How to buy ... B2B CRM software

Business-to-business (B2B) CRM is all about delivering to the customer, and selecting the right tools for your business that will also help to retain customers is key, says Paul Pitman.

Consider your users

Users of B2B CRM systems are very different from the users of your ERP (enterprise resource planning) or accounting systems. Don't assume they will be happy to fill in forms of data just because a vendors' solution requires them to do so. Select a solution that will provide the users with tools they want to use, tools that deliver a benefit to the user, that work with their client and prospect lists in the way that they are used to working.

Recognise that delivering quick, high-value wins will secure you more user buy-in than all the project documentation in the world, and that buy-in is the real secret of success.

Be aware of the end customer

Good CRM is about how the customer perceives their relationship with you - not how you perceive it. Check that the solution provides tools to facilitate customer interaction. For example, can customers subscribe or unsubscribe from a campaign? Make sure the solution works in all the different ways your customers interact with you - e-mail, post, telephone, face-to-face, and via your web site.

Provide sufficient access

For some users a PC connected to a local database server is a powerful tool that allows them to complete their job. But while web-based access may be a wonderful, cost-effective solution for IT professionals, for a sales person in their car between meetings, it won't be accessible.

The way you deliver the information to the user is key - if they cannot get access when and where they want it, then usage will drop. Remember users will only put data into a system in direct relationship to the benefits they extract from it.

Check your supplier's credentials

Surrounding yourself with expensive consultants and complicated methodologies will not ensure the success of your CRM project. Check that the supplier has experience that is relevant to you and your business.

Spell out the returns

For each item of data you plan to store within your CRM system, calculate the costs of acquiring that data and updating it. For each of these cost items, demonstrate the return that using this data will provide to the company in the time period for which the data will be current. Are the benefits relevant to the user and what is their payback?


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