Investing in customer relationship management (CRM) tools for your business is a time consuming but vital step in transitioning to the next phase of growth. It requires  research, commitment, and some patience; but as a result you can expect in return increased productivity, greater visibility of your customers and the ability to scale. So, why do some small businesses constantly hold back from taking this vital step in the journey to greater success? Why does CRM investment repeatedly fall down the priority list?

This article focuses on five common mistakes small business owners make whilst evaluating a CRM, and delivers guidance on how to avoid making them.

1.     Price: if a solution is cheap you could be getting what you pay for

When investing in a CRM, it’s a common mistake to answer the lure of a cheap solution. Let’s face it, small businesses run lean - paying less for a solution can be attractive. But, do they really give you a return on your investment? In my experience, they promise the world and appear to do the job, but not necessarily all of the job. If you’re evaluating a CRM and one solution is far cheaper than its competitors, there’s a good chance there’s a reason for it. Understanding the acronyms and feature functionality is a must, if you want to avoid reinvestment months down the track. Research your product. Find out if it does what you want, but also what else does it do that you don’t necessarily need yet - but might soon? For example, does it integrate with marketing automation? Does it facilitate collaboration around customer records and files? The fact is, there is a vast amount of information online which demonstrates the features and functionality of each and every CRM on the market. Taking note of their customer stories is another great way to see how other business owners are using CRM to their advantage. If you’re a visual learner YouTube is a helpful source. Industry analysts, like Gartner can provide unbiased reviews that help you get a spin free opinion on the market.

2.     You don’t have the time to research or evaluate your solution  

First of all, if you don’t have time to research your solution, you absolutely need a CRM. If your business has reached the point in which there are not enough hours in the day, and manual processes are keeping you at work to all hours of the night, then you need to take a step back and look at how this can be fixed. A CRM offers task and process automation and workflows. Hours of laborious data entry can be removed from your day and replaced with focus around driving sales, improving customer retention, and strategically impacting growth. Time is your greatest friend, and a CRM will give that back to you - if that isn’t reason enough to do some research and sign up for an evaluation, I don’t know what is.

3.     You fail to define your challenges prior to evaluating a solution

Too often, business leaders embark on the evaluation process without fully understanding what it is they really need. This is costly to the business, and draws out the evaluation process, wasting time and risking revenue. When you map out your business, understand precisely where your roadblocks are in terms of sales, growth, or customer retention, then take the time to understand what you need to do to overcome them it becomes easier to find the technology solution to your problems (and key to your revenue growth).  

4.     Bottoms up - you fail to implement from the top down

Change management is key. Businesses lead from the top. Senior management holds the greatest influence over the business, and therefore should ensure the entire workforce is on board when  evaluating technology Lead from the top and the bottom will follow. Often a business will implement a CRM but fail to evoke change due to senior management not driving the necessary behaviours required to make it successful. If the business owner or general manager uses the system effectively themselves, and actively generates excitement about what it can deliver to the businesses, that buzz - and those essential learnings - will inevitably filter down and impact positive change. Remember, if you want to SEE the change, BE the change.

5.     Underestimating the role of the Sales Consultant

Often a business will allocate a manager to the role of researcher and evaluator of a CRM solution. Whilst this is not necessarily a bad thing, they often don’t possess the understanding or insights into key business challenges. This can mean they are cagey about providing the sales consultant with key information necessary to building a great solution. Small business consultants provide a wealth of knowledge and experience. Leveraging this resource properly is a key part of the evaluation and solution building process. Being completely transparent with the sales consultant about your business challenges, and your success drivers, will go a long way to getting you a highly customised solution - one that is vastly more effective than one settled upon by your management with no external input. So, it’s wise to work with your consultant - be open, ake a step back and listen, because collaboration is key to a system that is truly customised for your business needs.

Following one, some, or all of these tips, you might just discover the decision to invest in CRM doesn’t have to be a challenging. With the right commitment  of your time and resources, you can drive positive change in your business and impact growth and success beyond your expectations. Go on. I dare you to give it a go!