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Q&A: How to narrow down your CRM vendor choices

SaaS consultancy Lunar goes over the dos and don'ts for choosing a CRM system, whether you're licensing one for the first time or migrating to a new system.

Many factors go into choosing the right CRM for your organization. Business size, product complexity and the industry you're in can all help you determine which CRM vendor system is best for you at this moment.

Lunar, a SaaS consultancy that helps organizations integrate technology, has seen its share of CRM implementations, both successful and those that had to go back to the drawing board. Lunar specializes in Salesforce and Pardot consulting, but has experience with the broader CRM vendor market and has worked with organizations large and small.

In this Q&A, Drew Whitcomb, business development manager for Lunar, shares the challenges organizations routinely face when choosing a CRM vendor for the first time or when migrating from one CRM system to another.

What are some of the main challenges organizations face when they're choosing a CRM vendor and when they try to implement the technology?

Drew Whitcomb: When looking for a CRM vendor, organizations understand they have their sales process and either it's not organized or it's in spreadsheets all over the place, and they need a way to organize the information.

Drew Whitcomb, business development manager, LunarDrew Whitcomb

Then you get into 'What [CRM vendor] should I use?' and there are [many] choices. You want something that will organize the information the way you want, but what organizations overlook is who's going to manage this software day to day going forward? It could be external help or it could be internal.

And, if you're a small business, it's really not that much organization needed -- an admin assistant could do it. But young businesses don't think about adding work to someone's plate along the way.

The next challenge is setup time and the cost associated with that. If an organization has a complicated sales process, if they have business already in a CRM and you're moving to another one, or you're taking everything off paper and inputting it, they don't think about the time it's going to cost their internal team or any of the things they want their CRM to automate.

A business can use a number of tools for marketing and the interoperability of the CRM. A business can use Facebook ads but [forget to] check how that data from Facebook will get into the CRM. Three months, six months, a year down the line they're getting these surprises and, oftentimes, get angry at the CRM vendor or internal employees because they haven't thought through how the whole business will connect together with this piece of software.

What does an organization need to do when implementing a new CRM system?

Whitcomb: They need to understand all the various points of data they plan to put in there. They need to look internally and see where the data is coming from and need to make sure they have a handle on all the inputs for this system and figure out if it's an ongoing input or a one-time input. Those data sets are important.

It's the same with employees -- if it's not configured right or doesn't have the right field showing or the right access or the right information when looking at a contact, they will just stop using it. Now you're paying for a CRM you're not even using.

What are the different challenges that come from switching CRM providers or licensing a CRM vendor for the first time?

CRM can be the backbone of your business or a weight around your business' neck because it can cost a lot of money and you [might not be] using it the right way.
Drew Whitcombbusiness development manager, Lunar

Whitcomb: A lot of time it's how the marketing and sales processes overlap and how customized the sales deals are or how complicated their products are.

Take a services company -- a law firm or marketing agency. They have these customized products, and if they try to sell what they're doing, that sales process is very complicated with a lot of layers. Organizations will be in these smaller CRMs that they started out with and all of a sudden realize that their sales process and products are so complicated, or deals are customized, and they have to find a CRM vendor to level up to and handle that complexity so their sales rep doesn't have to handle it manually.

How does choosing a CRM for an SMB differ from choosing one for an enterprise?

Whitcomb: There are less expensive CRMs -- CRM vendors off the beaten path -- but it's really determining where you fit and being honest with yourself. Some organizations we meet have signed with Salesforce because they imagine this amazing Utopia of what they were going to do with it, but they only have five people in their company. It's being honest where you are.

It is fine to take it in five-year or three-year chunks or even shorter if your business is moving fast. But remember, a CRM can be the backbone of your business or a weight around your business' neck because it can cost a lot of money and you [might not be] using it the right way.

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