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CRM Vendor Selection Approach

Dec 8, 2007
With many vendors and new releases of CRM products & services out there, the task of selecting a CRM that's right for your organization and its purpose is overwhelming. To simplify the selection process for you, I've created a step-by-step approach.

Step 1. Definition of Your Business Requirements

This step starts with re-iterating your business goals and the main purpose(s) of a CRM, followed by the shaping of your functional needs of a CRM program. Define what you need from a CRM to set your organization apart in your market, and include aspects such as marketing analytics, sales lead generation or help desk requirements.

Step 2. Definition of Your Technical Requirements

When the business, sales and marketing needs are clarified, the task of detailing your technical requirements of your CRM platform begins. At this point, you include aspects like reporting, software integration among many other things. The details of this step are the subject of another article at CRMhelpdesksoftware.com.

Step 3. Preliminary Vendor Review

Once you've defined your requirements, you can share these with CRM vendors to direct your discussions with them. At this preliminary stage, determine which vendors could possibly meet your needs, and eliminate all others.

Step 4. Vendor Communication, Product Evaluation & Selection

Next comes a round of CRM vendor presentations and your selection of the one vendor whose CRM best befits your company. Here are 7 pointers for you to pay attention to in these meetings to determine fit, risk and return:

a. How will the vendor's CRM product / services satisfy your business and technical requirements? Rate your potential CRMs on level of complication and cost. You may separate out your core requirements and desirables, and rate the various CRM platforms on both.

b. How will the vendor manage the safe and timely deployment of their CRM platform?

c. What is the level of training included as standard, and what other training modules are offered as optional extras. Add these supplementary costs for training to your overall CRM cost.
Training is of paramount importance for your company's successful adoption of a CRM system. Therefore, adequate training by the vendor (and your own HR staff) is vital.

d. What is the CRM vendor's vision of a thriving CRM within your company, and of your return on investment from CRM adoption?

e. What will be the total CRM introduction cost over a 5 year time frame, broken down by component: deployment consulting fees, hosting fees, licensing fees, training, etc. etc.

f. Understand the vendor's data security, service level and support level standards. Clarify potential hidden costs.

g. Determine the vendors' long term business direction and product strategy to assess its commitment to CRM product/service improvements, i.e. new releases from which your company will be able to benefit. Last but not least, ask about the vendor's financial security and business stability: will they be around in 5-10 years to support you?

When working through these issues with the various vendors, you're ready to make your decision to plan, pilot and roll-out your new CRM.

I trust this approach results in a cost-effective and fast decision making process for you and your organization.
About the Author
Jimson Lee works as an Information Technology Consultant and writes for CRM and Help Desk Software, My Personal CMO and Stock Markets Investment.
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