As a small business owner, you want to implement the right sales software that will make your sales team more productive and boost sales—but that’s not as easy as it sounds.

According to a 2018 survey we conducted on top technology trends at small and midsize businesses, 1 in 2 companies finds “identifying the right technology” to be one of the top challenges they face when planning investment in new technologies.*

Some of the challenges that your small business may face while choosing software for your sales team are:

  • Poorly defined business needs: Define your business needs to ensure that the software you choose is scalable, secure, and offers adequate functionality.
  • Gap in learning curve and installation time: If the software isn’t user-friendly, your team will have to train much longer to use it properly. This will result in loss of productivity, which reduces ROI and defeats the purpose of adopting new software.
  • Overspending due to inaccurate cost estimation: Be aware of the hidden and operational costs of software installation. If you don’t fully understand the vendor’s offerings, you’ll end up overspending your budget.

Small businesses should have strict vendor selection criteria to purchase the best-fit software and avoid overspending. If they fail to do so, they’ll face excess expenses, poor or no return on investment, lowered productivity, and revenue loss.

headphones icon Evaluate pricing plans against feature offerings

To avoid wasting valuable resources, it’s important that you evaluate pricing plans against the feature offerings by vendors before making a software purchase.

Based on the pricing listed on vendor websites for the top 15 sales software tools (those that have a four-star overall rating and at least 50 user reviews on GetApp), GetApp has classified the price ranges into three categories: starter price range ($0 to $15 per month billed annually), mid-price range ($15 to $30 per month billed annually), and enterprise price range ($30+ per month billed annually).

Some features, such as lead scoring, analytics, and sales forecasting, are offered in the starter price range, though the capability is basic. If you’re looking for advanced analytics, advanced sales forecasting, and similar features, be prepared to invest more ($30 or more per month).

These price ranges denote the mean values of the prices. (Detailed methodology listed at the bottom of the article.)

The table shows which software feature is offered in what capacity—basic, moderate, and advanced—within the different price ranges.

Software capability versus price range

When evaluating the pricing of software, check out freemium options, free trials, and demos.

  • Freemium versions provide limited features for free use. This option is great if you can work with limited features for limited users. Many small businesses consider this option to be a cost saver.
  • On the other hand, free trials are only for a certain time period—usually seven to 30 days. You can explore the functionality, interface, and suitability of the software for a limited time, so you don’t waste money on a solution that doesn’t fit your business.
  • Demos also help you understand the software’s features and review its interface. Most vendors offer free demos, which guide users through each feature. Even though it’s just a sneak peek of the functionalities, it gives you a good idea of what to expect with the software.

Software capability versus price range Understand deployment options and installation costs

The 3 main deployment options for any type of software

On-premises SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) Cloud-based
On-premises software must be installed on your computer/server for it to run. It can’t be used remotely. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) requires a subscription to be used. It is centrally hosted and is a category within cloud computing (cloud-based software). Cloud-based software is hosted on the cloud and can be accessed through the internet from anywhere. It is built to allow add-on services/functionalities according to user requirements.

Choosing a deployment option is a vital step in sales software vendor evaluation and ensuring that you don’t overspend on hidden costs, such as additional installation or hardware.

Many small businesses find cloud-based software to be a good option, as the costs are consistent and predictable. Also, there are few, if any, installation or hardware costs.

In addition, you get mobile accessibility and scalability, since cloud-based applications are accessed through an internet connection, which means salespeople can use them on-the-go. And, cloud-based apps can be scaled to add features more easily.

Software capability versus price range Include customer service as a core feature

When buying sales software, you must understand the level and types of customer support that different vendors offer at different price tiers. Here’s an overview of the level of customer support typically offered in different price ranges:

Customer service versus price range

In the starter price range, you’re likely to get email support, phone support, and a knowledge base for your team. Some vendors also offer live chat support.

For onboarding training and a dedicated account manager, expect to invest in mid-price or enterprise range software.

Customer service versus price range Integrate data and insights to boost sales

The ultimate reason for implementing sales software is to boost sales, which helps grow your business. Therefore, your sales software should grow at pace with your business. It should integrate with the other applications you use, so that you can merge all your data and insights to empower different departments.

Here are some important software integrations that can help you in your vendor evaluation:

Accounting:

Centralize and track the historical data from invoices. View previous purchases and prompt customers to renew before subscription expiry. This integration can improve cash flow management decisions by over 30 percent. Sales managers can also use it to understand a company’s financial situation and negotiate on sales training budgets.

CRM:

Twenty-two percent of salespeople don’t even know about CRM, while 40 percent use spreadsheets and emails to save customer data. This means they’re unaware of the possibilities of leveraging CRM data to boost sales.

Consolidated CRM data offers insights on customer interactions across various touchpoints, such as email and SMS, to help sales teams improve customer relationships. View the number of clicks, opens, etc., for emails and spot new opportunities to close deals. They can use these insights to convert leads, nurture them, and retain existing customers.

Email:

Integrating email providers such Gmail, Outlook, etc. with sales software saves your sales team time in communication. The team can use insights about email opens and clicks to understand customer preferences and improve their sales pitch.

Marketing:

Sales and marketing alignment leads to 36 percent higher customer retention and 38 percent higher sales win rates. It also boosts deal closures by 67 percent. Marketing insights about customer preferences and sentiments will improve your sales team’s pitch to customers.

Customer service versus price range Ensure that the vendor offers a mobile application

Your team needs sales software to work on-the-go, which is why mobile apps are vital. The apps offer the flexibility of staying connected with team members. At any given time and place, your sales reps can ask team members to pitch in and collaborate on closing deals.

Collaborative selling increases productivity by more than 25 percent and increases the pipeline by 52 percent.

A sales software mobile app also allows sales managers to share and send reports such as sales performance reports in real time. Users can add new leads, take meeting notes, handle and make calls, access their contacts and to-do lists, send emails, and add tags to activate actions and campaigns automatically.

Additional considerations for evaluating sales software vendors

  • Run a thorough background check to select a vendor: Evaluate a vendor’s credentials and software certificates by checking out user reviews, feedback from your peers and competitors, market sentiment, etc. Ask for references from software vendors catering to your specific industry to make sure that you invest in the right vendor.
  • Shortlist vendors that sync with your IT and sales teams: Narrow the choices down to two vendors for your small business. Do a workshop with the shortlisted vendors to ensure that your IT team and sales team are both able to manage the implementation process.
  • Ask about after-sales support before making the final call: Before making a decision, ask the shortlisted vendors about managing after-sales support. You need their support for a smooth installation and successful transition to the new software.
  • Learn about software updates and upgrades: Know how your shortlisted vendor handles updates and upgrades. For cloud-based software, all updates must be cloud-based, so data is synced in real time and doesn’t disrupt the business processes.

Next steps and additional resources

Once you have selected sales software for your business, follow these steps for a successful implementation:

  • Communicate the benefits to your sales team: Knowing how a new tool benefits their daily work will help your sales team accept and adopt the software faster.
  • Kick off the implementation with adequate prep: Train your teams in advance, so they can organize and participate in peer-to-peer coaching and company-wide training.
  • Ask your sales team to test the software: Have them spot bugs, inefficiencies, or difficulties during the trial period or in a freemium plan. This will help you invest in the best-suited software for your business.
  • Offer rewards for adoption: Sales teams are driven by rewards and perks; some software vendors allow you to gamify the process to drive up adoption.


METHODOLOGY

The apps evaluated for this article have an average user rating of at least four stars and at least 50 reviews on GetApp.

PRICE RANGE METHODOLOGY

Starter price range: The starting price of most of the products is $0 and this forms the lowest value of the range. The higher end of the starter price range is calculated by taking the average of the lowest prices of the top 15 products. This ensures that the starting price of most of the products falls within this range.

E.g., if the lowest pricing plan (other than free versions) offered by vendors A, B, and C are $10, $5, and $15, respectively, then the higher end of the starter price range would be $10 (average of all the prices).

Mid-range price: The lower end of the mid-range price segment is the higher end of starter price range. To get the higher end of the mid-range price segment, we took an average of the mid prices of the top 15 products. In cases where there were multiple pricing plans between the starter and enterprise versions, we’ve taken the average of those plans to identify the product’s mid-price value.

E.g., suppose product A has four pricing plans: Basic, Professional, Business, and Enterprise at $10, $20, $40, and $60, respectively. Then the mid-price value for product A is the average of its Professional ($20) and Business ($40) plans, i.e., $30. If the mid-price of the other two vendors B and C are $20 and $40, then the higher end of the mid-range price segment is the mean of $30, $20, and $40, or $30.

Enterprise price: The enterprise pricing segment starts from the higher ends of the mid-range pricing segment. All prices above this value lie in the enterprise pricing range.

*Gartner conducted primary research online during July-Sep 2018 among 715 respondents in U.S. The results of the research and survey are based on Gartner’s study to understand small business challenges and approach to technology investments.