How to Select a CRM System

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beginners looking to install their first system, it can also be helpful to those who are working with what they already have in place. This way, they can figure out what elements of the current system are worth keeping, if possible, and which areas are problematic.

2. Involve every relevant department.

Berkowitz notes that it's important to involve members from every relevant department in the evaluation process. This enables them to provide early input, which, experts agree, promotes early adoption. Companies should get input from marketing, customer service, sales (who tend, like it or not, to be the most dominant voice, he points out), and any other segments of the company that will be using the system. If this step is skipped, members of specific teams might resist using a solution. "If technology is forced on people for whatever reason—by IT, or by any means," he says, "there's always the danger that it's not going to be accepted."

Pozil recommends comprehensive and involved analysis. When working on scorecards, he suggests, it's best to draw from the most varied pool of feedback providers possible to get a rounded sense of what the company needs on a grand scale. "You're not just looking at the CRM system," he says. "The majority of the value comes from talking to the individuals at different levels."

A detailed report will reveal what areas need the most immediate attention. With this knowledge, project leaders can focus on solutions and processes that will improve them.

3. Be mindful of your company's size and industry.

There are a number of challenges that enterprises of all sizes should anticipate when developing their platforms. Though the risks of failure are much greater for larger enterprises, they are also at an advantage in certain undeniable ways.

"[The] biggest challenges are not in the Fortune 100 [companies], because they have more resources and educated people, and are more likely to lean on consulting firms. [They are also more willing] to be honest about things that they're not experts at," Estrada says. "It's the Fortune 1,000 [companies] that struggle. The smallest companies are the ones that struggle the most because while [many of them are] looking for a kind of plug-and-play, they're also less resistant to actually conforming to the standard processes in these technologies."

But regardless of their pride in preserving idiosyncratic corporate personalities, smaller companies are also in a trickier spot when it comes to selecting vendors, Berkowitz says. Those that are smaller tend to not have as many processes in place. Though small and medium businesses may evolve into bigger entities over time, it's hard for them to assess what that evolution is going to look like. As a result, many of these companies choose less sophisticated solutions. "Not every company is at the stage where a real CRM [system] that can do a lot of things is effective," Berkowitz says.

Companies should also be conscious of their industry. Today, more CRM vendors are building industry-specific solutions to cater to each market's unique needs. For example, a local or state government might refer to the people it serves as constituents or citizens, instead of customers or prospects. Additionally, features and functionality that might be relevant for one industry might not apply to another.

4. Know your customers' expectations.

According to Estrada, if a company understands the engagements its customers have with the organization, as well as what type of 

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