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CRM software trial can help with vendor evaluation

CRM evaluation guru Paul Greenberg offers advice on dealing with a vendor during a software trial in this expert tip.

Is it reasonable to ask for a trial period for a vendor's CRM software? If so, how long should the trial period last? What's your recommendation for how many internal users should try out an application during the decision-making process?

While it certainly is reasonable to ask, it isn't reasonable to assume that the vendor will grant you one. Some vendors might, some won't. Some will if there is a good, valid business purpose to do so and if it makes sense from a cost perspective.

Please remember that a trial period for a vendor's CRM software is a cost to them that involves the licenses and the installation costs if it is on premise, plus possible customization costs for both on-premise or on-demand applications. It is easier for an on-demand vendor to grant a trial because they are using a multi-tenant architecture, meaning they are driving multiple clients from a single instance so there is revenue production already going on with that instance and it already exists.

Should a vendor be willing to participate in a trial, any trial should be, out of respect for the vendor, small in scope (five users perhaps) and as "plain vanilla" as possible. Unfortunately, this probably wouldn't do justice since you won't get a sense of how well the applications scale or how they function over a long time in a realistic way.

Another thing to consider for a trial is the environment that you provide should it be on premise. Keep in mind, if you don't like what you see, you have to remove it and that will mean additional costs. Additionally, if you're asking for a trial, is it because you've already chosen the vendor or are you getting trials of multiple vendors' applications as part of the selection process? I would never recommend the latter. It would screw your IT up way too much to do that -- and confuse the workforce.

In other words, while I think asking a vendor for a trial usage for a small group is fine, I think you're better off making an evaluation, seeing how the vendor's CRM applications or services work with businesses similar to yours and then making a wise selection, once you've identified which processes are important to your present and future.

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