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How to choose a CRM – Salesforce vs. other CRMs

ChecklistChoosing a CRM system is much more than buying a piece of software and telling your team to use it.  It is easy to underestimate what should happen before, during, and after the decision to buy is made. Not to mention the pre-planning that will aid in the decision making process.  While everyone’s decision making process is different the path and activities often remain the same. Our team has put together some information on how to choose a CRM.

Define your Goals

The world’s most perfect CRM system won’t help your organization if you don’t have a clearly defined idea of what you want to do with it.  What will a CRM system do for your company to help your company achieve its mission?  Clarifying your organizational goals up front can save a lot of headaches down the road, so that when you implement a CRM system, people know how their actions in the system can help achieve goals.  A few goals might be:

  • Provide “better” customer service

  • Shorten the length of our Sales cycle by 50%

  • Share customer knowledge across the company

Review your Processes

Once you have goals defined, next review how your CRM related goals intersect with business processes.  How can you use a CRM to achieve a goal?  A CRM won’t solve your problems, but is often the tool that allows you to solve problems by providing a consistent system and process.  Want to shorten the length of your Sales cycle by 50%?  Here’s a few possible intersection points:

  • Create metrics to track length of sales cycle so an incentive program can be put into place

  • Track the status of all sales giving better visibility to a sales manager to help move sales along

  • Better understand customer interactions and patterns so resources can be put into more faster, higher probability of winning sales.

Processes Define Features

Once understanding the processes and how technology could intersect with them, this begins outlining features needed in a CRM package that will allow your organization to be successful.  Continuing the above example, features that might be helpful in reducing a sales cycle by 50% –

  • A reporting engine to allow for sales analytics

  • A unified database and security model to allow for sales manager visibility of the right data

  • Tracking system for calls, emails, and meetings to allow logging of interactions

  • Integration with Email to make it easy for people to contribute to the CRM from multiple systems

Start Looking at CRM Systems

Notice how the technology comes last?  Trying to look at technology solutions without determining Goals, Processes, and Features first is the quintessential “Solution looking for a problem”.  By defining Goals, Processes and Features first, you now know what your future CRM system needs to do and you can compare features vs. market offerings.

The other aspect of selecting a CRM system is around the technology itself.  Do you need a cloud or on-premise solution?  What type of security requirements does your company have?  What is your timeframe (since some CRM’s are faster to launch than others).  Do you have any other system integrations that need to be taken into consideration.  Here’s a “short list” of questions:

  • Are there any regulatory concerns that my organization needs to take into consideration?

  • What SLA do the different vendors offer?

  • Does the system have an export routine to prevent vendor lock-in?

  • What types of contracts are required for the given CRM?

  • Are there key system integrations that need to be taken into consideration?

  • How many users initially and how many possible in the future?  Do I need something very scalable?

  • What type of infrastructure and hosting am I willing to manage?

Leverage Customer Communities and Consultants

Most CRM packages available today have vast resources available online to help with understanding features.  Some of them have public customer communities.  Check into these forums and see what people are talking about.  Ask about your business challenges and see what types of responses you get.  As you get narrowed down to a few CRM systems start canvassing consultants as well.  Most consulting firms are happy to give a free introductory overview and review of Goals, Processes, and Features and how they would envision an implementation working. (I know Red Argyle does.)


CRM systems are often touted as a “magic bullet” that can solve a company’s problems.  However, buying a CRM package is only 10% of the solution.  The remainder is carefully understanding the problem, analyzing the intersection between technology and business process, properly implementing the right features, and of course, continual training and refinement of goals.

If you are evaluating Salesforce and need help with Salesforce adoption, strategy, Training, or Salesforce customization Red Argyle offers a suite of services that will help you delivered tailored Goodness to the Salesforce platform. Contact us today, we would be happy to set up a discovery session and ensure you Salesforce implementation is a successful one.


Disclaimer:  Red Argyle is a Consulting and ISV partner.

Photo Credit: Justin See via Flickr