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There are butterflies in your stomach. Your heart is racing. Your palms are a little sweaty. Today is the day you might find the one—your perfect CRM solution.

Navigating a CRM RFP process is a little like being set up by a matchmaker. You make a list of requirements and preferences, wait to hear from potential matches, and finally sign a long-term contract.

But choosing a CRM doesn't need to be nearly as nerve-wracking. I've put together this quick guide to writing an effective CRM RFP, evaluating vendors, and implementing your chosen solution. Talk about a happily ever after.

What Is an RFP?

An RFP, or Request for Proposal, is a formal document that outlines your company's CRM (customer relationship management software) needs and invites vendors to submit proposals detailing how their solutions can meet those requirements.

RFP vs. RFI vs. RFQ

You can formally request a few different things from potential vendors, ranging from the most basic (information) to the most complex (proposal). Here’s a cheat sheet to the acronyms: 

  • RFP (Request for Proposal): Used to solicit comprehensive proposals outlining a vendor's solution, capabilities, and implementation plan.
  • RFI (Request for Information): Used to gather general information about a vendor's product or service.
  • RFQ (Request for Quote): Used to obtain specific pricing information from vendors for a pre-defined product or service.

Why Do You Need a CRM RFP?

You might not need one. These days, most buyers bypass a formal proposal, opting to research online and contact a sales team at the tail end of the buying process. 

However, RFPs are especially useful if you require unique CRM customization or additional features beyond the out-of-the-box solutions. Or, a proposal process might be required for your industry or company, like in government contracts or construction.

The RFP process is still a worthwhile exercise, though, as it provides:

  • Clarity: It ensures internal stakeholders and external vendors understand your needs and expectations, leading to more effective software solutions.
  • Comparison: It creates a standardized format for evaluating different vendors side-by-side.
  • Efficiency: It saves time by filtering out unqualified vendors early in the process.
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7 Steps to Building a CRM RFP

A good CRM RFP clearly outlines your CRM process, the expectations of the vendor, and the timeframe for implementation. Use this step-by-step guide to build your next RFP. 

1. Define Your Business Needs and Goals

Identify your pain points and desired outcomes for the CRM implementation—aka have your CRM strategy fleshed out. Understand how you will achieve a return on your CRM investment

Align all internal stakeholders (typically Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, RevOps, and Finance) and get buy-in before you take the next step.

2. Prioritize CRM Requirements

Make a list of "must-have" and "nice-to-have" features of a CRM system. Again, consult your stakeholders on their needs and processes.

Think about the other tools in your tech stack that need to integrate with the new CRM. What are the things that are business critical? CRM integrations should be one of the most important factors in your CRM evaluation.

3. Build a List of Qualified Vendors

Research and shortlist vendors who can deliver on your requirements, meet industry specifications, and stay within your budget. Here are a few of my favorites:

4. Draft Your CRM RFP

Use this template as a guide for writing your RFP. Only include the most important information a vendor needs to know about your business to fulfill the proposal. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals to current customers or testimonials to better understand what it’s like to work with the vendor. This is your opportunity to be picky. 

SectionWhat to Include
Company BackgroundBriefly introduce your company and its goals.
User OverviewSpecify the number and types of users who will need access to the CRM.
CRM System RequirementsOutline your desired functionality, integrations, and data security needs.
Platform RequirementsSpecify your preference for cloud-based or on-premise solutions.
TimelineEstablish a realistic timeframe for the selection and implementation process.
BudgetSet a clear budget range for the CRM solution, including subscription costs, implementation costs, and ongoing support costs (also called Total Cost of Ownership).
Implementation, Training, and SupportDefine your expectations for vendor support during implementation, user training, and ongoing maintenance.
ReferencesRequest a list of current customer references to gain insights into vendor performance.

5. Send Your Proposal

Send the RFP to your shortlisted vendors and set a deadline for responses. Treat this like any other lead in your pipeline and set up a sequence of follow-ups.

If the vendor is slow to respond, they likely won't be a responsive partner in the future. The RFP process gives great insight into what your working relationship will look like.

6. Evaluate Responses

Carefully assess each proposal against your requirements and prioritize vendors that are the best fit.

A CRM evaluation scorecard can make this process even easier, helping you rank and score vendors based on your criteria.

7. Sign the Contract and Implement

Once you've chosen a vendor, finalize the contract and work with them to implement the CRM system successfully.

CRM implementation is a whole other ball game—one that can be extremely complicated and frustrating. No matter if you are implementing the system yourself or someone else is doing the work for you, expect hiccups. 

A CRM RFP Makes the CRM Selection Process Smoother

A well-defined RFP is the first step in unlocking a powerful CRM that drives business growth.

At the end of the day, a good CRM empowers your go-to-market teams to do their jobs more effectively, opening opportunities for advanced CRM analytics and data-driven decision-making. It is critical software for a scaling business.

This guide should make it easier to set up a CRM RFP and ultimately find the one. No diamond ring required.

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Kerri Linsenbigler
By Kerri Linsenbigler

Kerri Linsenbigler is the Senior Editor for The RevOps Team. She cut her teeth on revenue operations while leading content marketing and insights for a global membership of go-to-market executives.

Kerri built her career on helping people win at work with nearly a decade of storytelling experience in advertising, marketing, and public relations. She is also the co-author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Kind Folks Finish First: The Considerate Path to Success in Business and Life.