First, I think it’s necessary to point out that we don’t sell (product or services) direct to end-users. Our main role is supporting ACT! Consultants, Resellers and add-on vendors around the world. But I have worked with CRM products for 24 years and with ACT! for 21 and was an ACT! consultant for about 10 of those years.
I always recommend getting a consultant involved in the implementation of a CRM (even an entry-level product such as ACT!) as a good idea for anyone who wants to ensure a successful implementation and maximise their Return on Investment.
It’s not just a question of figuring out how to use it… most people can figure out the basics of ACT! very quickly. It’s a question of customising the power of the product to make the best use of functions that you might not look for (and therefore not find) or utilising the right add-ons to add functions that are not in the core product.
Investing in a suitably skilled consultant will save you money, especially once you factor in the costs of your own staff that many people forget. To assume you can always do it cheaper yourself is to devalue your own work.
Some like to have the CRM vendor do the work... but this is like having a car engineer teach you how to drive. They don't always have an unbiased view and when the only tool they have is a hammer, every problem resembles a nail.
It’s also useful to note that not all consultants have the same skills and expertise and you need to pick one that can do what you need – just like picking a hair-dresser or a builder. Some have more technical skills, some have better business workflow comprehension. Some have a more available support staff to deliver on an SLA and some are better trainers. Not all skills are might be required for your project.
So, other than cost (which I'd argue should not be a primary deciding factor when choosing the person implementing your access to data as valuable as your client base), what questions do you think a user needs to ask a prospective consultant to select the right one for their project?
As you can see, I believe it is critical in determining the right partner (and the relationship should be one of a partnership) to ask the right questions. This also identifies the first selection criteria – Does the consultant “listen” to the questions and respond appropriately? If it’s a technical question that they don’t have the answer for, they should be able to find the answer and respond back to you in a timely manner.
Do you have a “chemistry” with your potential new partner? Do they understand what you're saying. Do you feel comfortable communicating with the consultant.
Does the consultant show an “Insight” into your business need? Can the consultant ask pertinent questions that make you think about how you are doing things or are they just accepting that the way you usually do things is also what is best for you. You must accept that their experience might have taught them processes that are an improvement.
Have they got a proven track record in projects requiring similar “skills” and are they willing and able to provide references you can contact?
Do you perceive them as “honest”? Is the consultant willing to tell you something can't be done or will be prohibitively expensive and able to offer alternatives or do they just say yes to anything and everything.
Do they understand your professional “jargon” (or at least are self-assured to ask for an explanation when they don’t) and can they explain technical aspects in a way you can understand them.
How “responsive” are they? While speed to return sales calls isn’t always the same one the project is running or worse, once it’s complete and you have a need for support, if they are too slow with this, they are unlikely to be better later. Do they have an SLA with penalties if they don’t perform?
Are they willing to discuss agreed “goals” for a successful project? The goals should be measurable and usually relate to a Return On Investment or satisfaction of a specific set of needs.
Does the “estimate” seem real? Does their quote of hours and/or money seem realistic or are they promising you the world for a dime delivered tomorrow.
As you can see, I regard price as the least important concern and it should only be considered when all other aspects have been satisfied.
Most CRM vendors will have a selection of Certified or Authorised Consultants on their web site – and this is a good place to start. For ACT!, Sage has this at www.act.com/acc. For Asia Pacific ACT! users, we have our own list at the GL Computing recommended consultants page
If anyone has any thoughts or additions, please add a comment to this post or via the GL Computing Contact form