The decision to switch to a new CRM is not one to be taken lightly. On a daily basis, your sales team relies on your CRM for new leads and opportunities, to remind them what needs to be done, guide them through car deals and keep them on track to meet business goals.


Yet, just about every dealer has switched to a new CRM at one point, typically because of a change in management, but sometimes because they want to try the latest shiny new technology.


Whatever your reason for wanting to switch, here are a few tips to guide you through the vendor selection process and help you make a decision you won’t regret.


Don’t Chase Utopia


If your current CRM isn’t working for you, it’s important to figure out where the source of your problems lie. If your new sales manager is requesting the switch, ask for a list of reasons why. Then do a little investigating. For each reason, identify whether the issue is a product, vendor, process or people problem.


Make a list of the features that are most important to your team. Write down your sales process and ask potential new vendors how their CRM can be customized to your processes.


Vendor Presentations


Do you remember what you ate for lunch two weeks ago? How about two days ago? If the answer is no, how do you expect to remember all the details from three different vendor presentations over the course of a few weeks?


Taking detailed notes during presentations is important. Have a written list of questions for each vendor, plus a checklist of your most important features with room for notes on how each feature works.


Without detailed notes, it’s common for dealers to confuse one vendor with another, forget which vendor had which feature, or the benefits that one vendor offers vs. another.


Then again, some dealers go overboard in the opposite way. They create a 28-page product RFI with endless questions, 90 percent of which don’t have anything to do with what they really need.


A happy medium between these two extremes is recommended.


Identify a CRM Champion


The relationship between a CRM vendor and dealership tends to work best when the dealer assigns a primary point of contact. Many years ago, we dubbed this person the CRM Champion.


The role of the CRM Champion has changed over the years. Originally, this person made sure all the ups were logged, opportunities were captured, and input information from daily work plans into the CRM because the salespeople wouldn’t do it.


Now, salespeople are responsible for entering details about their own ups, conversations and work plans. The role of the CRM Champion today is more about setting KPIs, tracking goals, and monitoring daily activities to hold the team accountable. Your CRM Champion should also know how to mine your database for new opportunities, in addition to your regular ups and leads.


The CRM Champion trains new team members and sometimes plays the role of coach. This is an important role, so be sure that whoever you assign, or steps forward, is passionate, dedicated and detail oriented.


Allocate Enough Time


When you move to a new house, it’s a great opportunity to get rid of all the junk that you don’t want to move with you. That’s why people have garage sales and haul bags of stuff to donation centers.


When you move to a new CRM, the same concept applies. Your current CRM probably has hundreds of templates that haven’t been updated in years. Do you still have your 2005 Thanksgiving email promoting free turkeys?


Prior to installation, audit and update all templates, and eliminate old ones. Review your processes to see if there’s room for improvement. Update workflow schedules to make them more efficient.


Be sure to allocate enough time to do all this before your installation. Better yet, make this a pre-requisite for your team to accomplish these tasks before you commit to switching.


Don’t Commit to Long-Term Contracts


The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. When you make the switch, you may find yourself standing in a pasture with a septic tank, so why commit yourself to a long-term contract?


Fifteen years ago, contracts were the norm. Over the years, the industry evolved to where month-to-month commitments became the standard. Recently I’ve noticed the pendulum has swung back to long-term contracts. The reason for this is because implementing a new CRM has costs associated with it, and dealers don’t want to pay for everything up front. So, vendors accommodate them by incorporating the cost into a contract. Then the dealer is committed.


So, you save a few bucks up front but you’re stuck with a CRM you hate for a year or more. It’s actually cheaper to pay up front than to buy your way out of a long-term contract.


Also, be cautious of contracts that contain auto-renewals. What your vendor may not tell you is that the auto-renew kicks in 60 days before the actual date of renewal. Read the fine print and give yourself options, not obligations.


Following these tips should help you make the right decision for your dealership, and your sales team will thank you.

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