How to Build a Business Case for CRM Software

By: Andrew Friedenthal on April 5, 2017

Let’s face it—sometimes you have the solution to a problem at work, but your boss just won’t listen. Bosses are time-crunched, and they can’t necessarily look at every proposal, especially those that lack a clear business case.

Take your customer relationship management (CRM) system. You may be using Excel to keep track of all of your customers and their data and finding that it’s no longer a feasible solution for your growing business.

You know that CRM software is the solution, but you don’t have a compelling way to communicate that to your superiors. What do you do?

In this article, we’ll help you build your CRM software business case by focusing on the software’s return on investment (ROI).

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Step 1: Using ROI to Make Your Case

Step 2: Calculating Your ROI  

Step 3: Gathering the Elements of Your Business Case

Quick Recap and Next Steps

Step 1: Using ROI to Make Your Case

Business decisions are driven largely by data. By focusing on the return on investment (ROI) from implementing a CRM system, you’ll provide the necessary data to make your case.

The numbers you arrive at can be estimates at this point; you’ll get into more concrete costs when actually considering specific systems. Here, it’s more important to provide a general idea of how new CRM software will translate into concrete ROI.

On the large scale, calculating the ROI is fairly simple.

  • First, you need to estimate how much the problem you’re trying to solve is costing your company, in terms of money lost.

  • Next, determine what the software solution will cost.

  • Finally, translate those figures into the same unit (most likely dollars), subtract the projected monthly cost of the software from what you are losing each month, and you have your monthly ROI estimate.

Step 2: Calculating the ROI of CRM

The biggest return on your investment will be in time saved on managing your contacts. Thus, you’ll want to convert time into money in order to make your case.

How can you do that? Just use the calculator below! Enter the requested information, and the calculator will provide the figures you need in order to estimate the ROI you’ll receive (in U.S. dollars per month) from implementing CRM software.

These calculations are based on the most basic benefit of CRM software—saving your employees time will save your company money. The calculator totals up the amount of money lost to the time employees spend on managing contacts and subtracts from that the cost of a CRM system in order to estimate your total projected monthly savings.

*Other costs may include lost revenue from redundant contact, the cost of a current CRM system that isn’t being used or revenue lost to bottlenecks when information isn’t updated in real time.

Step 3: Gathering the Elements of Your Business Case

Once you’ve figured out your ROI, you’ll want to formalize your full business case. When you’re making a business case for CRM software, follow this basic model, which breaks the case down into six important factors.

Building a Business Case


1. Executive Summary

As with any good argument, you need to begin by providing an overview of what you’ll be covering. Boil down your entire case into just a sentence or two.

Example: “Every member of the sales team spends about 20 hours a month trying to navigate our complicated Excel contact spreadsheets. CRM software will help us solve this problem within a year, saving us at least $10 per month per employee.”

2. Challenge

Clearly lay out the problem your business is encountering, as you see it. What are the specific issues affecting productivity or losing money that business software might solve?

Example: “Our spreadsheets require a huge volume of manual entry and constant updates. When those updates aren’t done in real time, they lead to redundant follow-ups. This is inefficient and wasteful, and it annoys customers and potential leads who receive multiple contacts from us.”

3. Solution

Provide a solution that speaks specifically to the problem(s) you’ve described, focusing on how CRM software will solve them. What will that software enable you to do that you are unable to do now?

Example: “A formal CRM system will house our important contact information in a central database that stakeholders across the company can easily access. This database will be searchable and update in real time, keeping everybody on the same page for every contact.”

4. Cost

List out all costs associated with implementing a new system. Although choosing the specific software vendor is a complicated process which affects many stakeholders, you can still provide an estimate here that gets as specific as possible in terms of the cost of the licenses, necessary new equipment, implementation fees etc.

Then, compare that to what the system will save you to be able to estimate what your total savings will be.

For more on how to estimate this, see the above section on calculating ROI.

Example: “A low-end CRM system, with a basic contact database, costs about $12 per user per month. Our needs will be fully met by a system that costs somewhere between $25 and $50 per user per month.

We currently lose about $60 per employee per month to wasted man-hours dealing with our contact spreadsheets, so once the system is up and running, we will be saving at least $10 a month per employee. If we decide we want more features, we can upgrade at a later date.”

5. Benefits

You’ve already covered the savings in time and money, so here you’ll want to focus on the less tangible benefits you’ll receive from the software. These benefits include things such as improved morale, a more cohesive organization, better communication and so forth.

Example: “Our hard-to-manage contact spreadsheets reduce productivity and hurt morale. Getting rid of the frustration that employees feel dealing with those spreadsheets will strengthen our team and create a better atmosphere.

It will also eliminate redundancies by making sure the entire team can access updates in real time, and thus won’t cover the same terrain twice. All of this will lead to a more productive, focused workforce.”

6. Execution Timeline

Now that you’ve laid out your case for why the software is important and how the company will benefit from it, provide a realistic estimate of how long it will take to get the system in place. Don’t forget to consider time needed for training.

Example: “If we form a taskforce, it should take us about six months to find the right system. Full implementation, including training, will take another six months. Combined, it should take us about a year to have a new CRM system in place company-wide.”

Quick Recap and Next Steps

These are the most important steps you need to make a simple, solid CRM business case to get your manager to consider new software. By formulating a business case, and emphasizing the ROI you’ve calculated, you can make the best possible argument for why your company needs a CRM system.

Now that you have a business case, here are some next steps to keep in mind as you look for the specific system that best fits your company’s needs:

  • Check out our recent CRM Software Small Business Buyer Report to see what some of the major trends are in CRM for small business just like yours.

  • Read user reviews of top CRM software to see how other nonprofit organizations feel about different vendors.

  • Email me at for more information. I’m happy to help you figure out what your own CRM software needs might be and to connect you to one of our expert software advisors for a free, no-obligation consultation!