CRM Demos Done Right

How to Evaluate, Score and Rank CRM Software Demos


  • The best CRM demonstrations shift your evaluation from quantitative to qualitative. They assess subjective but essential criteria such as simplicity, ease of use, intuitive navigation and the user experience.
  • Vendor led demos often focus on what's cool but not relevant. They are entertaining but not helpful in making an informed and objective assessment. Software demo scripts ensure that demos focus on what is most important and create consistency for an apples-to-apples comparison.
  • A structured evaluation process is a small investment to ensure the best application is chosen and will pay dividends in terms of user adoption, software utilization and ROI.

The demo shifts your Customer Relationship Management evaluation from identifying what capabilities exist to seeing how they are delivered.

The CRM software demo provides a visual verification for how the technology accommodates your most important requirements. It also validates several measures that just cannot be validated any other way, such as ease of use, a clean and simple user interface and a rewarding user experience.

CRM Demo Process

To get the most out of your demos, consider the following 5 CRM demonstration best practices.

  1. Short list to 2 or 3 vendors. It's better to go deep with fewer solutions than broad with many. Presentations are long and detailed so more than 3 demos tends to blur memories. Good salespeople help their clients solve problems. So, provide the vendors a background document on the company and evaluation project. Offer vendors time before the demo to understand the business, what's important and what problems need to be solved. Also share your decision criteria. There is no reason to keep it a secret, and being transparent with the vendors will allow them to be more responsive.
  2. Focus on what separates the systems. These systems have evolved over decades and offer rich functionality. They pretty much all cover all the basics. We know from many years of CRM consulting that about 80 percent of the application functionality and feature sets are common among most market share leading systems. That means you are better off to focus on the 20 percent that differentiates. Identifying the differences among the solutions that are relevant to your business delivers the most value in the CRM software selection.
  3. Use demo scripts. Demonstration scripts are needed to focus on what matters and create parity for scoring. Scripts are needed to ensure you see how the software responds to your most important objectives. Without scripts you will simply see cool features most of which are not relevant to your business or decision-making criteria. Demo scripts should focus on user, customer and business outcomes. Don't tell the vendor how to do something. Tell them what you want to accomplish and let them show you how they do it. Sometimes their ideas may change your thinking. Also, focus on complete business processes, not individual tasks or screens. A standalone screen may look fine on its own but become complex, cumbersome or confusing when part of a broader process. You will need to suggest time limits by topic or areas so vendors do not over invest where they are strong and gloss over where they are weak. It’s also a good idea to organize the demo in sections so staff can attend just the topics important to them. Lastly, demos should be interactive. Don't interrupt the presentation, but reserve frequent breaks for questions. And something we frequently do when leading CRM demos is have staff actually enter a few records or transactions. There is a big difference between watching a trained expert and an actual user entering data and navigating screens.
  4. Use a scorecard. All demos should be immediately scored after the presentation while memory is still fresh. Not all items are equal in importance so demo script items should be weighted. Some companies weight with a 1 to 10 score while others simplify by designating each item as a 'must-have' or 'nice to have.' If you choose this later method, don't make everything must-have. All constituents should be included in scoring. That means users, managers, executives, IT professionals and anyone else who is a user or beneficiary of the new system. Scores can then be consolidated and displayed in a side-by-side comparison.
  5. Conduct a post-demo brief. A facilitator should lead a post-demo collaboration exercise. It's amazing how the observations of others may have picked up things you missed and can influence group opinion. The first goal of this meeting is to develop a consensus for each major evaluation area, or to note the differences where there isn't consensus. The second goal is to confirm application gaps. Every quality demo uncovers gaps but quite often you can work with the vendor to identify work-arounds, creative configurations, third-party products, or software customization as a last alternative. The post-demo brief should solidify the team's conclusions and any concerns in a document with enough detail to be useful if it needs to be reflected upon weeks after the presentation.

It's a lot of work to do this right, but there's a lot at stake. Selecting the best CRM software for your business will prevent excessive customization and challenged user adoption. It will also ensure you maximize your technology investment.