CRMChoosing the right customer relationship management (CRM) software is often a hard job as it’s associated with risks of making the wrong decision and buying a software which isn’t in accord with your company’s demands and ambitions. It’s just as well important that you treat this not just as a service delivery but as a lasting cooperation with your CRM vendor.

The following 5-step guide is dedicated to helping you meet all the challenges during choosing and implementing a CRM solution which will be perfect for your business.

1. Define Your Requirements

First you should decide on your company’s priorities and then on the required CRM functionalities. To do this, you need to ask everybody in your company who’s going to be involved with this system in future. This includes marketing, sales, services, IT, executives and of course stakeholders. Ask them to prioritize their wishes against “need/would like” and “needed now/later”.

Then compose a list of requirements including:

  • Functional requirements
  • Vendor requirements
  • Work flow
  • Technical and integration requirements
  • Cost requirements
  • Implementation and support requirements, etc.

2. Submit Your RFP

Once the details are clear, create your Request for Proposal and then submit it to potential vendors. Have a list of 3-5 suitable vendors beforehand. This can be done with the help of Google and through your personal network. Once you find CRM software providers which look okay to you, it’s worth it to spend time on studying each company’s record and clients list. By talking to their customers you’ll get such valuable information as how smooth their implementation process went, how users like the product, how reliable the system is and how well customer support works. Another important criteria to study is the vendor’s viability since you’ll want them to be around not only during implementation but also further down the road.

3. Test the Vendors

It’s a must that you meet your vendor face-to-face and discuss your requirements and projects live. Ask specific questions and watch how the vendor will respond - you’ll want full and accurate answers to make sure that person is reliable. It’s also recommended that you ask for a demo version, free trial, or visit their existing clients to see the software in action. Also, pay attention to their sales person who’ll be the major person in your cooperation with the vendor.

4. Negotiate

There are many works written about how to negotiate so that to agree on the best price for your business and in purchasing business software everything is negotiable. Whenever possible lock in discounts, but always look for win-win situations.

Make sure to negotiate the following issues:

  • Implementation costs
  • Fees on maintenance and support
  • Limits on increasing fees
  • Locking in further upgrade costs
  • Technical training
  • Long-term contracts and commitments
  • Service level guarantees, etc.

5. Deploy

Once you’ve chosen your CRM vendor, make sure you understand all the terms of your contract and ask for clarification whenever you don’t. Mind that any changes or agreements must be made in writing and signed by both parties. To implement your system fully, work out a mutually agreed schedule with the vendor and allocate the needed internal resources beforehand. Keep in close contact with the vendor’s sales person and, if acceptable, negotiate that their commission is tied to the customer satisfaction metric, as it’s often done.

By following the tips above you’ll be able to implement the right CRM software in your company without much trouble.