Choosing a CRM tool can be a tough decision. As my mentor Joe Fowler used to say, “I’ve never seen a bad presentation.” What he meant is the CRM representative is going to put his or her product in its Sunday best and parade it down the runway for you. What you don’t know is what you don’t know.

Choosing a CRM tool is a very important decision. Finding the right fit for your store will improve the probability of employee buy-in and use of the product. Too many companies grossly underuse their CRM tools and in some cases have no idea of the CRM’s capability or limitations. Maximizing the power of your CRM improves dealership culture. However, the opposite is true as well. Loose standards of adherence, lip service and failing to integrate the CRM into your processes in both sales and service can add to a negative culture.

One action you should take before choosing a CRM tool is calling some of the company’s current customers. During the presentation, take notes and create a list of all the features you are being shown. Add to that list the questions your team had for the presenter and his or her responses. Ask the presenter for a list of 10 referrals. You probably won’t call 10 dealers, but a list of two or three is likely to be clients the presenter knows will give the product a good recommendation.

Calling current customers will tell you the real story. Go through the list of promises made by the CRM representative and verify what you’ve been told. Getting a true assessment from a handful of users should give you a realistic expectation of the tool. To help you with some of the basics, here is a list of ten must-haves when choosing a CRM product.

1. No long-term contracts. A month-to-month agreement is best, but you can probably live with a six-month contract with a 30-day notice. Some of DMS providers offer CRM in a package, and I believe it is a mistake for dealers to get stuck in a long-term CRM contract.

2. In-house training. It’s important your team is thoroughly trained on the product. Many CRM companies are just show you the product. A flyover of the product’s features is not enough. The better your employees are trained, the more likely they are to be excited about the tool and use it.

3. Manager’s dashboard. It sounds silly to say it out loud, but it’s a challenge to get your managers to use the CRM. A dashboard will give your managers easy access to data that’s important in their day-to-day operations.

4. Detailed reporting. When you call the client-reference list your rep gives you, ask about the accuracy of reporting. You are going to hear “garbage-in, garbage-out,” but drill a little deeper and get some feedback. If you have a BDC, make sure you can pull process metrics on BDC representatives. So many CRM tools don’t have this feature, so business development managers have to come up workarounds or keep an outside log in Excel.

5. Easy template builder. During the presentation, ask the presenter to build a template. Have them paste pictures, add hyperlinks, insert code snippets for populating data, embed a video, and create headers and footers—the whole nine yards. It should be quick and easy, and it should work. A tracking pixel feature is important, as it allows you to see when an email has been opened.

6. Easy list upload. Have the presenter demonstrate uploading a prospect list to the tool. Some CRMs, even some of the more popular ones, don’t have this feature. In order to add a conquest list or manifest, the prospects have to be entered one at a time.

7. Easy campaign builder. You should be able to create a message, upload or build a target list, send the message, see when the emails are opened, follow up with a phone call, and track the effectiveness and ROI of the campaign.

8. Inventory matchmaker. A little-used but fantastic feature is the matchmaker. The CRM notifies you when a sought-after vehicle becomes available.

9. Do-Not-Call list. Make sure the tool has a DNC application and that your employees understand how it works.

10. Call-tracking integration. If you use a call-tracking service, make sure it will post call data to the CRM automatically. An outbound tracking feature is nice too, if you have a VOIP phone system.

The last thing I want to mention is the CRM champion in your store. New employees will need to be trained, and somebody needs to own the accuracy, adherence and functionality of the CRM. Dealers I work with who have CRM champions are good users of the tool and seem to get more out of it.

Vol. 9, Issue 2
About the author
Greg Wells

Greg Wells

Senior Partner

View Bio