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Ellen Duero Rohwer, CFRE
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Selecting Your CRM Vendor: Tips for Checking References


You wouldn’t hire a top executive without checking references, and you shouldn’t hire a software vendor without doing the same. To make sure you’re investing in the right candidate for CRM implementation, ask plenty of questions. Digging deeply into your CRM candidate’s performance on the job will inform your decision, and prepare you for the realities of implementation after the post-sale glow has faded.

Because a thorough reference check takes time, allocate resources for this crucial activity when you’ve narrowed the field to just one CRM candidate. At the end of your search, you’ll know more about potential pitfalls than you did at any other point in the process, so leverage your knowledge with focused questions about your vendor’s strategies and true deliverables.

Be Specific

The questions you ask should be based on specific concerns or questions you have about the vendor’s offerings. Don’t be afraid to get into the weeds with questions like “We are planning on integrating with our on-line alumni portal for event registrations. Is your instance integrated with something similar, and how does it work?”

Share your concerns with the references you talk to; you may dodge a bullet by uncovering a misalignment between your needs and the vendor’s product.

Leave No Stone Unturned

Has the vendor promised functionality you didn’t get to fully explore? Are you unsure the software will really work the way they promised? Share your concerns with the references you talk to; you may dodge a bullet by uncovering a misalignment between your needs and the vendor’s product.

Tag Team

At least two people from your organization should participate in the reference calls, so you can compare notes and ensure you are moving forward with a well-rounded impression. 

Ask Around

In addition to the vendor’s suggested references, take time to plumb your own networks for organizations using the CRM software you want. While the vendor’s good customers will provide helpful insight, you’ll want to dig a little deeper for a more complete set of experiences and opinions. Ask questions about implementation and support such as:

  • Did the vendor change the staff assigned during implementation?
  • How much data cleanup did you have to do after conversion?
  • How would you describe your ongoing relationship with the vendor for support?
Ask JCA

JCA is devoted to helping nonprofits select, implement, and operationalize CRM systems to meet their unique requirements. For nearly 30 years we’ve saved organizations time and money by making sure they purchase the right system, for the right reasons, at the right price.