How to create a vendor shortlist for sales CRM

Investing in the right sales CRM is one of the most important steps for any sales team. While employees, management and tactics may come and go, your CRM is very hard to change so the importance of choosing the right vendor shouldn’t be underestimated.

CRM investment is growing and according to, 91% of businesses with more than 11 employees deploy a CRM.  

In this article, we’re going to consider how to find the best CRM vendor for your business. While having a large number of vendors to choose from means there is more likely to be a great solution out there, it does make the initial shortlisting process a challenge.

Benefits of CRM for sales

A sales CRM has multiple benefits; here are some of the main ones:

Improve productivity

Good salespeople stereotypically have great interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate and charm prospects, which although a factor in sales success, is not the only sole factor: what doesn’t get outlined enough is discipline. Salespeople that rigorously follow a set process over time see results – tactics and process matter. Kyle Bento from Impact Agency discussed how the right prospecting tactic quadrupled their results.

A sales CRM equips salespeople to be more disciplined by organizing their schedule with prioritized lists, performance dashboards, calendars, and reminders. High performing salespeople use a sales CRM to drive the right activity.

Provide key client information

The right data helps salespeople close deals – and a good sales CRM provides critical data when it is needed the most.

This may mean equipping the salesperson with detailed client information a few minutes before a meeting. Or it may mean helping the salesperson identify the best leads: considering engagement in marketing campaigns, social media, and past conversations can help salespeople determine where the best prospects are.

Track performance trends

In sales teams, approximately 20% are normally responsible for 80% of the results. It’s really important that sales managers have oversight of this so they can highlight performance levels.

Check out our complete guide to sales CRM for a comprehensive view of requirements, features, and cost of sales CRM

Once they know who is performing well and who is performing badly they can use that information in a variety of useful ways. They can make sure that top performers are adequately rewarded to keep their motivation high; they can investigate why poor performers aren’t delivering results in the hope they can be improved, and if the sales CRM is set up really well they should be able to evaluate what good performers are doing that is delivering results and disseminate that across the organization.

Features that are important and should be prioritized for sales CRM

There are many features to modern sales CRMs; here is a list of some key features that will make up the core of your requirements document:

  • Contact management: this helps businesses organize data so it can be used effectively. For example, categorizing prospects so they receive relevant marketing emails.
  • Sales pipeline management: this gives salespeople an overview of their pipeline and lead scoring helps them focus on the most worthwhile prospects.
  • Reports and dashboards: this data allows real-time reports that give an overview of sales performance. Dashboards ensure this is digestible and help drive the most productive activity.
  • Mobile CRM: giving salespeople access to CRM functionality on the road is well-recognized as a tactic to improve output.
  • Workflow automation: by notifying salespeople of key tasks a good sales CRM can drive activity.
  • Automations: by capturing and classifying data automatically a CRM can save salespeople a lot of manual updating time.
  • File sharing and syncing: this enables data to be kept centrally on the database and for different team members to share data and collaborate on it.
  • APIs: leading CRMs have integrations with a range of software, from accounting integrations to email marketing software.

There are many other CRM features. The best way to build a list of features is to begin with the outcome in mind. Consider what you want to achieve before diving into features and different systems – if you start by browsing options, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by choice and start being influenced by slick sales funnels.

It’s important to be proactive and make a choice – don’t fall into the trap of being sold to.

Finding vendors that fit the above sales CRM requirements

The first step is building a strong vendor selection process; we’ve written about how to set this up in our article "Your Definitive CRM Selection Guide and Shortlist."

Once you have a process in place you need to select vendors that fit your criteria and invite them to participate in your selection process – it’s key to keep it on your terms, not theirs.

Part of this process is developing set criteria to cover your needs – this may include:

  • Budget: how much are you willing to spend on the CRM? Take a look at the Discover CRM buyers guide for sales to make sure you’ve considered all costs.
  • Use-cases: is there evidence that the vendor has had success with similar businesses or use cases?
  • Customization: depending on the complexity of your needs you may want to investigate how easily you can add bespoke functionality to the CRM.
  • Support: availability, expertise, and cost of support.
  • Product roadmap: you may want to understand what features are being built into the product over the coming months and years.
  • Features: exactly what do you need the CRM to deliver? You may want to order these from essential to nice-to-have. It’s surprisingly rare to find a CRM that does everything you need so there will likely be a compromise – be ready for this.

During your selection process, you will define how vendors should engage. The reality is that vendors are often inflexible and the smaller you are, the less flexible they will be.

If a vendor isn’t willing to enter the process on your terms it may still be worth engaging with them – just make sure there is a way of answering your key questions. Sales CRM vendors employ lots of very good salespeople so make sure you get your questions answered and don’t compromise on this.

Finding the right vendor for your sales CRM is a difficult process and it’s likely to take a while to get the result you want. Always remember the difficulty of selecting a sales CRM is nothing compared to the difficulty of using a bad system and having to ultimately change it.

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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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