Selecting a CRM is a hard choice. Most solutions appear to have similar features, and because there are hundreds of CRMs on the market, it makes choosing one tough — if not impossible. In my more than 30 years of CRM consulting experience, I’ve seen that uncertainty firsthand. Customers are often confused, overwhelmed, and struggling to decide on pricing and features.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you know the right questions to ask your CRM vendors, you’ll not only be able to make a well informed decision, but you will also increase your likelihood of long-term success with the CRM. Here are the crucial questions I recommend asking your CRM vendors:

1. How much does it cost?

Every vendor is going to begin by telling you the cost of their least expensive edition; but what you really want to know is the price of their most expensive edition. Why? Because it is rare that you’ll use the entry product forever. Entry level solutions have limited features and scalability, so most people end up upgrading within a year or two. If you can’t afford the more expensive version, then you should pass on the product.

2. How can I lock in my price? 

Most vendors will offer a great discount on the list price for the first couple of years, but then they will raise the price. This is common practice for every CRM vendor. Ask them to commit to a limit on price increases, and if they can’t commit look elsewhere.

3. What customer success services do you offer and what do those cost?

A CRM only has value if you use it. Some CRM companies provide a customer success team to help you maximize value. Other companies build that into the price, while others charge for it separately. When selecting a CRM, consider this question, “If I’m having problems with adoption, what services will this vendor provide to help me?”

4. How do I get support and what does it cost?

What is covered under support will vary vendor to vendor. Some provide only the most basic support and upcharge for real help. If support is an additional charge, find out upfront and add that to the overall cost of ownership. Also, determine the breadth of the free support.  Sometimes free support is “you pay for what you get”.  Many free support programs tell you what you need to do but don’t help you do it. Determining how the support programs work will help you calculate the true total cost of ownership.

5. How often do you raise your prices?

Some start up CRM vendors raise their prices every couple of years. Find out when the vendor last raised their price and by how much. If you find a frequent pattern, consider looking elsewhere.

6. When is start of your Fiscal Year? 

Each CRM vendor defines when their fiscal year begins and ends. This is important when it comes to discounting.  Discounts are the biggest at the end of their fiscal year or the end of their quarter.  Whenever possible, we advise customers to buy in this order: year end, quarter end, and month end.  Year end will get you the best deal, with quarter and month end following after that.

7. Do I need all these features?

Some CRM demos are like shining a laser pointer around a room filled with cats. They show you the things that are flashy but distract you from features you actually need. Always make a list of your desired features and force the demo presenter to show you those first before they give you the dog and pony show.

8. How many releases or updates happen every year? 

Normally CRM vendors do about four releases per year, but some do up to 12. This is important because you need to test each release in a sandbox to ensure it does not affect your customizations. Vendors who do lots of releases require more testing work. It’s something to consider.

9. Can I delay or skip a version release?

Like in #8 above, if there too many releases, the option to skip a release can make upgrades more manageable. This is especially true if there are features or fixes in the release that are not needed.

10. Is the upgrade cost included in the subscription?

There are still companies out there who sell CRM solutions and, when product upgrade comes out, make the customer responsible for performing the upgrade.  This is a hidden cost to their Cloud solution.

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