How to Select a CRM Consultant and Avoid Costly Mis-Selections

May 16, 2022
14 min

Based on the study by Grand View Research, Inc, the global customer relationship management (CRM) market size will reach $157.6 billion by 2030. It means that the number of CRM consultancies is only going to grow, and it can get harder to pick the right CRM implementation consultant.

If you look answers to questions like “How can a CRM consultant help my business?”, “Why do I need a CRM consultant?”, or “What does a CRM consultant do?”. Or if you find yourself in need of external assistance with optimizing your current CRM system but have no idea where to start, keep reading to find out how to select a CRM consultancy for various needs.

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What Does a CRM Consultant Do?

 

CRM consultant responsibilities lie in various customer relationship management services related to selecting, implementing, and optimization of the CRM system. There are two types of CRM advisors: functional and technical consultants.

 

What is a Functional CRM Consultant?

 

CRM functional consultants are responsible for the functional design of the CRM solution. They define and collect the functional and non-functional business requirements throughout the different phases of CRM implementation.

Functional consultants conduct CRM systems analysis to keep them in line with these business requirements.

CRM consultants design, configure and adjust system functionality to meet the business needs. They craft functional specifications and communicate with the technical team to ensure functional requirements are understood and built as required.

Also, CRM functional consultants document all implementation, configuration, support the client during user acceptance testing and prepare training for key users.

 

What is a Technical CRM Consultant?

 

Technical CRM consultants are responsible for conducting technical analyses of the customer’s system requirements. They are involved in discussions of technical aspects with pre-sales and functional people.

Also, CRM experts participate in building, testing, and deploying CRM solutions based on the functional requirements of the customer.

Technical CRM consultants provide integration development to external systems and web services and take part in creating the design, technical specifications, and data models for complex CRM implementation projects.

Moreover, CRM advisors not only can consult clients and support our customers with technical questions but also mentor junior members of your team.

CRM Consulting Options: In-House, Outsourced, and Freelance Experts

 

CRM consultants can perform both functional and technical roles at the same time. Besides that, there are three major hiring options to engage with a CRM advisor.

You can hire an in-house CRM consultant or outsource it to CRM consulting firms or independent (freelance) consultants.

If it’s more or less clear with in-house and freelance CRM advisors, let’s clear the fog around the CRM consultancy and consulting partner’s functions.

 

What is a CRM Consultancy?

 

There is no single CRM agency definition. Generally, CRM advisors provide a vast scope of CRM consulting services like defining industry and client specific business processes, collecting corporate requirements, supporting the definition of a CRM vision and roadmap, and configuring and customizing CRM solutions.

 

What are CRM Consulting Partners?

 

CRM Consulting Partners are certified consulting companies that are verified by CRM system providers like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, or SAP.

All the certified consulting companies must align with CRM vendor standards: have certified full-time employees and a track record of successfully completed projects.

Moreover, these CRM consulting agencies can focus not only on Salesforce or MS Dynamics consulting and development but also can provide other technology services, like custom app or CRM development.

The CRM consulting partner like Ascendix will conduct a thorough discovery process and present a State of Work (SOW) – a proposal outlining the specific deliverables, clearly defined amount of hours, and total cost.

You’ll have a full team of specialists at a reduced cost compared to hiring them separately, and on top of it, you’ll save more time on hiring processes.

Now, let’s compare the pros and cons of all three hiring options:

Pros of CRM Consultants Options

 

Pros of In-House, Independent CRM Consultants and Consulting Companies

CRM Consultant Type
Pros
In-House CRM Expert

  • Deep Understanding of the Company Processes and the company vision, goals, and needs,

  • Complete involvement into the project,

  • Less time on online conferences, calls, chatting, and emailing because you can discuss all the issues face-to-face for less time,

CRM Consultancy

  • Team extension for supervising complicated customizations and managing complex development work,

  • Lower hourly rates comparing to in-house specialists,

  • High-security standards compared to contractors to remain a consulting partner,

  • Extensive expertise thanks to a larger pool of experts like developers, architects, and business analysts,

  • Reduced total cost of a CRM project,

  • 24/7 customer service availability.

Independent Freelance CRM Consultant

  • Low cost,

  • Culture fit (Ability to hire a freelancer from your location who speaks your language).

Pros of In-House, Independent CRM Consultants and Consulting Companies

 

Cons of CRM Consulting Options

 

Cons of In-House, Independent CRM Consultants and Consulting Companies

CRM Consultant Type
Pros
In-House CRM Expert

  • High staffing cost that besides salary includes benefits, training, and equipment costs,

  • Limited access to expertise,

  • Time spent on persistent skill and career development ,

CRM Consultancy

  • Higher cost compared to contactors,

  • Tight schedule CRM consultants due to engagement in several projects at one time.

Independent Freelance CRM Consultant

  • Limited expertise,

  • Limited resources availability,

  • Not a good fit for complex projects,

  • Risks that expected level of expertise and service may not correspond to promised ones,

  • Long timeline of performance.

Cons of In-House, Independent CRM Consultants and Consulting Companies

 

CRM Consultant Cost 

 

Common CRM Consultant Cost Models

Pricing Model
Description
Fixed Project Cost
The fixed total cost of the project after all the estimations of project scope and delivery timeline have been done.
This billing structure allows avoiding any unexpected expenses in the future. However, you can always discuss new ideas and recalculate the final cost.
Flat Monthly Fees
This cost model implies paying a flat monthly fee for a set number of hours you can use per month.
It’s a good option for CRM maintenance and support of basic ongoing projects.
Pay-Per-Hour
This payment option fits for short-term implementation projects that do not require much involvement in specific needs of the business or digging into the specifics of the client’s industry.
Common CRM Consultant Cost Models

 

Check how much it costs to hire a CRM consultant in different regions and what makes up a real cost of CRM implementation in the post.

 

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How to Select a CRM Consultant: 10 Tips

 

Once you’ve decided on the type of CRM consultant, hiring, and billing options, you should consider other important factors for CRM consultant selection. Among which are:

 

1. Years in CRM Consulting Business

 

CRM consulting is a crowded space with many firms jumping on the bandwagon of today’s most popular platforms like Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Firms that have been around to witness the evolution of the CRM space have developed best practices and tips/tricks that only come from years of in-depth specialization in a certain discipline.

Many companies considering a CRM solution have users with past experience using entry-level and low-cost contact management solutions like ACT, GoldMine, Maximizer, and Telemagic.

While these tools weren’t great at everything, there were certain user experiences and features these new users really liked and that they wanted to be emulated in the CRM system.

And having a consultant who has been around long enough to appreciate those nuances and offerings can be invaluable. Because they can help you select the optimal CRM, not the one they know.

 

2. Expertise with Multiple CRM Platforms

 

Exposure and alignment to more than one CRM platform allows the consultant to align their interests with yours and remove bias.

Having exposure to multiple tools and platforms can provide a more well-rounded- perspective. It also helps eliminate blind spots and past patterns of thought that often keep developers from thinking of new and better ways to solve problems.

 

3. CRM Product Development Experience

 

Finding a firm with experience in delivering both product and professional services integrated with CRM platforms can lead to a more solid solution for your custom project.

Companies with their own CRM products and experience building commercially available products on top of a CRM platform have a better understanding of user needs and can be invaluable.

They already have solutions to typical business challenges and talk your language.

Moreover, such CRM consultancies can provide quality control and testing that is necessary when building a product that is to be sold, deployed, and supported across a large audience of unique users. However, this is a rare thing among agencies that focus solely on consulting services.

 

4. Specialty and Industry Focus

 

Every business is unique, so make sure a consultancy takes time to learn your business and asks detailed questions about your current situation and expectations.

Seek companies that have specialized or, at least, worked in your industry. Because it’s much better to engage with a consulting company or a consultant that understands your business specifics instead of “teaching” the consulting firm about your business basics.

 

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5. Delivery Сapacity

 

Work with a consultancy that treats you as a priority if you want to meet deadlines.

Don’t fall into the trap that the largest firm is necessarily the best fit for your CRM project. Pay attention to how they communicate with you, how fast they reply to your emails, their level of engagement during calls or meetings.

Be wary of quality control issues and excessive burn rates on consulting hours.

 

How to Select a CRM Consultancy

How to Select a CRM Consultancy

 

Good freelance CRM Consultants and small CRM consultancies will be, most probably, busy, so make sure to have enough time for your research. Don’t forget to ask them when could they start working on your project.

Pay attention to the complexity of your project and make sure the make-up of the consulting team is appropriate for the objectives of the CRM project.

Lower complexity projects can leverage multi-faceted consultants who possess enough skill to be the project manager, business analyst and developer. It will lead to significant efficiencies and cost savings.

Larger and more complex projects may require that you have specialists within a certain task type instead of a “jack-of-all-trades” consultant.

 

6. Selected CRM Implementation Approach

 

Align your vision of the most optimal CRM implementation approach with what your consultant has to offer.

Because not all CRM implementations require the same approach or methodology.

Make sure your partner has the ability to flex based on your business requirements and culture.

 

CRM Implementation Approaches Ascendix

CRM Implementation Approaches

 

“As Is” Approach

 

Simple “As Is” approach allows streamline the deployment by not having to build out features and functionality specific to your business.

Instead, you can focus on data transformation and training. This can greatly reduce the costs of implementation and speed up the time to value of the investment.

 

Proof of Concept (PoC) Approach

 

There are certain occasions where the vision of the project is a bit elusive and the idea of sitting in a conference room whiteboarding session discussing requirements isn’t the best option.

Entering into an iterative “proof of concept” engagement can take the obscurity and academic nature of requirements collecting and turn it into a visible, tangible, and interactive model.

 

Structured Agile Approach

 

For projects with more complexity that are larger in scale with hundreds if not thousands of users across multiple business lines, integration needs between systems, and custom development, a bit more rigor may be necessary to control the variables such as timelines, budget, and scope.

This approach will likely require dedicated project management and business analyst skillsets to navigate the early stages of requirements gathering that dictate the success or failure of a project of size.

 

7. Use of Offshore Resources

 

As collaboration tools have continued, the technology community has evolved into a true global marketplace.

Some firms in the United States have invested in building out offices in other countries to gain access to more plentiful talent pools and provide more cost-effective solutions for their customers.

Being originally a Dallas-based consultancy, Ascendix expanded its presence to Southern and Eastern Europe to enable effective cost compression without losing US quality standards.

 

More ideas on how to select a CRM consulting firm and what mistakes to avoid.

 

8. Don’t Focus on the Least Expensive CRM Consultant

 

The first lesson we learned the hard way…make sure that you are not influenced by low-cost providers.

Any cost savings may result in getting consumed by extra hours needed to complete the project or significant delivery issues.

Some firms offer a “mixed delivery model” . It combines the customer-facing roles of a project manager, business analyst, and solution architect which are resourced locally, and the development capacity located in another country to bring in better cost compression.

While not the least expensive, there are material savings with this model while maintaining the “feel” of a State-side experience.

 

9. Pay Attention to Time Zone Differences

 

Projects simply go better when you have interactive dialog and communications with those performing the work.

IT Outsourcing firms that have their offices in countries with minimal overlap in the United States can put an unnecessary strain on a project and compromise timelines and delivery quality.

 

10. Make Sure You Understand Each Other

 

While English is widely spoken in most countries today, you want to ensure that the selected consultant has a sufficient level of English proficiency in both oral and written forms.

Otherwise, details can get “lost in translation” if you do not make this a priority.

5 Steps to Take Before Looking for CRM Consultancies 

 

Do your homework and be ready to explain what you miss with your current CRM system, what challenges you are looking to accomplish.

 

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Step #1. Identify Decision Makers

 

Identify decision-makers from every department. If you have multiple offices, then from every office. It is crucial because quite often, they work differently and face different challenges.

 

Step #2. Collect and Document Requirements

 

It’s better to formulate the requirements as soon as possible. Make sure you’ll take into account your future plans before even selecting a CRM system.

E.g., right now you might not do email outreach from your CRM system and you don’t need lead scoring.

But the time flies, your marketing team will start generating more leads, and your sales team will need to prioritize them. Not all CRM systems will have this functionality or even smooth integrations with the tools you might need in the future.

It might be quite costly in the future to accommodate this request or you might even need to change your CRM software.

That’s why you need to devote enough time to formulate your needs, including your future growth.

Every good CRM Consultant will help you formulate detailed requirements (and should!).

But!

Ideally, you should select a CRM consultant that has already solved the same challenges multiple times.

So you should have a list of top challenges you are going to accomplish with the help of the future CRM software.

Seek a CRM consultant that has relevant experience and can come up with different solutions to your needs.

 

Step #3. Formulate CRM Consultancy Requirements

 

Now when you have a better understanding of your needs, make a list of must to have and nice to have requirements for your future CRM Consultant.

Do you know what CRM to go for? If yes, look for a CRM consulting partner that specializes in this CRM, e.g., Salesforce Consultant or Dynamics 365 Consultant.

Need help selecting CRM software first? Look for consultancies that work with multiple CRMs so they won’t sell you the one they know, but will help you select the best fit.

Do you need custom functionality? Look for partners with their own CRM apps or at least multiple successful case studies where they built custom software.

Do you plan to solve non-trivial tasks? Make sure to ask CRM consultants if they have relevant experience.

Do you need someone local to work on your project? Think if your firm is ready to work with local agencies only or you will consider consultancies from other cities/states/countries.

 

Step #4. Create a List of CRM Consultancies to Contact

 

Whenever you need to select a vendor, you can check not only their websites but their social media presence.

For example, you can start with LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network with nearly 660+ million users in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.

Here you can quickly see team members of the company and even their skillset. Sure, not all people have LinkedIn profiles, but still, it is a good start.

Below is a screenshot of the Ascendix Technologies LinkedIn profile. As you can see, we have 160+ employees and are located in Dallas, TX.

 

LinkedIn Profile of Ascendix Technology

LinkedIn Profile of Ascendix Technology

 

When you shortlisted CRM consultants, prepare your questions.

 

Step #5. Check CRM Consultancy Reviews on Independent Platforms

 

Another valuable source you can use to find the best CRM consulting agency is review platforms like Clutch.co. There you can see a true picture of the consultancies’ strengths and weaknesses, their scope of expertise, and industries in focus.

Ascendix constantly appears on top of the Clutch.co and the Manifest rankings as a Top Global CRM Consulting Firm and B2B Company.

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14 Questions to Ask your Future CRM Consultant

 

To help you successfully select a CRM consultant, here is a list of questions you can ask:

 

  1. How long have you been in CRM consulting business?
  2. Do you have expertise in my industry? Could you share case studies/portfolio/references?
  3. How have you solved X challenge? (it might help you get new ideas for your future implementation)
  4. What is your average project size (in terms of money, users deployed, data migrated)?
  5. What CRM platforms have you worked with? Do you have an affiliation with a particular CRM vendor?
  6. Do you have a custom CRM apps development experience?
  7. How do you work? What will you need from us? What will be our responsibilities?
  8. What CRM tools are you proficient with specifically?
  9. Who will work on our project? Can you share CVs? (while the company might be in business for years, you want to make sure you work with experienced professionals)
  10. When can you start working on our project?
  11. What is your pricing? What is the average cost of the project like ours?
  12. Do you provide training and support for our users? What is your SLA (Service Level Agreement)? Can I review your typical Agreement? (Make sure to check their and your responsibilities, liability, payment terms)
  13. How do you control quality and timelines?
  14. What experience have you had in training teams to use and adopt new CRM platform?

About Ascendix Technologies

 

For 26 years in the CRM space, we have been helping companies select, implement, and adopt CRM software. Review our managed CRM services and migration service offerings.

We have proven experience with Salesforce and Dynamics 365 CRM gained in multiple full lifecycle delivery projects. Our CRM consultants utilize best practices to identify ideal solutions for implementing business requirements in CRM solutions.

As your CRM Consulting partner, we’ll guide your through a digital transformation project by designing and implementing CRM strategies and tools. Our team of experts will define the best possible approach to solving the challenges you are experiencing.

As your CRM consulting agency of a choice, our professionals will drive workshops to maximize output and engagement, guide you through the technology and new functionalities, create a CRM strategy, design new user stories to match the client’s requirements, implement, test, deploy Salesforce functionalities, and maximize user adoption by working closely with your organization.

We’ll connect the dots between technology and your business needs

“No longer can organizations throw technology at their sales teams, expecting that it will address their needs,” says  Adnan Zijadic, senior principal analyst in Gartner’s Sales practice. “Sales leaders must work alongside application and IT leaders to assess the costs, risks, and benefits of emerging and established sales technologies before deciding to adopt.”

How to Select a CRM Consultant FAQ

What is CRM consultant?

CRM consultants provide CRM consulting services and vary by roles, responsibilities, and seniority level. There are technical and functional advisors, CRM implementation consultants, data cleaning consultants, CRM strategy consultants, and many others.

How much does a CRM consultant cost?

Based on the information found on Payscale and Glassdoor, the average CRM consultant salary in the USA ranges from $87, 000 to $118, 000. According to Upwork, CRM consultant hourly rate ranges from $20 to $250.

What are the services of a CRM consultant?

Depending on the CRM consultant responsibilities, experts provide various consulting services like gathering business requirements, assistance with the transition from manual to automatic processes, system configuration, and optimization, providing user training, etc.

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