One of the most crucial elements of the CRM evaluation and selection process is the vendor demo.
With investment in CRM often considerable, it is important that organisations select a CRM solution that is appropriate for their needs now, can adapt to their future requirements, and will be embraced by their employees. The CRM demo plays a vital role in helping organisations achieve this by eliminating vendors that aren’t the right fit and identifying the one that offers the best fit.
In addition to this, demos also enable organisations to:
- Learn how a CRM system can add extra value to the organisation.
- Explore how a CRM system can address use cases that are specific to the organisation.
- Learn more about the vendor and how they have helped their existing customers.
- Develop a closer relationship with the vendor’s team.
- Get a better understanding of the CRM system’s user interface, including how to navigate the tool and customise it.
Typically, demos should take place in the procurement stage, when requirements have been researched and documented and the provider can be properly prepped. This is important, as if the demo takes place too early, further rounds of questions and discussions will need to take place to establish if the tool can satisfy the needs of the organisation, and time will be wasted.
David Curtis, one of the senior members of the CRM team at DMC Software, notes: “Arranging a demonstration usually comes in the later stages of the decision-making process - at this stage you’ll likely have done appropriate research on available solutions and vendors. Therefore, when you get to demonstration the main objective should be to ascertain whether the product meets your business needs and the provider can provide the appropriate levels of support to your business both now and in the future.”
If the demo takes place too early, before the requirements gathering process has been conducted, it is also difficult to narrow down the list of tools that are potentially a good fit and that should be demoed. It should be a shortlist – not a long list.
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“It’s important not to demo with every vendor available – stick only to those which offer CRM features and functionalities that align closely with your specific business needs,” says David Stott, director enterprise international, at Bullhorn. “The ultimate objective for buyers is to build an even shorter shortlist of vendors to go further into the process with. Remember that the demo process can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to between 12 and 18 months – so choosing only the most relevant vendors is paramount.
“Always start the demo process by making sure you understand your high-level business goals – what do you want to achieve through implementing the CRM, and why? Once you’ve done this, it’s much easier to make an informed shortlist of vendors.”
Once you’ve identified which vendors are worthy of a demo, and the demo has been scheduled, it is important to be well prepared.
Ensure you’re fully prepared for your demo by ticking off the following tasks in advance:
Hold a pre-demo briefing with the vendor
Tom Nickalls, product manager at Jadu Continuum CXM, recommends: “Always have a 30 minute discovery briefing (on the phone or better still, face-to-face via video conference) with your demoing vendors. This is incredibly helpful for both buyer and vendor in ensuring a relevant and engaging demo. All good vendors will ensure they use this briefing to inform what they demo.” Curtis adds: “Before meeting with the provider you should agree with them what you would like to get from the meeting.”
Use this briefing to craft a detailed agenda for the demo and establish who is required to attend. Detail an agenda for the CRM demo. Richard Boardman, founder of Mareeba, advises: “Getting the right people in the room for the demo can be a challenge, but nonetheless important. Make sure there is a well-defined agenda, and that prospective suppliers understand it and stick to it.”
Share your requirements document and any supporting information
“Before agreeing to demonstration it is important you have done your homework, for example, it is useful to have begun and shared requirement gathering documents which outline project objectives, business challenges and their impact on the business," says Curtis. "It may also be appropriate to share sample data, reports and business processes to enable the vendor to tailor their demonstration to your needs, highlighting the relevant functionality.”
Prepare scenarios for the vendor
“Vendors and implementers are – generally - masters at showcasing the best bits of their product, and hiding the worst," suggests Boardman. "They will attempt to dazzle you with all manner of wizzy features. The key is to define exactly what you need to see, and that should be how the system will support your business processes. The best way to do this is document a series of scenarios and get the vendors to demonstrate their products against them.”
Stott adds: “Once organisations have established clear businesses goals, they must also establish a clear vision of how exactly the CRM will be utilised and how they hope it will change their current working environment. Who will be the key users, and how will they use it? Prepare specific scenarios and talk through with the vendor. You should talk in detail, for example, about how the CRM will make your salespeople more agile and insightful.
“If you’re switching CRMs, make sure you’ve prepared a clear explanation of why you are unhappy with your existing solution – and make sure the vendor can demonstrate resolutions to these problems.”
Prepare questions for the vendor
“Think beyond your features and functionality requirements – you should also prepare questions about any future costs, the vendor’s experience within your industry, and – crucially – the benefits of a long-term partnership," notes Stott.
Curtis recommends the following questions as a starting point.
About the provider:
- Have you implemented this kind of solution to a similar organisation as ourselves?
- Why should we choose your solution over your competitors?
About the deployment:
- How is the solution deployed - cloud or on-premise? (If it is a cloud solution it is worth checking who is responsible for maintenance and backups?)
- How is data migration handled?
- What levels of support can I expect? What is the SLA?
- What are the ongoing costs – such as support?
- Will I need to pay to upgrade when a new version is released?
- Is training included? If not what is your recommended approach for training?
- What are the potential risks?
Draft some evaluation forms
“It’s important to give appropriate weighting to each goal that you want to achieve with the new CRM so that the correct emphasis is placed on the most important components. Create evaluation forms for each criteria, along with notes and questions - this will save time on the day,” recommends Daryn Mason, senior director, CX applications at Oracle.
Make technical arrangements
“Most demos are cloud-based, always check beforehand that vendors can connect from the venue, and have a backup connection available. And always give the vendor plenty of notice if you want to use your own data in the demo,” says Mason.
Take a free trial
Signing up to a free trial is a great starting point ahead of a demo, and also gives an indication of the level of service support available," advises Andrew Ardron, managing director at ProspectSoft. "Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the vendor during the trial – any advice you receive is also free!”
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.