One concern that can come up in deciding on whether or not to move to a cloud CRM solution is, “Will we be able to customize CRM?” Since cloud solutions are generally SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions, the worry is that since it’s not going to be in-house, it’s only going to be provided “as is” without the facility of being able to tweak it or customize it to a company’s needs.
It’s a valid concern; a CRM solution should be as tailored to a company as a suit would be customized to the wearer. With CRM, there truly is no “one size fits all”—despite the approach of many traditional CRM developers.
It turns out, however, that this really isn’t an issue with the cloud—it is with the particular CRM application chosen.
What is Customization Anyway?
There are still CRM applications on the market that are indeed “static”; you can change them very little to not at all. But most CRM developers have realized that companies do need at least some level of customization, and have made it available.
It is interesting that when CRM customization is possible, there are different levels of it. For example, you can add in modules from third-party vendors to enable functionality such as mailing list synchronization or viewing of CRM contacts through Outlook or social media support. Others offer the functionality of being able to customize data fields. Another vendor even touts a “customization” feature of being able to change the color scheme of the user interface.
Yet others offer such a plethora of “features” in their standard offering—in an effort to be everything to everyone—that CRM is a complex confusion that becomes highly difficult to implement.
Some of this functionality is probably useful. But are these kinds of things all a company really needs in order to fully adapt a CRM tool, and have it truly empower its sales force?
For cloud CRM, there is indeed a deeper and often simpler level of customization needed, and forward-looking companies are taking this to heart.
Companies all have different paths through their sales pipelines—and such a path is known as the sales process. It is the precise series of steps, discovered by trial, error and success that takes a sale from lead to close, and beyond.
The only way a CRM solution is going to really be worthwhile to any sales rep is if it exactly mirrors his or her company’s sales process. In this light, suddenly a CRM tool—something that was mostly an administrative annoyance for your sales force before—is quite useful, flexible and intuitive. Data can be saved to the stage of the sales process to which it applies, and can be easily found again. Sales can be visually tracked and priorities can be set and confidently acted upon. Sales analysis and forecasting can be conducted without all the extra research and work that went into it previously.
The Real Flexibility of Cloud CRM
But once a cloud CRM solution has been customized to reflect a company’s sales process, what then? Any company that adapts a sales process and then considers it is thereafter carved in stone is dreaming. A company is a dynamic operation. Markets fluctuate. New and improved sales strategies are evolved. New products are released. A sales process perforce must be subject to change, with steps added, modified or deleted to reflect all these possible variables.
To the degree a CRM solution is difficult to modify to reflect such sales process alterations, it will become outmoded and used less and less by the sales force. Other solutions such as spreadsheets will be resorted to—solutions that are out of coordination with CRM and the rest of the company. As many traditional CRM solutions have, it will become more of “something else we have to do” than the highly useful sales tool it should be.
For any cloud CRM solution being considered, customization should weigh heavily in the decision. In the end it will mean a CRM solution that takes its rightful place as the backbone of your sales—or not.
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