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Customer relationship management (CRM) software for your company is no longer optional. You must have CRM. Today’s buyer journey and the requirements for your sales effort are far too demanding.
Your homegrown industry system or old-school tools won’t cut it, either. GoldMine, Act! and Excel spreadsheets are ill-equipped to handle the demands of today’s fast-paced, prospect-centric sales process.
If you have a CRM and you’re not using it, it’s clearly not the right one for you. If you’re using only part of the feature set, you’re not getting full value for what you’ve purchased.
But don’t worry. The advances in this space also mean these tools are much less expensive (some are even free), easy to use and easy to get started with.
The key is selecting the right CRM software for your business based on your requirements, and that’s where our step-by-step guide is going to start.
Sit back and relax. By the time you’re done reading this, you’ll know exactly how to go about getting your new CRM system selected, installed and used to drive better performance from your sales team.
Step 1: Evaluate your current situation, even if you don’t have software
No one wakes up and decides to buy a new CRM system. But over days, weeks and months, you’ll see indicators that something is just not right. You probably see some of those red or orange flags now.
Your sales team works as a set of individuals, doing what they want when they want, instead of as a team doing things the same way all of the time.
You have incomplete or little to no information on some or all of your sales opportunities. That information is in each rep’s head or on their laptop. You have no visibility into what they’re doing and when.
You have no quantitative numbers associated with your sales effort, just revenue from closed deals. You lack information on close rate, sales cycle days, conversion rate inside of the sales process and engagement rate on sales communications.
When you miss your targets, you don’t really know why or how to prevent it from happening again, and forecasting is a guess, usually based on each rep’s forecasting abilities.
You have a CRM system, but you’re not using all of the features, and the expense outweighs the value your company is getting from the software.
Whether you have a CRM system or not, if this sounds like your sales team, then it’s time for you to consider new or different software to make these problems go away.
If you don’t have any CRM software, you need it. If you have CRM software but still have some or all of the issues above, you need something new. If you want to look at other symptoms that might indicate you need a CRM or a new CRM, click here to read HubSpot’s warning signs that you are in desperate need of a new or upgraded CRM system.
Step 2: Get educated and understand what CRM tools can provide for your sales team
OK, you have an issue, and CRM might be able to help. But our recommendation around the next step is for you to get educated on exactly what today’s CRM systems can do for you.
You won’t know what to look for if you don’t know what the tools can do. You won’t be ready to define your requirements if you don’t know what some of the new systems are capable of providing for a company like yours.
Salesforce.com offers a comprehensive explanation of what a CRM can do for your company, but they group the benefits into some tight categories:
Contact management – Building and nurturing the people at your prospects’companies
Lead management – Helping you to move leads through the buyer journey in a proactive and strategic manner
Sales forecasting – Based on data, helping you project what might close and when
Enhanced communication – Better coordination between people in the company and their work on closing prospects
Email tracking – Tight records of what emails were sent to which prospects and customers by whom as well as the result of those emails
Centralized storage of content and files – Everything related to that customer or individual, centrally located in one place; any proposals, content, videos, case studies or contracts associated with that company and person
Analytics – Company or rep-level data on performance associated with the sales effort
Advanced tools are available as well for call recording, chat integration (putting reps in touch with prospects immediately though the web), quote generation, complete prospect contact history in chronological order and alerts when prospects are on your website (and the specific page they are on).
The list is extensive, and all of these tools give reps new power to be more efficient and close deals more effectively.
Step 3: Define your requirements, in priority order
Now that you know what a CRM can do for your sales effort, it’s time to prioritize all of these possible features. You might love the idea of call recording, but if that feature comes with a price, you might be willing to skip it if it’s a nice-to-have option instead of a must-have feature.
What you should consider doing is creating a list of requirements, in priority order. This is a good time to get your sales team together and ask for their input.
For example, HubSpot pulls data in from outside sources, limiting the data entry reps have to do. Other systems require you to enter all of the data manually. Reps are going to like this, but CEOs and VPs of sales should like it too, because it keeps reps selling instead of doing data entry.
Here is a list of 12 CRM system features and why you need them from Capterra, a software research site.
Another example is mobile access. You probably want your reps to be able to access the system from their phones, but that might not be a core requirement when deciding between one system or another.
Know what you need and what you want. Having a set of requirements is going to help you in the next stage, when you start assessing specific CRM options.
Step 4: Start looking at different products
Take a quick look around the web for CRM software and you’ll find more than 500 different CRM systems to consider. That is way too many options for anyone executing any type of search.
But you have to start somewhere. Today, several directory and software selection sites make this process much easier. Here are some of the better sites to get you started:
Software Advice - https://www.softwareadvice.com/crm/
Capterra - https://www.capterra.com/sem-compare/customer-relationship-management-software
G2 Crowd - https://www.g2crowd.com/categories/crm
Start to get an idea of what options are out there, what they do and how closely they align to your list of top priority features.
Look at prices and look at the reviews other users provide, keeping in mind the same context you have when you look at reviews for a restaurant. Just like even the best restaurant likely has a few bad reviews, it’s likely that no one software system is going to have all positive reviews.
Read both the positive and negative reviews, and try to get a full picture of what people like and don’t like about the software.
Step 5: Narrow down your choices to only three options
Hang in there, we’re getting closer. Now you want to pick your top three choices. Pick them based on price as well as their ability to hit all of your must-haves and as many of your nice-to-haves as possible.
Working with any more than three choices is going to be counterproductive and make your selection process much more complicated.
You can do additional Google research on all of these CRM systems, and you can use companies with a technology practice to help you create your requirements, evaluate software contenders, negotiate terms, and then install, configure, train and coach you up on how to get full value from your new CRM.
At Square 2 Marketing, our Technology Practice currently ranks CRM systems for mid-sized and small businesses in this order:
HubSpot CRM – Perfect for middle market and small business companies; start with a free version and upgrade as needed
Salesforce Essentials – At $25 per user, this is a lower-level version of the enterprise product
SharpSpring – Great small business product
Step 6: Do directed demos of your top three options
Since you’re going to buy software, you’re going to want a demo. It’s a rule; software equals demo.
But don’t let the software companies set the agenda for the demo. Instead, give them a list of features or a list of functionalities you want to see them demo. It’s like you giving them a playlist. Create the list based on your prioritized features.
Then, sit back and enjoy the show. Want to see how to import records? They show you that. Want to see how you create a pipeline report? They show you that. Want to see a rep view of all her deals and then the tasks associated with the deals? They show you that.
Want to see reports, metrics or how advanced features work? It’s all up to you. You set the script.
This ensures you get what you need and that your time is spent efficiently. Most importantly, if you do the same playlist for every demo, you can compare each of the systems in a highly organized way.
You could even consider giving each feature a score, including some sales reps in the demo and scoring process, and using all of that input and data to help you make your final decision.
Step 7: Get pricing and investment levels for your top three options
OK, now that the demo is behind you, start working on pricing. Most of these companies have a variety of levels, service configurations and payment options. This might make the pricing comparison tricky, so work with all three companies to make some standard decisions.
Do you want to pay upfront for the year, or do you want to pay monthly? Do you want the basic-level product or the mid-level product? Are you paying via credit card or an invoice? Believe it or not, sometimes the payment options impact your price.
Look at the terms of the agreement. Is it month to month, or are you locked in for a year? Do you care? Typically, you’re not going to be switching systems or turning your CRM off in the middle of the month. Your company should be looking for a CRM system that will take you through the next 10 years.
After you get pricing on all three options, you’ll have everything you need to make a solid and safe decision.
Step 8: Get the sales team and the marketing team involved
If you have a handful of sales reps, this is a good time to ask them for their opinion. Make sure they understand that they’re providing input, not making the selection for you. It’s good to try and get their buy-in, but if they’re not supportive, make it clear you’re doing this and that they will be participating in it.
One way to mitigate a challenging crew is to select a few stars to be part of a pilot program. They get to use the CRM first, and they get to help set some of the rules and the processes associated with the new software. They should see this as a vote of confidence and a positive opportunity.
You’ll use those pilot participants when you roll out the CRM to the rest of the team, so make sure they have a positive experience with your new CRM.
Step 9: Narrow down to your top choice
Now comes the time to pick your top choice. This is going to come down to which product meets more of your requirements and fits your budget.
The company behind the software should seem interested in your success, not just interested in selling you something. They should have been helping you, guiding you and providing advice along the way.
Which company do you feel safest with? That’s probably the company you should choose.
Step 10: Negotiate
Almost all of these companies are open to negotiation. Ask for discounts, extended payment terms or a month of free training. It never hurts to ask, and the worst they can say is “no,” putting you right back in the same place you are now.
Usually, the end of the quarter or end of the month is the best time to be negotiating. A lot of these companies are public, and they have numbers to hit monthly and quarterly. You can use that to your advantage.
Step 11: Make sure you talk about training and onboarding
Finally, make sure you clearly understand the training and onboarding options available through the software company and their partners.
This can be a little fuzzy in some situations. You might be paying for onboarding and not be crystal clear about what that includes. Just make sure you see a clear path from no users to all of your team as active users. That’s how you’ll realize value and ROI in the shortest time possible.
Step 12: Get Started
Congratulations! You have a new CRM system, and you’re on your way to smarter, better and more efficient sales execution.
But this won’t cure all of your problems. For example, if you put a weak sales process into a CRM system, you’ll still see weak results. You must spend time on your process to make it exceptional and then build that new process into your CRM. That’s how you’ll see the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time.
It might sound like this is the end of the journey, but it’s actually the beginning.
Once you make your selection and purchase the software, be sure someone on your team is dedicated as the company power user. You’ll also have to configure the software to match how you sell (your power user should be able to do that).
You might consider adding an external expert resource to the team for a period of 30 to 90 days to help with any complex challenges or to make sure you get up and running quickly.
You will have to train your team. Some of the software companies offer training, so make sure you understand what you get and what might cost extra.
But more than anything, you’ll need a champion in the company who makes sure this new way to do business sticks.
In 1519, during the Spanish conquest of Mexico, Hernán Cortés, the Spanish commander, scuttled his ships, so that his men would have to conquer or die. There was no going back to the old way.
Likewise, everyone at your company has to get comfortable with and follow the new process around your new CRM system. There are no options, no excuses and no situations where you don’t use the CRM.
Changing behavior is hard. Training people to do things they haven’t done before is hard, takes time, and requires investment and reinforcement until it becomes a habit.
But when you get a new CRM system up and running, you will gain incredible visibility into your sales process, sales pipeline, sales metrics and sales performance for individuals and your overall company.
You’ll have an entirely new perspective on revenue generation, and you’ll have the ability to actually control it and contribute to it month over month.