It can be difficult to feel like you’re getting a straight answer from salespeople. The image of a sleazy car salesman has been haunting salespeople for decades now, and it makes it difficult for buyers to feel like they’re getting the whole truth from vendors.
Still, vendors are the experts on their own products, and they have valuable insights if you know how to get to them. Towards that end, we’ve already created a list of questions buyers can use to grill any software sales rep as part of our Evaluation Readiness Guide. Now we’re providing a list of questions tailored for the Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) buyer. The question list is organized to help get insight into either the product itself or the vendor and their positioning within the marketplace.
But before you talk to the vendor, be sure to do your homework!
What to Know Before the Call
Before you talk to the vendor, you want to know as much as possible about iPaaS in general, and specifically about what features and capabilities you need in an iPaaS. It’s also important to know what you don’t need in your iPaaS so you don’t end up paying for functionality you don’t need. If you haven’t gone through this process yet, check out our top 10 questions to ask yourself when evaluating iPaaS.
Next, do your due diligence on the vendor. You’ve likely done some of this to get to the point of contacting the vendor, but pay attention to the features that matter the most to you. For many, that will mean looking at what integrations the vendor offers, and whether the specific integrations you need are on the list. If you’re looking at the smaller-scale iPaaS (the IFTTTs and Zapiers of the world), also take a look at what the prebuilt integrations between apps actually do—just because an integration exists doesn’t mean it integrates the way you need it to.
Questions on the iPaaS
Your time is valuable, so these questions focus on either granularity or specifications that you can’t access from Google or the vendor site. If you still have more generic questions, like “what is iPaaS,” “are you the right size for me,” or “what’s an API ,” we’ve got you covered!
You may need clarification about what features and capabilities the iPaaS includes or how well they fit to your use case. Some more nuanced questions that you may not have thought about include:
- What data formats do you support? (it’s ideal to find out which formats you need supported beforehand)
- Do you transfer data in real time?
- Do you support hybrid integration with on-premise or legacy systems? (Again, it’s preferable to know which systems so you make sure the vendor integrates your specific system)
- Do you support API management? How accessible is it for citizen integrators? (This addendum can apply to most feature questions. If you don’t have an IT team to manage the iPaaS, you want to make sure that all the iPaaS’s relevant features are within your technical reach)
- What security features do you offer to protect my data?
If you feel like you’re being told whatever you want to hear at this point, or like the vendor is just claiming that their iPaaS has it all, you can ask:
- Does the iPaaS have “LRF support?” (For context, LRF stands for “little rubber feet”—tech jargon for “a made up feature.” If the rep answers yes or tries to give you a breakdown of where LRF is on the roadmap, I’d approach their responses with some skepticism)
Speaking of roadmaps, ask about theirs! Specifically, if they don’t have certain features or integrations that you want or need, investigate they plan on developing it and how soon. For instance, if the feature is on the roadmap:
- What’s the timeframe for this integration to be available? Are you willing to put that in writing, and give us a discount if it doesn’t happen in time?
If you don’t see the feature on the vendor’s public roadmap:
- I want to integrate these two apps. Is that on your roadmap? If not, do you support custom integrations for citizen developers (people without coding experience)? Can you show an example?
If you’re still left with questions about what some features or capabilities are, ask for clarification with an eye to your use case. Whatever the tech jargon is, make the vendor frame their product in the context of your specific use case. For instance:
- What impact does [feature] have for me? (They should be able to be more specific than “it enables faster integration”!)
Limitations and Drawbacks
It’s important that a vendor is honest about the limitations and drawbacks of their platform. Some methods to get at that information include:
- What scale of organization would your platform NOT be well suited for?
- What’s the top feature that you wish your iPaaS had that it doesn’t?
- (IF you’ve read reviews of the platform on TrustRadius) I saw that customers have had [issue that concerns you]. Is that still an issue, and how can I convince my team that its been addressed?
The implementation process can be a large factor in determining the success of an iPaaS’s adoption, particularly if there isn’t in-house IT managing it. In order to make sure implementing the iPaaS will go as smoothly as possible, poke into the experiences of businesses like yours:
- What does implementation look like for users like us?
- Does long does it take on average before the platform is fully set up?
- What are some common implementation obstacles or challenges that I should be ready for?
- How many implementations are performed by citizen integrators vs. IT professionals?
- What kind of implementation support do you provide?
Questions for the Vendor
Assume that the iPaaS itself passes with flying colors. There’s still the business side of the process that needs hammering out. Lets jump into whether it’s the best fit available, managing cost expectations, and getting the rest of your business on board!
Differentiating Between Vendors
Sure, the vendor’s iPaaS works for your, but does it work the best? What separates the wheat from the chaff?
- What is the key difference between you and [another product you’re considering]?
- What can you provide that [another product] can’t?
- When should I go with [another product] instead of you? (The answer here should rarely, if ever, be “never”!)
You will inevitably need to address price at some point. If you did your homework, you’ll have a general sense of what kinds of data, software, and systems you’ll need integrating. Use that to your benefit:
- Here’s an example breakdown of the integrations I need. What tier does that put me in OR how much would that cost me? (depending on the pricing model the vendor uses)
If you’re not as confident in what integrations and capabilities you’ll need, try a generic version of the same question:
- Exactly which features and services will I get at each price tier?
iPaaS users frequently complain that they don’t use all the functionality they pay for. Try to preempt this possibility:
- I don’t need [insert extra features] on the platform, is there a pricing plan that’s in line with the functionality that I do need? If not, do you know of another product with a pricing scheme that would more closely fit my needs?
For smaller to midmarket iPaaS, free trials can be an excellent opportunity to see how well the platform actually integrates your tech ecosystem, as well as demonstrating the vendor’s faith in the platform. For larger products, including EiPaaS, the implementation process may be more intensive than a free trial is worth. Either way, asking for a free trial can be informative:
- Do you believe in your iPaaS enough to give me a free trial to show me I can’t live without it?
Selling the Rest of Your Team
If you’re not making the buying decision on your own, you need to be able to sell the rest of your team or organization on the iPaaS. Enlist the vendor’s help!
- What value can your iPaaS provide for [other stakeholders 1 and 2] specifically? (Especially if the stakeholders are in different departments or seniority levels than you)
- How do I sell my boss on your platform compared to [other product]?
- How do I convince my team that [con you or your team is concerned about] is not a deal breaker?
No two iPaaS deployments are identical, and your buyer’s journey to your future iPaaS will likely be just as unique. Some questions may not apply to you, and others should be tailored to your context. However, these questions will help get you in the right direction, and make sure you’re getting the most information from iPaaS vendors—the Good, the Bad, and the LRF!