Selecting the right customer relationship management (CRM) platform is challenging. But it’s not the only big decision you’ll need to make to get the right solution for your organization.
Another significant choice you’ll need to make is selecting a trusted implementation partner — one who can guide you not only with software selection, but also with other important elements of implementing CRM, such as strategy, buy-in, and training.
Based on the countless CRM implementations I’ve been involved with over the years, I’ve found that the following 10 questions have helped CRM buyers select the implementation partner that will be the best match for their organization. And, that will deliver the best results.
1. Do you have the experience to advise me on what solution best fits my business?
Finding a partner who has demonstrated expertise in implementing CRM is vital. Look for a consultancy whose primary business is CRM, not one who consults on CRM as a small piece of a larger business. No two reasons for implementing CRM are alike; similarly, no two CRM systems are alike. Only consultants with deep CRM experience will have the knowledge necessary to match your needs to the right system.
Additionally, look for a consultancy with a truly independent perspective that is results-focused, not product-focused; one that starts with your business needs and objectives and then uses their advisory and strategic expertise to find a solution to match. A consultancy that is knowledgeable about and has worked with various CRM systems over the years is your best bet. They’ll know the benefits and limitations of those systems, which will lead to a more informed recommendation.
Often, consultancies may primarily work with one or two solutions in terms of implementation. But if they also offer advisory and strategic services, they should be comfortable recommending other solutions, and may even refer you to an implementation partner who specializes in them. That’s another reason to look for a consultancy whose leadership has extensive industry experience.
2. What industries are your areas of expertise?
It’s usually best to choose an implementation partner that has expertise in your industry or a similar industry. A consultancy that has experience working with companies similar to yours often will understand business challenges common to your industry and can apply that knowledge to help you set your CRM strategy and choose the right CRM tool to support it.
Of course, if you’re looking for a fresh perspective, you may want to work with an implementation partner with expertise in an industry with best practices to follow
Most important: Whether or not a consultancy knows your industry, they should take the time to understand your unique business needs. If they don’t, move on.
3. Will you provide a ‘Dream Team’ or a ‘B Team’ for my implementation?
Look for a consulting firm that has strategic and technical staff with the right experience to meet your needs. The strategic staff should have a track record of success. The technical staff should have advanced and up-to-date certifications in the specific applications and services they support.
Additionally, ask who from their team will work on your implementation. Will it be senior staffers, junior staffers, or a mix of both? You should expect the team you work with to be led by a senior executive who is easy accessible to you throughout the project.
4. How do you help ensure adoption after an implementation?
A CRM implementation is only as successful as the least-skilled end user. So, only entrust your CRM implementation to a consultant who truly understands the importance of buy-in, has experience thoroughly training users, and offers an ongoing support system long after the implementation is complete.
Look for a consultancy that has a training methodology designed to help with adoption, that has conducted extensive training for various types of users, and that has experience delivering train-the-trainer programs. Ask how many people their teams have trained and if they have someone they consider an “educational architect” who develops training curriculum based on individual client’s needs.
5. What depth of experience does the company leadership have in CRM?
These days, a company’s size or time in business shouldn’t be deciding factors. Many newer and boutique CRM consultancies are run by executives with a stellar track record and staffed with long-time CRM experts. There are benefits to working with large, well-established firms. There are other benefits in working with startups and newer companies run by entrepreneurs with deep CRM experience.
Look for consultants and advisors who not only have that wealth of best practices and who understand how to avoid common pitfalls, but who also continue to reinvent themselves and are current on the latest tools and strategies to help you keep pace with change.
6. Who are your clients and how successful have their deployments been?
Ask your prospective implementation partner for examples of clients who have successfully implemented CRM and still have a successful CRM program in place. It’s all too easy to implement a CRM solution for one client and then move on to the next without sticking around to see whether the implementation succeeds or fails after the initial rollout. You’ll want to work with a partner who’s going to make sure your CRM implementation and strategy are successful.
Also ask what they’ve learned from failed implementations — everyone’s had them — and what they do differently as a result. Check whether they provide advisory services that can help you tailor your use cases, so your implementation is more likely to get buy-in and succeed over the long term.
7. What size company is your typical client?
Find a consultancy whose team has extensive experience with clients that are similar in size to your company, as well as some experience working with companies of other sizes. Although there are plenty of commonalities across every CRM implementation, there are many aspects of implementing CRM that are specific to different size companies. It may be risky, for example, to work with a consultancy with a client base of small companies if you’re implementing enterprise CRM for hundreds or thousands of users.
You’ll also want to ensure that you’re going to get the level of attention you want and need, and not always be a lower priority than other larger or “more important” clients.
8. Do you have solid references?
Choose a consultancy that can back up its claims with a list of satisfied clients. Ask for references from a variety of companies and, most important, speak with people who worked on the project team and will engage in a frank discussion.
Ask them: What worked best about the project and what would you have done differently? Was there anything unsatisfactory in the scope of your project? Were there any problems that cropped up and if so, how did they resolve them?
9. How would you describe your culture and core values?
Your internal implementation team and your implementation partner’s team will spend a great deal of time working together. It’s essential that the consultancy you select has a culture and core values that align with your company’s. The lack of a culture fit could negatively impact collaboration, effectiveness, and results, as well as demotivate your team —which could impede progress and inhibit buy-in.
10. Can you help your clients measure the ROI from the CRM implementation?
The best way to get continued funding for your CRM strategy is to show the return on your investment in a CRM solution. A quality CRM consultant can guide you on creating a solid ROI model for you to adapt for your organization, as well as recommend KPIs that would work best for your business. Look for a consultant that can help you measure success in areas such as increased sales, greater customer satisfaction, more accurate forecasts, and reduced time to market.
Don’t let your CRM implementation fail
When a CRM implementation fails, it usually has very little to do with the CRM solution itself. CRM is a people-centered application. So, work with a consultant who can help you ensure a successful implementation by working closely with you to create a clearly defined CRM business strategy, design and execute an implementation plan, and select the right project champion. Additionally, choose a partner who’s sure to keep the lines of communication open between the implementation teams; who will help you created any needed documentation; and, who will provide the end-user training programs that are essential to success.
When your implementation partner is fanatical about customer success, that’s when your implementation is most likely to succeed.
YPO member Yacov Wrocherinsky, a 30-year CRM veteran, is the CEO and Founder of Orion Global Solutions LLC, an advisory company and Salesforce Silver Consulting Partner based in New York, New York, USA. Prior to founding Orion, Wrocherinsky founded Infinity Info Systems in 1987, a leader in ACT!, Sage Saleslogix CRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and business intelligence software. Under his leadership, Infinity completed 3,500 successful CRM implementations — including transitions to Salesforce — more than 30 global projects and trained 130,000 people. After participating in YPO’s U.S. Navy Seal Leadership Under Fire program, Wrocherinsky went on to chair the program for more than five years and continues to incorporate Navy SEAL principles into his business.