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Is Your Business Ready for a CRM System?
By Patty Kimball, Kimball Business Solutions, LLC
Published On:  7/7/2011

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems have been around for a long time and lately seem to be the must-have in the business world today to grow your business. Unlike in the past, CRM’s are being utilized in multiple ways. In addition to customer tracking, many CRM systems like Salesforce.com have added robust marketing tools and opportunity management components to their systems.

Companies look into integrating a CRM system into their business to manage their customers, develop new product offerings and grow their business.If you have been considering getting a CRM system for your business, there are several things you need to consider before deciding on a CRM system.

First, you need to clearly define your business needs. Purchasing a CRM system before making sure that the option you choose is the right fit for you business practices and customer approach can be very costly. Questions such as what information do I want to capture and track?Do I need mobile connectivity? Do I have people to dedicate to the implementation and maintenance of a system? Do I have the proper technology to fully support a CRM system? Do I want an Internet based system or one that runs off my company servers? Can I upgrade my system as my business needs change? All of these factors need to be considered ahead of doing a vendor analysis.

Once you clarify your business needs, the next thing most companies consider is cost. There are many different CRM system companies with a lot options. Clarifying what you need will help determine your price range.Most CRM system companies sell their products by the number of users. The more users you have, the cheaper the per user license cost will be. Be careful though. It may sound great to have your finance person, sales team, and clerical staff to have access but you will be locked in for a certain number of licenses for a period of time. Usually one year. Be mindful that it is easy to add licenses before the term ends but you cannot remove licenses until renewal time.

Another thing to consider is whether you want to house the CRM system in-house or use an Internet based system. The biggest benefit of an Internet based CRM system is the real time, anytime access it provides. If you can get to a computer, you can access the information anytime and from anywhere. The information updated is available to other users immediately. If you opt for an in-house option, there is the need to bring laptops with you to input the information and then synching the information so that the other users have access to that information. A benefit to in-house CRM systems is that most Internet based systems usually have down times when they are updating or upgrading the system and access is either limited or not available at all. Depending on the number of people accessing the CRM system, this could be a very important factor to consider.

Have your list of must-haves and questions ready. Make sure to layout and prioritize the most important features that you are looking for. This will make comparing vendors easier. Never be afraid to ask for references. Request a reference for a similar type business as yours that they implemented or something in the same industry as you. You can always request a reference from someone going though the implementation process right now.Calling the references will give you a more realistic view of the implementation process and you can get that company’s perception on how well they are being taken care of by a prospective vendor. If you ask the right questions, you can get past the ‘they are just wonderful’ fluff and get the real experience. You can find out things like how well they assist with the integration of raw data into their system and how responsive their team is to your implementation.

Finally, take your time with the analysis. This is vital in picking the right CRM system for your company. Always ask for a demo with a sales person. Make sure key staff members participate in the demo that will be using the system to get their opinion. It’s always a great idea to get other perspectives. Keep asking questions. Never assume that the vendor will take care of everything once the contract is signed.

Selecting a CRM system can feel daunting but doing in-depth research will help you make the right decision. Having the right system is well worth the effort to you and your company. Take your time and get your questions answered. Good luck!


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