3 Cost Criteria Essential for CRM Software Selection

By: on March 27, 2019

You select new CRM software thinking it will solve all your efficiency problems. The vendor conversations went great, and downloading the software was seamless.

You quickly realize, however, that transferring all of your previous data isn’t as easy as clicking a few buttons. You call your vendor support only to find out that full support is unlocked in a premium package you didn’t purchase.

Problems like these, among others, come up often when you implement a new CRM, and many businesses don’t factor in these unknown costs when budgeting for their software.

CRM implementation involves more than just purchasing the base software. You must consider initial, ongoing and avoided costs when selecting CRM software to avoid spending far more money and time on software that’s meant to save you exactly that.

Key Takeaways:

  • Factoring in the variety of different hidden or sneaky costs associated with CRM implementation is crucial when budgeting.
  • Initial costs go beyond just paying for the software itself, so keeping data transfer, consultation, integration, training and customization costs are necessary.
  • Ongoing training and upkeep costs on your CRM should be a factor on your yearly budget as well.
  • Factor in money your CRM will save you by figuring out any processes or software you’ll be retiring once your CRM is up and running.

Why Cost?

No single factor should be the sole determinant in CRM software selection. Like we mentioned in our piece on usability, cost is just one of many CRM selection criteria Gartner outlines (full content available to Gartner clients).

cost criteria flow chart

Our advisors, who speak to hundreds of business owners every day, find that cost is often the most top-of-mind factor during a purchasing decision

It makes sense, too. You’re spending thousands of dollars on software that should make your life easier and save you money.

Hopefully, you’ll have a greater understanding of what types of factors to consider when budgeting for your CRM software selection after reading this.

Initial Costs: Beware of Hidden Money Sinks

Aside from the base price of the CRM software you select, you’ll likely run into a few extra costs you should consider when fleshing out your budget.

Because most CRM software uses the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model and you pay per user per month for most of them, the initial cost of setting up a CRM doesn’t seem that high.

But only taking that initial per user per month cost into account is a mistake that could cost you time, frustration and money down the line. Here are some additional initial costs to keep in mind during your CRM software selection:

Data Transfer Costs

Unless you’re a brand new business, you’ll have data somewhere that needs to be transferred over into the new CRM.

Whether it’s in spreadsheets or other manual methods like pen and paper, you’ll have to pay an employee (potentially overtime), do it yourself or hire a consultant either through your CRM vendor or separately.

All of these options take time and money that some business owners don’t consider when determining their CRM software selection budget.

Integration Costs

Another common initial cost that gets overlooked is how much money it takes to integrate your previously used software into your new CRM.

Most CRMs offer seamless integration with the more common business tools like phone, email and calendar, but if you’re in a more specific market, your needs might vary.

Talk to your vendor about any common integration problems they’ve encountered with industry-focused software.

Training Costs

Training costs aren’t always included during budgeting either, and even a few days of devoted training can lead to your initial budget getting blown out of the water. Factoring in the onboarding time for your team is crucial.

If you won’t be the primary user of the software, it’s helpful to bring in someone during the planning process who will be using it so that they can give you a clearer idea about what training might include.

Having a usable CRM is a great way to make sure training goes smoothly.

Customization Costs

Yet another sneaky cost is the time it takes to set up and customize your CRM dashboard so it fits your business needs. Some businesses will be able to use their chosen software straight out of the box, but most will require either a small or large amount of customization.

Spend the upfront time getting as many vendor demos so that your chosen CRM is as close to ready out of the box as is possible.

Ongoing Costs: Keeping Things Running Smoothly

Initial costs are by far the largest portion of costs to consider while budgeting, but you shouldn’t plan solely with them in mind when selecting CRM software. Ongoing costs, while not as substantial as initial costs, should be factored in as well.

Keeping your CRM running smoothly requires support from your entire team. Making sure your data is uploaded and maintained correctly is crucial in order to best utilize the important analytics you gather.

Encountering “dirty” data is common for first-time CRM users, so having a dedicated person (whether it’s you or an employee) or an entire team (depending on the size of your business) devoted to keeping your data clean and usable is important.

Most CRMs these days don’t require an IT team to keep running, so basic maintenance isn’t usually a problem—but a complete suite of vendor support isn’t always included with your CRM.

Sometimes only limited support is offered unless you have a premium package, so it’s important to check with your vendor before making your decision, or else you’ll have higher ongoing costs.

Anytime you hire a new person or have to provide ongoing training, that’s time and money you’ll need to factor in as well.

Avoided Costs: You Can Actually Save Money

At this point you might be thinking “what am I getting myself into” with all these hidden costs you haven’t considered. Don’t worry: your CRM will save—and even make—you money if implemented correctly.

You got a CRM for a reason, and according to our data, most businesses we talk to select a CRM for added efficiency and to get away from pen and paper or spreadsheets.

Others are transitioning away from a failed CRM implementation that came with too many features or cost too much, which further emphasizes the importance of making sure you have all the information you need prior to implementing your new CRM.

Whether you’re switching from a current CRM or starting from scratch, you’ll likely be able to use your CRM to retire something else that’s cost you money in the past.

Potential cost savings come from a variety of places, but here are a few of the types of things a CRM helps you retire:

  • Spreadsheets with contact information in them
  • And older, more expensive CRM
  • Marketing software (if your CRM includes a marketing solution)

While this might be more applicable for midsize or enterprise level businesses, the efficiency and time you gain by implementing a CRM will save you money even if you were just coming from pen and paper or spreadsheets.

Looking Ahead: Make Sure Your CRM Budget Includes All Costs

That was a lot of information to keep in mind when , so we’ve made a simple checklist you can print out and keep on hand when planning your budget so that these factors stay top of mind.

crm cost checklist

Choosing a CRM that takes these three criteria into account will ensure you won’t blow past your initial budget and will be able to make an informed decision when hunting for a new CRM.

One way to keep your budget in check is to plan with a range instead of just one number, that way you add some flexibility when beginning your selection process.

This strategy will enable you to narrow down your budget as you find out more information.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our advisors at (855) 998-8505.

You may also like:

CRM Trends for 2019: A CRM Buyer Analysis

3 Usability Criteria Essential to CRM Selection

How to Save Money While Buying CRM Software

Learn more about CRM software