This blog post looks at the hows and ifs of comparison shopping for CRM software…
If you have read many of my blog posts (like “But wait, there’s more”), you will know my belief on CRM: CRM is a business strategy, not a piece of software. However, CRM software is a tool that can help you with your business strategy, and there comes a time in the life of most businesses (especially those that have a well-defined business strategy) where the purchase of CRM software becomes important.
Typically, when at this stage, companies ask various vendors for demos and quotes and then work to compare each. The problem lies in the fact that not all CRM software systems are the same, and not all quotes provided from vendors cover the same things. For example one vendor will provide a quote for software, another for software plus installation, and yet another for software with installation and data conversion. Another vendor may quote on configurations and customizations as well. How do you know which to choose, since the prices are all over the board and there is no consistency from one vendor to another on the services portion of the implementation?
First off all, let me state that if a vendor is looking to simply sell you software and not help with the configuration/customization and data conversion, they are doing you a disservice. They are basically leaving the setup and configuration to you, who I am assuming is not a CRM expert. This will drastically delay your ability to receive a quick return on your investment, and will possibly frustrate you to the point of exhaustion. If you haven’t read my blog on “Do-it-yourself, or not?” it will help you to understand the pitfalls of doing things on your own.
Next, as you are reviewing the quote, be cautious if your vendor is not including anything for configuration/customization. I have been implementing CRM systems for 13 years now, and have yet to see an out-of-the-box implementation, even in phase one. The customizations are not always extensive, but they do exist. It is unrealistic to think that a CRM software package will track all the right data and function exactly like your company does out-of-the-box. Usually, vendors that do not disclose customization costs in the first estimate are either unfamiliar with matching CRM software to their client’s business strategy, or they are afraid to share numbers because it may price them out of the sale.
Finally, do not be afraid to discuss the various quotes with a vendor or vendors. If you have a vendor that stands out, and that has demonstrated the ability to understand and solve your business issues with a particular software tool, but feel that they are not priced accordingly with another vendor, it is a good idea to ask them to help you compare the two estimates. While they may not be able to fully interpret some other vendors quote, they can give you some insights and questions to ask for more clarification.
Ultimately, it is a difficult thing to comparison shop various vendors and different CRM software applications. After reviewing quotes and looking at demos, it usually comes down to a gut feeling. Which vendor seemed to understand your business needs (not features and functions), and which vendor do you feel the most comfortable trusting with your customers and your financial future?