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CRM Selection Strategies: Basic Guidelines

Currently in the CRM industry, there is a myriad of potential solutions to pick from (this isn’t a Five Guys style menu where you can have anything that you want, as long as it’s burger or a hotdog); instead, there are many options in this crowded and commoditized market. Therefore, you may want to make sure that your search is focused on several key concepts that we will explore, which include:

Why are these points critical?

First, are the CRM solutions that you are evaluating capable of working with the Solution Selling® methodology? Ensure that you ask this upfront, do some research, and ask your CRM sales reps if they have experience with implementing their solution with a codified sales process. This is very important to ensure that the concepts that you have invested time and resources in are adopted and stick with your sales team. You need to ensure that the phases, steps, and most importantly, the verifiable outcomes, are easily tracked by the reps – if they can check off a box or use a drop-down to update their progress, you have made it easy for them.  But, again, it is the verifiable outcomes that you need to ensure are simple to enter, access, and report on.

Next, keep it simple for your sales reps. You need to ensure that the solution is easy for your reps to understand and use, and multiple access and data entry points help to drive this principle. Data is king, and how the reps provide this data can determine whether or not they will even use the solution (aka user adoption). For example, as a rep on the road, at the end of the day, do they need to open their laptop in their hotel room, initiate their VPN client, enter their notes, upload their completed tools, and then finally get back to revenue-generating activities?

Instead, look at CRM options that provide multiple means for your sales team to easily interact with the system and access their clients and prospect’s information. You may want to send in the clouds!  Explore a hosted solution (aka as cloud-based), which can be accessed from anywhere. This type of CRM comes directly over the web and can typically be accessed via a web browser.

Therefore, it eliminates additional time that the reps spend trying to either get their VPN to work, or syncing of data from their laptops to the server-based CRM solution. Next, ensure that there is a an easy-to-use and reliable mobile application – at the same time, don’t expect your sales team to spend a great deal of time tapping away at the tiny screen to enter in note. Let’s be honest, they are likely only going to use the mobile version to quickly review the history on an account, double check the address, and look up a phone number here and there, which brings us to our next point.

As a culture, we are addicted to our mobile devices, but they are not the best option for entering long and detailed notes and other information. Therefore, explore other options for your team to get the info into the CRM. A couple of options to consider:

  1. Assess your internal resources. Do you have someone within your organization that could support the sales team by assisting with data entry, updating the progress made in the Solution Selling® process, and ensuring that their verifiable outcomes are tracked, uploaded, and completed?
  2. Explore also using technology in this area. There are options in the market place that allow reps to dictate their notes over their phones, then receive this information back as a transcript, either directly into their CRM or in the form of an email.

Further, have you made a list of the critical reports that you need to be able to generate? Will they require extensive customization? Are they solution-centric reports? For example, your pipeline reports need to include the yield percentages, completed verifiable steps, and an at-a-glance summary of the next steps.

Lastly, take it for a test drive. Insist on either a trial or proof of concept before moving forward with the project. You need to explore the CRM with your sales team, and other leaders within the organization to ensure that you have, in fact, chosen a CRM that supports your focus on becoming a solution-centric organization. Additionally, you will likely not want to move forward with a solution until you have clearly seen Solution Selling® codified within the solution, have worked with the CRM vendor to help you to upload some sample accounts, and have had a chance to work with them to review your necessary reports. Additionally, ensure that you involve a sample of your sales team in the evaluation and provide them with a structured evaluation plan to ensure that you can get highly objective information. For example, provide them with a set of criteria to rate key components, such as ease of use, features, mobile functionality, etc. on a scale of 1-10.

In the crowded CRM market place, try not to get swayed by the latest features that present well but are unlikely to be used by the sales team. Stay focused on the fact that your chosen CRM should be a tool that helps the team to close more deals, save time, and to run more efficiently. In summary, ensure that Solution Selling® can be codified within the solution, it is easy to use, and is available for you to try before you buy.

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