CRM Software Demos Are Critical
The short positioning demos and product webcasts are no substitution for actual demos although they can be useful in paring down the number of contenders. Many CRM software buyers overlook the value of CRM product demonstrations. This important stage however provides a vital glimpse of how the product actually performs. Once you have your completed CRM software shopping list you can narrow the contenders down to a workable few. From there you must demo each of them using your proposed business processes and expected results. Avoid the dog and pony show demos at all cost. While they can be somewhat entertaining, and they highlight capabilities you may not know existed, they do little to aid you in evaluating capabilities which support your most pressing business objectives.
Be quick to explain to vendors the parameters you have developed thus far: the problems you want to solve, the software you want to integrate with, your immediate and long-term CRM goals, and the details of your checklist. This will enable each vendor to directly respond to your needs and it will enable you to accurately and fairly assess their offerings.
During the demo period, it is important to have all departments give the CRM a test drive. Why? For several reasons actually: to permit staff to understand the ease of use and intuitive navigation of the system, to gain feedback on how well the CRM performs in each department's particular objectives and to build buy-in among staff prior to the software purchase.
Any reputable vendor will allow you to operate the CRM software for a limited time, without charge, to see how it is received by your users and fits your organization. Typically the trial period is 30 days. To the surprise of many, trial periods have a way of changing the rank order of short-listed CRM systems. Quite often, the users impression of the application changes significantly when those users control the keyboard.
Hold a meeting with your staff at the end of each 30 day trial period to discuss the pros and cons for each short-listed CRM product. Keep in mind, however, of outside factors that can unduly affect your choice. For example, are complaints coming from staff members who are resistant to change or technology? And, are the complaints an indication that more training is needed rather than a problem with a CRM software itself. Conversely, are the praises meant to impress you rather than express a objective or constructive evaluation of the product?
Once you have weighed the feedback, list the pros and cons immediately then move on to complete the next vendor trial period. At the end of the trial periods, you'll be able to make a fair and accurate comparison between vendors that is not reliant on memory or vague impressions.
CRM Software Trial Evaluations
When the trial periods are complete, sit down and carefully compare the results of each to your requirements checklist. Your goal is to narrow the the field to two, or no more than three, CRM software solutions.
The next step is to get your staff, at least those who will actually be using the CRM software, to sit down and discuss their likes and dislikes of each contender. If you are at the helm of a large enterprise decision, then meet with department heads after they have obtained feedback from their staff members.
Bring your software requirements checklist and list of pros and cons obtained from the trials and use those to guide the evaluation discussion with your staff. This keeps the evaluation focused on the company's top goals rather than on individual tastes.
What you discover in this meeting will help you make your final decision and it will help your staff accept that decision. After all, the software is useless if the staff refuse to use it. Early staff buy-in is crucial to preparing for change management and the inevitable user adoption challenges.
Negotiate CRM Contracts with Power
Now that you have chosen the CRM solution that is right for you, it's time to negotiate the deal. Comb through the contract looking for language and term pitfalls as previously discussed. Make sure the terms fit your finance and software utilization intentions.
If anything in the contract is off mark, then negotiate those points directly with the vendor. Remember, your goal is to get the best deal, not the cheapest one. Be cautious if your motivation is merely driving cost of the software down, as you may risk losing features, capabilities or services that could cost you more than the amount you might save initially. On the other hand, you should be careful not to pay for more capabilities than you actually need or to get locked into terms that will freeze your ability to respond to market conditions.
Once you have concluded your negotiations, read the contract over again to ensure the changes you negotiated are accurately reflected in the contract. Then send the contract to your attorney or legal department for a review against current law and company requirements.
Congratulations. You have now systemically and objectively identified the best CRM software solution that will work well for your company and made a deal that makes sense for your bottom line.