Step 1: Define your requirements
The first step is to find something that fills your goals, processes and requirements. In other words, don’t choose a CRM for its features. Find one that helps you do what you’re already doing more efficiently.
Consultants, especially smaller firms, often lack established methodologies within their business. They prioritize the actual work over organizing it, which leads to wasted time with manual systems—like inputting data into Excel. Procuring a CRM at the early stages of a business is a smart idea, but it’s also never too late to streamline your existing process.
Consultants can also benefit from tapping into the well from the Internet of Things (IoT). CRM systems can help consultants collect data on every call, email and task, and then create reports that help to formalize activities.
It’s wise to create a statement you can use to summarize your needs when speaking with potential vendors. Something along the lines of:
“We’re looking for a CRM that helps our consulting firm qualify the best leads, streamline and personalize outreach activities at scale, and provide reporting which allows us to strengthen our brand and client interactions.”
This will help you come up with a list of features you need to achieve your goals. Required features might include sophisticated reporting, email templates, pipeline management or phone calling capabilities.
Furthermore, you should also take into account what happens when you become a customer. When speaking with vendors, ask questions like:
- What’s your onboarding process like? Do you guide us through the process or do you provide a self-service platform?
- What’s your training material like? Do you provide hands-on training or just the documentation?
- How will we import our existing data into your solution? Can you help us with this?
- How do you integrate with other business-critical platforms, such as our customer support system?
Remember, your chosen CRM must work nicely with other systems and processes you use in-house. This should be a careful consideration when evaluating CRM systems.
Step 2: What’s your budget?
Now you have your requirements clearly defined, it’s time to calculate general costs and how much you can invest into a CRM platform. This is key as, if you’re aiming to implement this on a low budget, you may need to sacrifice some advanced (maybe even “nice to have”) features to get a solution implemented.
However, a better approach is to look at the potential ROI a CRM can bring. Sure, it might require a heavy investment upfront. But if a new system makes your team far more productive, it’s easier to justify the cost.
It’s also important to consider that consulting firms are constantly threatened by new competition, making it that much more important to gain a competitive edge.
According to one study, 40% of firms said that their biggest concern was increased competition.
Investing in a CRM tool that frees up admin time, enhances sales, and streamlines processes may be just what you need to stay ahead of the game.
It’s important to measure all activities your sales and accounts team are conducting on a day-to-day basis. Define what these activities are, along with the number of hours spent completing them. You can then figure out not only how to free up time, but scale your sales function in the process.
Step 3: The vendor selection process
With your needs laid out and budget clearly defined, you’ll have a better understanding of the type of solution you need. Do you need something lightweight (like a SaaS platform) or a more bespoke, enterprise solution?
If you’re a smaller business, finding a SaaS solution for your needs is the best way to go. The evaluation process will be simpler, and you can usually get started in a matter of weeks.
When speaking with vendors, ensure you cover the following:
- Business goals: What are you hoping to achieve? What are your revenue goals for the next 12 months? Show them you’re looking for a solution that helps you reach these goals.
- Information about your company: Talk about who you are, your mission and the problems you help your clients solve. Share the benefits you can bring to vendors, too.
- Timelines: Set milestones for each step of the process. When are you hoping to implement your new CRM system? What do you need help with and when do you expect that help to be executed?
- Ask for references: FInd out if vendors work with other consulting firms like yours and ask for an introduction. This is the best way to get an impartial perspective on the solution you’re looking into.
View this process as a way of communicating your needs. Sales teams behind the best CRMs will guide you through the key features that will help you achieve your goals and meet these needs.
Step 4: Evaluating and making the decision
Once you have several options, you’ll need to “test drive” them to get a feel for the potential each can bring. Trialing each CRM will also give show you the overall experience they deliver.
As well as references (see step 3 above), you can get third-party perspectives by searching for queries like “[crm name] review” in Google. You can also look to directories like G2.
Here’s a simple process you can follow to get your teeth into each CRM platform:
- Demos: Request reps to run you through the features of each CRM on your shortlist. If they do their job properly, they should clearly tie your needs to how the product can fulfill them.
- Collect sales material: Read through case studies to see the value other organizations (especially consulting firms) get from each CRM system. Use pricing sheets to compare the costs across each potential platform.
- Try before you buy: After the demo, get your hands on each platform by asking for a limited trial. There’s no better way to get a feel for software than giving it a test drive.
- Negotiate: Finally, start negotiating on price and discuss your timelines.
Using this process, you’ll have everything you need to make an informed decision. Make sure to get input from other members of your team, including those in other departments. They’ll help you identify areas you may have missed throughout this process.
CRM technology isn’t just something you should use to “keep up with the times.” When used properly, it can enhance your sales process and skyrocket your business development efforts.
To get this right, you’ve got to start with your sales processes. Make sure you have a system that delivers value to prospects upfront, and shows them how you can solve their problems.
Most importantly, use your chosen CRM for more efficient communications. From the first touch-point to the follow-up, your sales reps and account managers won’t need to think about when (or how) to reach out to prospects again.