Stats say that 1 out of every 2 SMB businesses have considered a VoIP solution. Whether that stat is correct or not, you are here and are considering one.
To demystify the process the first thing you should do is decide which category of VoIP solution buyer you are, this will narrow your solution choices exponentially:
Buyers in this category are looking for a simplified, streamlined VoIP solution that works out of the box, has all the basic features needed and is relatively low cost.
The features on the low-cost entry level VoIP solutions will generally include: call forward, call transfer, call park, call hold,camp on, call waiting, call pick up, call recording, do not disturb, speed dial, internal dialing, speed dial, reporting functions, voice mail, directory service, basic three-way conferencing, and password protect.
Some support is needed but support contracts will be small as it should be a plug-and-play solution from the get-go that requires little to no maintenance.
Businesses in this category want to leverage technology to better their communications, and are likely looking for a mobile-inclusive feature-rich solution, with good support services. This costs more than the basic-featured solutions.
Buyers in this category will get all the basic features included above, and will likely look for many of the following features: call queuing, hunt groups, call flip, night answer, find/follow me, automated call attendant, call distribution, hardware and software integration, CRM integration.
A decent level of service will be required from the vendor given the long list of features. Given the integration needed some initial setup service will likely be required as well. Often you can have this all bundled together, if not ask for a discount on the service contracts while you are initially scouting vendors.
Mini Enterprise Buyer
These businesses need a business-critical communication solution that is feature-rich, and are willing to pay more for it. Not only will their system be feature-rich, but also will suit their complex need, be customizable to their needs and offer top-level tech support.
The miniature enterprise customer will want all of the features listed in the two categories above. They will also want further integration with their current platforms and systems, and will require more customization. At this level you should be asking about their product roadmap for the future, to ensure that the services you need will still be included, and to find out how new features and services will affect your contract.
A high-level service contract is required given the breadth of these solutions. As with the feature-focused solution you may also be able to ask for a discount on the service contract during the initial scouting phase, especially if you are paying full price for the products, installation and integration.
Once you have decided which type of buyer you are your choices will be narrowed down significantly. From here the best thing to do is to decide on a budget and then compare the features and service available from vendors in that category. You also should check to see what your short-listed vendor's customers are saying about them.
Once you have narrowed it down, negotiate a solid deal, get a service contract in place and above all—get it all in writing.