When purchasing software, it’s normal to have a list of questions you need to clarify with vendors. For big-ticket investments such as customer relationship management (CRM) software that’s used across departments, the list is even longer.
Benefits such as lower initial investment and ease of access have increased the demand for cloud-based CRM applications among businesses. However, there are several terms and conditions you must be aware of before signing on the dotted line.
During software discussions with SaaS vendors, ask relevant questions so you have a complete understanding of what you’ll be paying for. This article lists 10 key questions you should ask SaaS vendors when evaluating CRM tools.
Learning about the features offered and matching them against your business needs is the first step in the software evaluation process. It’ll help you decide if the CRM tool meets the requirements of your business.
Email marketing, reporting and analytics, workflow automation, deal management, interaction tracking, sales forecasting, document management, and task management are some key features offered in CRM solutions.
Based on the findings of 2,706 customer conversations we analyzed in the last six months, contact management and lead management are the top-requested features among CRM software buyers.
Also, ask the vendor about features that directly help achieve your CRM goals. Here are some questions to ask in this regard:
How can I visualize and track the movement of leads using the lead management feature?
Which metrics are autocalculated in the CRM reporting function?
Which latest technology, such as AI or analytics, does the tool incorporate to deliver personalized customer experiences and/or accurate sales predictions?
Most buyers are price-conscious and have a strict budget. Besides the subscription cost mentioned on the vendor’s website, there are several other indirect or one-time expenses involved in a software purchase. Implementation, data migration, customization, customer support, and training expenses are just a few.
Salespeople may not be forthcoming in educating you about these hidden costs, so you’ll need to inquire about them upfront. GetApp’s total cost of ownership (TCO) calculator helps estimate the TCO of your shortlisted CRM solutions and select the one that best meets your budget and requirements.
Easy scalability is one of the key benefits of SaaS software. Check with the CRM vendor if the software allows you to add new users or remove existing users as required. Also, inquire about the time it takes to add a new user and the discounts or benefits the vendor offers when you scale up.
If you expect your sales or customer service team headcount to increase over the next few years, ensure the CRM software you select can be scaled (up or down) easily and is also capable of accommodating your future needs. Keep in mind that it’s not necessary for everyone on your team to have a personal user account—team members can share accounts if they won’t be using the software regularly.
As a buyer, it’s only natural that you expect the best customer and tech support from your vendor. However, vendors aren’t obliged to provide the same level of service to all customers. Customer and tech support levels vary based on users’ subscription plans, and some vendors offer premium support at an additional cost.
If your internal IT team is experienced in troubleshooting software issues, you may not want to pay extra for premium support. Here’s a table that captures the support options generally available in basic and premium plans.
|Customer Support||Basic Plan||Premium Plan|
|Hours||Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.||24/7|
|Channels||Phone, email, and live chat|
|Agents||Random support agent||Dedicated support agent|
|Training||User manuals||In-person training and video tutorials|
|Grievance resolution time||Within 48 hours to 1 week||Within 24 hours|
|Other resources||Community forums||Knowledge base, FAQs, and document libraries|
The CRM tool you purchase should integrate with the other tools used by your sales, marketing, and customer service teams, such as sales forecasting, marketing automation, email marketing, customer experience management, customer support, accounting, and help desk systems.
The software must also integrate with your website and social media platforms, so data from web forms, Google Analytics, etc., can be seamlessly collected for supporting marketing campaigns. The most common integrations offered in CRM software include Zapier, QuickBooks, Gmail, Mailchimp, and Google Calendar.
During vendor discussions, state your integration requirements clearly and understand the vendor’s API and custom integration policies, so you don’t run into integration issues after purchasing the software.
No single solution will meet every technological requirement of your business, your CRM solution needs to facilitate integration with multiple technology partners to ensure it best supports your customers, and therefore, your business needs.
—Louise Whitcombe, Customer Engagement Head, Ogilvy UK
SaaS solutions generally offer limited customizations. Yet, many vendors let users customize the software interface layout, establish custom workflows, add sales projects/tasks, and set compliance checks. Some CRM tools also allow users to create custom fields to add more customer data parameters.
Check what level of customization can be achieved with the software and if that would attract any additional costs.
Most SaaS CRM solutions are easy to set up and require users to simply log in to an online portal. But you may want the vendor’s help if you have many users and their accounts need to be preconfigured with data from your existing systems.
Work with the CRM vendor to chart an implementation plan along with a detailed timeline that tracks deliverables. Some vendors may tie up with third-party service providers for implementation services. In that case, you’ll also need to inquire about the third-party provider’s role, reputation, charges, etc.
You may have been using notepads, spreadsheets, or other software applications to store customer contacts and interaction history before deciding to buy CRM software. And to automatically import the data saved in your existing tools and applications, you’ll need migration services.
Ask the vendor whether the software supports data migration and if there are any migration challenges or data loss chances during the process. Inquire if there are any preliminary steps you’ll have to take to standardize your existing CRM data for a smoother migration. If your CRM data is poorly managed/organized, chances are you’ll have to pay a higher data migration fee.
A CRM tool handles confidential data—client addresses, payment details, contact information, and more. Double-check with the vendor about the security measures incorporated in the software to prevent breaches, hacking, malware, and DDoS attacks.
Ask questions about data center certifications (e.g., SOC II) and adherence to GDPR, PCI DSS, and other global or local regulations. Let the vendor know if you have any specific locational preferences for the data centers that’ll store your business data.
Check the data storage limits offered in your subscription plan, and inquire about the charges for additional storage needed on a permanent or temporary basis. Look into the vendor’s data retention and backup policies as well.
Consult with your IT security team to check if the vendor implements ample data protection measures. If you want to alter the terms and conditions of the software contract to add more provisions around data security and recovery, you can seek the help of your legal team.
Most CRM solutions offer mobile apps, but some don’t provide full access unless you upgrade to a premium pricing plan. Similar to software support, mobile app access can be limited per the pricing plan you’ve chosen.
While taking a demo of the CRM software, ask the vendor to take you through the mobile app as well. Check for security features, update frequency, ease of use, and offline capabilities. Having a mobile CRM application with full functionality is imperative for your sales staff and will allow them to get their job done even on the move.
According to a report, 65% of sales reps using a mobile CRM application were able to achieve their target, while only 22% of reps using a non-mobile CRM were able to achieve the same.
Buying software is no easy task. It can take several months and requires tons of research, discussions, and planning. We suggest you do all that hard work today, so you won’t have to regret choosing the wrong CRM software.
Besides asking the above CRM questions, here are other steps to follow:
Between frenzied sales discussions, it’s highly likely that you’ll forget something you want to clarify. Make a list of all such questions beforehand, so you don’t miss out on them during vendor discussions.
Read user reviews on GetApp to correlate vendors’ claims with the experience of real users. User reviews provide an honest summation of how the CRM software works. They also provide additional insights into the tool’s ease of use and the type of businesses it serves.
Compare responses from different vendors before finalizing a CRM tool. Don’t remain fixated on any one vendor. Shortlist multiple vendors and compare their responses to choose the one that best meets your needs. Visit our CRM directory for a full list of CRM vendors and their products.
Take demos and free trials to get a first-hand experience of using the tools.
Negotiate for a better deal—ask for volume discounts, deferred payments, or better support.
The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and aren’t intended as endorsements or recommendations. They’ve been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.