Call it vendor selection, not package selection, please
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I'm putting my stake in the ground to say that vendors, integrators, and customers must be accountable to each other, so that when implementing CRM they are working in the interest of all. What this means as a customer is this: When deciding what technology you should use to support your CRM implementation, rather than it being a package selection, it should be a vendor selection instead. While that might sound like a semantic walk in the park, it should be seen as the first cobblestone of accountability's sidewalk.
So-called package selection is an integral part of CRM life. Package selection means that the prospective customer is looking at what applications software has what features and what processes are embedded in those applications so they can decide on which to use.
Vendor selection is a different story. Vendor selection certainly includes package selection, but it also means you have to consider how the company selling you the product lives and breathes.
The first question to ask yourself as a responsible stakeholder is, Are you comfortable with the culture of that vendor? Your answer, be it yes or no, should trigger a series of other queries.
If you answer yes, then the question immediately following is: Why? If you can't answer that, go on a journey and find out. Jobs, probably yours among them, depend on your ability to get detailed answers. If the answer is no, then the question is, How do I go about getting comfortable? The reason to think along these lines is that if after your quest is complete you're still uncomfortable, then the odds are good that this isn't the vendor for you.
These are nice general commentaries, but what's it is like down deeper in the mine? There are dozens of questions to ask the vendor representative that he either forthrightly answers or you don't use that vendor or its packages. For example, examine the vendor's core values and then find out if its staff really lives by them or if it uses them strictly for marketing.
Another immediate task is to speak to the vendor's customers, but not the ones spoon-fed to you. Pablum is pablum, so if you ask for a gourmet feast, having someone tell you such a vitamin-enriched meal is better for you is not the way to earn trust.
But also, never forget that the vendor is in business to make money and profit, not just to make you happy. Therefore, you have the same obligation to answer the vendor's questions about your company's culture and how your company works. The key here is, by choosing to select a vendor rather than a package, you are choosing to select a partner, rather than only software. It's the difference between failure and success.
Paul Greenberg is president of The 56 Group LLC, an enterprise applications consultancy specializing in CRM, and author of CRM at the Speed of Light: Capturing and Keeping Customers in Internet Real Time. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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