This question came up twice today in a seminar...about how to pick software. I rarely get that question, so with two in one day, I figured I better use that as blog-fodder.
While I don't recommend a specific sales tax package, I can give you some pointers about choosing solutions. I used to sell software, particularly accounting systems, in a previous life, so I know the mistakes that buyers can make.
Determine your true needs. This involves research, talking to vendors, more research, more specifications, more vendor research until you get down to a refined set of objectives that you can use for your request for proposal. Do not be swayed by a good sales representative, a professional proposal, or a snazzy demo.
Remember that the sales rep is not motivated by helping you find the right solution. They'll say that, but coincidentally, their software is the right solution. Amazing, isn't it? Don't base your decisions on what the sales rep says without supporting information. They are not looking out for you. Ask them how much they'll make in commissions, spiffs, bonus rankings, etc. if they make the sale. That will give you some perspective.
Maintain control of the process by constantly working off your specifications list (which will evolve as you learn more about the available software). The side benefit here is that you'll drive the sales reps crazy. And that is worth the trouble right there. (grin)
Need to find find software? Try typing "sales tax software" into Google or Yahoo. Here's google's directory of sales tax software as well. And there are usually ads on this blog for sales tax software. Hint. Hint.
Finally, ask for three references! And these should be references in your industry, similar in size to your organization, and with similar SUT issues. Make sure vendors know early in the process that you'll be requiring these kinds of references. That'll screen out weak vendors that you shouldn't be wasting your time with.
Visit those references. Don't call them. VISIT them. Invest a couple of dollars in travel to be able to sit down, face-to-face with the reference. Take them out to lunch, tour their operations, plan your questions, discuss your specifications, ask about problems they've had, what they'd do differently, support, quality, and anything else that springs to mind.
The benefit of visiting the reference is that you can look 'em in the eyes, spend more time with them, develop a relationship, and also build an alternate source of support when things get nutty. Plus it forces you to have a more comprehensive experience as opposed to a 5 minute conversation on the phone.
Another option is to go to the software's user conference, if you can.
Remember, it's not the cost of the software you have to worry about. It's the costs associated with the conversion, installation and training that are big and painful. By making the right software choice initially, you'll minimize your pain, get the most out of your investment, and make only ONE investment...if you catch my drift.
And, like I said. You'll drive the sales reps crazy. Which is nice.
The Sales Tax Guy
See the disclaimer - this is for education only. Research these issues thoroughly before making decisions. Remember: there are details that haven't been discussed, and every state is different. Here's more information
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