Advice/opinions on CRMs?
January 31, 2007 7:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm a web designer and a new client is interested in a CRM (Client Relationship Management). I've never used them (though have used plenty of CMSes). She's mentioned SalesForce and I've taken a scoop through their site. I'm wondering a) what other CRMs MeFites can recommend and b) if anyone has any first-hand experience with SalesForce itself and can offer any opinion. Thanks.
posted by Manhasset to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Salesforce is a great product. (Disclaimer: I work for a Salesforce partner). Salesforce is quick to implement and the on-demand model means no major capital outlay to get started.

If you've never worked with it, you might want to bring in an experienced saleforce consultant though. It's not impossible, to figure out, but it's not trivial either.
posted by GuyZero at 7:45 AM on January 31, 2007

CustomerBase is another option.
posted by mattbucher at 7:48 AM on January 31, 2007

Others to look into: vtiger and SugarCRM.
posted by chrisroberts at 7:54 AM on January 31, 2007

Depending on what the client's needs are and if you are a drupal/open source fan, check out CiviCRM. This CRM stands for "Constituent Relationship Management"
posted by tingting at 8:05 AM on January 31, 2007

How well Salesforce will work depends entirely on what she wants out of a CRM. We're over 6 months into our SF implementation and there are still lots of kinks to work out. (We spent a year researching which CRM system to choose, and our rollout was so extensive we hired a seperate consultant to help us, like GuyZero suggested.) One of the biggest problems we've had is the ability to query Salesforce data in the negative; that is, Salesforce's reporting features can tell us how many of our clients are X, but it can't tell us how many are not currently purchasing Product Y. (Now we're on the merry-go-round with 3rd party software, etc etc) And our Sales team is unhappy with all the clicking around they have to do to contact their leads, log their activities, and so forth.

Generally speaking, the people at Salesforce are nice and helpful. But many times we've gotten stuck in our process (like the above-mentioned Sales complaints) and when we've asked, "What's the best practice for this? What do other companies do?" we've been told that every company is unique, and there is no one best practice, and that we basically have to figure it out for ourselves. (Of course, when they're selling it to you, they promise lots of Best Practice guides and help. In reality, none of this has been worth diddly squat, at least not to us.)

If your client's CRM system right now is a couple of spreadsheets and a Quickbooks installation, Salesforce is definitely going to be a step up. We may be unhappy with aspects of SF, but it's been more good than bad, and there's probably not a better system out there for our needs. We're just difficult customers, and we know that. If you have more specific questions, email's in profile.
posted by junkbox at 8:24 AM on January 31, 2007

Here are blog entries about SalesForce, written by my boss. We depend on SalesForce and are generally happy with it.

From my own limited use of it, I think it has a lot of room for improvement in terms of user experience and workflow.
posted by plinth at 8:28 AM on January 31, 2007

Response by poster: Hmm. Thanks for the answers so far. I'm still discussing things with my client but after scooting thru the demos at SF's web site, I think it might be overkill.

In an email, the client has said, "We need it to track our clients, their preferences, their trip history, and also to track suppliers, hoteliers, guides, local contact etc". (The company is in the travel business.)

Most of the SF stuff I saw seemed to be about customer support--tracking support tickets and such.

posted by Manhasset at 8:34 AM on January 31, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, and this is a new company, with no existing CRM or site in place.
posted by Manhasset at 8:35 AM on January 31, 2007

In terms of popularity, Salesforce is definitely the lead dog in the web based CRM business. It is extremely widespread in use. As mentioned above... as a web based app, there is always a ton of clicking involved.

Data entry can be tough going, what with all that clicking going on. A default implementation is fairly easy to setup, but it can and will get way more involved, depending on how much workflow, and business logic setup you want to go through.

If you are looking for a non-web based app, Goldmine has been used for years in small to medium sized businesses, and will generally be better received by the sales staff. However, this will require your own servers, and possibly a DBA to administer it. Initial starting costs will be higher.

There are a thousand other CRMs out there, from Microsoft to ACCPAC, to the open source SugarCRM & vTiger (they forked a couple years ago).

What to look for? Does the CRM integrate with your accounting software? Do you have web based sales that can be fed into your CRM automatically? The solution you choose today will likely lock you in for a long time to come. Nobody wants to export all of their customer data and import it into another application.

Salesforce has a low initial startup cost, and a relatively small barrier to entry. But you need to do some research before diving in head first.
posted by stovenator at 8:40 AM on January 31, 2007

To add to my previous comment, let me say that a fool with a tool is still a fool. A structured sales process is what will make the company successful. Salesforce is a tool that supports a structures sales process. If there is no process and no incentive for salespeople to use a tool, they'll just see it as a pain in the ass. (Re: "Sales team is unhappy with all the clicking around they have to do to contact their leads, log their activities, and so forth.")

Salesforce is definitely about more than ticket tracking. But it may not do exactly what you want out of the box. No CRM system will.
posted by GuyZero at 8:43 AM on January 31, 2007

I use SalesForce on a daily basis at work and have been very pleased with it. It's a great product that has helped my company greatly.
posted by dead_ at 9:50 AM on January 31, 2007

Wow, "great product that has helped my company greatly." What's wrong with me today.

But yeah, good product.
posted by dead_ at 9:52 AM on January 31, 2007

One small note is that SalesForce can be pretty heavily customized and has a ton of web service apis, so if your company has a completely different process from the out-of-the-box Salesforce install, you can modify it as needed and integrate it with other tools really easily.

I think these apis are only available to the professional and enterprise subscriptions though, which might not be the version that your company might need.
posted by rks404 at 9:55 AM on January 31, 2007

My company is in the process of switching from ACT! to Salesforce. While I loved ACT! I am looking forward to the switch. I ran the free 30 day trial at Salesforce so I could get an idea of how it works before we converted as a company.
posted by illek at 7:57 PM on January 31, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone!
posted by Manhasset at 7:59 PM on January 31, 2007

I just installed SugarCRM in my (small) business. It's easy to setup, and I really like the fact that I have the database on my own server - so if I want to do a mail merge or a backup, I just do it.

I'm not a computer guru, but probably more computer savvy than an average business owner.

From what you say, your client needs only basic functionality, so setting Sugar open source on a machine at the office will work nicely. She can put in clients, and keep notes on each. If you're more sophisticated, you may even track all emails etc. you exchange with a person.

I looked into different solutions, and frankly $100/user/quarter seems like a good deal, but if you have 5 folks doing simple tasks with the system, that tends to add up rather quickly.
posted by Yavsy at 8:21 PM on January 31, 2007

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