In the CRM purchasing process, a common sequence of events for CRM buyers is to go through vendor demos and then decide on and commit to a specific CRM vendor.
After purchasing the CRM system, the next step is to go through the exercise of defining detailed CRM requirements. Next, a CRM implementation is performed based on those defined requirements.
However, if there are definitive plans to move off an old CRM system and onto a new one, altering the sequence of some events can often make more sense. A less risky path for many organizations may be to go through a CRM requirements definition exercise before committing to a specific CRM vendor.
An up-front requirements document differs from a traditional CRM RFP exercise. RFI and RFP documents and spreadsheets can often become exhaustive collections of “must haves,” “should haves,” and “nice to haves.” They may lack depth and be more feature-oriented than process-oriented.
A CRM requirements document should include, among other things: current pain points; a catalog of existing systems; an overview of the current state; a picture of the desired future state; integration priorities; XRM (non-core-to-CRM) requirements.
What are the benefits of defining detailed CRM requirements before committing to a specific CRM vendor?
1. Develop a Services Budget Early On
A lot of excitement can be generated around a chosen CRM solution. However, if a service budget is not factored in early in the CRM buying process, the process can halt once an implementation services estimate is received.
Due to unexpectedly high service estimates, the time and effort spent scheduling and attending vendor demonstrations do not result in a CRM product decision.
Sometimes, the starts ticking on a CRM subscription before a services budget is determined. The new CRM system can go through a much more costly “shelfware” phase when the service estimates are much higher than expected.
Both scenarios can be mitigated via a “requirements first” approach.
2. Speed up the CRM Buying and Implementation Process
Companies that send out RFIs and RFQs may inadvertently slow the purchasing process. Based on the information in an RFP, the assumption is that vendor demos will result in a clear consensus on which CRM system to select.
However, a demo-driven buying process can often result in even more confusion, as most CRM vendors can provide ample evidence of why their solution is better than the competition.
Ironically, the overall CRM buying process can be sped up by slowing it down. Being clearer about specific requirements earlier in the process can result in quicker product decisions.
If CXOs are involved in discussions during the requirements gathering and definition process, light will be shed on the business benefits of a new CRM system they may otherwise have been aware of. This alone could drive a faster decision.
3. Get CRM Vendors to Demo More Closely to Requirements
When detailed CRM requirements are developed before vendor demos, vendors will be able to understand better and, therefore, better address specific requirements during their demonstrations.
The demonstrations will be more tailored to a company’s specific needs if detailed requirements are provided to the short vendors — compared to a high-level list of requirements within an RFP.
4. Decide What Related Systems or Add-Ons May Be Needed
CRM systems have many related third-party technologies within their ecosystems.
A similar, “requirements-first” approach should also be taken when evaluating specific third-party applications across different CRM vendors, especially feature-rich ones like project management and CPQ apps.
5. Gain Additional Time to Refine Requirements
If the detailed requirements phase begins early in the process, there will be more time to make iterative adjustments to those requirements. Often, detailed requirements are passed around the organization for review and comments. With time, a requirements document may be updated. Previously defined requirements may be re-prioritized.
The earlier in the process that detailed requirements are defined, the more opportunity there is to fine-tune requirements before a CRM implementation.
A requirements-driven CRM evaluation process can provide a number of significant advantages over a traditional, demo-driven, or RFP-driven process.