Blog Post

What are the best CRM systems for training providers?


How do you find the best customer relationship management system for your training business?

Let’s suppose you want an online, cloud-based CRM system that can do some of the following:

  1. Capture information about course enquiries from potential learners and/or employers.
  2. Build a database of organisations/contacts that might be interested in your courses.
  3. Track your engagement with the people and organisations that contact you - notes about emails and phone calls.
  4. Perhaps includes online course bookings.
  5. Built in reporting/data analytics.

You’ve really got to choose from one of 5 broad approaches:

  1. Stick with spreadsheets.

    Find a way of managing the duplication and inevitable errors in data entry. It’s a bad short-term solution that can only work for the smallest training providers.

  2. Find a relatively simple off-the-shelf system and then adapt your processes to fit around it.

    The key thing here is that you adapt the way you work to fit the software. Systems like Monday.com, Zoho CRM, Zendesk and Hubspot are easy to sign up to and come with free trials.

  3. Choose a more sophisticated CRM solution like Microsoft Dynamics 365 or Salesforce.

    This is potentially a bigger step - a longer term solution that can grow with you.

    Dynamics 365 and Salesforce sort of sit between a relatively simple CRM solution that largely works out of the box and a much more highly configured, bespoke solution that has been adapted to meet your requirements. Microsoft Dynamics 365 comes with MS Office integration.

    There’s a huge amount of online support and documentation for both solutions. Dynamics 365 and Salesforce consultants - they can help with configuration/adaptation - are relatively easy to find. The Salesforce training platform is a great resource for organisations that are planning to implement Salesforce.

    Beware though - both solutions can be expensive, particularly if you start down the route of extensive configuration. What starts out simple can soon become complex. It is important to know this - a big Dynamics 365 or Salesforce implementation needs careful planning and can be a lot of work. You will almost certainly need specialist consultancy support.

    Our recommendation - find consultants who can demonstrate that they’ve done similar work before (reference sites?) and consider appointing your own dedicated project manager to oversee the implementation. Think carefully before committing to a time and materials based agreement with your contractor.

    We took a closer look at both Dynamics 365 and Salesforce for training providers:

    Salesforce CRM for Training Providers - What You Need to Know

    Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Training Providers - What You Need to Know

    There are also niche Dynamics and Salesforce consultancies that implement solutions for training providers - it makes sense to get help from consultants who understand the domain.

  4. Look for a niche training provider CRM system.

    There are training management systems that include a CRM component. The good thing is that you get a system that may include other useful features - course booking, ILR export, online learning etc. The downside - maybe - is that the system can be more expensive. And is there a risk that you can get locked into a proprietary system. You need to be sure before you commit to the long term.

    Here are three training management systems that include CRM:

    www.arlo.co/training-company-crm

    www.accessplanit.com/customer-management

    www.getadministrate.com

  5. Consider the bespoke CRM option.

    This sounds like the most difficult and expensive option, but that isn’t always true. A bespoke CRM solution - done well - can cost less to develop and implement than a more complex Dynamics 365 or Salesforce solution and you then get a solution that is an optimal fit for your business.

    There are sofwtare consultancies like Sheaf Digital that specialise in the development of bespoke CRM systrems.

Conclusion

There are some things you always do when you decide to make a significant investment in a new software solution for your business:

  1. Spend time thinking about requirements and write them down. Talk to your users. Turn your requirements into something you can give to potential suppliers.
  2. Come up a list of questions for potential suppliers. Ask for reference sites and their lessons learned from similar projects.
  3. Outline your preferred development/implementation plan. Break bigger projects down into phases and be clear about what the deliverable is at the end of each phase.

Finally, make sure you fully understand the difference between a fixed-price project and a time and materials project. Software projects - that includes larger CRM type projects - are notorious for over running on both time and budget. Do you understand where the risk sits between you and your supplier?