Bennett B Quillen – Negotiating a Phone System

by Bennett Quillen

Introduction

Determining which phone system is best for your
organization’s needs can be a time consuming
process. Yet, evaluating a new phone system
demands your careful due diligence. Why?
Because if you choose the wrong system, it could
result in a costly mistake and produce long term
consequences if your employees are stuck with
a system that doesn’t fulfill your business needs.

When looking at what seems to be an endless
variety of business phone systems on the
market, don’t be afraid to hold your phone
system vendor representatives accountable for
making you comfortable when you’re ready to
buy. Your vendor representative should be able
to thoroughly answer every question you pose to
them, and provide business terms that you feel
comfortable with.

Whether you’re researching phone systems for
a small- to medium-size business or a large
enterprise, you’ll have the advantage when you
thoroughly prepare before you talk to vendors.

Make sure that you define your organization’s
phone system needs ahead of time and ask
vendor representatives the right questions only
after you’re properly prepared. This will help

selecting the wrong system and help ensure you
get the best deal on the right phone system for
your company.

Following are ten vital questions to ask phone
system vendors while negotiating and well before
you agree to make a purchase.

Question #1

“Will you repeat our phone system needs that
I’ve just described?”

Clarity Is Key

After you define your phone system needs
and then describe them to a vendor, ask their
representative to repeat those needs back to you
so you know that both of you are on the same
page.

This question may seem fairly obvious, however,
you want to make sure your vendor representative
clearly understands your specific phone system
needs so you’ll have the confidence they’ll meet
or even better than that – exceed them.

Question #2

Why is your phone system better than your
competitors?

you eliminate the various risks involved with

1

Title

Don’t Rush Your Rep!

You may be researching a variety of phone
system vendors, but be sure to ask your vendor
representatives to tell you in their own words
why their system is better, more cost effective,
or more suitable for your needs than any other
service available. You may have noted certain
differences and similarities during your discussion.
See if they can highlight others, or if they can’t
really differentiate at all. They’re undoubtedly
more familiar with their competitors than you
are and it’s up to your vendor representative to
differentiate her company’s products from her
competition. So don’t rush your representative.
Allow her plenty of time to highlight her system’s
advantages and benefits.

Question #3

Does this phone system have (specific features)
and is there an extra cost associated with getting
those feature?

Features, Features, Features

You’ll want to have a clear understanding of the
features you want in your phone system before
you begin talking to a vendor. They may suggest
those features you hadn’t thought of that can be
useful as well. Once you identify all of the key
features, determine what, if any, the extra costs

will be.

Vendors vary greatly when it comes to what’s
included in a particular package and what’s
considered an add-on to the service. For
instance, some providers offer a variety of
different phone types that are considered
add-ons to the service. You may end up being
able to get the same phones somewhere else for
less. In addition, certain features, such as voice
mail, might seem like obvious inclusions, but are
actually considered add-ons with an extra cost.

Question #4

Is this system SIP (Session Initiation Protocol)-
based and is it compatible with other technologies?

Will The Marriage Work?

SIP is a signaling protocol used for establishing
sessions in an IP network, and it is now the
protocol of choice among VoIP users. SIP works
very well with Internet applications, and with an
SIP-based system, you have access to a host
of innovative services, including: voice-enriched
e-commerce; click-to-call on Web pages; instant
messaging with buddy lists; collaborative, multi-
party, multimedia conference calls; and more.
Ensuring that your phone system is SIP-based
can save you a lot of headaches over the long
term.

2

Title

In addition, you want to ensure that your
phone system can be integrated with the other
technologies you use, such as Microsoft Outlook
for email and sharing calendars. Tell your vendor
representative about the other technologies you
use – both in your office and remotely – and have
them explain compatibilities and other important
issues.

Question #5

Can this phone system scale as my business
grows, and will there be extra costs if or when
we expand?

Avoiding Growing Pains

If you are planning to grow your business, open
new locations, or otherwise make changes to
your existing infrastructure, make sure your
phone system is going to be flexible enough to
make those changes with you, without adding on
a lot of extra costs and hassles.

For example, do your employees change desks
or move locations frequently? Are the phone lines
and phone numbers easily transferable? Ask
your vendor representative to share examples
with you about how other clients’ business needs
changed over time and how their particular phone
system performed amidst those changes.

Question #6

“How many data centers do you have and where
are they located?”

Location Affects Speed

Along with scaling as your business changes,
let your vendor representative know where and
how your phone system will be used, such as
whether it will be used mainly for local calls or
internationally. Your phone system provider
needs to have adequate data centers placed in
enough locations to ensure that geographical
distance is not a hindrance to speed and
efficiency.

Question #7

“Since we are considering a VoIP setup for our
new phone system, what can you tell me about
bandwidth requirements and any internal network
requirements?”

Handling The Load

Because VoIP requires a broadband connection,
ask your vendor representative about what
kind of bandwidth you’ll need for simultaneous
users. As for your internal network, such as your
routers and switches, ask your representative

3

Title

about any load capacity issues that you need to
be aware of and what type of router you should
use. Most providers will suggest using a router
with configurable Quality of Service settings and
assigning VoIP traffic high priority to maximize
quality.

Question #8

“Are businesses similar to mine using your phone
systems?”

Where’s The Evidence?

Now that your vendor representative understands
your needs, ask him if other businesses similar to
yours (in size and usage patterns, for example)
are using his company’s phone systems.
Vendors should be able to provide you with
evidence such as case studies (also known as
customer success stories), which can go a long
way in helping you make your decision. This is
a good time to ask for references or additional
testimonials as well. If your representative balks
at your request, or is unable to provide a positive
response, view that as a definite “red flag” and
consider other vendor options.

Question #9

“Can I talk to 2-3 of your current customers about

Learn From Voices of Experience

Don’t be shy about asking your vendor
representative for references. Sure, they will
never give you the name of a past customer who
was unhappy with the service, but if they can give
you two to three references from customers who
are happy and willing to share their experiences
with you, that’s a good indicator. And more often
than not, once you’re able to connect with a
reference on the phone, they will be candid with
you about their experiences.

Question #10

“What kind of service and support will I get for
both installation and on an ongoing basis?”

Customer Support Can Vary

If problems arise, you’ll want to know who to
call and when they’ll be available to help you.
You don’t want to get into a situation where you
sign a contract and then your vendor is totally
unavailable. Level of service and support
is another aspect to buying a phone system
that can vary widely among vendors. This is
something you want to be clear about before you
sign your contract vs. being disappointed later on
when there’s no one there to help you except an
inadequate FAQs page on the vendor’s website.

how they like the phone system?”

Introduction

Determining which phone system is best for your
organization’s needs can be a time consuming
process. Yet, evaluating a new phone system
demands your careful due diligence. Why?
Because if you choose the wrong system, it could
result in a costly mistake and produce long term
consequences if your employees are stuck with
a system that doesn’t fulfill your business needs.

When looking at what seems to be an endless
variety of business phone systems on the
market, don’t be afraid to hold your phone
system vendor representatives accountable for
making you comfortable when you’re ready to
buy. Your vendor representative should be able
to thoroughly answer every question you pose to
them, and provide business terms that you feel
comfortable with.

Whether you’re researching phone systems for
a small- to medium-size business or a large
enterprise, you’ll have the advantage when you
thoroughly prepare before you talk to vendors.

Make sure that you define your organization’s
phone system needs ahead of time and ask
vendor representatives the right questions only
after you’re properly prepared. This will help

selecting the wrong system and help ensure you
get the best deal on the right phone system for
your company.

Following are ten vital questions to ask phone
system vendors while negotiating and well before
you agree to make a purchase.

Question #1

“Will you repeat our phone system needs that
I’ve just described?”

Clarity Is Key

After you define your phone system needs
and then describe them to a vendor, ask their
representative to repeat those needs back to you
so you know that both of you are on the same
page.

This question may seem fairly obvious, however,
you want to make sure your vendor representative
clearly understands your specific phone system
needs so you’ll have the confidence they’ll meet
or even better than that – exceed them.

Question #2

Why is your phone system better than your
competitors?

you eliminate the various risks involved with

1

Title

Don’t Rush Your Rep!

You may be researching a variety of phone
system vendors, but be sure to ask your vendor
representatives to tell you in their own words
why their system is better, more cost effective,
or more suitable for your needs than any other
service available. You may have noted certain
differences and similarities during your discussion.
See if they can highlight others, or if they can’t
really differentiate at all. They’re undoubtedly
more familiar with their competitors than you
are and it’s up to your vendor representative to
differentiate her company’s products from her
competition. So don’t rush your representative.
Allow her plenty of time to highlight her system’s
advantages and benefits.

Question #3

Does this phone system have (specific features)
and is there an extra cost associated with getting
those feature?

Features, Features, Features

You’ll want to have a clear understanding of the
features you want in your phone system before
you begin talking to a vendor. They may suggest
those features you hadn’t thought of that can be
useful as well. Once you identify all of the key
features, determine what, if any, the extra costs

will be.

Vendors vary greatly when it comes to what’s
included in a particular package and what’s
considered an add-on to the service. For
instance, some providers offer a variety of
different phone types that are considered
add-ons to the service. You may end up being
able to get the same phones somewhere else for
less. In addition, certain features, such as voice
mail, might seem like obvious inclusions, but are
actually considered add-ons with an extra cost.

Question #4

Is this system SIP (Session Initiation Protocol)-
based and is it compatible with other technologies?

Will The Marriage Work?

SIP is a signaling protocol used for establishing
sessions in an IP network, and it is now the
protocol of choice among VoIP users. SIP works
very well with Internet applications, and with an
SIP-based system, you have access to a host
of innovative services, including: voice-enriched
e-commerce; click-to-call on Web pages; instant
messaging with buddy lists; collaborative, multi-
party, multimedia conference calls; and more.
Ensuring that your phone system is SIP-based
can save you a lot of headaches over the long
term.

2

Title

In addition, you want to ensure that your
phone system can be integrated with the other
technologies you use, such as Microsoft Outlook
for email and sharing calendars. Tell your vendor
representative about the other technologies you
use – both in your office and remotely – and have
them explain compatibilities and other important
issues.

Question #5

Can this phone system scale as my business
grows, and will there be extra costs if or when
we expand?

Avoiding Growing Pains

If you are planning to grow your business, open
new locations, or otherwise make changes to
your existing infrastructure, make sure your
phone system is going to be flexible enough to
make those changes with you, without adding on
a lot of extra costs and hassles.

For example, do your employees change desks
or move locations frequently? Are the phone lines
and phone numbers easily transferable? Ask
your vendor representative to share examples
with you about how other clients’ business needs
changed over time and how their particular phone
system performed amidst those changes.

Question #6

“How many data centers do you have and where
are they located?”

Location Affects Speed

Along with scaling as your business changes,
let your vendor representative know where and
how your phone system will be used, such as
whether it will be used mainly for local calls or
internationally. Your phone system provider
needs to have adequate data centers placed in
enough locations to ensure that geographical
distance is not a hindrance to speed and
efficiency.

Question #7

“Since we are considering a VoIP setup for our
new phone system, what can you tell me about
bandwidth requirements and any internal network
requirements?”

Handling The Load

Because VoIP requires a broadband connection,
ask your vendor representative about what
kind of bandwidth you’ll need for simultaneous
users. As for your internal network, such as your
routers and switches, ask your representative

3

Title

about any load capacity issues that you need to
be aware of and what type of router you should
use. Most providers will suggest using a router
with configurable Quality of Service settings and
assigning VoIP traffic high priority to maximize
quality.

Question #8

“Are businesses similar to mine using your phone
systems?”

Where’s The Evidence?

Now that your vendor representative understands
your needs, ask him if other businesses similar to
yours (in size and usage patterns, for example)
are using his company’s phone systems.
Vendors should be able to provide you with
evidence such as case studies (also known as
customer success stories), which can go a long
way in helping you make your decision. This is
a good time to ask for references or additional
testimonials as well. If your representative balks
at your request, or is unable to provide a positive
response, view that as a definite “red flag” and
consider other vendor options.

Question #9

“Can I talk to 2-3 of your current customers about

Learn From Voices of Experience

Don’t be shy about asking your vendor
representative for references. Sure, they will
never give you the name of a past customer who
was unhappy with the service, but if they can give
you two to three references from customers who
are happy and willing to share their experiences
with you, that’s a good indicator. And more often
than not, once you’re able to connect with a
reference on the phone, they will be candid with
you about their experiences.

Question #10

“What kind of service and support will I get for
both installation and on an ongoing basis?”

Customer Support Can Vary

If problems arise, you’ll want to know who to
call and when they’ll be available to help you.
You don’t want to get into a situation where you
sign a contract and then your vendor is totally
unavailable. Level of service and support
is another aspect to buying a phone system
that can vary widely among vendors. This is
something you want to be clear about before you
sign your contract vs. being disappointed later on
when there’s no one there to help you except an
inadequate FAQs page on the vendor’s website.

how they like the phone system?”

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