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You have done the hard work with internal assessments of your sales performance management needs distributing RFIs and RFPs. Now you are getting vendors to come in for sales talks, and you better be prepared to ask them the tough questions.

Spectrum and its consultants have worked with well over 100 firms deploying SPM systems and based on our experiences, we have assimilated some key questions that will help you in the final selection process.

The questions fall under three categories – product features, pricing, and support.

1) Product Features

Basic feature evaluation is covered by most teams. Here are some of the important but often ignored areas to question the vendors:

SaaS versus On-Premise – If vendors offer both on-premise and SaaS deployments, understand if the vendor has a clear preference. In case of many vendors, only the SaaS product is being actively managed and upgraded.

Data Integration – Does the SPM product have a built-in ETL tool or does it rely upon other external ETL tools? Some SPM products include this while others do not. Typically if they’re included your end users can do more ‘heavier lifting’ within the product.

Reporting – You should understand what it takes to build new reports. This task is easier in some tools than others. Are there any out-of-the-box reports available? Are they useful for your organization?

Workflow – Another important question to ask your vendors is about the workflow possibilities. Ask the vendor if the software handles disputes, territory alignments, quotas (setting, communication, approval, and/or relief). Can the system generate email and other types of alerts?

Mobile Use – Look at how the end user experience is on mobile devices, especially for sales reps. How easily is that experience supported (heavy and specific mobile configuration efforts or part of general definition that then translate well to mobile)? Understand if the vendor has an app that they use or if this is done via web browser.

2) Pricing

Your vendors may provide you a range of pricing models. You have to spend some time to understand the pricing parameters of the contract and understand what may increase the prices. If it is SaaS model bid, you have to size up the hardware and build out databases. If the actual data used is much more than planned, you will end up paying more (sometimes a lot more) money to the vendor. Ask questions to understand the storage variables and how sensitive this is.

Most companies also base pricing on payee or overall user counts. Get your vendors to provide the incremental cost if your users increase as well as saving if your user counts fall.

Be sure to ask about the pricing after the initial term and seek a rate hike cap on the future pricing. Check if there is an early termination fee, and if so, seek to eliminate or negotiate this fee lower.

Don’t forget to ask about not-so-obvious costs related to implementation, training, upgrades, test environments, data retention, data archival, data backup, etc.

For implementation fees, you may have fixed bid contracts on the table which come with a set of fixed assumptions. Often these assumptions are broad enough that they leave your implementation vendor plenty of leeway to seek additional fees. Pay attention to these assumptions and seek to clarify them so you really understand the implementation parameters of your project.

3) Support

Be sure to clarify the ongoing support model with your vendor – what’s available for purchase and what you are in fact purchasing.

You want to first make sure your vendor provides a helpdesk and/or web support and then look for a service level agreement (SLA) on response times for fixing bugs and addressing product defects. Understand what self-help tools are available (i.e., online help, knowledge bases, user community, etc) and work to gauge their level of helpfulness (some are not actively managed and are more to simply say a YES on RFP responses).

Most vendors provide product support but not configuration support. You need to understand whether the support is a skill you want to build and maintain in-house or if you prefer to use outside assistance. If you want outside help, some of the software vendors provide this as an optional service as do specialized 3rd party SPM/ICM service providers, including Spectrum Technologies.

Last but not the least don’t limit your reference checks to customers provided by the vendor. Use your network to find out more customer references independently to gather as much information as possible to guide your decision.

Good luck with your upcoming vendor evaluation!  To discuss this further feel free to email us at info@spectrumbiztech.com.com or call us at (408)-813-1443.