Picking a CRM solution

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CRM's status as the hottest sector in the enterprise applications market has spurred many startup companies. Its high demand has also prompted hundreds of technology companies to try to position themselves as CRM providers to capitalize on the industry's profits.

Because demand for the software is so high, many vendors have developed distinct niches by catering to a specific vertical market, software capability or company size. In fact, many CRM vendors rarely compete against each other.

However, the movement of so many technology companies into the CRM marketplace, coupled with rapid technological advancements and constant vendor consolidation, has thrust the CRM industry into a state of constant change. Each week, new vendors enter the market. Some exit altogether, while others are acquired for strategic purposes. From entrepreneurial startups to VC-backed startups to established corporations, no CRM player is immune to the constant changes the industry faces.

In light of that, an organization seeking to deploy a CRM system must carefully examine its needs and pose pointed questions that will reveal which CRM vendor will best fit its unique requirements.

Such questions include: What kind of company will be better for your long-term goals in CRM — a smaller vendor or a larger vendor? Is there an advantage to working with a privately vs. publicly held CRM vendor? Will the CRM vendor be a long-term partner?

An organization searching for a CRM solution should look beyond its relationship with a vendor and try to anticipate what it might be like to work with that vendor long after the software system is sold.

No CRM company can claim to be more stable than another vendor based solely on size or ownership structure. To thoroughly evaluate which vendor to partner with, CRM buyers should focus on strength of the product suite, the vendor's experience in the CRM industry, its corporate vision, its consistency in serving organizations the same size as yours and references from its previous customers.

Considering these factors will help an organization choose a CRM vendor that will be a partner for many years. As a result, the organization's CRM investment will provide a great return well into the future.

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