The choice of CRM’s (Customer Relationship Management) software tools can seem endless. Each promising sales nirvana and that your sales people will love it. Until they don’t. Which happens a lot. When we see this, which is often, it usually comes down to how the CRM was chosen, implemented and followed through afterwards.

At the end of the day, all CRM tools are just databases. With some, they have varying degrees of analytics capabilities over top, but not many. The most complex CRM is Salesforce and it is not for the feint of heart, nor is their small business solution. At the other end is Hubspot with a free version. Somewhere in the middle are the others such as Daylite (Mac specific) and Insightly. The one we lament the loss of was Highrise by the makers of project management app Basecamp.

But as we work with organisations who are looking to implement a new CRM for the first time or switching or have switched, we have found in almost all cases that the selection is done largely between management and the IT team, with little consultation to the sales team members or other functional units that may be impacted. This usually means marketing and production. If an ERP is involved, even for small to mid-sized businesses, the choice of a CRM can be narrowed and become a bit more complex.

But it’s more than just including others and the sales team. A CRM has broader implications to the business than just tracking sales performance and forecasting. Marketing may need the contact data for awareness campaigns and fulfillment or production, to forecast production requirements.

When it comes to the sales team however, it’s not just about how easy it is to input data, or the various data entry tabs and functions. More than anything, it is about culture. Sales teams have their own unique cultures within every organisation. This is largely driven by the sales management approach and philosophy. One thing that is extremely rare in any sales environment is sales professionals who like to enter data. In all sales teams are those who are consistent with entry and maintaining it, with those on the other end that treat a CRM like it’s a deadly infectious disease. They have some amazing reasons a CRM won’t work and kills their sales spirit. And oddly enough, how the mobile app version just won’t work on their phone.

A new CRM means change management as well. A process often overlooked in not just CRM applications but other tools as well. Before you even get to looking for CRM tools, it’s vitally important to get a change management program into the works and to take a look at your sales culture. Through systems of rewards and cultural engagement with the team, you’ll increase the success of a CRM implementation quite significantly. These two elements should be top of list before getting into requirements and features and desired outcomes. Some CRM vendors can help to some degree, but keep in mind, their end goal is selling you their solution. If you can, get independent advice from a consultant that knows CRM’s but isn’t selling one and is as vendor neutral as possible.

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