In our first article on choosing the right CRM for your firm, we looked at where to start and creating a plan.

    Following on from this, we'll now take a look at how you can go about identifying potential suppliers and drafting a request for proposal. 

    The first job here is to create a long-list of potential suppliers. 

    Probably the best way of doing this is by talking to other advice firms to see what systems they use or can recommend. The websites of potential suppliers are clearly another good starting point, or you could talk to a specialist third-party consultant.

    It's worth remembering that the more suppliers you involve, the more evaluation work you will have to carry out. There’s little point inviting a supplier to bid that you don’t believe has at least some chance of winning; it will just waste their time as well as yours.

    Drafting the request for proposal

    Once you’re clear on what it is you need from your new CRM, and you’ve got a long-list of potential vendors and how you will evaluate them, then you’re ready to start drafting your request for proposal (RFP) document.

    There are no definitive rules on this. However, a well-structured, well-written document will invariably elicit a better set of proposals than a short, scruffy one. The below approach should provide a useful starting point and checklist of the areas you’ll need to cover.

    Table 1Table 2Table 3Table 4

    Helping firms to shine

    Ultimately the purpose of any RFP is to get the best possible proposals you can from the long-list of potential suppliers. So, take a bit of time to think through how you might make their job as easy (and as exciting!) as possible.

    The more excited they are by your requirements, the better their proposals are likely to be. Some activities you might want to consider are:

    1) Allowing them enough time to provide a great response. Like your own business, IT suppliers will experience peaks and troughs in activity.

    It’s in your interests to ensure they are able to allocate their best people to creating a proposal for you. Allow enough time for them to make this possible.

    Waiting another week for a proposal may be frustrating for you but if it makes the difference between choosing the right CRM system or not, then surely it's worth the wait?

    2) Providing as much background and context information within your RFP document as you can. Facts and figures around volumes, numbers of users, and numbers of clients are really helpful to the IT supplier.

    Generally speaking, you should spell out how great your business is and how fast it is going to grow. Everyone, including IT suppliers, likes to work with winners.

    3) Offering to run a briefing session for all potential suppliers. This will give them an opportunity to hear directly what it is you need. It will also enable them to clarify any areas of misunderstanding.

    4) Inviting detailed questions from the IT suppliers to ensure all requirements are fully understood.

    5) Encouraging innovation and lateral thinking. IT suppliers know their systems inside-out and may be able to suggest better ways of achieving your goals than simply providing the functionality you say you need.

    6) Maintaining contact with the IT suppliers while they are compiling their responses, and checking they're happy with the information you've provided and that they are going to meet the deadlines you have set.

    In our next article, we will look at the beauty parade and concluding the CRM selection process. 

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