Whether you’re about to implement a customer relationship management (CRM) system for the very first time, are looking to build custom applications for your implementation, or simply want to learn how to use your CRM more efficiently, chances are you’ll need some help to do it. But finding good help is easier said than done. You could spend hours — days, even — combing through the countless agencies that specialize in CRM consulting, squandering valuable time and resources in the process.
Or you could have those same agencies come to you — all you have to do is submit a request for proposal (RFP). For those unfamiliar with the term, an RFP is exactly what it sounds like: “a project funding announcement posted by a business or organization for which companies can place bids to complete the project.” In order to attract high-quality talent, you’ll need to submit a high-quality CRM RFP. That’s where this article comes in.
Before we get started: Click here to download a free CRM RFP template.
We’ve received numerous RFPs in our time, and they really run the gamut in terms of quality. Some are light on details, others are overly complex, and others still are clear and concise. The precious few that fall into this last category are the ones that have consistently caught our eye due to their attention to detail and focus — after all, it’s hard to misinterpret a prospective client’s goals or intended timeline when they’re clearly articulated in writing.
It’s also important to remember that a well-written CRM RFP doesn’t just communicate to vendors what you want out of a project — it also gives them an idea of who you are and what it would be like to work with you. The more appealing you seem to vendors, the more likely they’ll be to actually submit a proposal, and the sooner you’ll be on track to achieve your goals. In this article, we’ll walk you through the process of creating an RFP that is sure to generate interest — and we’ll even provide you with a CRM RFP template to help you get started.
Before we get started, a note: If you’re just shopping prices, take the easy route by picking up the phone to call and ask. Proposals take a significant amount of time and effort to put together, so you’ll save yourself — and vendors — the frustration and earn brownie points in the process.
How to Build a CRM RFP…
There are a few basic components every CRM RFP should include:
- Disclaimer: Depending on the nature of your work (namely, if you operate in a heavily regulated industry) or whether your RFP contains confidential information, you might need to include a disclaimer. Even if these two restrictions don’t apply, it might still make sense to write a disclaimer — at the very least, a disclaimer prevents you from being legally bound to anything stated in your RFP.
- Introduction: Taken as a whole, this section of your CRM RFP is designed to provide vendors with a snapshot of your organization and the work you need completed. This section should be informative and compelling in order to convince vendors to continue reading your RFP. Your introduction should include the following components:
- Company Overview: This is your opportunity to introduce yourself to prospective partners. You don’t want to inundate them with unnecessary assigned reading, so it’s in your best interest to keep this section brief and include just enough information to give them a sense of who you are and what your company does.
- Purpose of Project: As implied by its name, this section is where you’ll explain your reason for issuing an RFP. You should also use this section to set expectations for vendors who reply to your request, and for the project as a whole.
- Current State of Existing Systems: Use this section to highlight the pain points you’re experiencing with your existing CRM system. If your organization does not have an existing CRM system, describe the systems you currently use, and the pain points you experience with them.
- Schedule of Activities: In this section, you’ll set a timeline for your CRM project, from start to finish, as well as outline what vendors should include in their response. By setting clear expectations, you make it easier to compare proposals as you receive them. This section should include the following:
- Desired RFP Schedule: Use this section to outline a tentative schedule for vendors to respond to your proposal, from the initial date of RFP issuance to the proposal due date to vendor interviews and presentations (if applicable) to final notification.
- Proposal Due Date: Reiterate the proposal due date, denoting the exact deadline. Make sure that your RFP schedule and proposal due date are realistic; a week or so between each milestone is realistic.
- Formatting Requirements: This is where you’ll explain how you want source document files formatted.
- Presentation Requirements: If you intend to ask vendors to demonstrate their products or services, use this section to inform RFP recipients of what their presentation should include, what format it should take, where it should take place and when.
- Scope of Work: In this section, you’ll detail project goals and objectives, performance requirements, and other project specifications. The scope of work should include the following:
- Project Roadmap: In this section, you will provide a description of the work requested, your anticipated timeline, project deliverables, and performance criteria — essentially, your project roadmap should serve as a blueprint for your project prior to its execution. Like your schedule of activities, make sure your timeline is realistic.
- Goals & Objectives: This is your opportunity to delineate what you hope to achieve by completing this project and how you intend to achieve that goal. List your goals in order of priority and be as specific as possible — the value of metrics really cannot be overstated.
- Available Resources & Materials: List what resources and materials you have available that can be utilized for the project and outline any you would need the vendor to supply, such as training materials.
- Client References: To ensure that vendors can perform as promised, ask for client references; 2–3 references should suffice. If a vendor is uncomfortable supplying clients’ names, ask that they provide detailed explanations of recent projects they’ve completed, instead.
- Additional Project Requirements: Use this section to list any requirements that were not included in your project roadmap.
- Wish List: Is there anything outside the scope of this project that you hope to one day achieve with your CRM? If so, outline it here. A truly qualified partner will be honest and upfront if they can’t deliver on wish list items in the short-term but will help you come up with a strategy to achieve those goals in the future.
…And How to Make It Great
We’ve covered the basics of building the perfect CRM RFP, now it’s time to really make it sing. There are a few ways to personalize your RFP and make sure it stands out from the countless others that CRM consulting agencies receive:
- Specificity is the name of the game. Consultants are very good at what they do, but they aren’t mind readers. Whether it’s the challenges you’re currently facing, the core functionalities you need, or your desired outcome for the project, the clearer a picture you can paint for vendors, the better. By being specific, you give vendors a foundation on top of which they can use holistic, visionary thinking to build something truly great.
- Be candid about your budget. Every CRM RFP should include a budget. Specificity comes in handy here, too — there’s a night-and-day difference between saying “We’re willing to make a significant investment on this project” and “We’d like to spend $X but have an upper limit of $Y for the right proposal.” If you’re unable to provide a specific dollar amount, simply provide a range.
- Set precise goals. Vendors will build their entire project roadmap around these goals, so be sure that they align with what you really need and that they’re clearly articulated in your RFP.
- There’s no room for embarrassment. If your existing CRM system was incorrectly implemented or is over-engineered, say so — you do yourself no favors by trying to downplay existing challenges. When it comes to RFPs, honesty really is the best policy, and the more specific you are about these challenges, the easier it will be for vendors to come up with workable solutions.
- Embrace simplicity. No vendor wants to pore through an RFP that’s packed with pages and pages of extraneous details. Although relevant details can be useful, too many can bog down your request. Be direct and, when in doubt, keep it simple.
- Make it interesting. As we’ve mentioned already, most consulting agencies receive a high volume of RFPs each year — so many that they start to blur together after a while. Although there’s no need to go over the top — remember, simple is best — it still helps to imbue your RFP with some personality so that it stands out to whoever’s responsible for reading it.
Find Your A-Team
Once you’ve officially submitted your CRM RFP, the follow-up process should be relatively simple: Assemble an internal team of specialists to review vendor proposals, wait for responses to come in, choose which vendors you’d like to see presentations from, and award a contract to the candidate whose RFP best matches your needs and objectives.
Before reviewing proposals, immediately eliminate any that fail to meet your baseline requirements. Make sure your evaluation team considers the experience and credentials of all candidates and how well each proposal responds to the specific goals laid out in your RFP, and that you create an evaluation rubric for each vendor presentation. Once all is said and done and you’ve selected a winning candidate, you’ll be well on your way to making your CRM vision a reality.
Need a resource to help you organize and streamline the process? Click here to receive VennScience’s free CRM RFP template!