How to make the most of your CRM demos

As is generally the case when purchasing any product or service, it’s helpful to use a process whereby you can weigh up your options, compare and contrast specifications or features, and even test or play around with different platforms, all before you make your choice.

Granted, buying a CRM solution might not be as enthralling as purchasing a new car or a new laptop, but it is most certainly an important choice, and one that you’ll do well to have measures and steps in place to ensure you find the best vendor for your needs.

If you’re a bit of a rookie to CRM or software demos in general then you might find our introduction to CRM demos useful before you go any further. It’s a nice starting block, and more efficient than going through your CRM consultant! If you’re slightly more familiar with software demonstrations in general then let’s go ahead and get stuck into the top things you need to keep in mind to ensure you make the most of your CRM demo.

We'll cover:


1. Draw up your vendor shortlist (don’t invite EVERYONE to the party)

Sorry vendors, but unfortunately the chances of someone having the time and patience for 5, 10, or 20 CRM demos in a short space of time are unlikely. Once you’ve sent out your Request for Proposal (RFP) to several vendors, and in turn received their completed responses, it’s time to filter through these and figure out who fits the bill the best. You can liaise with a CRM consultant to piece together your RFP if you wish - never a bad idea for your first shot at it!

Get more information on RFPs and earlier stages of the selection process with our CRM selection survival guide

Always keep in mind the company objectives and needs (even if you really like the nice colors and slick layout of that funky new CRM platform) as that is ultimately the end goal - to solve these goals or problems with a new platform.

You don’t have to segment the vendor list yourself; you might find that putting together a small team to help siphon through the noise will help you. Additionally, using a CRM requirement checklist or point scoring system could stand you in good stead and ensure that you’re consistently grading vendors in a comparative manner.


2. Put together a CRM demo team - choose wisely!

Unsurprisingly, the answer to this question will depend heavily on the type of CRM platform you’re hoping to find based on the objectives and needs initially laid out before you began your search.

For example, if you’re on the hunt for a sales-based CRM platform and you expect 80% of the usage to come from the sales team then you most certainly need at least one (depending on team size) member of the sales team present during the vendor demos. While you - someone outside of the sales team - might have an understanding of the requirement of the sales team, they will be able to ask specific questions targeted at features they know they’ll have to use regularly based on their sales experience.

Check out our step-by-step guide to mastering CRM demos for more on team-building and planning

In general, a typical CRM platform will naturally revolve around the customer-facing departments, e.g., sales, customer service, and marketing. It would be fair to suggest that while other departments have a say in the final outcome (finance, operations, HR) the main drivers of the choice will be these main departments, and thus opting for a representative from each can often be the safest approach.

What’s more, if you’re using a CRM consultant you might find it helpful to discuss what they feel will work best based on the designated requirements of the CRM and who will be using it the most from your team.


3. Prepare for your CRM vendor demos

Yes, you already have 15 other things on your ‘to-do’ list this week, but setting aside plenty of time to prepare yourself and the selected team ahead of the demos is crucial to ensuring that you get the most out of them. In addition to having an internal briefing, you might find it useful to run through a pre-demo briefing with your selected vendors.

"It’s important to keep the vendors in the loop in terms of what you exactly want to get from the demo as well as your team"

You don’t necessarily need your full demo team to attend as the pre-demo briefing is only to confirm what will be covered and maybe to run through any high-level questions that could be bogging you down.

It’s important to keep the vendors in the loop in terms of what you exactly want to get from the demo as well as your team. Ultimately, the main goal behind running a demo for each of the proposed platforms is to a) familiarize your team with the product, and b) minimize the likelihood that you need to hire a CRM consultant to train your team in the future as that can be an extremely costly and time-consuming process.


4. Stay in control during the demo itself

Firstly, demos can either be in a face-to-face scenario, usually where the vendor comes into your office to showcase their CRM platform, or they can be done over a conference calling system. Both are fine, but depending on the number of people involved, the level of understanding of CRM within your team, and the number of questions or concerns you might have, you might find one option more useful than the other.

During the actual demo, it’s likely that the vendor representative will run through a series of scenarios which impact different departments or employees in specific roles. It’s important that when the opportunity arises, your demo team are able to ask questions specifically relating to these scenarios that will impact their role specifically so that they’re aware of any features relevant to them.

One downside to the vendor using a generic script will be that they may want to introduce all of the features that their platform has to offer, even if they aren’t specifically relevant to your company or your needs.

"An effective technique is to set an agenda for the demo and send this to the vendor in advance."

With that in mind, be prepared to jump in and intervene to ensure the demo keeps on the right track. Alternatively, an effective technique is to set an agenda for the demo and send this to the vendor in advance. This agenda can cover features you’d like covered and specific questions. Often if you are proactive and send the agenda in advance you can find that the best and most knowledgeable agents are sent to work with you. Another advantage is that if each vendor is answering the same questions it makes comparisons between CRMs easier.


5. Evaluate CRM demos with input from your team

Good news - the hard part is over… now all you have to do is choose your preferred vendor. This is where your preparation and awareness during the demo really come into play. Discuss the various demos with your team and maybe your CRM consultant. Weigh up the pros and cons of each to determine which option you feel is most suited to your objectives and needs.

It might be helpful in some cases to use a ranking or scoring system again, similar to what you did during the initial shortlisting phase. Asking key questions about each CRM demo, such as:

  • Will the CRM reduce bottlenecks in the current workflow?
  • How will the CRM improve transaction processing, for example, new sales orders, invoices, and more?
  • Does the platform have scope for reporting e.g. generate reports based on weekly, monthly or annual figures?
  • Is there any room for flexibility within the platform, or can it be customized for the company needs if required?
  • How will the new CRM integrate with the existing systems and platforms?

To wrap all of this up, it’s important to realize that each step of the suggested process is there for a reason: to ensure you make the most out of your CRM demo. It can be a tedious process, but if you approach each demo with the same strategy, the final decision will be much easier, and you should end up with a CRM platform that your team can use effectively to meet the requirements of the wider organization.

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Doug Haines

About the author…

Doug Haines has worked on a variety of CRM implementation projects and now writes on a wide range of topics. He is a regular contributor to Discover CRM

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Doug Haines

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