Many of our customers have been using our products for years. Yet these customers' business may have evolved - perhaps through growth, maybe through a change in strategic direction, even changes in compliance or similar. Change also comes from younger generations, wanting to add software & automation, saying "the old ways no longer work today for this company".
While talking with some of my North American colleagues just recently, I was reminded of the reasons why a regular review of usage & suitability of software products should be everyone's "to do list" as good business discipline. I thought it would be useful to share their story with the larger community. By way of background, this particular story came from a customer who uses an older Sage accounts product called Business Vision, colloquially known as BV. My colleagues, Jennifer Schwarz and Rob Lawson, were asked in to help review their business. Although BV was continuing to work well for them, there was a recognition by the company that they needed to do things (e-commerce, warehouse management) that BV could not provide, at least not without significant upheaval & investment.
Rob & Jennifer, knowing both BV and the current Sage 300 products, took the time to understand the current business & help "spot gaps" in BV that mattered to the customer. Jennifer notes that "It's critical to speak to everyone (not just decision makers) to understand current needs plus business futures. Having the customer in the right mind set of 'looking afresh', we take a "discovery call' approach, just like we would for a new client". This discovery call (as described in a previous blog) allows everyone to take a company-wide look at processes. "Having all the right people around the table", says Jennifer, "means you can have a well rounded conversation of the business whole process as it travels through marketing, sales & service steps."
Rob went on to say that "Our Sage 300 product offers end-to-end business support" and it was important to "paint the bigger picture for the customer" who, quite understandably, believed they could only achieve certain things with an accounting product. "When we start talking about the possibilities of what Sage 300 could do 'out-of-the-box' in terms of functionality, the customer got really excited", continued Rob. Following the discovery meeting, Rob set up a demonstration for the company, for all the key users across the business and their key processes. "By focusing on their business needs", says Rob, "the customer could see how there were much bigger drivers for change than just getting a better accounting system."
Jennifer added that "customer service & sales was where this business was adding staff" not in the accounts office, further noting "we see this a lot right across our customer base". From my perspective as a CRM evangelist, providing access to back office data for all employees makes everyone's job easier & more effective. And, quite often, it also makes good financial sense for our customers, as we can better identify the right type of license for the customer - CRM licenses for most users and a (often) reduced number of accounts licenses.
Rob chimed in to add to Jennifer's point noting "so many times, speaking to the person who enters orders, we see their number 1 time waster is answering questions from elsewhere in the business about transactional data. Rob went on to say, "essentially, that person is acting as a 'self service' to the rest of the organisation. Which is just wrong."
What I find most revealing about this story - and what prompted me to write this blog - was Jennifer's final comment to me as we concluded our conversation. "We hardly ever pitch CRM licenses to just SALES teams. It's a much more nuanced conversation about how the customer conducts their customer service or marketing activities & how the CRM modules within Sage 300 could help them manage those activities". As ever, it's all about identifying needs in a customer's user base & then shape the conversation to match.
For customers on older products, with a fixed view of how that product works, it is so important to see the larger picture. Moving into realising benefits, the process of delivering a new system (as I talked about in a previous blog) needs to continue to challenge customers on what they really need and show potential of all modules in the latest product. Business owners should not be emotionally tied to old decisions - instead they should look to improve the entire organization.
It's all about consultation to the customer, not the selling of product.