A CRM RFP guide and template for creating the perfect proposal

There are countless CRM systems on the market.

Each promises to deliver the ideal solution for your business, but the truth is that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to CRM. Every organization is different, and so your needs are different.

This article will walk you through the stages of creating a CRM RFP (Request for Proposal), and includes a CRM RFP template, to help you make the right decision, the first time.

We'll include:

 

RFIs vs RFPs vs RFQs - know the difference

You may have come across these acronyms in relation to proposals and tendering, but may not know what they mean. Let’s break them down.

An RFI, or Request for Information is often used as a first step in identifying potential suppliers, as it asks them to provide details of their capabilities to narrow down the list before asking for proposals.

An RFQ, or Request for Quotation, may also be known as an IFB. This usually involves projects where multiple, standardized, items are required, and all potential suppliers are provided with identical specifications for each unit or service.

RFPs are used where the project requires specialized knowledge or capabilities, or where a bespoke solution is needed, as with a CRM system. They ask for detailed information on the vendor's business as well as the system's ability to meet outlined requirements.

 

Identify your requirements for a new CRM

What do you want your CRM system to achieve? Clear, measurable objectives will make the whole process more focused, and improve the chances of success. 

To identify these, conduct a requirements gathering exercise focusing on the following areas:

Functionality

Ask each department that may come into contact with the CRM system what it could do to improve their efficiency.

Once each department has produced its wishlist, it needs to be divided into ‘needs’ and ‘wants’. Things like contact information, purchase and accounts history, and reporting are basic needs. But a good CRM system can do so much more. These processes can get out of hand, and you could end up with thousands of requests (and disgruntled employees if they're not met).

Use our CRM requirements template to help you gather and prioritize your requirements for new software

It is often best to go with a pre-prepared list and ask employees to rate the features by importance, something like this:

  • Personalized and automated marketing communications
  • Mobile access and automatic synchronization
  • Email interface
  • Standard documents (e.g. contracts, proposals) with automatic personalization
  • Automatic task scheduling and reminders.
  • Lead and pipeline tracking

Another way to do this is by asking them for their three main problems with the current CRM or the three objectives they’d like the new CRM to achieve. This is a wider view but can be helpful in getting a feel for what needs to change. A further step would be to have deeper discussions with a few key employees who have the most exposure to the system and whose opinion you trust.

Data

Before creating your RFP, you need to be clear about how you need the system to handle your company data. There’s a number of considerations to take into account here, including:

  • Ease of loading or transferring the data you currently have.
  • Field design - what format the data will take. Options include free text, telephone numbers, and tick boxes.
  • Templates - what standard documents are needed, for example, emails, quotations, and order forms.
  • User roles - who needs access to what information? What data are they required to enter?
  • Reporting and analytics - what needs to be measured and how? What format should it take?

Once the organizational requirements have been identified in detail, it’s time to put together your RFP.

 

Plan out an RFP structure

So, you know what you want your CRM to achieve, and you have your list of essential and 'nice-to-have' functionality.

Now you need to communicate that in your RFP. Simply sending off your list of requirements won’t work. You won’t get accurate proposals, and comparing them will be tricky. You need to structure your document in a way that gets the best responses. Here are some general rules to start you off:

Don't neglect your company information

Start with your company’s background, what it does, its size, location, number of clients and transactions, and projected growth. Your supplier needs to know what number of users and volume of traffic your system needs to handle, now and in the future. Part of this is about selling yourself as a valuable client and attracting the best bids.

Timescales should be as thorough and accurate as possible

Include a date for receiving proposals, a date for the decision making process and the date that you want the system up and running by.

Include a budget for vendors

Potential suppliers need to know if they can meet your needs at a cost you can afford. Usually, the budget included in an RFP will cover the design and installation costs. If the company will provide training, this should also be detailed in their response. Ask about ongoing costs too - you don’t want any nasty surprises in the future.

Break down requirements by priority

Remember your list of needs and wants? This needs to be broken down for vendors if you want an accurate proposal. Remember, the more work that goes into your system, the more it will cost and the longer it will take. Needs are non-negotiable, but wants could be assigned levels of importance. It’ll also make comparing proposals easier.

Explain your criteria for RFP evaluation extensively

It is worth having a tight selection criteria based on what is most important in the selection process. This can be translated to bidders so they can determine if they are good for for the role and it can help them tailor their proposal accordingly.

Ask for proof that the vendor can deliver

Any company can put together a proposal, but can they deliver it? Ask for examples of projects they’ve completed before, ideally ones that are similar. Giving names of clients is preferable but if they’re not comfortable doing so, a detailed explanation of the projects is a good indicator that they can deliver.

Keep it succinct 

While you want potential suppliers to understand your requirements, keeping it brief is important. Too much information will obscure what you’re looking for and affect the end result.

 

A customizable CRM template

Now we’ve covered what a CRM RFP should include, let’s have a look at a detailed template for creating an RFP yourself. 

This works well as a starting point for your CRM RFP, but remember - everyone's requirements are slightly different. Don't forget to customize to your company accordingly. 

Section What to include
Executive overview

Company information: XYZ provides gadgets to the building sector. Current turnover $xx. Targeted growth of xx% next financial year through automated marketing; increased support for field sales; improved customer service; improved reporting.

RFP overview: There will be xx users: xx office based in xx countries; xx remote; xx sales; xx marketing. System must cope with multiple currencies.

CRM system requirements: must integrate will third party systems; ease of data migration; must support sales, marketing, accounts, help desk; must handle xx customer records.

Platform requirements: operating system; application servers; SaaS or cloud; data security.

Project scope and timeline

Give dates for:

  • RFP issued
  • Bidder clarification questions submitted
  • Questions and answers returned to bidder
  • Proposals due
  • Demos
  • Contract awarded
  • System implementation

Delivery instructions: submit hard copy to company address by date plus email copy.

Completion instructions: responsibility of bidder to ensure they understand the RFP and comply with requirements. All responses become property of company. Proposals must be signed by authorized official.

Bidder company background

General information: bidder name, address, contact details; years in business under current trading name, and any previous names. Ownership structure; total number of staff, developers, support staff, professional services staff. Long-term business strategy. Primary product offerings, ranked by contribution to revenue.

Financial performance: bidder company financial information; three year profit growth history; average ratio of implementation to annuity business. 

Functionality requirements matrix

The functionality requirements matrix is an important document. It should specifically outline what the CRM needs to deliver, the deliverables can be given a level of importance (e.g. required or preferred) or left as a list of what’s required. These documents really help to focus your thinking and help bidders narrow their focus on the most important features you need.

customizable CRM requirements template to help you create a functionality requirements matrix 

Proposed solution recommendation

Description: product name; primary features and benefits; release dates; number of sites using proposed solution.

Pricing estimate: detailed line item pricing; quantities; list price; extended discount price. All support services, incidental, and annual maintenance costs listed separately.

Total ownership costs: estimated three year cost of ownership with detailed calculations.

Implementation and training services

Implementation services: ask for an overview of professional and integration services offered by your vendor, including info on:

  • methodology
  • tools
  • change control
  • communication methods
  • background and experience of team leader and development team members
  • fee structure

 

Training services: ask for information on training delivery methods. This should cover the amount and type of training you may need. You should keep your requirements reasonably broad at this point so you could focus on the number of employees that need training and the outcome you require from the training. For example, you may have 15 employees who need full understanding of all functionality including reporting and 75 staff who need to understand and be able to use the sorting and marketing functionality.

Customer support

Ask for a description of ongoing support and services, including support hours and average response time

 

  • type of issue tracking system
  • on-site support availability
  • average response time for bug fixes
  • how documentation is provided

 

References

Request references from five clients, including: a client of at least five years, one that has purchased within the last year, and one that is similar to own organization. Include contact details.

A customizable outline for a CRM RFP template

 

Evaluate your RFP responses

If you’ve invested the time analyzing your organization’s needs and put together a good RFP, then evaluating the proposals should be a fairly straightforward comparison. What is each company offering to provide for the given budget?

However, this isn’t the final stage of the process. It’s simply a way of narrowing the field to the final few runners. This is the point at which you’ll be asking potential suppliers to demonstrate just how their system could meet your requirements. You should ask for demos from no more than five suppliers, ideally no more than three.

For an in-depth look at the demo process check out our CRM demo guide

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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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