Buying a CRM can be a costly and timely. But it doesn't have to be.
First-time implementers of a CRM solution will be looking for a plug-and-play, low-cost solution. In order to find this you need to follow the CRM buying process, which includes proper evaluation (of vendor and self), demos, informed decision making, implementation, training, and support.
To help you through the process of buying a CRM solution we have created a step-by-step process:
Step 1 is the easiest, yet often overlooked. You need to carefully evaluate your, and your company's needs before looking for a CRM solution. To determine your current setup and future CRM needs fill out a CRM evaluation questionnaire—this will help you to establish benchmarks and goals for your CRM implementation.
Step 2 is more time-consuming than the first, as it is vendor evaluation. Once you know your needs from step one (which should include budget, required features, etc) you need to evaluate the vendor in your price range that suits your needs. Try looking for vendors that have experience in your vertical, then narrow down that list to a shortlist based on the features that you want. Remember that this is a preliminary vendor search and you should be sure to let them know that they are on a list—and that they should be hungry (read: willing to negotiate) for your business.
Step 3 requires a demo from your short-listed vendors. Each vendor should be able and willing to do this—as it is the best glimpse into their solution. This stage will tell you whether this solution fits your preferences—before it is too late and you already purchased the solution. Consider bringing multiple staff members into the demo—since without their adoption rates purchasing the solution would be a waste of time and money.
Step 4 involves finding out what post-sale support these vendors offer. Service agreements and support will be critical to successfully implementing, running, and maintaining your solution. Don't just take their word for it though—ask around to existing customers and check non-sponsored internet reviews.
Step 5 is critical. Before you decide on a solution, ask what their implementation strategy is. Do they require anything from you? Will they offer training to your staff? Is installation included in the cost of the solution and/or the service contracts? How long will the installation take? Do they have a money back guarantee should the solution not be what you were looking for (or shown in the demo)?
Step 5 is the end result—choosing the solution. Based on the trial, and available support options you should be ready to choose a solution. But before you make your final decision, ask what their future product road-map is? And if they have any new products or features currently in the works? Will these be included? Is their solution expandable/collapsible? What are their payment options?
In the end though consider choosing the vendor that you enjoy working with—as you may be entwined with them for a long while. But, of course, don't forget features and services.