(This column originally appeared in Forbes)
CRM consultants can provide value, but they’re not required.
Do you need an outside consultant to help you implement a CRM system for your business? The answer is: it depends.
My company implements CRM systems. We specialize in five of them. We are very knowledgeable about them. We know how to configure users and security. We know how to customize their screens, views and fields. We can write reports, scripts and small apps around them. We can integrate your CRM system with other systems or just setup integration that’s already available from others. We migrate data. We train people. We setup AI tools, workflow rules, alerts, triggers and automation schedules.
But here’s the thing: you don’t need us. You really don’t. Why? Because none of this is that hard.
We’re good, but what we do isn’t brain surgery. We’re not building the space shuttle. We’re not curing cancer. Pretty much everything that we do can be self-taught. If you want to learn how to do these things with your CRM system and your application is provided by a good vendor then I’m sure there are countless opportunities to attend trainings, go to conferences, watch videos or read technical materials.
So why hire a CRM consultant? For two reasons.
The first reason is to simply save time. I could mow my lawn but instead I have a landscaper do it. I could upgrade my bathroom but I choose to have a contractor do that. I could do my own taxes but I have an accountant for that. These people are specialists in what they do. I do what I do and they do what they do. I would rather do other things with my time, be it working, reading or riding my bike. I would rather pay someone to do these tasks so I can do other things that I enjoy, or that I’m better at.
The same goes for a CRM consultant. Sure, you can do your company’s CRM implementation. But you probably won’t do it as well as someone who specializes in doing these things. I would make a mess of my yard, screw up my bathroom and be in trouble with the IRS if I did these things myself. I’d rather let the experts do these things (with my supervision, of course).
The other reason is to minimize problems. A CRM consultant works with CRM systems all the time. When you get someone who specializes in your product they will know the ins and the outs, the good, the bad and the ugly. They will know the minefields to avoid and the best features to deploy. They’ll use their experience with their other CRM clients to advise you on the best way to setup your CRM system.
Even if you choose to limit your use of a CRM consultant and do some of the things on your own, you’re still best advised to have them recommend the best ways to set things up, the fields to use, the views to configure and the access to allow. This way you’ll be pointed in the right direction and you won’t go down a road that will cause you problems in the future.
It’s your choice. My advice though is to use a CRM consultant at least for the second reason so you don’t paint yourself into a corner.
Regardless of what you do, here’s the most important thing; have an internal owner of the system. Some call this person an administrator or a power-user or whatever. But that’s the person who’s ultimately responsible for the completeness and accuracy of the data in what is, in the end, just a database.
That person should be tasked with getting your system configured and used. They will need to train your staff and be available to answer any questions. Depending on the skill level of that person — it could be a simple administrative employee or someone more technical — you’ll want to make sure that person is given the resources to do their job effectively. That could mean paying for training materials, seminars and conferences. Or it could mean paying for a CRM consultant to advise that person and be available to answer any questions along the way.
So do you need a CRM consultant when you implement a CRM system?
Again, that depends. But I would say probably yes even if you use that firm in a very limited capacity because you’ve got a good administrator/power-user internally. CRM consultants aren’t cheap (I’ll write about that in the future) but they can provide a significant value for making sure your CRM system is used the right way and increases your company’s productivity and ultimately…profitability.