Customer Management Articles

Demystifying CRM Pricing Structures: True Cost Versus Smoke and Mirrors

by Karen McCandless
Published on 25 June 2015

HEAD-The-true-cost-of-a-CRMIf the days of spreadsheets, inboxes, and colorful Post-It notes system have lost their luster, congratulations! You're ready to choose a sales CRM system. You've joined those who see their CRM software as an investment, not an expense.

So let's talk about how to make this investment smart. You've accepted the promise of the CRM as a tool to track everything, organize your sales flow and process, overcome hurdles to reporting, and enable reliable forecasting. It's a new world.

Your spreadsheet software didn't cost you; now you're ready to invest. But wait. Here be dragons. Buying CRM is not the same as buying Excel. You don't even know what you don't know, and it's easy to take expensive missteps.

What you don't know can hurt you

Say your CRM implementation is underway, when you find out that your tier doesn't allow historical reporting or territory management - that's a higher price. You can't create profiles and page layouts tailored to your needs either - the invoice doubles with those, per seat. Custom app development or integration via web service - extra. Additional data storage? Your monthly bill just quadrupled. Need to integrate your email? That'll be more money, thank you.

A comparison of the features found in group CRM plans

CRM pricing should not be a black box

When you're looking for a new piece of software, you want the pricing structure to be as transparent and easy to understand as possible, with all the costs mentioned upfront so you can avoid this exact situation. Be aware that some vendors aren't out to make it easy to understand - purposefully. You know you them when you see bewilderingly long documents explaining the various tiers and pricing models, some as long as a 29-page PDF - for pricing! And if the pricing document is impenetrable…. well, what can you be sure of?

If you're looking for advice, there is a short, printable checklist and practical CRM buying guide you might find helpful as you compare features and pricing.

Choosing CRM cover

Beware the hidden costs

Hidden costs come in a number of shapes and forms, here are the most common.

  • Onboarding - Do you need an IT admin to set up the system? Or can member of the sales team, do it on their own? An outsourced programmer or IT professional equals unforeseen costs. If the sales team can handle it themselves, you'll save money.
  • Training - Does your vendor charge per person or per hour? If it's per person, you need to make very sure that the people you choose can pass on their knowledge to the rest of your team. And if they charge per hour you need to make sure the system is quick to get up and running.
  • Integration Fees - Will your vendor charge to use APIs and integrate with other solutions you use, such as email or helpdesk?
  • Features - Are there features that are more costly than they first appear? For example, do you need a feature (for example, an integrated phone system) that's an expensive option?
  • Hidden Costs for Added Capability - If you want the ability to configure, say, permissions, will you be required to move to an enterprise version of the product - a move that takes the price into the stratosphere?

Test the waters with a cost comparison calculation

SaaS CRM systems can ease the headache; the rental model is more predictable so your CFO won't get any nasty surprises, and you don't have to worry about upgrading and downgrading features according to price. But, if you're still struggling to come to grips with how much your CRM system will cost, Pipeliner CRM has introduced a cost comparison calculator that compares its solution with Salesforce, SugarCRM, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

The calculator not only provides a side-by-side comparison of license costs, onboarding, training, administration, and customization, but also shows you the price savings according to how many users you have.

Pricing, the Pipeliner way

Pipeliner CRM charges a flat fee of $35 for each user on a monthly basis, which includes all features (and as features are added they become part of the core product), plugins, the mobile CRM app, and integration. You also don't need an IT admin to set it up, a sales rep can do it and perform any customizations, while Pipeliner charges an hourly fee for training - no matter how many people are involved.

As Eric McDowell, national sales manager at electrical sales and distribution firm S. Sterling Company, says: "With Pipeliner, I found that I was getting excited about the possibilities, the flexibility and the ability to customize the various stages in the sales pipeline, and being able to make it our own without having to pay a lot of programming fees and what-have-you to truly create our own system. "

Choosing the right CRM is a crucial step for your company and your sales team, so consider all the factors that might affect productivity and the bottom line. Pipeliner has created a free ebook to help, along with a checklist to print out as you conduct research.

This post is brought to you in conjunction with CRM provider Pipeliner.


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