You’ve done it – you’ve searched through the thousands of sales solutions on the market today and chosen what you believe to be the perfect platform for your business. You’ve pumped your team up about getting this new and improved solution in place, but just a week into the implementation process, you hit your first roadblock: what do they mean you have to pay extra for a sandbox environment!?

Young businessman working in bright office, sitting at desk with laptop. Expression of emotions.

You’re definitely not the first to be blindsided by these types of hidden costs, and if legacy CRM vendors have their way, you certainly won’t be the last. For example, while Salesforce lists the price of its Sales Cloud Professional package as $75/user/month, according to a recent Forrester survey, 52% of Salesforce users highlight “high cost of ownership over time” as the thing they dislike most about the Sales Cloud. And when you dig into just some of the hidden costs within the Professional package, as was done by Data2CRM in this blog post, it’s easy to see why:

  • After reaching the plan’s storage limit, extra space will run you $125/month for 500MB.
  • If you want 24/7 support, be prepared to purchase the Premier Success Plan, which costs an additional 15% of your license list price.
  • Full mobile functionality is an upgrade for Professional users and costs an extra $50/month.
  • Want to access the CRM offline? Great – that will be another $25/user/month.

You don’t need to be a math whiz to figure out that the hidden costs of CRMs can eventually run you thousands of dollars per month. Instead of zeroing in on upfront fees like cost per user, companies should focus on total cost of ownership over time. To help avoid unpleasant surprises and get in front of your total cost of ownership, here are three key questions you should be asking when searching for the right sales platform for your business.

What does the training and implementation process look like?

For many CRMs, implementation and support are not included in the buyer’s license fee. While at first glance this appears to lower upfront costs, in reality, companies are then left with two potentially expensive options: hire a third-party or find an internal resource.

When faced with these two choices, it’s important to consider these follow-up questions:

  • Would your consultant be paid by the hour to implement your sales solution? If so, keep in mind that it’s to his or her benefit for the process to drag on for an extended period of time.
  • What are the overhead costs associated with hiring an internal resource to oversee deployment?
  • How difficult is the solution to use, and how much training will be required? Not only do training services have to be paid for, whether they’re internal or external, but decreases in productivity during the training period must also be taken into account.
  • Without 24/7 support, what is the potential loss of revenue due to low rep productivity during inevitable technical issues and downtimes?

For a more exhaustive list of important questions to help you calculate the true costs of your CRM or sales solution, check out this blog by retired Forrester analyst William Band.

If these questions leave you feeling concerned, you may want to consider a third option: selecting a vendor that includes consultative, in-house implementation services and on-going support in its offering. This means that, in addition to overseeing the technical aspects of deploying your solution within an agreed upon timeframe, this team works with you to define a sales process and pipeline that sets you up for longterm success. 24/7 support to solve any urgent issues also ensures that your solution is always running and ready to generate revenue for your business.

How many supporting tools will I need?

Today’s market is flooded with point solutions that seek to solve small pieces of the sales performance puzzle, from email tracking to call dialing and reporting. Rather than adding these functionalities to their platforms and upfront costs, many CRM providers require (and charge for!) integrations with these point solutions.

Money down the Drain. Cash dollars slipping down a drain.

The more tools your team must use on a daily basis, the more expensive it is for your business, and the less likely your team is to adopt them. In fact, 59% of sales reps believe they are required to use too many sales tools. As reps are forced to navigate between systems to get the job done, adoption suffers, and data capture decreases, restricting your business’ visibility into your sales process and performance.

Instead, look for a solution that provides calendar integrations, real-time notifications and other necessary tools in a single platform, for a single price. Not only does this type of all-in-one sales platform save you money in the long-run, but it also improves rep adoption rates. In turn, this generates a higher quantity and quality of sales data, which ultimately provides insights that can further lower TCO and increase ROI in the future.

Can it grow with my business?

All the hidden costs of CRMs may not seem like much of an issue for companies with sales teams of five or six – but what happens when they grow? What’s more, is it build to handle the volume of activity and data generated by a larger team? How much will it cost to integrate with any additional systems your business may acquire?

Selecting a sales platform with the architecture, API, support, pricing plan and other key features necessary to scale with your business is often overlooked by businesses anxious to get a solution in place. But companies with the foresight to do this, like cyber security and IT risk management firm Night Lion Security, reap the returns in the long run.

“It was really difficult to find a solution that could grow with our business while still providing a smooth, straightforward user experience,” says Night Lion CEO Vinny Troia. But since selecting a provider based on its customization, ease of use and reporting capabilities, Night Lion can focus on growing its business. In fact, the company is expected to more than double in size this year.

Taking Time to Investigate

Taking the time to investigate the total cost of ownership associated with a sales solution upfront is truly invaluable in the long-run. While these three questions are a great starting point for identifying any hidden costs associated with your vendor of choice, they’re just the tip of the iceberg. For more questions to help you uncover the hidden costs of CRMs, download our white paper: 7 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Sales Software.