The Top Pitfalls of CRM Evaluations

Being a reseller of CRM software for over 20+ years, we’ve seen not only the CRM industry evolve, but the selection process evolves as well. It’s well known that over 60% of CRM initiatives fail, and we know that a lot of the pitfalls do not necessarily have to do with the software itself, but how it’s implemented. What’s not entirely clear, is how much the evaluation process itself hinders companies from having a successful CRM rollout. Below are some major factors that can determine whether or not the CRM will be successful, even before the implementation starts:

Clearly defined business goals

More often than not, we’ll work with companies that don’t have well-defined business goals. Some do have requirements documents, but often don’t have any requirements related to the value their business should receive from the CRM. A typical requirements document will often have a long list of features and functionality, as a way to “check the box” for things the company needs. It tends to be a giant wish list that the company wishes to have but doesn’t trace back to any goals or value for the company.

One way to define goals are to ask questions:

Asking open-ended questions is a great way to uncover issues that eventually lead to defining business goals. Make sure the goals are defined in a way, that after implementation, you can point back to determine the success of the project. Below are some well-defined goals:

Make sure there are metrics you can trace back as well. Make sure you can answer the question: “How will I know the CRM rollout is successful,” with more than just “if everyone is using it”, which is a surprisingly common answer.

Involve the right people in the project

Over the years, CRM (and software in general) decisions have shifted towards a decision by committee. This is not only done for consensus but also for job protection, should things go wrong. After all, there won’t be one person to blame.

More often than not, these committees consist of department heads, executive leadership, business analysts, etc… In other words, non-power users. Executive-level leadership committees tend to focus more on the output of the CRM (Reports, dashboards brand messaging, etc..), whereas power users have different needs and different requirements.

When companies decided to not focus on the actual users, as well as not include them in the decision-making process, it often leads to extremely low user adoption which could be the biggest problem in the industry and a big waste of money. Vendors know this, but sales reps can be short-sighted and work with an executive-level team anyway to get the deal. Most sales reps do not get paid on renewals, so they are incentivized to get the deal done one way or another.

Involving key power users does several things:

Integration for the sake of integration

Almost every company uses a dozen + software packages. CRM vendors position their products as the “hub” of your company’s software packages. One place for everything. This messaging gets people stuck in the mindset of integration for the sake of integration. Prospective buyers often go through a laundry list of products they use with a CRM provider. “Does your product work with…” are some of the most commonly asked questions by buyers in the initial discovery process. This is not to say that the point of integration is not important. What is important is to not look at integration as a key decision point of your CRM evaluation if a specific product integration is not needed. If you can’t answer some of the questions below, the integration is probably not needed:

We stress this because we often see companies move forward with a CRM that may have an industry-specific integration, and a company may move forward (for the sake of integration) when the core CRM itself might be inefficient in other areas. The other thing to note is integrations can be very expensive. Even integrations that are “out of the box”, meaning pre-built, can get expensive as most companies have to customize existing integration products. A lot of integration work is becoming less labor-intensive due to integration tools like Salesforce, Mulesoft and Sugar Integrate, however, it will still be expensive. The question shouldn’t be “CAN your CRM integrate with XYZ product?”, it should be “should we integrate this with our CRM?”

On-staff Technical Acumen

Lack of technical resources is very common in software selections, particularly in small to mid-size businesses. This can lead buyers to get “sold” by vendors using shady sales tactics by commission-based sales reps.

A common example that we’ve seen time and time again is related to the topic above, integrations.

“Does your product have an integration with XYZ?”

“Yes, we have an open API, it can easily be connected to product XYZ”

A non-technical person would believe this to mean there is an “out of the box” integration. In reality, having an open API means the vendor has the ability to integrate with products, but the integration may need to be built out to connect the API to XYZ product, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Not having a technical resource on a CRM evaluation project is like buying a home without having an inspection. It’s a recipe for disaster. If your organization does not have the budget for on-staff technical resources, a temporary consultant should do the trick. If you don’t know how to properly vet their technical work, ask for references.

In conclusion, the above topics are not all of the components to look out for on software evaluations, but can vastly improve the evaluation process should these aspects be implemented. In any step of the evaluation process isn’t sitting right, ask yourself “Why?” If you can’t answer the question, then something needs to be adjusted along the way.”