Your CRM brief template provides the foundations of your full and final CRM brief. You will need your CRM brief at the point when you are looking to approach a CRM vendor, choose a CRM system or perhaps are looking to share your CRM implementation plans with a wider audience before moving forward.

It is helpful to have had sight of a CRM brief template at the early stages of your CRM preparation to help you keep the focus on key information that will be needed to populate it further down the line.

In a moment, we will take a look at how to turbocharge your CRM brief template in 12 must-have steps. But first, it is worth mentioning that even with a proven CRM brief template, you can only turbocharge your actual CRM brief if you have spent significant time preparing for your CRM implementation beforehand.

CRM implementation preparation might include:

  1. …taking a grass-roots look at your business operations processes to check that they are efficient, make sense, and are in line with the company’s mission, objectives and strategy.

    For example, you might include; a review of sales & operations, sales funnel management, customer engagement, marketing processes, information technology, human resources, health & safety and environmental policies. You could also include all processes/procedures & workflows, data sources, security and access control.

  2. …understanding exactly what types of CRM are available and what a CRM system could do for your business.
  3. …carrying out a business process review to take a more granular look than the business operations review at the step-by-step actions undertaken within each business workflow or process.
  4. …reviewing your customers’ journey. The customer journey plots their chronological path through your operational pipeline, or – from their perspective – through the process of choosing your company to purchase products time-after-time. Today, customers hold all the knowledge, so it is more important than ever to provide them with exactly what they want, when they want it and how they want to receive it. Your CRM system can help you achieve this.
  5. …fully detailing workflow and field maps. This exercise comprises taking the collection of thoughts, ideas, notes, sketches and doodles from the business process and customer journey review and translating them into an unambiguous instruction. Accurate and detailed information will then be available to add to your CRM brief.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”.

Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, 1861-1865

Importance of creating a thorough, professional CRM brief template

One final point before setting out how to turbocharge your CRM brief template is to remember how important it is to produce a comprehensive and detailed document. Before beginning to contemplate selecting your CRM system, and which CRM vendors to approach, it is critical to notate what your business needs are from the CRM system. This clarity is needed for these reasons:

  1. CRM vendors are very good at showing you the bells and whistles of their systems and, to be fair, they are often very impressive. However, does your business need them? Each additional bell or whistle has a cost. Stick to the script and you won’t stray too far from the essential structure and functionality that your business needs.
  2. The more accurate and authoritative you can be with CRM vendors from the outset, the more relevant and specific their feedback will be.
  3. CRM vendors will take you more seriously from the beginning.

Here goes…

What follows is a recommended structure for your CRM brief template. It covers the majority of information that most small businesses would need when constructing a CRM brief. Bear in mind that your own business may have some nuances not included here and you should consider whether this applies to your business sector.

As you work through the detail of the CRM brief template, it will become apparent how the diligent work preparing for your CRM implementation will help when constructing your first CRM brief. As you look through the template, ask yourself if it will allow you to:

  • express the most precise picture of what a CRM system may be able to achieve for your business. Will it highlight the essential functionality you might need and what kind of structure the CRM system requires.
  • share your vision with all stakeholders, e.g. project colleagues, associated departments, management, the board, to gain a broad consensus of what you are looking to achieve.
  • gain approval, in principle, for a level of expenditure.
  • professionally present the company to CRM vendors.
  • stay on track throughout the process, avoiding being drawn into the nice-to-haves rather than sticking to essentials.
  • maximise the ability of the CRM vendors to provide accurate feedback, a targeted demonstration and realistic idea of overall costs.

The CRM brief template – 12 must-have steps (summary)

A. Introduction

  1. An introduction to the business
  2. Key objectives
  3. Requirements for the system
  4. Requirements from the vendor
  5. Current systems

B. Detail

  1. Design
  2. Functionality
  3. Administration
  4. Hosting
  5. Licences
  6. Implementation plan
  7. Appendices

The result will be a comprehensive guide to all stakeholders; members of your project team, those tasked with authorising expenditure and, most importantly, potential vendors who will convert your operational vision into a reality.

The CRM brief template – 12 must-have steps (detail)


1. An introduction to the business

CRM vendors need to understand the aspirations of the business operation they are dealing with; where it has come from, where it is trying to get to, and why it is looking for an appropriate CRM system to help it get there. As such, you will look to provide a brief history of the business, its main activities and unique selling proposition. You can also clarify current and future turnover, employee numbers (perhaps with organisational chart) and any other information which helps the CRM vendor to understand your business.

2. CRM Key Objectives

Overall objectives for the CRM implementation need to be recorded. Typically, these may relate to improving operational efficiency, integrating marketing campaigns with salesforce, preparing for growth and/or giving customers a unified lifetime journey with the company.

3. Requirements for CRM System

Formalise a summary list of the main structural, functional and administrative requirements from the system. This list will include thoughts on entities/modules (see ‘6. Design’ below) and guidelines to other areas such as look and feel, integration and future-proofing needs.

4. Requirements from CRM Vendor

It is essential to set out the overall expectation of the vendor, such as ongoing development, support, licences and training needs. In some cases, the vendor may not supply the licences, and so a twin-track conversation may develop with developer and software proprietor separately.

5. Current Systems

List all existing hardware, software, data and integrations that the business utilises and which of these will play a part in the forthcoming implementation.


6. CRM Design

The design should comprise outline thoughts on the fundamentals of the proposed CRM system in terms of a. structure, b. data, and c. look & feel.

a. Structure
Structure refers to the top level of workflow required for the system rather than the more granular results of your work in the business process review or any workflow & field mapping. CRM software will likely be structured to manage a standard workflow process. A process could monitor marketing campaigns, create prospects, nurture leads, follow a sales process, deliver a project or product and finally provide ongoing after-sales service. There may also be other requirements such as managing an operations & maintenance process, membership list or similar.

Typically, a CRM system will reflect that workflow and begin by providing Prospects and Leads modules (‘modules’ being the main structural components, sometimes referred to as ‘entities’).

Of course, businesses will all have different ideas about what constitutes a prospect or a lead. All companies define the stages of engagement with a prospect in a different way. Let’s consider just leads for now, and assume that a lead is a potential customer with whom the business has made initial contact and who has expressed some interest in your product/service.

The Lead entity/module is a single point of storage for all information relating to that lead, e.g. addresses, contact details, decision-makers, reasons for being interested in your products. Perhaps feedback from a marketing campaign created the initial data, while a telesales team have tried contacting these leads. At a certain point, each lead will have fulfilled sufficient criteria to warrant more interest from the salesforce.

On instruction, the CRM system will commonly to take the information from this lead and automatically partition it into three new entities/modules accordingly:

  • Accounts (information about the business entity)
  • Contacts (information about the individuals within the business)
  • Opportunities (information about the specific sales opportunities)

The Lead entity is not deleted but placed into a dormant state to refer back to it at a later stage if needed. This action provides an efficient way to nurture potential customers through the system. Information is formalised in readiness for greater functionality down the line at a point when it is warranted. Otherwise, the data remains behind in the relative obscurity of the Lead entity.

It is worth mentioning that while an Account in this sense relates to a potential customer, it can also store information about partners, suppliers, stakeholders and competitors. The remainder of the workflow through a CRM system may be more tailored to individual businesses.

Typically, further entities/modules could be;

  • Project/product delivery
  • Product inventory
  • After-sales service
  • Cases (a structured way to efficiently manage customer queries)
  • Partner portal & knowledge base

b. Data
The business of managing data can be categorised as follows:

  • Configuration of data for the new CRM system
    This configuration comprises all the data and data fields you want to be incorporated into your new CRM system, together with your workflow summaries, to provide complete feedback for CRM vendor as an appendix. The vendor needs to understand the extent of information you are looking to maintain to form a view on potential development time.
  • Cleaning/ Integrity
    A data cleaning process is sensible before migration into the new system. Quite often, businesses without CRM will be holding batches of essential data on more than one system. The combined data (usually in Excel) can be ‘cleaned’, de-duplicated and configured into a format ready for importing.
  • Import/ Export
    As well as preparing for an initial import of data, it is important to understand how the CRM system can empower an in-house administrator to import on an ongoing basis. A similar understanding is needed to manage data export (i.e. access controls) according to specific business rules.

c. Look & Feel
While the limitations of a CRM system may curtail your aspirations for artistic design, some vendors can provide greater flexibility than others in this area. It is reasonable to expect the system to support your business workflow rather than having to adapt your processes to it. You may have a preference for clean, uncluttered spaces.

You may be particularly keen to maximise user-friendliness (i.e. more than three clicks and you’re out) to improve buy-in by all relevant parties (this is critical). Whichever, these look & feel features will undoubtedly form part of your decision process.

7. CRM Functionality required

All areas of functionality that may be of interest should be listed, perhaps differentiating between essentials and nice-to-haves. Make sure you have understood the comprehensive CRM features & benefits that are available in today’s high-end CRM systems. Armed with this knowledge, your business operations review will provide you with a comprehensive list of necessary functionality.

The CRM Turbo support pack provides a Business Operations Review with CRM feedback, which will ensure that you dig deep into your business operations and not leave out any critical functionality. Always remember, additions and amendments to your CRM system come with a cost, so try to avoid if you can.

8. Administration

The Administration section will cover a range of remaining issues and potential requirements, for instance:

a. Software Integrations
You may or may not require integration with other business software. Most respectable CRM systems will readily integrate with Office 365, Outlook and perhaps one or two other popular email clients. Other potential integrations could be with leading accounts packages such as Sage or Xero. In any case, it will be helpful to understand the system’s ability to integrate for future purposes alongside the availability of easily integrated software from, say, an app store or similar.

b. Documents
You may want to understand the system’s ability to create documents such as invoices, sales quotations and sales order. How are they created, edited and stored?

c. Scalability/ future-proofing
Your CRM system needs to take the strain both today and into the future. It is, therefore, essential to understand how it will cope with expected growth over, say, the next five years. How easy is it to add new fields in-house or to produce more sophisticated reports over time? How will costs grow with scale and how seamlessly will you be able to manage this growth through the system? You want to be a boat on a rising tide, comfortably managing your workload at whatever level of activity.

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

d. Security
You will be keen to ensure that your system and data are secure, both from external and internal sources. Access control, or lack of it, will rule out many of the CRM vendors you may at first consider. Most businesses need to restrict the ability of users to view and/or edit specific data. A flexible CRM system will segment access control by:

  • Teams – which allow you to group users who view data (e.g. Sales area 1, Sales area 2, Sales area 3.)
  • Roles – which enable you to group job types which edit data (e.g. Sales Director, Sales Managers, Sales Administrators.)

This distinction between teams and roles may not be immediately evident. Assume for now that this functionality will allow you to slice and dice control of viewing and editing data in a myriad of ways to fit your business security requirements. The best systems will allow you to achieve this at field level as well as entity/module level.

As part of the discussion about system security, you will also be looking to understand the process (and control) of backups.

e. CRM Vendor Service
Understanding the service that a vendor can provide will be a crucial part of your selection criteria. You need to know what ongoing maintenance and service level agreements are in place, what training is available, and how the associated costs may look. Look to request, and follow up on, vendor references to better understand the quality of this service.

You will also want to discuss how costs may rise within the term of an agreement. Ask for an indication of unplanned expenses, i.e. those which fall outside the current scoping but which a reputable vendor should share with you at this stage.

9. Hosting

You may not yet have a preference between cloud-based and client-based platforms. Cloud-based platforms offer many benefits:

  1. Flexibility: ease of increasing/decreasing licence base
  2. Updates: take place behind the scenes
  3. Capital cost: no servers, no I.T. department
  4. Freedom: work from anywhere on any device
  5. Support: CRM vendor can access your system at all times quickly

The momentum in the marketplace is with cloud-based solutions, but your business may be better suited to a client-based platform. You may, for instance, be currently managing an in-house server for other software which can bring meaningful cost savings. As well as cost, the discussion will include issues such as outages, speed/latency of the system, upgrades and user licences (i.e. the differences between cloud and in-house).

In the case of cloud, you will also want to consider compatibility with Internet Explorer, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari, as well as P.C.s, Macs, iOS and Android.

10. CRM Licences

Consider how many licences you need will from the outset. How is that likely to grow over the next few years? Some platforms offer great prices up to a certain level so make sure it is clear what that level is. Some vendors run an all-in model where a licence fee covers all functionality. Others may bundle, confusingly, a collection of functional licences to give an overall cost. The CRM Turbo Support Pack provides templates for converting the sometimes complex quotations from different CRM vendors into a single, comparable, set of data.

11. CRM Implementation Plan

Having spent hard-earned time getting to this point, you will expect your first presentation and subsequent conversations with a vendor to address your essential requirements satisfactorily. You will also want the vendor to have laid down a logical and clear pathway to a successful implementation. It is helpful, therefore, to clarify what you are expecting from the vendor through this process, such as:

  • Initial Presentation
    what essential structural, functional and administrative elements you would like to see in action or at least an understanding of how they may be achieved.
  • Vendor
    an understanding of their track record, experience dealing with similar businesses and an opportunity to talk with one or two of their clients.
  • Timeline
    give some indication of your timeline requirements for implementation. This timeline may rule out certain vendors from the outset.
  • Delivery Plan
    seek clarity to the process of implementation. Specifically, understanding those points where your own staff time will be affected.
  • Costs
    ensure you understand all associated costs including scoping, implementation, training, maintenance & support and licensing. Also look to understand any opportunities for cost savings (e.g. adjustments to specification, sensible use of licenses and similar), or, conversely, any potential future or out-of-scope costs.

“A man’s accomplishments in life are the cumulative effect of his attention to detail.”

John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State to Dwight Eisenhower, 1953-1959

12. Appendices

These can cover a multitude of sections of outstanding information for the CRM vendor. Typically look to include details of your required workflow, field mapping, and any other information to maximise the benefit of the main presentation that the vendor will provide from the outset.

Depending on the extent of information you make available to share with CRM vendors, it makes sense to partition this information into appendices, so as not to clutter the flow of the main part of the brief. The potential CRM vendor needs to easily understand your overall requirements before diving too much into the detail.

So, there are your 12 must-have steps to include in your CRM brief template. By considering this template at an early stage of your CRM implementation preparation, you will keep a clear eye on what information you should be contemplating throughout preparation, in readiness to complete your actual CRM brief when ready. You have made the chances of CRM implementation failure much less likely.

From this template, you will be able to produce a quality CRM brief and be ready to consider which CRM vendors are most suitable for your requirements. You will move forward through the CRM vendor selection process with clarity about your needs and, above all, with control. You will lead, not follow, the process.

A full CRM brief template is available in the CRM Turbo Support Pack.

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