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blog | March 02, 2018

Use RFP to Find the Best CRM Vendor

If you are looking for a CRM software solution, you better be ready for a project. There are hundreds of different CRM vendors out there, and they all claim to be...

By WorkWiseSoftware

If you are looking for a CRM software solution, you better be ready for a project. There are hundreds of different CRM vendors out there, and they all claim to be one of the best. Some are industry specific, but a majority are vanilla enough or have different types that can fit a variety of different companies based on the type of business and its specific needs.

One way to help narrow the list of CRM vendors down is by focusing internally first, and in doing so, creating an RFP (Request for Proposal). Having one of these documents can prove invaluable for taking a huge list of potential options down to a select few in a relatively short period. In addition, it can also help you make your own business’s processes and methods more efficient.

Ultimately, the goal of the RFP is to explain your company, its needs/wants, current processes, plans, pricing, and what you want out of the CRM. For any debates that come up internally regarding the processes or needs/wants, you can submit it in the RFP as an open-ended question, which can allow you to better evaluate the CRM vendor responses.

To help your company create the best, most effective CRM RFP document possible, the team at WorkWise has compiled a list of the top eight pieces of advice. Below is Part One of the blog series.

1. Begin by introducing your company

Share background information on your company to give the CRM vendors a better feel for what it is you do and details such as: size, revenue, locations, etc. (if you are comfortable enough to do so). This will help the CRM providers pinpoint similar customers and best practices for future reference.

The most important thing to do here is to state what you do, how you do it, what you want the CRM to do, and what you want to improve in. Using specifics, also mention what you would like to do in the future. This way, you can help evaluate CRMs you can grow the business with and be set for the future, instead of just right now.

2. Give specific dates for next steps

The last thing you want to do is spend a year evaluating CRM solutions. Depending on your specific business, two months might be too little or it might be just right. Either way, having a clear timeline is important to keep you and the vendors on track.

The first date to set is a deadline to receive RFP responses back by. If a CRM provider sends it in late, needs more time, or gives excuses as to why they can’t complete it, you may want to think twice before doing business with them.

The next deadline is for the evaluation process. There is the evaluation of the RFP responses, viewing demos, and then a final round of evaluation or a final decision. You do not have to be strict, but giving a ballpark estimate to measure progress by, as well as a goal to keep in mind, will go a long way.

Once you make the decision, there’s a timeline needed for implementation, training, and customizations (if applicable) as well. These are the most likely to change, especially considering which vendor you choose, but also depending on the complexity and variety; however, it is still best to have something down to reference. Ideally, the hard part should be over by this point in the CRM RFP process.

3. Put your budget in writing and stick to it

If you go for a cloud CRM, costs are generally lower and ongoing. Some companies offer all-for-one pricing, while others have varying levels and functionality included. Keeping a strict budget will help you to avoid being upsold on something you may not need.

In an on-premise CRM purchase, there is generally a large, upfront fee that is paid once, and then you own the licenses. From there, the only cost is a small annual maintenance. With on-premise CRMs, it is more important to find out what you get with the maintenance to make it worth your money or not, as well as how good your IT staff is when handling the CRM.

4. Explain highest priority needs thoroughly

Although wants and needs may be numerous, letting the CRM companies know which ones are a top priority can help save both sides time. If a CRM knows it has weaknesses on most of your top priorities, they may very well not respond knowing they would be beat out in the end. Meanwhile, a CRM that matches up its strengths perfectly with your business’s needs will stand out.

Another benefit is that it puts these priorities out in front of you. If a scenario takes place where it is close between multiple CRMs, keeping these priorities in mind could be the difference maker, and rightfully so, too. It can be easy to get caught up in the luxury items of a CRM and overlook the basics if you assume that they’re all the same or that they can all get the job done equally.

5. Be detailed, but keep it short overall

The RFP is not meant to be a book about the company. The more information the better, but there comes a point where line after line becomes too much; not only is it very time consuming for you, but it is for the CRM vendors as well. They will know based on the basics how good of a fit they will be, and you are better off letting them elaborate so you get more insight into their product.

During the demo stage, more and more details should come out. Lengthy conversations, significant time spent on seemingly-minute features, and talk of customizations can come into place during the person-to-person interaction and be much more effective. It is best to save as much time and resources as possible for this stage in the process, as opposed to others.

6. Needs are critical, wants are secondary

The RFP should include both needs and wants; however, tailoring the overall feel of the document and company to put your needs in a better light is important because it should be the biggest factor in helping narrow down the list of CRM vendors.

The reason for this is because wants are often new, flashy, smaller functions that don’t necessarily affect the big picture. Wants might be a differentiator, but they should not be the basis for a final decision, especially if it means sacrificing any needs. It is rarely a decision well received or one that pays off in the future.

Debates are bound to happen internally, but a final decision needs to be reached. If all else fails, concede to the highest-ranking employee involved in the evaluation process.

7. Do RFP without a consultant (if possible)

Consultants are never truly unbiased. Some are more biased than others, getting a side payment directly from certain vendors they sell for, and other may be prone to liking certain ones for non-relevant reasons. The key is to always represent yourself and not be swayed by an outsider throughout the process.

Consultants can be valuable, but should be used more as a guide to open your eyes to new ideas and give things a fresh look; however, take it with a grain of salt and watch for any other motives they may have. CRM vendors themselves should be able to do what the consultant does as well.

8. Get information on similar customers they have

The more details you provide on your background, the easier (or harder) this should be for the CRM provider. Any references or examples they give can show expertise and evidence that they could be a great fit for your company. A detailed description should be enough in the RFP, as actually speaking to a reference can be handled after narrowing the list of CRM vendors down a bit.

Depending on what is more important to your company (product, size, processes, etc.), you can target specific references as well. It also helps the CRM companies see what range you fall in so that they get a better feel for what they are getting themselves into. If they are unwilling to share any similar customers or do not have any, it may be best to look at alternative vendors.

Still have questions regarding CRM RFP documents? No problem! Contact us today, and we’ll be able to answer any questions you may have.

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