Shelly Spiegel

CEO & Chief Creative Officer

(Part 4 of a series of 5)

Welcome to Part 4 of my five-part series on choosing an admissions CRM! (In case you missed it, here’s why I wrote this series.)

In this post, I’ll talk about the advantages of sending vendors a Request for Information (RFI) instead of – or prior to – sending a Request for Proposal (RFP). I’ll also provide you with an invaluable resource, 21 Crucial Questions to Ask in Your Admissions CRM RFI … most importantly, I’ll tell you why these questions matter.

So what are the advantages of sending an RFI?

An RFI will help you understand:

  • A vendor’s “story” – its philosophy, culture, and values in their own words
  • A vendor’s commitment to user experience, implementation, and client support
  • The problem(s) the CRM was originally created to solve (e.g., recruiting, application reading, etc.)
  • How the CRM is different than those of competitors
  • The CRM’s core features and functionality, and how they work
  • The pricing structure, and what’s included (and what’s not)
  • And much more

And here’s another big benefit. If your school requires you to send an RFP – after sending an RFI – an RFI can help you FURTHER narrow your pool of vendors to a more manageable “shortlist” of those vendors that best align with your priorities, staffing resources, and budget. (Remember, the more vendors on your “shortlist,” the more responses you’ll need to review and score.)

Writing your RFI

What should you ask in your RFI? Great news. My team at Fire Engine RED and I have done most of the work for you! Check out this valuable resource: 21 Crucial Questions to Ask in Your Admissions CRM RFI. It includes the essential questions you should include in your RFI … AND tells you the reasons why it’s so important to ask them. Think of it as a behind-the-scenes guide from a team of insiders.

One more thing: Ask your vendors to keep their RFI responses relatively brief – they should be able to tell their story and answer your questions in 25 pages or less.

Ask each vendor to show you HOW

The best way to find out how the CRM works is to get a more in-depth demo (2+ hours). As I discussed in my previous posts, one of the biggest problems with RFPs is that they ask WHAT the CRM does, but not HOW it does things.

So how do you know which features and functionality you should ask each vendor to show you? Not to worry: I’ll give you a list! Check out our What Your Admissions CRM Demo Should Include resource; it describes everything a CRM demo needs to cover.


After you’ve gone through the RFI process, you should have enough information to make a decision. However, if your school requires you to do an RFP, I’ve got you covered there as well.

The fifth and final blog post in this series, Getting the Best Outcome from Your Admissions CRM RFP, provides tips on making the most of the RFP process. Check it out!

Shelly Spiegel has nearly 30 years of experience in the education market – including 15 years as CEO & Chief Creative Officer of the company she founded, Fire Engine RED.