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How to prepare for CRM demos

Finding the right CRM software can be a game changer for your nonprofit. It can help you centralize your most important data, keep staff on the same page, and streamline tasks to help you scale. When you start searching for new CRM software, you’ll have the chance to schedule product demonstrations with potential vendors. Demos let you see their software in action and can be essential to finding the right product for your nonprofit’s needs.

And by preparing ahead of time, you can transform generic CRM demos into tailored presentations. We’re looking at the best ways to prepare for these demos so you get answers to key questions and find the technology best suited to your unique situation.

Get input from everyone who will use the CRM

Before you schedule your demo, make sure to talk with all of the people who will rely on your new CRM. Choosing a CRM should never be a top down decision. Staff can share invaluable insights about their jobs because they’re close to the work day in and day out. Understand their daily tasks, define their needs—and document them!

Since even the fanciest CRM can’t fix broken internal processes, you’ll want to clearly define your internal systems and decide how you want your software to help out. Seeking input from all of your stakeholders from the beginning will improve the fit and adoption of the technology you select. Take the time to survey people across departments. While you might think you know what everyone is up to, by soliciting feedback from people in finance, program management, development, and beyond, you can create a holistic picture of your nonprofit’s operations and make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Then, use this feedback to create a master list of must-have and nice-to-have features and detailed descriptions of routine tasks that are performed each day that you can use to guide your demos.

Make an evaluation rubric

Funnel this feedback from your staff into a simple evaluation rubric that includes all of your must-have features and use it to rate the functionality of each CRM during your demos.

Tracking performance and features with a rubric lets you compare apples to apples at the end of the day and select the most well-suited technology for your organization. Like a grading rubric for college papers, your evaluation tool will enable you to rate your software demos using the same scale. It should include all of your must-have features and most important nice-to-have functionality with a row or column for each. As you participate in demos, fill out each section using yes/no or a 1-5 scale. At the end, you’ll be able to tally the results in a concrete way and use these numbers to make a decision.

Write a demo script

Writing a brief description of important internal processes that you’ll rely on your CRM to automate (a demo script) can give you a powerful tool for understanding precisely how different software works. Your demo script should outline a realistic scenario in your organization. For example:

Person A donates to your nonprofit for the first time in 2017. They also recruit their friends, people B and C, to contribute. You want to make sure person A receives soft-credit for the donations from B and C. None of them have contributed again in 2018, so you also want to make sure they all end up in the LYBUNT segment for your fundraising outreach. What does this look like?

Strive for a balance between specific details and big picture needs. Create your script and email it to your sales rep ahead of the actual demo to make the best use of your time. Sending your demo script early will give them time to prepare and show you exactly how their software would handle this scenario during your demo. It also ensures that you don’t have to learn the hard way that their product is missing features from your must-have checklist.

Ask the right questions at the start

Avoid generic answers or surprise costs down the road by asking relevant key questions ahead of time.

You’ll only have a limited amount of time during a demo. In addition to preparing a rubric and demo script, you’ll also want to create a shortlist of questions for your sales rep to answer. It’s a best practice to send these ahead of time with your demo script via email so they can be ready to respond when you meet with them. Important things to know about your CRM software include:

  • How much will it really cost your organization?
    The amount you pay can be affected by a number of factors, so you want to get the closest estimate possible based on the number of records/users you have now and how many you plan to have in the future. If you decide to use available add-ons or customize the tools, often times you’ll have to hire a developer. The very best tool can be a burden if it’s out of your price range, so you’ll want to find out ahead of time and budget and select accordingly.
  • How secure is the technology?
    You’ll want to know about whether you have the ability to set different user permissions and visibility for different types of records. If you’re in an industry that deals with personal information and plan to store these records in your database, you’ll want to make sure the CRM you choose is in compliance with the rules that govern your data.
  • How does their CRM handle integrations?
    If you’re already using other technology for things like donor management, bookkeeping, email marketing, and social media, you’ll want to know whether they offer integrations with your existing tools, how they work, and what they cost.
  • How do they handle data migration?
    This is an opportunity to learn about how other organizations like yours have made the shift to their tools. Will you have to clean your data yourself or hire someone? What does it cost and what is the timeline for data imports?

The truth is that it’s unlikely you’ll find a single CRM that can solve all of your problems. But by involving your staff early on, preparing the right questions and materials, and communicating with your sales rep in advance of your demos, you’ll be in a position to find the best fit possible.

Ali Oligny
Ali is a firm believer in the power of technology to create social change. As the Content Manager for Flipcause, she writes The Modern Nonprofit blog ( to help small nonprofits use technology for fundraising and make the best decisions with limited resources. She has seen firsthand the challenges this often overlooked population faces within the nonprofit sector and is thrilled to work with a tech company that is specifically committed to serving their needs. While she is a rare Salesforce convert from the nonprofit world, thanks to mentorship and countless hours of training donated by volunteers, she recognizes the limitations of a one-size-fits-all approach to data management.