Deciding which sales performance management (SPM) solution to buy can take more than a year, according to research firm Gartner. Further research says that the cost of choosing and implementing a new sales solution – including license and deployment costs – is often in the high six to low seven figure range.

Luckily, software vendor evaluation and selection doesn’t have to be such a long, arduous, and costly process.

In this article we’ll walk you through three steps which can help you take the step from shortlisting to selection, as well as provide you with the tools that can make the process of getting there much quicker and easier.

Educate yourself

If you’re starting from the point where you know you need a sales solution, but have no idea what kind of features you might need, or what software there is out there, then GetApp is a great place to start your research.

GetApp’s Category Leader ranking can serve as a first step in creating awareness around the top sales management software in the small business space.

GetApp’s independent user reviews for sales software can help you understand the pain points of other companies, as well as the pros and cons of each solution.

Both of these are a starting point before you jump into the process of shortlisting solutions.

Creating a RFP

The business technology world is full of jargon and acronyms, and the software selection process is not immune. It’s good practice in the software vendor evaluation process to create a RFP document.

RFP stands for “Request for Proposal.” In the software selection process, it is a document issued to vendors where your company announces the details of the new solution it is seeking and the necessary features, and invites bids. The document will help you get clear on what you are looking for, and how you will evaluate each software against requirements.

To create a RFP for your sales management solutions, we recommend that you take a look at our sales management scorecard. This allows you to input:

  • Your price range for the required solution
  • The devices you need to support
  • Features required, as well as prioritizing the most important ones.

You will then be provided with a list of vendors that match the criteria (selected from the top 25 sales management apps in our Category Leaders ranking) from which you can select four to compare.

This is an independent way of creating a shortlist of apps that you want to further investigate to see if they meet your needs, as opposed to relying on promotional information software providers give you when pitching their product.

When you’ve got your shortlist, there are further steps you need to go through to evaluate these vendors.

Step 1: Workshop real world requirements

When creating the score card above, or when creating your own RFP, you will likely have inputted a list of features and requirements each software must deliver – from high to medium importance, and from short to medium to long term.

The next step is to create real world scenarios to ensure that each vendor can meet all of these requirements (as opposed to just offering features that can theoretically fulfill your needs).

Gartner’s examples include the following sales-specific scenarios:

Territory Management and Planning

Demonstrate product’s ability to create territory definitions using business logic based on a complex structure of four elements. The product must be able to easily update individual or bulk territory definitions, and automatically assign transactions to a territory and representatives, as well as overlay positions and management hierarchy based on the data provided.”

Corporate Goals — Launch New Product

Demonstrate the steps required to create a compensation plan for a new product, and the ability to track and monitor revenue and achievement based on sales representatives’ performance to target/goal.

Quota Management and Planning

Demonstrate product’s ability to provide top-down and bottom-up quota planning based on the revenue and sales forecasts. Capabilities must include workflow and the ability to provide comments. It must address seasonality and end-of-year revenue growth specifically. It must contain the ability to smooth and provide algorithms to address multiple model scenarios, including visual reporting.”

Other areas which you may consider creating use cases for include:

  • Driving revenue
  • Compensation plan design
  • Execution and performance
  • Analysis and modification

Once you have created these use cases, you should work with the software vendor to see a proof of concept of how their products can specifically tackle each of these use cases and real world scenarios.

Step 2: User adoption tests

Once you’ve been through the POC of features with the shortlisted vendors, you may find that two (or even more) are still able to meet all the specific scenarios you have created, meaning that further criteria is needed to separate which one can best meet your needs.

With user adoption being critical to the success of any solution, these questions and tests are based around the ability to quickly get up and running with the software, and how easily it can be integrated into the day-to-day processes of your staff.

Here are some questions Gartner has put together that can help you decide which sales software would be best for your business and users:

  • How elegant is the design? Can a novice pick it up?
  • How much knowledge of the system do you need to perform the task (data model, plans)?
  • What kind of skills are needed (Excel, SQL, developer, etc.)? Are the resources available or will you need to acquire them?
  • How many features (wizard functionality) will walk you through a task?
  • How can a novice user build a plan or make changes?
  • Is there a way to know where things are without being in the application every day?
  • How much of the functionality demonstrated will actually be used? Is it relevant to the organization’s business?

Step 3: Evaluate technical aspects

While choosing a cloud-based solution does take a considerable amount of the technical headache out of deployment, training, and running any sales software, there are still some further IT, compliance, and security issues that every company should take into account.

According to Gartner, there are some key items to consider:

  • Role-based security for administrators and end users
  • Level of encryption available
  • Support levels
  • Physical and virtual security available for data
  • Data center locations and availability
  • How the system is architected
  • How data is integrated with legacy systems, and to other systems both upstream and downstream.

This research also points out that you should also evaluate certain security policies from vendors to ensure that their technical approach matches your company’s needs. These include:

  • Disaster recovery policies
  • Intrusion detection capability
  • Frequency of audits and testing.

GetApp’s Category Lead ranking of the top 25 sales management apps includes information on the security of each piece of software, and can serve as a good starting point.

What are your tips to help with the software vendor evaluation process?

Let us know how you choose your software and any best practices to follow in the comments below or by emailing karen@getapp.com.

Here are the resources that can help with the software vendor evaluation process again for further reference