My last posts have been speaking about, and with members of, our North American business, so I thought it time to move elsewhere. For this post, I am in my home territory of the United Kingdom and, for this edition, would like to share an interview I conducted with Sage UK & Ireland's (UKI) leading business partner for Sage CRM, QMulus Solutions. Their director, Daniel Lewis, discussed their business & how Sage CRM forms the keystone of their success.
[David Beard, CRM Principal, Sage CRM] - Daniel, your company profile on LinkedIn says your company is "specialising in improving client productivity via the use of Sage CRM." Can you elaborate?
[Danny Lewis, Director, QMulus Solutions] - The fact that we are specialists in Sage CRM is actually irrelevant in first meetings we have - instead, we want to understand the issues, point out potential improvements & how we can help to work with their business." We always put the customer first - by that, I truly mean we look at customer's issues FIRST.
[David]: OK - so why did you choose to focus on, and lead with, Sage CRM?
[Daniel]: I believe the Sage CRM product has never achieved its full potential in the UKI market. So, when we started the business, we wanted to put Sage CRM "front & centre" of our proposition. We started small so we made sure to build bridges with the vendor to maximise our chances of succeeding. We put forward our story to relevant Sage people, put "runs on the board" with product sales, made sure to promote case studies (and more), all to show we had the competence to deliver. A lot of our success has come about because of our close involvement with Sage. I can't emphasise enough to work WITH the vendor, not against it.
[David]: Thinking about your approach with customers: How does a first conversation start?
[Daniel]: Well, if the customer approaches us, we like to go & see them face-to-face wherever we can. Sure, phone calls & web conferences work but we like to in person wherever possible. It helps us have a much wider discussion about their business. I also say to customers early on that we are not "yes people" but, instead, to think of us as consultants who, through our experience with other customers, can suggest ways they can improve processes, use of their existing products and, as necessary, highlight where the Sage CRM modules may be of value.
[David]: So, at a first meeting, do customers understand their own issues or, indeed, if something called "CRM" might help?
[Daniel]: Honestly, most of the time, they haven't fleshed out problems per-se, but they figure there must be software out there that could help. A lot of our business comes from current Sage customers & their existing accounting or BMS product. They trust Sage & the product portfolio and, after doing some research, they call us or Sage for more information. Of course, not everybody who calls becomes our customer - for example, issues may point to another solution (e.g. payroll) & then we refer them on within the network of other partners that we trust.
[David]: On the happy occasions when you can help a business, how do you talk about the value of Sage CRM (& integrating it to accounts)?
[Daniel]: Increasingly, every business needs to capture customer interactions. When you combine that with the huge increase in "on the road working", more & more business' recognise the need to blend interactions with back office information. So, first we show them how to manage a customer "life-cycle" within Sage CRM - via the marketing, sales & service modules. We find that beautifully illustrates the over-arching benefits of Sage CRM very quickly to all stakeholders in a business. We know absolutely this is the right strategy - after only 3 years selling Sage 200, we are in the TOP 15 of Sage 200 partners in the UK (from a total of 120) and 75% of our Sage 200 sales are lead by the CRM modules.
[David]: Typically, what sort of people do you engage with?
[Daniel]: In the majority of cases, it's the senior management who first contact us. We meet with them first and then, should everything align (they like us & we believe we can help them), our 2nd meeting is about showing product potential in line with their needs, with 3rd meetings (if required) really driving deeper into the needs & showing exact product fit.
[David]: Is this the same approach each time?
[Daniel]: Not always. Sometimes customers (usually smaller business') have expressed a need to (say) "just track information" - so they want to see that answered in the very 1st meeting. So, even though our preferred way is to have at least "fact find" meeting first then tailor the product (however lightly) to show potential in their business, we often show just relevant pieces of the overall Sage CRM solution to address that basic need.
[David]: Interesting - so are you saying the idea of having ROI discussions with customers isn't always correct?
[Daniel]: With certain customers, yes, not always correct. Mainly, I believe, because such customers have not had ANY previous experience with business management systems. For them, it can be difficult to know "what they don't know" or perhaps, even, to express costs of current processes. When that is apparent, we have general conversations about common issues like data re-keying & duplication of information, then move on to benefits of "one system for all" & most people understand that concept. We are always cognisant of the people we are speaking to both understand & be ready to accept an return-on-investment (ROI) approach, or not.
[David]: Can you expand more on that last comment?
[Daniel]: Well, where we find ROI can be brought in early on with all stakeholders, it helps both parties to build engagement early, co-creating a "problem solved" view for the future Our approach is to always "sell the right things to the right people" - making sure prospects see the overall benefits rather than just ticking a box for a specific feature / point need to be solved. That is something, by the way, that other (non-CRM) partners come to us for too - asking for help with selling the benefits - and we have always been willing to assist, whether that is guidance for a particular customer or perhaps a structured approach to "supported selling" for all their customers.
[David]: So, you have been running a successful business for some years now - what are your hints to others on how to spot "people that are looking for CRM"?
[Daniel]: We see two types of people that buy: (1) Those that buy something early that grows with the business and (2) those with specific needs they need solved Interestingly, for both types, we rarely find any issues with product pricing & support pricing - any stumbling blocks are typically around consulting days. And, where those challenges appear, we offer a number of helpful "tips & tools" to help customers do their own work - in that way, consulting days can be much reduced. Those same tools also help partners who would like to build their own CRM competencies.
[David]: Tell me more about how you deliver successful CRM?
[Daniel]: Following on from our experience with "stumbling blocks", we now offer a packaged CRM delivery approach to prospects. This was in response to keeping OUR costs down as well as for the customers to get on-board faster & more efficiently. We believe two thirds of Sage 50 customers have benefited from this simple approach. For the remaining third, we engage in more regular scoping / discovery processes. Interestingly, whichever way they start, a large majority of ALL customers actually benefit from the larger Sage CRM product feature set over time.
[David]: And in both cases, how do you manage ROI discussions (if they occur)?
[Daniel]: Well, in our initial proposals for work, we tend NOT to lead with ROI. As I said earlier, this is partly due to different sorts of companies & also that ROI discussions are not a "leading need" by customers - at least not an expressed leading need. We tend to find some buyers are more advanced in the sourcing, perhaps not willing to give out "time & cost" information to us, as it exposes their business and/or certain people. So, we build our proposals around the potential of solving their issues & frame these as questions: "if we could stop you have problem X, would that be of benefit to you?". That seems to work well for both sides.
[David]: How does the initial proposal support initial delivery (+ subsequent phases) for the customer’s business?
[Daniel: We like to deliver Sage CRM in small controlled stages with clearly defined goals & measurable achievements. And then we step through the delivery, ticking these off. In reality, a CRM system is "never complete" - business changes, a customer's needs change or a new requirement is demanded. So, we stay in close contact with customers and, as they begin to grow into system usage, they return to us - looking for more consultancy & additional users. As a business, we realise the same investment from a customer again in 2nd & 3rd phases - so account management is VERY KEY for the long term future of our business.
[David]: Finally, what tips would you share with other partners who are considering broadening their skills to include Sage CRM?
[Daniel]: Obviously, as a business, we believe selling & helping customers gain success from Sage CRM is the best business to be in! Sure, you need to learn some new skills but for many of our sales, the product is so rich in functionality, it needs only CONFIGURING to suit a lot of needs. The Sage CRM eLearning platform that you provide is so broad & rich in detail (and free!), I think partners are crazy not to build their skills in the direction of Sage CRM. So, my message to other partners, is don't be scared of it - and, if you need extra help, please call us.
My thanks to Daniel & the larger QMulus team for sharing the story with me and, thus, to you.