HR and Payroll Software – Why it’s so hard to get a price

A number of people who arrive at our website are searching for pricing on various HR and Payroll Software systems and I have seen at least one of my site’s competitors actively advertise by offering free HRIS price quotes from various providers. Because of several industry issues, I doubt any of my competitors can offer what is promised, at least not easily. The topic of this article is to describe why getting HR and Payroll software prices is not as easy as getting a price on a house, a car, or a new pair of shoes. Think of all the decisions you would have to make, before getting an accurate price, if you were going to build your own home. 

Using Google's Adwords keyword tool, I did a little research into how many people in an average month are searching for the price of HR Payroll software. The resulting numbers are lower than I might have expected.  Still, per month, just on Google it appears that at least hundreds of people are searching for the cost of HR and Payroll software based only on the keywords I uncovered below.

Keyword        Average Searches Per Month
• HRIS Price   12
• Cost of HRIS   58
• HRIS Costs   170
• HR and payroll software pricing  36

Software prices depend on too many variables to simply offer a quick quote

When I was selling HR and Payroll software systems, I worked with one product that offered 15 unique product options, two platform options, and two purchase options. The cost of that system for a 200 employee company varied tremendously. This price could have ranged from $3,000 to well over $40,000. So, if someone simply asked for a price, or even a ball park price, it was hard for me to present one without knowing exactly what options they were interested in and what their needs were. Often times the prospect did not know either until I performed a needs analysis and/or showed a demo.

Software Salesmanship

As a salesperson, if I was selling product X and knew my competition was product Y, which offered half the functionality and 30% less on cost, I would be hesitant to provide a prospect a price of my software system until I was able to show the added value. This is not only salesmanship; it’s also good service. It’s important that you not base your decision for HR and Payroll software solely on price. The best value may not be the lowest price but may be found in the closest match to your company’s unique needs. You may be impatient to see the cost, but in the example above, the customer wins by waiting.

There are training courses which teach salespeople to stay in control of the sale by holding off on providing a price as long as possible. I am not one of those that agree with this strategy but you may very well see it.

The companies want to keep the prices as secret as possible

We have asked all of our participating software vendors to include at least some type of price range for our site, but many have elected not to do so. Part of the reason is what I have laid out above but these companies are also very secretive about their prices. The least expensive systems on the market have no problem publishing their prices. The more expensive and comprehensive systems on the market are much less likely to do so.

I lost a vendor earlier in the year because they would not participate in our service unless every vendor on our site, not only showed their pricing, but showed it in exactly the same format as they offered theirs. I can’t say I disagree but I am not in a position to force our vendors to comply.

So can other websites actually provide quick quotes for multiple HR and Payroll software applications?

NO! For the exact same reasons I have laid out here, the software vendors aren’t going to provide the cost without understanding who the prospect is and what their needs are. So, the site I am referring to without mentioning them by name, simply distributes your information to a number of HRMS vendors and then let’s those individual vendors contact you, and after a needs analysis and perhaps even a demo, the “free HRIS quote” can be provided. There’s nothing quick about it; nor would you want it to be.

The funny thing is our keyword position for HRIS pricing is number three on Google.  And I’ll be the first to tell you that of more than 15 systems currently on the site, we only offer price ranges on a few of those products.


There are valid industry reasons why you may find it difficult to quickly and easily receive prices on a number of HR and Payroll software applications. I would recommend staying patient and realize a quick price may not be the most reliable or in your best interest.

About the Author

Clay Scroggin worked in the Human Resource and Payroll Software Industry for more than fifteen years. During that time, Clay and those who worked with him, have assisted hundreds of HR professionals with their HR software needs. In 2007, Clay began working on, a site dedicated to assisting HR professionals with their search, selection, implementation and use of HR systems. The site contains several tools to assist HR professionals with their research including an HRIS Selection Tool and a free HRIS Buyers Guide.