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Selecting a CRM system focusing on sales force automation and processes is a huge task. Sales force automation capabilities cross the entire organization from top to bottom and the tracking of all the leads, forecasts and opportunities and actual deals is the bread and butter of any organization.
Now let us take a deep breath and try to break it down. The first thing we have to do is to see if you already have a system in your company that manages your customer base and if it can support the major sales processes (you can refer to my previous article on “Choosing a CRM software – Customer Support” for more reference on CRM processes?). If you do, you might want to consult your implementation partner and see if the desired Sales processes can be automated there as well.
The main purpose of Sales force Automation (SFA) is to automate your business tasks for sales teams and it should include the entire process lifecycle:
- Lead and opportunity management – generate, capture and document new business opportunities
- Channel Management – Manage your channel programs and partners
- Contact management – Centrally store and find contact information
- Order processing and Tracking – Picking, packing and delivering the products or services to the customer
- Sales Team Evaluation, Analysis and Forecasting – Generate data in order to determine whether your sales force has met its sales objectives and project future sales
- Customer Knowledge Base Information sharing
It looks scary, isn’t it? All these critical processes in one system…? Well the good news are that most of the CRM systems that I have met during my career as a CIO, have most of these basic requirements implemented as a standard, out-of-the-box processes. Furthermore, some of them even have industry-specific solutions and in many cases, all that is left for you to do is to customize the user screens and some basic enhancements and you will be ready to go. The “not so good” news are that there are plenty of systems to choose from… so how to narrow down the list? Here are few tips that might help you:
- Size of customer base – do you engage with end-users (which can create a customer base of millions) or do you do business with few other businesses and channels? The former will force you to have a robust system but with minor process deviations (for example – when I was a CIO of and ISP, we had millions of customers in our CRM system, but the process and system implementation was standard). However, in the latter option, you will probably need to implement a more customizable system since you will probably work a bit differently with some customers
- Size of Sales team – The bigger it is, and especially if some of them are field sales who are travelling all the time, you will need a web-based system that is available anywhere and anytime.
- Do you allow on-line sales (meaning – can the end customer by directly from your website)? This capability is sometimes being referred to as “B2C” or “E-commerce”. If so, you have to make sure that the system you are buying has such capabilities either by providing out-of-the-box web site or by integrating to an existing e-commerce software (this is a technical discussion that should involve your IT experts)
The following table will help you to narrow down your options even more:
|Functionality||Sales under 10M$||Sales Between 10-100M$||Sales Over 100$|
|Customer Knowledge Base||√||√|
|Recommended Software||Infusionsoft CRM||1CRM||Salesoutlook CRM||Microsoft
|Prophet CRM||ACT! Premium||OnContact CRM||Sugar CRM||Microsoft
|Zoho CRM||Salesoutlook CRM||LeadMaster||Prophet CRM||SalesLogix|
Wrapping up, the most important advice that I can give you about choosing a CRM sales software is that unless you have a CRM expert (either in the sales or IT teams) with experience on implementing a CRM system: Don’t do it on your own – Hire a consultant, an un-biased expert, not a sales person… that will help you in documenting your processes and system requirements, in choosing the right system based on these requirements and in finding the right implementation partner.