Finding and working with CRM consultants: a complete guide
The term ‘CRM consultant’ covers a large range of people.
They can carry out very different roles and come in many different guises, from one-man-band freelancers to employees of the company you license your CRM from. Broadly, they are there to help businesses get the most out of their CRM systems.
They also don’t come particularly cheap - so if you are going to engage one on your project, you need to make sure you’re getting the most out of your investment. To help you do this, this guide takes you through:
- Different types of CRM consultants
- Whether you should hire a CRM consultant
- How much CRM consultants cost
- How to find a good CRM consultant
- How to work with CRM consultants
CRM consultants come in many forms
Let’s run through some different types of CRM consultant you might run into:
These guys build and customize CRM systems. They’re usually working away in the shadows but some of the more personable types may be put in front of clients to help with very specific problems. Most of the developers work in-house at large vendors like Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamic. Some freelancers also work in this field.
This is again a broad term but these guys tend to work out the best way to deploy the CRM and then bring the right resources together to get the deployment right. Large vendors have their own project managers and you can also find independent companies. Agovo - a London-based company who offer CRM implementation – is one such example. There are many companies offering similar wares.
Analysts will also be involved in selecting and optimizing CRM systems. This applies to anything that a client needs to make their CRM work for them. This can be quite general but training staff and choosing the right CRM are common areas they will work on. Many freelancers also work in this space.
The third and final group are distinct because their main focus tends to be on gaining, retaining, and growing their customer base. This normally involves using data in the CRM to develop strategies, hence most CRM strategists need to have a good understanding of CRM systems to best deploy the data they hold for marketing purposes.
CRM consultants can be expensive and not all projects are successful - in fact, many are not. Deciding on whether to hire a consultant is complex. To enables thinking about this in a constructive way start with these five questions:
- What is the cost of this project not working? This is another way of making a call on how important the project is. The greater the cost of failure the more you should consider spending up front.
- What skills do we have in-house? Considering how much value your team can bring to the project will influence your decision. Outside consultants are likely to be more expensive than in-house staff but may be necessary.
- Do we know exactly what we want? Unless you have a very clear picture of what you want to achieve and how you plan to achieve it, then bringing in expertise to establish those parameters is often helpful.
- Are we open to improvements? Maybe you have a set of clear parameters but acknowledge that there is room for efficiencies beyond those you understand. If increasing efficiencies is appealing CRM consultants should be able to help.
- Do we have access to the right consultants? You may need a specialist. For example, you may need to make a difficult decision on which CRM to deploy, or require assistance with a technically difficult integration. If this is the case finding the right person can be difficult. The vendor will probably have the right engineer but it may be hard to source them for your project and finding a very niche consultant who genuinely has the right skills can be challenging.
Starting with these five questions should give you an insight into both the need and viability of hiring a consultant. From my experience spending time finding the right consultant to work with pays huge dividends in the long run.
Overall, it is normally a good idea to get some kind of help from a CRM consultant. Whether that is just a few days implementation or some knowledge on deploying the right CRM, a good consultant can ensure your direction of travel is the right one.
The obvious downside is cost and the risk of getting poor advice. Cost should be a straightforward decision but poor advice is everywhere. It can be a long process to get the right fit, so once you’ve accepted that this will be an expense, do ensure you dedicate enough time to hiring the right consultant for your needs.
This can vary dramatically from a few hundred dollars per day for decent overseas developers to over five thousand dollars and upwards for a top end CRM consultant. Assuming this isn’t a very small or a very big project a medium size CRM project from five to a 100 man days will cost between $750 and $1250 per day per consultant.
If the CRM is an integral part of the business having someone in the team who can work on projects and bring in consultants occasionally can work well, and some companies have made hires on the back of this. For an experienced CRM consultant who can develop and project manage expect to pay over $90,000 per year. This can work out cheaper in the long run, and additionally having someone with deeper knowledge of your CRM is hugely valuable.
Many vendors have their own consultants but they also accredit companies as partners.
- Microsoft Dynamics CRM has a Gold Partner programme.
- Salesforce has Certified Partners in different regions.
- Oracle has Platinum Partners in different regions.
This is a good place to start because these companies have an accreditation and something to lose if they do a bad job. They trade off these accreditations so if they are seen to be doing poorly then they can lose a lot of deal flow.
Aside from this, looking at freelancing sites can be productive because you have the advantage of looking at reviews and work completed. Upwork is one of the most comprehensive examples. General considerations when hiring should be:
- Look at specific expertise they have and match that with what you need.
- Accreditations and industry awards.
- References: ask to speak to people who have worked with them before on a similar job.
- Experience of the actual consultant you will work with.
- Always have an initial meeting.
- Activity on social media: are they an influencer and commentator in the space? If so look at what they are saying.
Here are a few more specific questions that work well:
- What do you see as the key challenges in this project and how can they be overcome?
- What plans are you going to implement to make sure the project doesn’t go over budget?
- How are you going to measure the success of the project?
The most important part of the project is setting up the project particulars at the start. You should give a clear written specification to the CRM consultant; if you’re not sure about the how to do so, at least have a set of objectives. This document should be added to and agreed before the project begins.
So many CRM projects have disagreements about scope and responsibility. Ensure that you clearly lay out, in as much detail as you can, who is responsible for what and the exact outcome anticipated. There will be elements of the project where the outcome is subjective, for example, employees are able to use the system effectively. Where there is subjectivity try and quantify the outcome.
Communication should be constant throughout the process so you can anticipate any problems. Daily meetings are good - at least at the start - and make sure there is a staff liaison who will work with the CRM team to make sure everything is running smoothly. Problems are common in these processes, so ensure the communication channels are there to pick any up.
The most important factor is hiring the right consultant and giving them a clear view of what you want completing. Good consultants are not cheap, but it is the ultimate false economy to not spend money on a CRM consultant and then have a system which isn’t working for you as well as it could be.
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