Office employees talking about CRM provider selection

CRM Provider Selection – Easier than You Think!

Choosing the right CRM provider is not as complicated as you might think. In this guide article, you will learn how to optimally prepare the selection of suppliers and which subtleties you should pay attention to.

Preparation and requirements analysis

Before you approach CRM vendors, you should first document the concrete requirements for your CRM system. Collect the current ACTUAL status with the following key questions:

  • How do the individual colleagues and teams work, how do the departments work?
  • What about cooperation between the departments?
  • Which concrete requirements arise from the daily work?
  • What’s the problem?
  • What could be better?
  • Does it perhaps make sense to include other areas in the CRM project in addition to marketing, sales and service?

Keep in mind that a successful CRM strategy should also cover relationships with other business partner groups.


Modern CRM systems are “xRM / Any-Relationship”-capable. This means that, in addition to customers, they can map any business partner relationships, e.g. competitors, network/lobbying contacts, press contacts, suppliers, leads, interested parties, etc.

Include future CRM users in the requirements analysis. Not the technology of the CRM system to be introduced, but the needs of your employees and colleagues should be in the foreground. Written employee surveys and structured interviews have proven successful. It is not recommended to determine the requirements on the basis of function lists of already known CRM providers – i.e. to more or less “write off” them.

The requirements documented and agreed with the responsible department heads are now sent to a maximum of 5 to 6 CRM providers for response or comment. The aim is to determine which vendors can cover the formulated requirements as completely as possible using modules and functions available in the standard system and which requirements must be met via customizing. On the basis of the answers, the 3 to 4 top providers identified should be invited to an on-site presentation.

The presentation

In principle, all members of the CRM project team should be present at all supplier presentations. This is the best way to ensure a fair evaluation of the presentations. In practice, however, it is often not so easy to bring colleagues under one “appointment hat”. After all, day-to-day business continues on the side.

A compromise can be to win at least one core team that is present at every presentation. However, colleagues who are unable to attend should be informed in detail about the outcome of the appointment.

In the presentation round you will get a first impression of the Look & Feel as well as the efficiency and professionalism of the systems and suppliers. Use this first appointment to clarify all questions with the respective provider so that a first offer can be made after the presentation.

The results of the supplier presentations as well as the offers obtained can now serve as the basis for a selection of the shortlist – i.e. the suppliers that you include in the shortlist. Here it is advisable not to take more than 2-3 suppliers into this next phase.

If, in the course of the selection process, the project team has so many doubts about one or more of the providers that it is excluded from the evaluation, it may be useful to have another provider move up the ladder.

Reference customer contact

Ask your favorite suppliers for one or more reference customers who correspond to your project. This customer should either be in the same or a similar industry as you and/or have your own ideas about the CRM application. Within the scope of a reference customer contact (personal visit or telephone call), questions can be discussed, for example, regarding the general quality of the cooperation with the provider, the actual performance of the system or implemented adaptations, interfaces, etc. Insist on being able to talk to the reference customer under “4-eyes”!

Tests / workshops

Depending on the CRM project, it may make sense to precede the final decision with a test or workshop phase. In this phase you can give up your remaining top favorites, e.g. certain application scenarios (use cases), which – after some preparation time – are to be presented in a second presentation round on site. On the one hand you can get a very good picture of the professionalism of the providers in dealing with customer requirements and on the other hand you can examine the implementation of the system close to your practical requirements. In this project phase, it makes sense to talk in more detail about necessary adjustments as well as the scope of delivery and services.

Negotiation & decision

On the basis of the available information, the remaining bidders should now be able to submit a final bid which, after appropriate negotiations, will result in an order.
When comparing offers, quantitative data and qualitative statements of the individual providers are compared as systematically as possible.

With this procedure you are able to make a solid and largely objective decision for the CRM system best suited to your company.

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