You’re thinking about switching CRMs. But before you spend any time on research and vendor comparisons, do a CRM needs assessment. Here are a few best practices and a checklist to help clarify your CRM goals and assess your existing IT infrastructure and resources.
Start by clearly identifying your CRM goals
Jumping straight into a detailed feature comparison is certainly tempting. A better approach, however, is to carefully examine your goals before spending any time on vendor evaluations. After all, how can you know which CRM features are relevant without a proper understanding of your true needs?
One of the best ways to to begin understanding your CRM needs is to set some basic goals:
Primary CRM goals
At the end of the day, why does your company need a CRM? Achieving 100% user adoption is a necessary objective, but is it the main motivator for adopting a new CRM? Of course not. In the long run, you need a CRM that will help you increase revenue and grow business faster with effective use of data.
If you’re a service-based business, your primary CRM goal may be to elevate customer relationships and deliver projects on time and to specification. If you’re a manufacturer, you may be looking for a better way to organize a rapidly evolving web of production, supplies, distribution, customer, and order data.
Start by clearly defining and documenting your high-level “why,” and everything else will start to fall into place.
Secondary CRM goals
With your primary goals defined, it’s time to identify secondary goals. Secondary goals can come in a wide variety of forms. Some are easily tracked, while others require additional data and investigation.
Get some basic ideas down on paper (you can refine and improve them later). Here are a few examples:
- We want to select and implement a CRM that staff will actually use.
- Our new CRM will become our central source of truth for all business data.
- We need a CRM that will help with sales and marketing alignment.
- We need a CRM that scales and adapts to our rapidly changing business model.
- In the next 90 days, we want to migrate our legacy on-premise CRM to a cloud-based solution.
- Our goal is to achieve a 90% MQL-to-SQL ratio.
As you can see, defining your CRM goals has less to do with features and more to do with outcomes. Develop your primary and secondary CRM goals and use them as a guidepost for all future vendor and feature analysis. You will be amazed at how this simple, yet important act will foster greater alignment among stakeholders.
3 approaches for performing a CRM needs assessment
“Smart” goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. What additional information do you need to align your goals with this reality? What is the best way to convert your vision into an actionable CRM needs assessment?
Here are three possible approaches:
Commonplace among smaller organizations, the top-down approach heavily relies on senior leadership’s past experiences and knowledge. For example, let’s assume that your company recently hired a chief revenue officer who possesses decades of experience with CRM technology. This first-hand expertise is highly useful to your organization and you’d be wise to use it as a driving factor in the identification and sequencing of your needs.
Some leaders take a “hands off” approach to CRM needs assessments, deferring instead to sales, IT, and/or administrative staff. The logic is that frontline SDRs, account executives, customer success agents, and marketing staff, etc. will be the primary day-to-day users of the software, not the senior management. In theory, the bottom-up approach sounds good, but in reality, collecting and considering input from every CRM user is rarely feasible—especially for midsize and enterprise organizations.
Combining the best aspects of top-down and bottom-up can be a viable solution for many companies. Forming a cross-functional team that includes senior leaders along with mid-level and front-line users can streamline the collection and analysis of input without overwhelming the system. With the hybrid approach, you are considering all aspects—big picture and long-term goals as well as execution process, including daily user experience.
CRM needs assessment checklist
Regardless of who will be performing your CRM needs assessment (be it a senior manager or a committee), there are several key questions that must be answered before going any further:
What is the top reason for considering a new CRM?
Harken back to your primary and secondary goals. Avoid feature talk here. Rather, try to pinpoint how your current CRM may be slowing down growth or is misaligned with your business objectives.
What does your current CRM do well (if anything)?
Chances are, there’s something that your CRM does well. It’s OK to be specific. Maybe converting leads to opportunities is straightforward, or maybe you like how uploaded lists of contacts appear immediately in the system.
What does your current CRM do poorly?
Again, be specific. Make a list of all the ways that your CRM fails to meet your needs. Keep in mind that as your business grows and changes, your CRM needs will too. Would your current CRM scale easily?
Do you have a diagram of your current CRM process(es)?
Yes or no. If no, you should create one before proceeding to the next question.
Do you have a diagram of your ideal CRM process(es)?
If technological limitations did not exist, what would be your ideal buyer journey? Ask the same question for your customer journey and other important processes, such as project delivery, order fulfillment, and CRM user onboarding.
What data silos do you need to banish?
Data silos and underperforming CRMs often go hand in hand. Carefully examine all of the places where data resides. Spreadsheets, email inboxes, third-party marketing systems, and project management platforms are common examples. Is it possible to reduce or eliminate such silos with a better aligned CRM?
Do you have the in-house project management and IT capabilities?
What is the opportunity cost of the status quo?
Yes, your current CRM may have a negative impact on revenue performance. But to what extent? How does this compare to the cost of switching CRMs, training users, and supporting an entirely new platform?
What’s the budget?
If you’re relying on a legacy on-premise system or database, you may not have a true CRM software budget—aside from the ongoing cost to support a non-cloud solution. Even if you’re already using a cloud solution, the cost of switching may be more (or less) than your current subscription. Be sure to define a ballpark CRM budget now (and refine it later).
Start with your CRM needs for enhanced results
There’s no doubt that upgrading your CRM can make a decisive impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of your business operations and customer relationships. That’s especially true when internal needs are carefully examined and understood prior to engaging vendors and comparing features.
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