Small Business Customer Relationship Management

Deciding on the Best CRM Software For Your Business

February 26, 2008

After you’ve had a couple presentations from CRM software vendors, it’s time for your selection team to convene and compare notes. Save discussions on individual software choices until this meeting; this prevents premature decisions being made without the benefit of full discussion with all view points represented.

Evaluate the CRM Software technology, not the Partner

Remember: this meeting is to evaluate the technology, not the Partner. Yes, it’s human nature to role the two together and to some extent it’s unavoidable. However, do admonish your Selection Team to focus on the technology.

On your quest to find the best balance of features and budget, there are a few critical questions to answer at this meeting:

  1. Is there a clear technology winner?
  2. Is the project still feasible? It might be that the proposals all came in way over what you had in mind for a budget.
  3. If there’s not a clear winner, do we feel at least one or two of the CRM software choices may be sufficient? (watch out for inadequate presentations done by Partners).

The Structured Proposal

It can be very tricky to get a proposal that reveals the true costs of a solution. To help you get a reasonable apple-to-apples comparison, I’ve developed a very simple technique I call “The Structured Proposal”.

(check out the CRM Survival Guide if you are interested in the Structured Proposal)

Problems With Just Getting a Quote

You’d think that a sales quote is a sales quote. But with CRM it can be anything but. If you let each presenting Partner give you a quote as they see fit instead of in the Structured Proposal format, you’ll get a wide range of quotes and have no valid basis for comparison.

If you were to take the typical quote from a Partner and then have them re-do it using the Structured Proposal format, the new quote would likely be significantly higher. This is because it is designed to force the Partner to put a fair bit of thought and specificity into it, digging up costs that usually are glossed over.

The Structured Proposal is designed to make it easy for you to reasonably compare the costs associated with each technology. (while you won’t get to a true “apples to apples” comparison, you may get to an “Ida Red apple to Empire apple” comparison.) The format of the Structured Proposal is simple and
yet designed to make it difficult for Partners to “play games” with their quotes.

The 4 Elements Of The Structured Proposal

1. Software Costs

This is really the key to what makes the Structured Proposal work. Usually, Partners will bury any custom development work into services and often just quote the programming costs, leaving out such things as rework (and you can bank on there being rework on any custom development). With the Structured Proposal, you’re instructing them to be much more precise:

  • Create a detail line for each custom development piece.
  • For each piece of custom development, they’ll have to sign-off that they’ve considered: Functional
    Spec, Detailed Design, Programming, Unit Testing, at least 2 rounds of revisions and delivery.

2. Service Costs

Each category of service should be clearly delineated. You want this to be broken down into enough detail that you get the sense that they have thought through all the various areas that will be needed.

3. Disclaimers.

This is a very effective device. By explicitly asking the Partner (in writing) if there are any areas of concern, the likelihood of you getting an accurate picture goes way up. Often, there will be areas mentioned in here that will warrant more discussion and perhaps more investigation on the Partner’s part. This can lead to some very useful and effective communications with your potential Partner. Partner’s that use this area well are taking a big step towards earning your trust and confidence.

4. Sign-off declaration:

There’s nothing like putting a corporate officer’s signature to a declaration to make sure that what they’re signing-off on is accurate! “I have read and understand the Business Requirements document and the attached quote represents within +/- 20%”


You need to look at the cost for the whole solution to account for differences in each software’s native strengths and weaknesses.


28 Responses to “Deciding on the Best CRM Software For Your Business”

  1. Craig Klein on March 10th, 2008 2:07 pm

    Excellent advice!

    In my experience, most businesses have trouble objectively understanding the processes they are trying to automate.

    where there is no consistent process, technology cannot help much.

  2. Nicole on June 6th, 2008 2:24 pm

    I think the move lately however is to increasingly free online CRM systems, instead of large software expenditures that can end up costing a fortune and way more than a company intended., for example, is a free web-based crm system / contact manager that’s taking quite a different route from the large and costly CRM software systems.

  3. Gloria Rubaine on August 28th, 2009 8:47 am

    One mistake that CRM buyers seem to continually make however is that they do not evaluate the usefulness and value by asking a group of potential users to test drive the product. So many CRM programs fail because management is only thinking about the fancy reports and search values to themselves, forgetting that in order to obtain real data, the actual users have to support the system by putting the valuable information in. More often than not, it’s just garbage that goes into the systems especially overly complex ones.

  4. Intelestream Inc on April 20th, 2010 5:32 pm

    Good Advice concerning cost as a whole! At Intelestream, we provide a Web Based CRM solution billing only for the amount of data used rather than the number of licensed user seats. Read our informative whitepaper that compares us to other providers out there by visiting: Or Take advantage of a free 30-day trial by visiting:
    The Intelestream Team

  5. Intelestream Inc on July 25th, 2010 12:36 am

    Some things to keep in mind: CRM is a business strategy, not just a technology. So before rushing out to purchase software, take a holistic view and determine how your organization is going to change in order to position the customer in the center of all interactions. Be sure to also spend time planning specific use cases, a user adoption strategy, and business process mapping. Additional in depth reading on Considerations before choosing a CRM can be found at Intelestream web page

  6. Jasmin on December 24th, 2010 4:00 am

    The important thing is don’t forget your goal. “What do you expect from implementing a CRM software?” Then you take a good consideration on the pros and cons of specific CRM software you’re considering to buy. This should help avoid waste your investment.

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