Sage CRM Blog

How to choose the perfect CRM solution for your business in 5 simple steps

CRM solution tips

When it comes to Customer Relationship Management (CRM), it’s important to understand all the benefits of an integrated solution before beginning your selection process.

This blog post will help you make the best purchasing decision possible. It will also help you build a business case for a CRM solution, form an effective project team, ask the right questions, identify the challenges involved and much more.

First though, it's important to have good information and understand the reasons why you need a CRM solution before you make a purchasing decision.

Step 1: Getting started with Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Most companies require that you justify the need for a new solution before you make a purchase.

Building a case for CRM provides the necessary background information to help you define the need, justify the cost and demonstrate the value of the investment.

Elect a core team

Establish a core group of individuals dedicated to driving the CRM project to completion.

Before planning your strategy and implementation make sure your team includes a project leader and project managers to oversee the functional divisions of your organisation – such as marketing, sales, customer service and technical departments.

Set your goals

Your team should have a shared understanding of your CRM goals.

To achieve this, the core group should identify your organisation's objectives, focus on processes that require re-engineering and discuss the appropriate courses of action.

Examine your current processes

Analyse your existing business processes from many viewpoints, to find out how they impact both your organisation and your customers.

By evaluating your processes now, you can identify what’s working and what’s not and prepare to implement a new CRM solution that emulates the most effective strategies for achieving success.

Step 2: Understanding the core components of CRM

Next, let's look at understanding the core components of CRM. CRM helps to increase productivity across your marketing, sales and support functions.

By understanding the ways CRM can improve your company’s effectiveness, you can better communicate those benefits to key decision makers.

Marketing automation

  • Develop, target and implement campaigns
  • Manage and analyse marketing budgets
  • Maintain lists and track responses
  • Analyse campaign results

Read more about how Sage CRM's marketing functionality can help any business.

Sales force automation

  • Perform analysis to ensure time and energy are spent on the deals most likely to close
  • Improve lead distribution and tracking
  • Effectively process quotes and orders
  • Provide remote sales staff with instant access to corporate information

Read more about how Sage CRM's sales functionality can help any business.

Customer service and support

  • Capture and track every interaction with every customer regardless of touch-point
  • View and measure call turn around time and understand what is taking longer to resolve and why
  • Maintain a complete case history with instant access to all previous issues and customer interactions
  • Automatically escalate cases if not closed within certain time frame

Read more about how Sage CRM's service functionality can help any business

Step 3: Planning your CRM project

Involve the right people

The decision to choose a specific CRM solution should be delegated to a core team of individuals to serve and represent the functional needs of various departments.

This requires full cooperation and collaboration amongst users, managers, solution integrators, customers and third parties.

Choose a consultant

Consultants offer specialised expertise in evaluating and implementing CRM solutions. These experts can help your organisation in three important ways.

  • Evaluate your needs and suggest the best CRM solution for your specific situation
  • Save your company time and money during solution install and training
  • Help you get the most out of your CRM implementation, based on your organisation’s requirements

Some of the best CRM consultants are software resellers. Many resellers offer a range of services, including strategy development, business process management, technology implementation and training. (InfoTech link on why sage channel).

For larger CRM solutions resellers often have the additional consulting support of their software supplier to help manage the complexities of the implementation.

Narrow the field

Look for a CRM solution that integrates your back office accounting software and other business solutions so customer information can be updated in real-time, while being shared and employed effectively across the entire organisation.

Be sure that your solutions are robust and versatile enough to:

  • Be accessed from any location – from headquarters to remote locations and mobile workers
  • Seamlessly integrate with your back office accounting solution
  • Integrate with a wide range of third party software or other internal solutions

Keep a global perspective

The ideal CRM solution will integrate your multiple business channels and provide your users with seamless remote access to up-to-date customer information.

Think about the different interaction points your customers are currently using – and likely to use in the future to communicate with your organisation.

A good CRM solution will allow you to retrieve real-time information at any time and from anywhere. Choose one that will fit the functional needs of your solution's users.

Step 4: Select a solution that’s right for your business

Now that you’ve evaluated a number of possible solutions, its time to make a decision. Consider the following when selecting a software vendor:

Interview the resellers before the demo

Familiarise yourself with the various CRM solutions available on the market so you can be confident about your top picks when you short-list the best options for your company.

By interviewing as many software resellers as possible in advance you can avoid time wasted by sitting through lengthy, irrelevant demonstrations.

Pick the best three solutions and ask each reseller to provide the following information:

  • Estimated licence cost for your implementation
  • Estimated build-out costs to adapt the solution to your requirements
  • Time-frame for implementation
  • Annual support and maintenance costs
  • Training methodology and training costs
  • A plan for integrating your back office-solutions as required
  • Insist on user-friendly software

If your solution is not user-friendly, your staff won't be able to maximise the full benefits. Make sure you select a solution that’s logical and easy to use.

Ask the reseller these questions:

  • How easy to use is the software interface?
  • Can the interface be modified to more closely match the needs of my organisation?
  • How easy is it to navigate between modules of the software?
  • What type of software documentation and training will be provided?

Step 5: Implementing your CRM solution

What is the best way to make the implementation process a smooth and successful one?

Consider the following guidelines:

Create a blueprint

To smooth the implementation process create a ‘blueprint’ of your CRM related business processes with your consultant or software reseller.

This document gives the team a pre-determined plan and a set of guidelines to reach your CRM goals

Prepare for modifications

One of the most common mistakes companies make is trying too hard to limit modifications to the selected packaged software.

If you need software that can meet the unique requirements of your business be prepared to make modifications after installing the “out of the box” solution.

Provide good training

Good training is essential and provides the information, practice and involvement needed for your staff to get the most out of the software.

Test before launch

When it comes to something as valuable as your customer data, you will want to beta test every solution component and make certain its functioning properly before taking the solution live.

Enter mock customer data and see how well the solution receives and processes the information.

Plan for ongoing evaluation

Keep in mind that your CRM solution will always be evolving. As a result implementation never completely stops.

Ongoing evaluation of your business processes will help you maximise the benefits CRM can bring to your organisation.

The right CRM solution for your business

We’re confident that the more you know what is CRM the more likely you are to seriously consider – and ultimately choose – Sage CRM.

In other words, our software stands up to the most stringent selection criteria.

Do you have questions about deciding on a CRM solution for your business? Please share them with @TalkCRM.

This is an updated version of a five-part blog series that appeared on the Sage CRM Community.