Lesson one is: Bigger isn’t always best; Cheaper isn’t always better value; Best isn’t always most appropriate. It should go without saying that appropriate business choices benefit the business; it’s a shame when people don’t stop to consider what ‘appropriate’ means.  In simple terms it means understanding yourself, your needs, your payback possibilities. Meet those and you’ve got a good business decision. But that’s not the way people approach business purchases today, so it’s little wonder that the CRM success rate of 25% of projects pleasing their owners with acceptable benefits has remained unchanged for 12 years.

Nancy Sinatra said it, ‘Right is right, but you ain’t been right yet.’  And CRM shoppers this is for you; …. the chances of you getting it right are slim. The industry hasn’t yet come up with a successful way of making good CRM decisions. For many, the ‘brand leader’ is the no-brainer choice. It used to be said that if you don’t understand what you are doing you won’t get fired for buying IBM. Anyway, why should you put extra effort/thought into understanding the CRM choice. Why is CRM so difficult? I believe that one reasons is that people think it should be easy. Delegating a software purchase to the staff sounds like good participative management. It’s democratic. Knowing the CRM business as I do, and with 20 years experience watching people fail and helping some to succeed it looks insane. Why? Well for a start, a staff committee can’t know what the business needs to do to transform customer relationships into business growth.

Today we have been educated to believe that business purchases can be managed using the same skills we learn when shopping at Tesco. And we are all aware how we demand immediate gratification. Go to the right aisle select the best you can afford, put it in the shopping basket; Job done! We also know that with so many excellent products to choose from we can quite rightly say ‘If it isn’t on the shelf, I can’t buy it’. If it was rubbish Tesco would not allow it on the shelf. Of course you could always try Sainsbury’s or some other similar outlet or web shopping, and the answer would only be slightly different. There is little risk of getting it wrong. I know this is not yet sounding like a lesson in how to buy CRM, but stick with me. If you go shopping for CRM in the belief that you can’t get it wrong you might just skimp on the diligence with which you ask how the benefit will materialize.

If you want coffee you want coffee, so go to the coffee aisle and make your choice. But do you really fancy tea, or both? Or what about a bottle of wine. Maybe you need some fizzy drink? Now your choices are not in the same aisle; maybe you are not in the right aisle. So here is the next lesson; there is no CRM aisle. There is not a ‘hot drink CRM’ and ‘cold drink CRM’ aisle separation. You are not prevented from looking at rubbish. In fact the market that calls itself CRM is a fiction. (CRM for SME, corporate, hosted, cloud, strong in sales support, marketing module or customer service?) Vendors proudly tell you that their system does everything that the others do (and they probably believe it). You don’t have time to taste every coffee in the shop or every wine so you revert to judging the packaging. With CRM you read the feature list, go for the longest, have 6 demonstrations 3 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. The following week you meet (because people are too busy to meet the day after) and you discuss presentations that were unmemorable and virtually identical, so you buy from the nice man who presented at 10.30 just after coffee. ‘I think it was the one in the blue box’.

In all probability this process weeds out the rubbish. One customer recently told me they had filtered out 20 products before shortlisting. But when you are putting all the investigative effort into product assessments and ‘best choice’ you are scoring on their score card (features) and your attention is directed away from your score card (needs & benefits). In a year or 2 you’ll know if you’ve wasted your money and you can start again. I like working with people who are starting again.

There you go – How to select the right CRM system in 3 easy lessons