Small Business Customer Relationship Management

Research CRM Software Choices

January 28, 2008

The first step in choosing a technology is to research what’s out there—to get familiar with the lay of the CRM land. The goal of this stage is to narrow the field down to 6 technologies that appeal to you.

Most of the companies I’ve seen implement CRM have checked out no more than 3 companies and only because they are the ones that happened to be top of mind. I’m suggesting going much broader with as many as 12 companies to do the preliminary research phase with. Doing this will:

  • Give you a much better sense of what’s available
  • Make you a much more educated consumer
  • Increases the likelihood of selecting the right technology for you
  • What To Look For
  • When you’re in the Research Phase, the idea is to get a basic understanding of the variety of technologies available. You will get a good feel for what the choices are and should be able to easily identify 3 to 6 technologies you feel should be looked into more closely.

Popular CRM Packages

There are literally dozens of CRM packages available. In the next table, I’ve put together a list of 12 popular packages—by no means is this a complete list, but it does represent a good sampling of available technologies:

Alphabetical List of Some Popular CRM Software Packages

Package, Manufacturer, Website

ACT!,  Sage,
 GoldMine, FrontRange,
 Maximizer, Microsoft,
 NetSuite, NetSuite, http://
 Onyx , Onyx,
 Pivotal, Pivotal,
 Sage CRM (formerly ACCPAC CRM), Sage,
 SalesLogix, Sage,,,
 SalesNet, SalesNet,
 Siebel, Siebel,

Don’t Get Drawn In To A Sales Cycle

At the Research Stage, you don’t want to get bogged down on any one solution. This means avoiding salespeople and CRM Partners! Don’t look for or accept the direct help of the manufacturer or a Partner at this point.

If you are contacted, politely and firmly let them know: “Thank you for your call; we’re currently doing broad research. If you’d like to assist at this stage, you can send me any information on your solution that you can.”

If you’re pushed for a meeting, push back saying: “Now is not the right time to meet. We’ll be putting together a short list of companies to present at a later date.” Be sure to stick with the Insider’s Buying Process. Find out more in the CRM Survival Guide.

This approach of staying in control and making it clear that you’re following a process of your own has two purposes:

  1. Keeps you from getting bogged down.
  2. (more importantly) Sets the tone with the manufacturer that you’re serious and knowledgeable which will translate into better treatment and negotiating strength down the road.

Don’t Install A Trial Version

It’s amazing how many companies have called me up in the past and have asked me to send them a trial version of the software. Despite my best efforts to explain to them that after they install the software, they’ll look at the screen and say “Now what?”.

Let me be more direct with you than I was able to be with former prospects of mine: “Trial software that you have not been trained on, that has not been configured for your Business Requirements is useless. It’s a waste of time and I advise you to steer clear!”

What Lean Manufacturing’s 5S Philosophy Can Teach CRM

October 12, 2007

Lean manufacturing’s simple philosophy of 5S has had a profound impact on the bottom-line of shop floors and these same principles can have a profound impact on your CRM project.

If you’ve spent any time at all looking at the principles of lean manufacturing then you’ve come across the idea of 5S. It’s a Japanese concept that has been translated into English (the Japanese words all start with “S” and magically 5 English words all starting with “S” were found too!)

They stand for:

Sort – get rid of unecessary items and free up valuable floor space.
Set In Order – place things for optimal and obvious usage
Shine – keep the shop, machines and the tools clean.
Standardize – adopt best practices that are followed by all.
Sustain – resist the temptation to go back to old ways and keep pracitcing the first 4 S’s.

Don’t Be Fooled By Its Simple Appearance

I must admit…the first time I came across the 5S philosophy, memories of my mom keeping a neat and tidy house came to mind and I didn’t take it very seriously. However, after hearing and reading about how adopting the 5S philosophy can have dramatic impact on both morale, efficiency and the bottom line, I started realizing that 5S is an example of the power in simplicity.

How CRM Can Benefit From 5S

Inevitably the simple truths have a universal application and this is exactly the case with 5S and its application to CRM.


One of the keys to getting users to use your CRM system is to give them a simple, easy to use system. Simplifying the user interface by removing all unecessary menu items, buttons, tabs and fields makes the system much more intuitive, allowing your users to focus on their job at hand.

SET IN ORDERThe progression of simplifying the user interface is then to arrange the interface for optimal and obvious usage. This means, doing such things as:

Arrange the fields visually in the order that users will most likely use them, so they can tab naturally from field to field.
Consolidate information onto fewer screens so users have fewer screens they need to navigate between.
Use workflow engines to step users through business processes and where possible have the system fill fields in for them.
Design the fields in the database with their ultimate usage in mind. If users need to be able to filter or report on various fields, make sure you’re designing the system to make the filtering and reporting tools easy to use for that purpose.


A lot of data goes into a CRM system and it’s important to “shine” that data or keep it clean. The old expression “garbage in, garbage out” applies to your CRM system. If you expect to quickly and easily generate targeted marketing blasts or get useful and actionable information out of the system then you need to pay attention to keeping the data clean. This includes:

  • Removing duplicate records.
  • Keep addresses up-to-date.
  • Look for incomplete records. This includes records missing key information (e.g. phone number, address, key demographic fields)
  • Keeping the data clean will foster a sense of ownership and buy-in with your users.


Once you’ve looked after the first 3 S’s, it’s time to turn your attention to standardizing how the system is being used. Ultimately, everyone’s various inputs into a CRM system comes out as a single output…be it a report, forecast, alert. Therefore, it’s critical that the information going in is standardized.

A great example of standardizing information is with the Sales Funnel. Involve your salespeople in developing standards around:

  • What the sales step are.
  • How to guage certainty of the sales closing.
  • How to estimate sales revenue for a deal.
  • What do the terms “lead”, “suspect”, “prospect” really mean in your organization.
  • By standardizing your usage of CRM and the definitions for the words you use, you’ll be creating a new corporate culture that will pay dividends for you.


Implementing a CRM system represents a big change to a company. Not only do users have a new system to learn, they have new behaviours (habits) to learn. Resistance to this change is natural and its critical that the temptation to revert to old ways be resisted. You must sustain your CRM initiative with:

  • continued training
  • enforcement of compliance
  • system improvements to make the system easy to use and relevant to the business objectives you’re trying to achieve

BENEFITS OF APPLYING 5SWhile the 5 S’s sound simple on the surface, implementing them can take leadership and follow-through. I dare say that most CRM systems in small to medium sized companies could stand with a good treatment of 5S. The benefits are increased morale, efficiency and profitability.

Take a look at your CRM system and for each of the 5 S’s, ask yourself what you can do to improve your CRM system.

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