The first step in choosing a CRM system is deciding what business processes it will be used to automate and what specific improvements you would like to see in those processes.
Buying, implementing and training your staff on the effective use of a CRM system is a time-consuming an expensive process. Do not start it until you have a clear idea of the business objectives and what processes you want to improve.
Write them down and discuss with stake-holders, such as the VPs of Sales, Support and Marketing. Solicit their input on the value of objectives that are not directly quantifiable. For example, if the VP's say that halving the turn-around time for support requests will so improve custom satisfaction that it will increase sales by 10%, that is a metric that you can build into your ROI analysis.
The key is to base your ROI calculations on hard numbers, or the estimates of senior executives, not on your own beliefs. Potential benefits that may produce an ROI include:
Once you have decided what processes are most critical, how they should work and the value attached to their improvement, you are ready to put together an RFP that describes what business processes your need the system to support .
Your goal is to choose a CRM system that can fully implement the business processes that you have identified as most critical at a reasonable cost. Every vendor claims that their system will increase sales, reduce costs, etc, so it is only by nailing down the details that you will find their limitations.
For example, rather than saying "The CRM system must assign opportunities automatically", you might specify "When a sales request arrives, it must be assigned to the territorial rep for that region automatically; the rep should receive an immediate notification email with a link to view/edit the opportunity; this email and link should be accessible from their smart-phone; if the rep does not update the record within 2 working hours, it should be re-assigned to their manager..."
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