Stages of a CRM Implementation

The idea of evaluating and choosing a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can seem troublesome. The time to not only evaluate CRM vendors, but your own processes and needs can be intimidating. There is, however, a way to ease through the process if you break it down into stages. From there, you progress from one to the next and these lesser sections will be easier to tackle rather than looking at the big picture. There are many ways to phrase the phases, but here are the seven that I came up with to help you organize your evaluation:

Realization of Need

The true beginning of the evaluation comes when you realize you need to make a change. Whether or not you currently have an CRM, there should be a moment where it is painfully clear that what you are using, or not using, today is no longer optimal for how your company is running. There are many reasons for this including: a lack of functionality, outdated software, poor features, or a lack of flexibility. Either way, the result is the same: you need a new CRM solution!

Initial Research/Familiarization

If you currently have a CRM, then this phase will be initial research into new systems and what is out there. Whereas if you are coming from manual methods, it will be a familiarization of the concept of a CRM as well as what is on the market. This research should also include taking a deep look into your company’s current processes and what you will need from a new system.

Contacting Vendors/Gathering Specifics

Now that you are armed with knowledge, you should begin to contact vendors to get more specific information. Ballpark pricing, needs analysis review, timelines for implementation, and other items should be discussed. Then, if there are no reasons to disqualify the vendor, we move to the next step: demos of the software.

Preliminary Round of Demos

Depending on how many vendors you selected after initial research, this could be one of the longest of the seven stages. The demos should be detailed overviews that are semi-tailored to your needs. It should give you a true feel of the software and a Q/A session should follow in addition to asking questions during the demo.

Selecting the Final Competitors

This is where it may get tricky, especially if you have a large team of people evaluating the software. Disagreements will happen, but if you keep any arguments centered around the business, rather than a specific person’s role or department, there is always a way to pick the top two or three.

Proof of Concept with Vendors

With the final list now in hand, you can dive deep into demos that are filled with your data. The CRM vendors should be able to show you exactly how the system would run at your business and how you would run your business with their software. Be as picky and precise as possible; this is the stage where you want to leave no stone unturned.

Final Decision

After all conversations and the last round of demos are completed, now is the time to make your choice. Ideally, one of the ERP solutions would have jumped off the screen at this point, but if not, it will have to be an internal discussion that produces the final choice.

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