shop overviewMost of our problems with CRM begin with the way we shop for it. We get some recommendations, cruise through a few websites, sign up for a couple free trials, and choose one. I’m not suggesting this is a casual effort, most people put in a lot of time and careful consideration.

Unfortunately, looking at potential CRM puts us on a dangerous path right away because what the CRM shows us has a strong influence on what we think we’re looking for. A different sort of effort will help you choose more wisely. I wish I could tell you it will be an easier effort but I can’t. In fact, this article turned into enough pages that it’s divided into five steps/articles.

There are two steps to complete before you look at any CRM.

Step One: Forget B2B versus B2C

Despite the things B2B and B2C have in common, most CRM identify as designed for one or the other. These labels will be misleading, so before you get started you need to get some things clear in your mind. How do you approach your market — do you tend to dig deep or go broad? When does qualifying tend to occur? How complex is your typical sale? This article helps you answer these questions so you’re ready to test CRM based on features and functions, not branding.

Step Two: Create a list of the types or groups of contacts you have.

The key here is to avoid organizing and naming these types/groups the way most CRM do. Don’t call them “leads” or “opportunities,” etc. because as soon as you do that you’re following the CRM’s lead instead of your own needs. Instead, use very basic organization and names. The article covering this step gives you examples to work with.

Now it’s time to dive into some trial subscriptions because the next steps test CRMs’ features and functions. Tip: If you’re doing this to find CRM for your marketing and/or sales team, be sure to put yourself in their shoes. Better yet, engage some reps in the testing process and put their opinions above that of the managers.

Step Three: See if the CRM’s contact options map to the above list. If they do not, do not buy the CRM.

Most people shop for CRM the other way around: they use the CRM’s options as their guide. This is a problem because salespeople have more types of contacts than most CRM offer and so a bunch of them are essentially left out–the CRM’s functions don’t apply to them. This article covers things to test and common problems to avoid.

Step Four: Test the CRM for your marketing and prospecting needs.

I’m sorry to say that some of the most popular CRM will fail at this point because their focus is really selling. This article tells you what to look for so you’re not stuck with a semi-useful CRM. However, if you or your team truly do not do any marketing you can skip this step.

Step Five: See if you can adjust the CRM’s sales process to match yours. If it cannot easily be made to match yours, find one that will.

Remember step one? This is where that preparation will pay off. The article covering this step tells you what to look for, and how to avoid free trial traps.

Want to see if you can be happier with the CRM you’ve already got?

Work through the same steps and articles shown above with your current program. With luck, you just need to adjust the CRM.

Please pass the aspirin

I want to acknowledge what a pain in the rear this kind of analysis is. If you find yourself wondering whether it’s worth it then I suggest the answer may be “no.” But that does not mean you should make do with the aggravating CRM you already have or buy something new and hope for the best. Instead, try using the simplest CRM you can find for a while. Here’s why: It’s easier to recognize we need more than it is to recognize we need less. Using something very simple will quickly clarify what (if anything) is missing. This gives you a jump-start on your shopping.

Consider using CRM designed for B2C, a simple Excel or Word file, or other basic organizers. You may find you don’t need CRM at all!

One more note

These articles are meant for individual to large-company-size CRM users, not enterprise-size users. And most of the CRM examples focus on the CRMs’ basic version because that’s what most of us tend to go for. That said, many of the tips will apply to one and all.