Hiring the Right CRM Consultant

Updated: July 31, 2007

Issue


Identified your business's CRM needs? Check. Found a solution that best fits those needs? Double check. Now what?

Picking a platform is just one piece of the CRM-implementation equation. For many CRM initiatives, hiring the right consultant is the key to success. Not every integrator, however, is qualified to address your company's unique CRM needs. You need to seriously evaluate candidates before hiring one.

Consider these qualities to ensure the CRM consultant you hire will get the job done.


Steps


1. Don't settle on a CRM tool that lacks a cadre of experienced system integrators.
The availability of known and experienced consulting help should be critical to the tool-evaluation process.

2. Be current on credentials. All system integrators have a track record, but what really counts is that the potential partner has experience doing the kind of CRM work that you need. That means having insight into your particular industry or the specific customer-related business problem you're trying to solve, i.e., bringing efficiencies to your sales force or automating a call center operation, for example.

3. Know your integrator's area of expertise. There are different classes of CRM consultants. Some are versed in a particular CRM system and are trained in technical implementation issues. Others are more knowledgeable about examining a particular business process and orchestrating change. It's critical to know what's required to solve your company's CRM problem and to seek out a partner with the appropriate skill set.

4. Negotiate the best deal. Integrators will work on a fixed-price or time-and-materials basis. Be sure to evaluate your needs to determine which pricing scheme is best for your particular implementation.

5. Don't forget a reference check. This sounds basic, but it's a critical step that's not to be ignored. Make sure the references are current and be sure to ask about the integrator's willingness to help out once the major deliverables (and payments) have transpired.

6. Get to know your team. Don't fall for the bait and switch. Make sure the team that is being pitched to work on your implementation is really the team that will work on your implementation. If possible, specify in writing who will be the point individuals on your project.

7. Know your own needs. Don't approach CRM on a project-to-project basis. To get the most out of a consulting relationship, be sure to formalize a strategy with specific deliverables and make sure you both stick to the game plan. Also, don't approach CRM as a one-off technology initiative, but rather embrace it as an on-going, corporate-level business strategy.


The Bottom Line


Companies can implement CRM systems on their own, but hiring a systems integrator is a safe way to ensure that your implementation process will go smoothly. Be sure to check references, consultants' qualifications and how well their skills meet your needs. If you follow the above-listed steps, you're sure to find the right consultant for your company.

For more information on CRM, check out Focus' CRM Resource Center, where you'll find comprehensive research, topical research briefs and advice from Focus Experts.

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