by Richard Barrington
The value of a contact management solution is often determined by how it meshes with a company's infrastructure. For example, some contact management solutions possess certain characteristics that are especially important to small- and medium-sized businesses, but may be less significant to larger, more established companies.
The process of finding the right CRM solution, regardless of a company's size, involves understanding the wide range of options available and then identifying which ones best serve a business's particular needs.
To approach the decision process for a contact management solution in an orderly manner, it is helpful to know exactly what a CRM system can accomplish.
At its most basic, a contact management solution is a database--an electronic storehouse of customer and prospect information. From a more dynamic perspective, a CRM system can become a tool for salesforce automation (SFA). SFA programs can make sales organizations more productive by leveraging the time of key producers and providing management with actionable information. The following are possible components of an SFA program:
- Planning and keeping appointments
- Identifying cross-selling opportunities
- Tracking phases of the sales cycle
- Facilitating the definition and monitoring of territory activities
- Providing the means to efficiently set and track individual and team sales goals
CRM Characteristics to Consider
Selecting options for a CRM system depends partly on the extent of an organization's SFA goals, and partly on the nature of the organization itself. Here are a few CRM characteristics that all companies should consider:
- Remote access. Enables operation in multiple locations and keeps sales people from being tied down to their desks.
- Internet hosting. Internet-based solutions ease remote access, and hosted solutions reduce the IT burden on smaller organizations.
- Security. If confidential information is being handled, this is especially important for Internet-based solutions.
- Ease of use. An SFA program can only go so far as the users take it. A system that can get people started with a short learning curve is a plus.
- Reporting. The power and flexibility of the system's reporting capability are invaluable when turning a CRM system from a user reference into a management tool.
Creating a decision matrix can be an excellent way to find the right contact management solution. Start by listing CRM providers down one side, and the characteristics that an organization considers priorities across the top, with the most important grouped farthest to the left. Marking off which providers have the corresponding characteristics can help management ascertain the plusses and minuses of each potential solution.
Business Week, March 17, 2006. "A Primer in CRM"
Harvard Business Review, September, 2006. "The New Science of Sales for Productivity"
New York Times, November 14, 2007. "Keeping Up With Customers: A Phone List is So Yesterday
Richard Barrington is a freelance writer and novelist who previously spent over twenty years as an investment industry executive.