If you have made the appropriate preparations in advance, your organisation can be confident that you go into the demo in the best possible shape to get maximum value from it.
However, even with this preparation in place, there is still work to do to ensure that you leave the demo with the best possible picture of how appropriate the solution and vendor are for your needs.
If the demo is productive, your organisation will walk away knowing:
- The answers to any questions you have.
- How the CRM tool can address scenarios specific to your needs.
- Broadly how the system’s user interface and navigation work.
- How the system has helped similar organisations.
- How the system can add value to your organisation.
- How the system could adapt to your changing needs.
But ensuring that you get the most from a CRM demo means knowing what you’re looking for, asking the right questions and conducting the right post-demo activity.
With some appropriate scenarios planned in advance, and shared with the vendor, organisations can see how well the tools responds to needs that are specific to the company. At the same time, there are plenty of other competencies that companies should be keeping an eye out for.
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“Look for intuition, efficiency and logic in the functionality, considering factors such as how many clicks it takes to complete basic actions and the ease of the data entry process,” advises David Stott, director enterprise international, at Bullhorn.
“Make sure you assess specific features for business relevancy. Bells and whistles are only valuable if you can ensure the basics are excellent first. Differentiation is, however, very important – vendors should be able to explain what makes them different from their competitors.
“During the demo, you should also be thinking carefully about your ability to adopt the solution as a business. While the set-up and configuration of your solution may be a long and detailed process, out-of-the-box solutions – which are ready to go immediately after installation – may cause severe adoption and cost issues further down the line.”
Daryn Mason, senior director, CX applications at Oracle, adds: “You are looking for functionality, of course, but also a clear and consistent user experience between modules and functions - which will have a direct impact on adoption and efficiency.
“Ask what controls users have over the look and feel of the solution, whether there are any integrations ‘live’ using single sign-on, and how flexible the system is when the scenario goes ‘off-script’ - for example, is the demo data consistent between scenarios and across integrated demos?”
While it is important to ask questions during the demo, and businesses should come prepared with a set of pre-canned questions (see the previous article for examples), attendees need to ensure that the questions complement the demo rather than take it over.
“Try to avoid asking generic questions – everything you ask should be specifically related to your own unique business objectives,” notes Stott. “In a similar way, you should always ask the vendor about their experience with their other clients in your industry and for case studies highlighting previous success stories.
Try to avoid asking generic questions – everything you ask should be specifically related to your own unique business objectives.
“In fact, you can take this one step further by asking the vendor to speak directly to their similar clients. This approach is more commonly taken by experienced project managers – if you’re not considering asking for references, you definitely should be.”
Mason warns: “If you ask too many questions during a scenario, you won’t get a natural ‘feel’ for how transactions or processes are made, so keep these until the end if possible.
“It’s also important to make sure that the vendor is clear about when a demo is live and when it is simulated, and whether the solution is current production software or an advanced version. You will get the best results if you assign a member of your team to facilitate the session and ensure the ground rules are understood and objectives are met.”
As well as using the demo to assess the technology, attendees should also use the time to assess the vendor’s team.
“Technological fit is only one dimension,” highlights Richard Boardman, founder of Mareeba. “Most organisations will require at least some assistance with implementation, so you’re also assessing their credentials in this department as well. Since the sales person is likely to disappear from the scene once the project starts, it’s important that you meet with the people you will actually be working with to assure yourself that they have the relevant credentials and experience, and perhaps most importantly they are someone you can work with.”
David Curtis, one of the senior members of the CRM team at DMC Software, adds: “Aside from ensuring the product is fit for purpose, it is important to get a good feel for the provider – can you see yourself working with them? Look for a trusted advisor that is focused on resolving your business challenges rather than product features and bells and whistles – shiny features are great, but they should be secondary to meeting your needs.”
Develop scoring models as part of the procurement process - too many decisions get made on feeling and emotion rather that cold, considered analysis.
Once the demo concludes, organisations should ask for copies of the demo presentations for later reference, and obtain any appropriate supporting documents. Then, with the demo over, organisations need to ensure that they accurately capture all the attendees’ thoughts on the tool and the vendor team. This can be aided by a pre-agreed scoring system, says Boardman.
“I would encourage organisations to develop scoring models as part of the procurement process,” he notes. “Too many decisions get made on feeling and emotion rather that cold, considered analysis.”
It is also important that attendees complete their evaluations soon after the demo has concluded, so that it is still fresh in their minds. “Ensure everyone on your team completes their individual evaluation sheets, and run a de-brief session within two to three days after the presentation where everyone has a chance to feedback on how the demo met their requirements. Perhaps not immediately, however, as you’ll likely be suffering from ‘demo fatigue’,” says Mason.
Further questions may be surfaced during this process, and so any subsequent queries should be packaged into a concise document or, alternatively, covered off in a short call with the vendor.
Ultimately, the demo process represents an important process on the path to selecting a CRM tool – but it is not the be-all and end-all. The vendor that delivers the best demo isn’t necessarily the best fit for your needs, so do bear in mind other factors before making a decision.
As Boardman notes: “It’s important to realise that the demonstration is just one part of the overall procurement process, and that other elements such as assessing proposals and tender responses, researching an implementer’s track record, assessing financial stability, following up references, scrutinising contractual terms, etc. are generally just as important elements of the overall mix.”
About Neil Davey
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.