A good Customer Relation Management system gives you the ability to automate the hundred of steps it takes to stay in contact with thousands of your prospects or clients at the right time with the right information and build the relationship and trust they have in you. Studies show the number 1 reason clients change companies is simply due to individence. They are taken for granted or never hear from the company they purchased from.
What makes matters worse for you as the owner, is that most CRM or SFA vendors (consulting firms) are in the pocket of one or more of the large software manufacturers. Manufacturers leverage the good will of consultants who direct you under the guise of consulting, as to which products you need to buy to better manage your customer relationships or automate your selling activities; based on which software they are aligned with, not the process you need.
Here's an example: Most companies use some form of accounting software; Peachtree, QuickBooks, MAS90 etc. and the accounting software has automated processes built in that maps the whole accounting system out for them. The ability to produce accurate accounting is not as dependent on who you use as your data entry or accounting person, it's controlled by the process.
So why should not it be the same for the sales and life cycle of a prospect to client to repeat client?
Please understand, the goal of the "consultant" is usually to get you to purchase more software, and most of their consulting time is spending that software for you. (It takes months and years and can get quite expensive).
Here are 12 questions that you can ask before you invest your money in CRM or Sales Automation Software or even Marketing or Sales Consulting Services.
1. Q: Can you show me a "customer relationship life-cycle" flow chart for my industry, so I can better understand the process we're trying to manage?
2. Q: Can you show me a Sales Action Plan you've developed, to prove your expertise in my industry?
3. Q: Is there a documented process? (Show me.) If it's not easy, my people will not use it.
4. Q: What activities will it perform on my behalf so I'll have more time to sell?
5. Q: How does this system AUTOMATE the sales and customer relationship management process so me or my people can not mess it up or drop the ball if we get too busy?
6. Q: Do you know how to engineer a real time reporting system to notify me when contacts in my database are ready to buy, and also notify me if someone fails to perform a required activity?
7. Q: Do you have references I can talk to who will back up your claims?
8. Q: Can you tell me exactly what this is going to cost me (in writing)?
9. Q: Can you tell me exactly how long it's going to take?
10. Q: Do you provide any guarantee what you're proposing will actually work?
11. Q: What kind of return on investment are you proposing and how long will it take me to actually profit from your suggestions?
12. Q: Are there any annual support, maintenance or upgrade fees required?
What you should be looking for when trying to decide on which vendor to help you, is someone that has a proven turn key system that is inexpensive and comes with a high degree of "certainty" that you will increase your sales and better managing your customer relationships, using inexpensive off the shelf contact management software. Ask for references; call the references, and ask them about their results.
Remember, it's all about one simple fact: You need to be making more money coming in vs. going out. Keep this in mind as you investigate the different solutions. Ask the sellers how they will accomplish this and ask they help you calculate a return on investment (ROI) to make sure you can recoup your investment within 1 year.