be changing, I’ve always seen major advantages to maintaining your own system; whether in-house or hosted. TCO is the major factor in SaaS, and I believe the argument becomes weaker and weaker for those who have developed a uniquely competitive strategy. While software can be made to do almost anything, the cost to do so on a platform designed for multi-tenancy can quickly begin to wipe out the advantages of SaaS.

B2B vs. B2C is a relatively easy decision to make.

If you sell products or services to businesses and work with more than one person at a business, you need to be evaluating Account-centric CRM solutions. These relationships tend to have longer and more complex selling cycles, so tracking opportunities with multiple products and services are commonplace. And due to the length of the cycle, it’s common to forecast potential business so a good guess can be made regarding the calendar placement of future revenues.

On the retail side, long and complex sales cycles are not common. It’s also one to one, which makes a Contact-centric approach more workable (I’ve tried using B2B solutions here, and it doesn’t work!). There is a higher likelihood that a consumer-facing web presence will be needed giving customers a self-service channel (B2B may have this as well); whether that be a sales portal, customer service portal, or both.

Your Vertical Market may play a role in your evaluation of CRM solutions. Why? Because if your strategy is like everyone else’s, someone clever Vendor, or business partner, may have developed any customizations you may need up front. I would be wary of any such solution that goes beyond basic framework differences in your vertical. I’m certain that when you develop your CRM strategy, the processes that derive from it will not match those delivered with a vertical market solution.

My experience is in the middle-market, so the higher end vertical market CRM solutions may have been designed by folks much smarter than me. But, the ones I’ve seen in my area have always been over-thought and over-engineered to such a large degree, that they were almost unusable. So many features designed almost frantically, looking for the fanciest screenshot possible for the marketing brochure. And what’s worse, they were typically not designed with the ability to turn parts and pieces off to ramp up or down with the needs of a particular client.

My suggestion is to find a flexible tool, design a CRM strategy, functional processes and then start with the simplest design that will support your goals. Your users and your ROI will love you (or vice versa).

And finally, your CRM Strategy is the main driver for CRM solutions. Or, it should be. Your CRM strategy should be designed with your customers’ needs in mind, and that means you’ve got to do it with your competition in mind. Can anyone possibly justify delivering the same solutions to every business in a competitive marketplace? I’m sorry, but I’m not sold. If you want the easy way out, this makes perfect sense. But, generally, the term strategy does not identify a blueprint used by you and your competitors. But, maybe that’s just me.

Posted by on November 8, 2016