In Part 1 of the SalesTech series, we explored the topic of choosing the right Customer Relationship Management tool - with tips to help you consider the right one for your business before you talk to any vendors. We understood the need for goals and to identify key features and must-haves upfront, as well as data requirements and definitions, budget for the project and the need to engage key stakeholders.
Part 2 of the SalesTech series focuses on procurement and the importance of getting this phase right to set your business up for likely one of the biggest SalesTech investments. Effective procurement of SalesTech is a cornerstone of modern business success. We will then explore how to get the best out of the tech you have procured. In an ultra-competitive environment, navigating and choosing is one thing, but how you execute and implement tech can really make or break success.
Now to start with procurement: too often we see SalesTech being chosen on the basis of a recommendation from others. Businesses may have another product from the same vendor in their IT stack, act on a sales pitch from a vendor or a conference/junket; all without taking the appropriate due diligence.
Key stages that are fundamental to effectively run procurement...
Stage 1 >>
This is all about the strategy and defining your goals. As touched on in part 1, defining goals needs to be done up front. Defining a clear strategy which, together with goals, encompasses a clear vision and associated use cases helps to clarify the problems you are trying to solve and align all key parties around common objectives (sales, product, marketing, IT and other departments).
A clear strategy not only helps with tool selection but to govern roll out. SalesTech implementations from procurement through to building maturity can take anywhere from 6 months to 3 years. Therefore it is important to keep anchoring everyone along the journey based on the strategy.
As part of this stage,we recommend conducting a needs assessment through analysis of current sales processes and identifying areas that could benefit from technological intervention (i.e. what processes can you automate). This particularly applies when defining use cases. CRM tools can be overwhelming in terms of their features and offering, so it’s important that your project is focussed on the specific sales and service process improvements and gaps you are trying to solve for. Engage with key stakeholders, including sales representatives, managers, and other end users to gather specific requirements and challenges faced by your team.
As part of this early stage in the journey, we also recommend bringing a cross-functional working group together – to ensure everyone is aligned from the outset before any vendor is engaged. By involving end-users, managers, and executives, you can gather valuable insights, address concerns, and procure a system that meets the needs of all parties.
Roles and responsibilities of the working group should be defined as well as how you engage as a group (i.e. cadences or how many times you meet and how regularly).
Stage 2 >>
Establish a realistic budget for your sales tech procurement. Whilst it's tempting to opt for the latest and most feature-rich solutions, you should align your budget with your strategy and goals. Your budget should cover initial implementation and also refinement for the first 12-36 months - (however long your full roll out takes). Following this, you will need to allocate an operational budget each year for further improvements, training and potentially new licenses as your business grows. In summary, there are four cost lines you need to consider; 1) implementation costs (project costs) 2) enhancement costs 3) license costs 4) ongoing training/onboarding costs
Once you have the budget, it’s important that you define the return on investment (ROI) potential of your CRM. This will ensure that it aligns with your financial objectives - for example, if you are looking to automate part of the sales process, you could establish objectives around time to sell or close, sales rep efficiency or reduction in operational overhead. In part 1 we recommended having a high level budget- in this phase it’s about being clearer on what that budget looks like and the return.
Stage 3 >>
This involves creating the key questions for your vendors to answer. This is usually in the form of a Request for Proposal (RFP) document based on your needs as a business. It is not simply stating “the system must do X” but rather “how does the system do X?”.
For CRMs, choose solutions that are scalable to accommodate your organisation’s growth. Additionally, ensure compatibility and seamless integration with your existing tech stack such as your ERP / finance system, marketing system and/or website. The ability of your SalesTech to work harmoniously with other tools is crucial for maximising efficiency.
As mentioned in part 1, successful CRM implementation relies heavily on accurate and clean data. Before migrating data to the new system, conduct a comprehensive audit of existing data, eliminating duplicates, and ensuring data consistency. This step is vital for preventing issues such as misinformation and data loss during the migration process.
Following some exploratory research on what's out there in the market, it is recommended that you short list at least 3 vendors to engage in the process. Some businesses have procurement requirements on how many quotes they need as part of any investment and procurement process, so now is the right time to also understand your individual business requirements.
Research the reputation and testimonials of the vendors you shortlist from other organisations in your industry. You should assess the level of customer support provided by the vendor to ensure timely assistance in case of issues or customisation requirements. You should also look for reviews, case studies and track record of these vendors. LinkedIn is a great source for finding such information.
Make sure you invest time to walk them through the key requirements as part of a briefing session, and that all vendors get the same information, to help you compare like-for-like. For example, if some vendors are asking questions – ensure all questions and answers are aggregated and responses are circulated to all.
Stage 4 >>
This stage is about engaging vendors for demonstrations of their tool to your working group and any other key stakeholders you need to influence as part of this process. Vendors should present live demos and walkthroughs of the tech based on your requirements.
It’s recommended that you allocate 2+ hours for each vendor as it’s important that you understand their tool and tech intimately. Remember that these are often 5 year (plus!) decisions that are costly to change, so you need to feel confident you’re making the right choice.
Given the sensitive nature of sales data, you should prioritise solutions with robust security measures. Confirm that the chosen technology complies with relevant data protection regulations and industry standards. A breach in security not only jeopardises sensitive information but can also damage your organisation's reputation.
You should also consider the training and onboarding process offered by the vendor. A comprehensive training program is crucial for ensuring that your sales team can effectively utilise the new technology. Look for vendors that provide ongoing support and resources to facilitate continuous learning.
Refer to the next stage for some of the critical elements to look for when selecting a CRM tool.
Stage 5 >>
is an optional phase but is highly recommended for CRM tools, given the resulting level of investment and change management for the business. This is a prototyping phase.
Take 2 vendors and move towards seeing the platforms in action with your data. This process can often be 3 – 5 days long – and it’s very much a hands-on test and prototype environment to effectively test drive the platform before purchasing.
You should signal early in the RFP process if this will be part of your RFP approach and determine how much it will cost you to engage in this process.
Things to look for as part of this stage:
User-friendly interface: A user-friendly interface is essential for the successful adoption of saleTech. Sales teams are more likely to embrace tools that are intuitive and easy to navigate. Consider conducting trials or obtaining feedback from end-users during this stage of the selection process in order to gauge usability.
Evaluate Analytics and Reporting Features: The ability to analyse sales data is paramount for making informed decisions. Assess the analytics and reporting features of potential solutions. Look for tools that provide actionable insights, enabling your team to identify trends, measure performance, and refine strategies. As part of this stage it is recommended that the vendor builds a dashboard or reporting for you to see your live data within the system. You will be able to assess how easy it is to build dashboards and reporting which is critical to a CRM tool.
Stage 6 >>
Complete your due-diligence by reviewing and negotiating pricing, conducting reference checks, and agree on timelines for implementation.
Don't get lured into special pricing or unrealistic time frames from vendors (from experience, all vendors have special pricing). Be open with the vendors about processes for decision making but don't let them control it - this investment and decision is too big and important for you not to control.
Another key tip is to undertake thorough reference checks by talking to the vendors about their experience. Ask them what they set out to do and how that is playing out post-implementation. Specifically get in and under insights to what went well with this vendor - focussing on strengths but also what didn't go as planned and why. Our recommendation is to personally speak to at least 2 other companies who are using this vendor.
Lastly, receiving a high level implementation plan and aligning it with the business priorities is key to ensuring you can actually start the project with the right level of support internally when planned.
So how do we get the best out of the SalesTech we have and what we procure?
A CRM is a critical tool for businesses aiming to enhance customer satisfaction, streamline processes, and boost overall profitability. However, the success of a CRM system is not guaranteed solely by its features; rather, it hinges on a well thought out implementation strategy.
Following are what we believe to be the key elements of implementing CRM the right way:
Invest in skills and knowledge
A new platform requires significant investment in skills and knowledge. This knowledge is not built by undertaking one training course but rather through a combination of learning on the job, training and others. One recommendation is to train super-users throughout the business across different teams and they can then train others. The other is to create a training library within your resource base (i.e. an intranet of the key tips and features).
Having specialists in the team helps, but, as with many of the tools we have touched on today, it is important that knowledge exists beyond that one person., One of the leading thought leaders in the SalesTech space suggests 90% of spend should be on people and 10% on tech – and currently it is often the opposite way around.
When bringing on a new CRM tool, you cannot expect it to solve and change everything on its own. Bringing on new internal tools requires thought about processes and how we change our ways of working to drive utilisation and adoption. We need to think about every stage of the sales and deal process - from lead generation right through to onboarding and growth, and the role tech plays at the start (rather than try to shoehorn it in at the 11th hour!). The same applies to marketing processes and how you engage customers through lifecycle management. This step is often a business-wide piece of work if done properly, with the customer at the centre of every decision.
Having clarity over ownership as well as responsibility of the sales tool and what it is made up of is also key. This includes what your team is responsible for vs IT as well as other teams. Some key areas that you will need to define owners for include:
who owns the data processes
who owns data quality
where the central source of truth is for the customer
what effective communication looks like,
what the minimum requirements are for capturing information about customer interactions
sign off of new features and the prioritisation process,
All of these questions need to be considered as part of a governance framework.
Investment & measurement
As referenced earlier, SalesTech requires ongoing investment; it is not a one-off investment. It will always start as a project, and then it needs to transition across to an operational cost over time. Costs go beyond the implementation and subscription costs – it’s about resources, improvements and upgrades, training and onboarding and all of the other aspects that need appropriate funding. Usually with an investment plan comes a business plan which aligns to the original strategy of why the CRM is an important investment for the organisation.
Continuously aligning the projects and improvement to this vision will help the business clarify reason and value as to why ongoing investment is critical for success.Define the clear measures of success and effectively monitor these as you scale to ensure you are delivering on the business case and demonstrating the outcomes you have committed to.
Continuous evaluation and adaptation
The sales tech landscape is dynamic, with new innovations emerging regularly. Establish a process for continuous evaluation and adaptation of your SalesTech stack. Regularly assess the performance of your tools against your objectives and be willing to make adjustments as needed.
A successful CRM implementation is a strategic journey that requires careful planning, collaboration, and continuous refinement. By following these guidelines, businesses can ensure that their CRM system becomes a powerful asset, driving customer satisfaction, improving operational efficiency, and ultimately contributing to long-term success.
At Arktic Fox we are helping brands consider what SalesTech is right for them, and how to develop a strategy that supports business objectives. Talk to us to find out more.