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How to Prepare for (and Get the Best Out Of) A CRM Demo

Chris Houghton Posted on 12th Jul 22 by Chris Houghton

10 tips to put a CRM trial to work for you

How risk averse are you?

For some people, dipping their toe into the water is more palatable than diving right in. This is true for most areas of life, including making business decisions. Choosing and implementing a CRM database is one such decision that needs a bit of thought to get right, so it’s important to give it proper consideration.

Helpfully, most CRM companies now offer a guided demo that you can participate in without making any financial commitment. You might wish to independently experiment with the features available to you, but for those with a curious mind, a conversation with the CRM team can be a great way to get answers to your questions and alleviate any concerns you might have. Let’s dig into some ways you can get the best out of your software demo.


5 things to keep in mind before and during your CRM demo

1 Write down specific questions ahead of time

To truly get the most out of your CRM demo, it is crucial to engage your team early to collate their questions. There are two reasons for this: firstly, it helps to figure out what’s important to you before you speak with a CRM provider and secondly, it ensures that the team feels listened to and a part of the CRM buying process. So, come prepared with a handful of questions to ask your speculative provider during the demo.

2 Bring important stakeholders with you

The reality is that when implemented well, CRMs have the capacity to run the whole organisation. Therefore, it makes sense to bring key members of the team along with you to the CRM demo. The finance director might want to know how the CRM could link up to accounting software, the comms manager might want to learn how it impacts email marketing campaigns and the head of fundraising might want to understand more about collecting donations online. These people are your core team, so don’t exclude them from the early conversations.

3 Commit to the demo session

When you’ve got a lot going on, it can be tempting to keep your email open or your phone switched on to take urgent calls. But if possible, shut down your other channels to avoid distraction, and focus your attention on the CRM demo session. There are some key concepts in the CRM world that are worth exploring in detail during this time so you can understand exactly how such a system can benefit your charity. Show up and commit.

4 Remember: there are no “silly” questions!

We’re told that there is no such thing as a silly question and yet there’s often a voice telling us not to speak up. But CRM can be a sophisticated thing to get your head around, and so all questions are valid. Ultimately, it’s important that you feel equipped to make the best decision possible, so don’t shy away from asking any questions that come to mind. You might also take this time to get advice from the CRM provider on how best to achieve certain things. Most providers enjoy a challenge, so bring all your thoughts to the table, regardless of how crazy you think they may sound!

5 Pay attention to your gut feeling

When engaged in a conversation about making a big decision, there are two forces vying for your attention. You might recognise cognitively that the opportunity in front of you is a good one, but you feel some reluctance from inside. It’s important to tune into this and understand where it’s coming from. Often, it comes from a fear of the unknown. You don’t want to leave the session with unanswered questions or any feelings of unease, so be sure to have a full and frank conversation during the demo to put your mind at ease.

Once your CRM demonstration is over, you will likely be invited to use the software as part of a free trial. This is an opportunity to really get acquainted with it, to figure out whether the solution will work for your charity.

How to get the best out of a CRM trial

A CRM trial is a period of time, typically 7-14 days, when you and the team get full access to a piece of software to try before you buy. Unfortunately it is common for people to register for trials then not take advantage of the short window of time available. To avoid that, and to get the best out of your trial, heed the following tips:

1 Carve out dedicated CRM time

It’s quite likely that you already have a todo list as long as your arm, so adding the less urgent task to explore a CRM might not ever find its way to the top naturally. Therefore, you’ll need to put aside intentional time to experiment with the software. It might help to bundle your CRM trial time into other administrative tasks such as email, so if you send emails first thing, put aside 30 minutes to explore the CRM during this time as well.

2 Note down questions as you go

Using a new piece of software, particularly a CRM, can be overwhelming if it’s not something you are familiar with. It’s a good idea to write down any questions as they emerge, and encourage your team to do the same. You might even set up a shared document within which to capture questions and comments from colleagues. By doing this, you’ll have a clear set of queries to ask your potential CRM provider.

3 Put the CRM into practice

As you have not committed to the CRM yet, it can be tempting to make “dummy” records and fake data for testing purposes. But how will you know if this system is really going to work for you unless you start by using it in a real world scenario? Immediately begin putting your CRM into practice to discover what impact it could have on your organisation. If you need help importing your existing data, the CRM provider can probably support you in this.

4 Batch test a number of CRMs at the same time

To really get a feel for what’s on offer it can be helpful to trial a number of software options around the same time. This is more intensive, but it gives the opportunity to make direct comparisons. Which piece of software is easiest to use? Which one offers the most useful features? Which one lacks functions that you need? Tally up your findings in an internal document for sharing amongst the team. This can support you in making the right choice when the time is right.

5 Follow up with the provider

Once your CRM demo and trial is over it can be a good idea to reach out to the provider with questions and feedback. Generally speaking, most teams are happy to go the extra mile to support you, regardless of who you end up working with. This “wrapping up” should put you in a very strong position for choosing and integrating the best CRM solution for your charity.

This article would be incomplete without inviting you to book a demo with the team here at Beacon. Please feel welcome to do that here, and we look forward to meeting you!

Chris Houghton

About the author

Chris Houghton heads up the team at Beacon. He's focused on using data and technology to empower nonprofits to do more good.

Want to talk about charity CRM? You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

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