CRMs, should you switch?

I recently wrote a three-part series about Customer Relationship Management (CRM). I came across this great article written by Gene Marks in Forbes called “11 Terrible CRM systems for your Company.” I would encourage you to read it.

Among other things, he makes a valid point that CRMs are great tools to use, but you need to ensure that your sales team is properly trained to learn how to use the systems.  I would take it a step further and add that you also need to find a CRM that your sales team likes to use.

I once worked for a division that was required to convert from its existing CRM to the main company’s CRM. However, there was a problem – people in my division didn’t like the main company’s CRM because they found it to be too cumbersome to use. In addition, it was difficult to generate accurate reports. Within a matter of a few months, my division switched back to their old CRM, and essentially told the main company this – “once you improve your CRM, let us know and we will consider using it again.”

Some employers don’t realize that a CRM can make or break you if you don’t select the right one. All CRMs have strong and weak points. While I personally like salesforce.com, there are certainly other tools you can use. Each tool has its strengths and weaknesses.

When selecting a new CRM, what are some factors that you need to consider?

1). Why are you switching to a new CRM? Write down a list of all the problems you are having with your existing CRM. Can you fix those problems yourself or have the vendor fix them for you? Weigh the pros and cons of fixing those problems yourself or with a vendor versus buying a new CRM. Remember, buying a CRM is not like buying a new laptop computer. You have to consider investing time and money in converting your data from one CRM to another. You have to weigh the pros and cons of perhaps losing data during the conversion, and then having to still rely on your old CRM for archival information (this actually has happened to me twice in my career). You have to consider the expense of training your sales, administrative and other staff members in learning how to use the new CRM. You also have to pay a license fee to the new vendor. You have to ensure that your data will be secure in the new CRM.

2). Should you create your own Homegrown CRM? I once worked with a company that was using salesforce.com. While everyone liked the tool, the biggest problem was that the company couldn’t integrate salesforce.com with their order entry system. The order entry process would take between 20 to 30 minutes – a lifetime in sales. To make both the account management and order entry process go a lot smoother and faster, the company decided to create its own CRM. The obvious advantages of having your own Homegrown CRM is that it is tailored to your company’s needs. You can also upgrade the system on your schedule and you don’t have to pay a license fee.

3). Will your employees like the new CRM? It doesn’t make any sense to go through the time and expense of buying a new CRM if your employees don’t like it. I’ve actually heard of salespeople quit their jobs because they found the new CRMs to be too difficult and time-consuming to use, and thus, was hurting their abilities to generate more sales. I’ve gone through CRM Model T, CRMconversions where one day I felt I was driving a Porsche and the next day I felt like I was driving a Model T. While I didn’t quit my job because I was now using a lousy CRM, it certainly made my work more difficult and definitely slowed down my selling process. So before selecting a new CRM, bring your sales team and other employees into the decision-making process. Get their input and advice. If they can trial a new CRM, please have them do a test run before you make a huge investment.

At a bare minimum, the CRM needs to be user-friendly. As a general rule, if it takes more than two days to train your staff, and they still find the new CRM cumbersome to use, you will have a serious problem on your hands. You may have bought yourself a lemon. That applies not just to off the shelf CRMs, but also Homegrown versions too. For example, I once used a Homegrown CRM where it literary took 15 minutes to enter call backs. Everyone on the sales team became so frustrated with the call back feature, they finally gave up and started using Post-it Notes and Outlook calendar to schedule their calls.

Finding the right CRM for your company is tough. Take your time. Do it right. It will save you an enormous amount of time and money down the road.

photo credit for Model T: Don J Schulte via photopin cc

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