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One of the best ways to learn how to do something you’ve never done before is to talk to someone who has already gone through the experience. At CRM Evolution, I got to hear several organizations share their experiences in choosing a CRM platform. In this post, we are going to share several tips from Chris Caputo, Project Manager at CATIC, who is credited with bringing CRM success to his organization.
Caputo recommends implementing a CRM solution early on in your search process for a CRM solution. Pick five to six people with a diverse background from across your organization (different departments, tenures, and generations). Be careful not to build a CRM team that is too large because that could make narrowing down your options trickier. His most highlighted piece of advice was to make sure you include IT in your core CRM team. He said organizations often forget IT, but that this business decision should involve them because they are often the ones implementing at least some part of the platform.
Rather than completing requirements gathering, Caputo recommends your organization complete a “requirements elicitation”. These careful words are meant to indicate that the process of gathering requirements is much more than just collecting them--instead, it’s an important and non-trivial process that often involves interviews, workshops, user observation, and brainstorming (to name a few).
To perform your requirements elicitation, Caputo said to do in-person focus groups with all the people who are actively using your current CRM system. Once you’ve elicited all your requirements, assign a level of importance to each one. At this point, make sure to pat yourself on the back--completing your requirements is a big milestone!
Caputo recommended that you be considerate and fair when sending out Request for Proposals (RFPs) to CRM vendors. Make sure you complete research on your own, rather than blanket sending to a long list of vendors and forcing them some of them to spend time on a proposal they don’t stand a chance for. He said if you do research ahead of time, it’s fair to ask them to describe how their solution fits each requirement, rather than filling each requirement with a yes/no answer. He also recommended you give vendors at least one month to respond to your RFP.
After you’ve gotten all your vendor proposals, it’s time to narrow it down to two to three strong choices. Caputo recommends making this decision logically by scoring each vendor on a scale of one to five as to how strongly they meet your requirements.
After you have a smaller pool of options, it’s time to request in-depth demos with each vendor. In these deep-dives, ask the vendor to bring a project manager or account manager--so you can meet the person you will be working with on a daily basis when you’re working on the implementation project for your CRM instance. After the demos are complete, continue to tweak your original scores for each vendor. Your original requirements and these numbers will help you make a decision.
The last step is to present the plan to the management team. If you’ve included representatives from management in your core CRM decision team, you should already have an idea whether your decision will resonate with the executive team. Caputo suggested you book this meeting as early as possible because c-level employees usually have full calendars. He also recommended doing the meeting first thing in the morning when people are more attentive and refreshed. In your presentation, make sure to be clear about what is in scope as well as what’s out of scope so you can set expectations.
There are many ideologies on how to choose a CRM system that’s right for your organization (we definitely have our own) and it’s always interesting to hear what others recommend. Caputo gave straightforward and frank tips on how to select a platform for your organization and we appreciated his veteran perspective. To learn more about our own process for selecting CRM platforms for our customers, contact us here.