When purchasing a CRM, you are purchasing a relationship. Get it right.

RelationshipWhen your organisation is purchasing a CRM, you are not just acquiring a piece of software. You are also purchasing a relationship. You need to get it right.

A relationship? That’s right. And, it is one of the most important relationships of any supplier relationships your non-profit will hold.

Non-profit staff tell me all the time the reason they like CRM A over CRM B is they really liked the person selling them the CRM. He or she took them to lunch and “we really hit it off”. Or, they connected with the person demonstrating the CRM or who showed the PowerPoint presentation on the first day.

That’s nice. Staff of the same CRM supplier should get along and should work well together.  The relationship you are purchasing is not with the sales team selling you the CRM. After you sign the contracts and agreements to purchase, you may never see those parties again. The relationship is with the services delivery team and your ongoing account or customer success manager. These are the people who you want to make sure can work in a synergistic way and really know and understand their product and your business.

How do you study this important relationship?

I suggest the following:

  • Ask to meet with the team who will be implementing your CRM for your non-profit organisation.
  • Understand the length of service of each of these employees. Are they new to the supplier and/or new to the product.
    • Newness to either could be problematic for your organisation.
    • You do not want a consultant or team of consultants to be learning about the business, the software, and about the non-profit industry while you are paying top dollar for their consulting services.
  • When conducting reference checks, interview other non-profit organisations about the strengths and weakness of this team.
    • Make sure you talk to staff at all levels of the non-profit organsiation who have worked with the team.
  • Check turnover rates of staff working for the supplier.
  • Study like-sized projects and understand how the team you are offered worked in a similar situation.
  • Check staffing levels at the supplier. Is the one person assigned to your project the only consultant available for the duration of the project? (It happens).
    • This could be problematic. What if the person takes a holiday, has an extended illness, or has some type of family emergency?
    • What if the person burns out and simply needs to take a break from the implementation?
    • Who is there to back them up? Who works for the company and will be available to offer the consultant a sounding board or ideas sharing?

Staffing of a CRM supplier make or break a CRM project. Do not go into a relationship with the belief it will all work out or somehow the supplier will make it right. A CRM supplier/non-profit relationship is most similar to getting married to someone. You’ve signed the marriage license (contract and agreement to purchase) and now you need to see how well you live together. Figure that aspect out before you get married. Ask others who have lived with this supplier whether they threw their socks on the floor, took part in the housework, and were easy to get along with on a daily basis. Did they stick to the family budget? Or, were they constantly overspending and asking for more money? Don’t just believe the organisation/referee the supplier puts forward. Go out to at least three non-profit organisations – two of them you surface on your own or through your own network. Remember supplier referees are a bit like your and mine referees in a job interview situation. Are we really going to put someone on our referee sheet who might say negative things about our performance?

Spending time on this piece of investigation will pay multiple dividends throughout the CRM implementation process. You may very well learn some negative traits about the supplier through this research. Doing so does not end the prospect of signing the contracts. It gives you the information need to be able to develop a mitigation plan to deal with those trains during the implementation rather than being faced with these surprises and have to scramble while you are meant to be focused on your design, configuration, testing, training, and change management.

Staffing a CRM project is critical. This post talked about the staffing from the CRM supplier side. The next blog will focus on staffing from the non-profit side.