The Hazard of Buying CRM from Vendors Who Don’t Believe in CRM

I’ve devoted a lot of ink – well, I guess in this age, a lot of electrons – to the idea that there’s a difference between a CRM company and a CRM vendor (Here’s an example – from CRM Buyer). The distinction I draw is this: a CRM company embraces the concepts of the discipline of CRM and lives them on a daily basis; a CRM vendor simply makes a product, but the relationship part of the acronym somehow eludes them.

That tendency is particularly troubling. In order to be successful in helping its customers understand what’s possible with CRM, vendors should model the behavior of a CRM company. After all, these businesses had to understand what that behavior looked like to develop products that worked, right?

A lot of CRM vendors (names not mentioned to protect the not-particularly-innocent) are, ahem, deficient in actually practicing customer relationship management. You see evidence of that in how they treat their customers come contract renewal time, the way they require customers to squeeze existing processes into the format their software requires, and even in the arguments they make about competitors during the selling process.

Courting a customer with a litany of half-truths, distortions and misrepresentations about other CRM vendors is a terrible way to start a relationship with a customer. It assumes customers aren’t smart enough to research their major software purchases – a miserable foundation for relationship of any type. And these vendors’ are then going to help their customer build customer relationships?

If you believe, like I do, that trust and respect are the underpinnings of customer relationships, then this vendor is setting its customers up for disappointment and failure from the outset.

So what has caused them to forget the CRM behavior that led them to create their products in the first place? It’s as if they don’t believe in the underlying concepts of their own products. Could it be that selling CRM and the ideas around it is intellectually difficult, and it becomes easier and quicker (especially for larger vendors) to slip back into the software industry sales tricks that have worked in the past, but which also led to adversarial relationships between vendors and customers – and which stand in stark contrast to what CRM is supposed to represent? It’s either laziness or intellectual rigidity at work here – neither of which is particularly helpful in thinking about or deploying CRM.

So if you’re a buyer, what do you do? First of all, confirm what your vendor is telling you about the competition, especially when it seems particularly damning. If you discover that they’re twisting facts to obstruct your path to a purchase with fear, uncertainty and doubt, take a hard look at whether they’re going to be a viable partner in helping you transform your company. If they’re not customer-centric, it’s doubtful they can help you become customer-centric.

The other advice I offer is this: ask the vendor to show you how its using CRM to sell you CRM. This can be revealing: some vendors don’t use their own CRM products for CRM, which is telling. Others will hem and haw because of what the contents of their customer records say about you and their attitude toward you as a customer. If they’re doing it right, you should be both surprised by the depth of knowledge they’ve built about you and pleased by how deliberately and decisively they’ve used elements of that information.

IF your CRM purchase starts to smell like an ‘80s-style software sale, you can bet that your relationship with the vendor will have an ‘80s-style stink to it – and there’s absolutely no reason to subject yourself to that. We know what CRM is supposed to do – it’s supposed to help you build close relationships between buyers and sellers that last over time. If a vendor is willing to engage in activities that indicate he’s looking for an adversarial relationship and is only concerned about making the sale today for this quarter’s numbers, get away from that vendor and look for a CRM vendor who actually understands CRM.


7 thoughts on “The Hazard of Buying CRM from Vendors Who Don’t Believe in CRM

  1. This is true for CRM vendors, but for all kind of vendors too. Some companies use the vendors as “cannon meat” to get in the “wolves mouth”. But the relationship beteen the reseller and the company can disfuctional. The Customers, clients, are in and out company at all the value chain. Maybe further in future the vendors will become conlsuntants in business solutions and the companies will take the responsability of supporting the process.

  2. This is a great post. CRM systems are becoming more and more important however many industries still don’t see the value of these systems and are moving away from the initial cost, not realizing that this investment will increase their overall performance by a thousand-fold.

    A new event highlighting CRMs, their value, the type of systems, how to implement them and what advantages they bring to the company is being held in Berlin, Germany. The focus is on utility companies (EVUs). Check out more details on the following website:

  3. I love the advice in this article to ask the vendor to show you their CRM system. I think most people investigating CRM would be shocked to see how few of these vendors and in some cases CRM specialists, don’t actually use the CRM tool they are trying to sell you.

    I would add to this advice and suggest that you take note of some of the “Features you cant live without” that the salesman will no doubt be pitching and then see if they actual use these features themselves.

    When I am giving on online demonstration of our CRM solution I use our live CRM system. I do this because we not only use all of its features, we have added and customised it to do other things which shows the potential client how flexible it can be.

    I guess the old saying “Practice what you preach” is a fitting way to end my rant.

    • Martin – that’s a rant worth repeating! Your customers are going to go into their experience with your system with added confidence, a better idea of what they can accomplish, and an idea of your roadmap and how things are added to it. And, if the plan is to have customers for a long time, those are all strong foundational pieces of knowledge.

  4. On the flip side of the coin the vendors and CRM specialists who do not use their own products are missing a trick.

    Our comprehensive use of our CRM solution Gold-Vision CRM means that all the development work we do on our own systems gives us the ability to offer better value and choice to our clients.

    Approx. 1 year ago we re-developed an area of our software into a fully functioning helpdesk system in order to help us better support our clients. We now sell this extra development with most CRM solutions we implement………had we not developed this for ourselves, it would not be included in demo’s and therefore would not have been adopted as much by clients.

    The dark horse of this discussion is the multi-vendor reseller. How they can sell a client one solution when they have chosen another to run their business is beyond me.

  5. Great post, really!
    The only reserve I would point out is when the vendor sells a CRM software that is more adapted to manufacturing and not so much to service. In which case, not using its own product is nothing but normal.

Comments are closed.