The CRM Buying Process
At the risk of sounding like a Zen philosopher, let’s start out by saying this: Buying CRM starts not with an external search for a solution but with an internal search for why a solution is needed in the first place. Laying the groundwork can make the difference between success and failure; many “failed” CRM projects were doomed before they started because the decision makers skipped the simple but vital first steps of the process.
Because of that, we’ve broken the process of choosing a CRM solution into two stages: a first stage about your business, and a second stage on defining CRM requirements, which should be easier with the results of stage one in mind.
Over the next 7 weeks we will explore this further in a series of blogs:
STAGE ONE: Know Yourself
Step 1. Look at Your Own Business
Your first step should be to develop a thorough understanding of how your business works. We make
assumptions about how it works; the gulf between those assumptions and reality can, at times, be dramatic.
The start of the hunt for a CRM application is an opportunity to embark on a thorough mapping of how your processes work, how your processes depend on each other, and how changes to those processes can affect other processes in unexpected ways.
A good place to begin is with the processes that are most readily apparent: the ones that aren’t working. These will correlate directly to the problems that prompted the start of your buying process. They represent things your employees could be doing better, or problems that a CRM solution should help resolve.
This stage of the process is one that depends on a degree of honesty that can be painful, even when the
pain points it reveals are the results of the growth and evolution of the business. No one wants to hear that a process he or she manages is broken or inefficient, and feelings can be hurt. If your business lacks the resources to engage in a process-mapping exercise—or if the process of mapping would prove unduly fractious within your organization—engage a third-party consultant to help.
Filling in the map of your processes will also reveal processes that are working. These processes don’t need to be changed, in most cases. Just as you want your broken processes to be fixed by CRM, you don’t want to alter things in your organization that work.
For that reason, your CRM solution should map to the strengths and weaknesses of your organization. It should not demand that you alter your processes to suit it.
One more caveat: especially for smaller companies, the mapping exercise can show that the business is not ready for CRM. If the problems are all about people and process, and they are easily remedied, then CRM may not be the answer. This is a good thing—making the jump to CRM too early can cause long-term problems with adoption and with the flexibility of the CRM solution.
At the end of the mapping process, you should have a list of processes and activities you need to improve. This should be your guide to developing a list of must-have features.