Here’s the scenario: It’s time to upgrade your enterprise software, and you’re looking to change vendors. Your current application is outdated, and your company has outgrown it as you’ve scaled the business. Now the pressure is on, because the replacement solution you’re selecting will be used by nearly half of your company.
The saga continues as suddenly you find yourself talking to a dozen different software vendors. All of them seem to offer products with excellent features, but you’re not sure which will be the best fit for your company. You’ll need to pull in key decision-makers from across your organization to vet the options, and include them in vendor consultations and demos. No one has time to talk to 12 different vendors, so it’s your job to narrow the list down to three or four. But how do you choose the right vendor? Who can you trust?
Read on for a guide to finding an enterprise software consultant you can believe in: one that guides you through the confusing vendor selection process with your best interests — not just his or her bankroll — at heart.
1. AVOID HIGH-PRESSURE SALES TACTICS
People often have negative associations with the term “sales rep.” Sometimes this is based on past experiences that left a bad taste in their mouths (think of that pushy car salesman who wouldn’t let you get a word in edgewise, or the smarmy retail associate who would do anything to make a commission). Salespeople get a bad rap for caring more about making the sale than they do about bringing value to the customer. To be fair, this type of stereotypical sales behavior is not the norm for well-trained reps, and when it does occur it’s more common during small, transactional sales.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a good software advisor knows that the enterprise sales process is slow and complex. They understand that it takes time to navigate corporate hierarchies, connect with the right decision-makers, and ultimately move a relationship-based decision forward. They comprehend that they’re providing a service to the customer, not just selling a product.
If the enterprise sales rep or consultant you’re working with is pushy, lies, or is overly aggressive, steer clear of him — and his product. The vendor he’s associated with most likely has no or few enterprise clients, and thus won’t be able to provide expert advice on the huge decision you and your company are about to make. Instead, look for a sales consultant who takes the time to listen as you explain your requirements, asks about your future business plans, and offers solutions for solving current and future challenges.
2. ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE
When you’re making a software decision that potentially impacts your entire organization, it makes sense to work with a sales consultant who respectfully challenges your ideas. Why? Well, because doing so not only shows that the sales rep is listening, it also proves that he or she has experience in successfully helping companies with similar challenges.
This “Challenger Sale” approach requires an in-depth discussion with your sales rep about your business processes and the problems you’re currently facing. And when the Challenger sales model is used, it often helps uncover some surprising insights that could help improve your operational efficiency.
Think of the Challenger approach as your competitive advantage, and embrace consultants who use it. Many software solutions look the same, until a trusted sales advisor probes a little deeper and helps you see your world in a whole new light.
3. DON’T BE AFRAID OF A LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP
Have you ever been burned by a salesperson who over-promised and under-delivered just to close the deal? A smart enterprise software advisor is always looking out for the success of the client’s overall business first, not just considering his or her own paycheck.
Being honest with a prospect is a win-win for both the customer and the sales rep. When a deal has been respectfully completed, the client ends up with a solution that makes him or her look good because it solves an organizational problem. Meanwhile, the sales rep has gained the client’s trust, and has thus opened the door for future purchases.
So, when choosing a software solution, consider whether your sales consultant is someone you’d enjoy partnering with again down the line.
4. MAKE THEM PROVE THEY’RE WORTH IT
Whenever you’re considering a major technology initiative, it’s critical to calculate your return on investment (ROI) to make sure you’re getting ample bang for your buck.
Perhaps — like many of my clients — you’re replacing an outdated process with a new software solution (let’s use the example of exchanging Excel spreadsheets for online scheduling software here). A good enterprise software advisor would show you how replacing Excel will revolutionize your scheduling process by providing a one to two-page “solution outline.” This document details your current processes, addresses the associated issues, and itemizes the vendor’s capability to meet your company’s requirements and solve its challenges.
Then, when you’re ready to approach your CFO about the software purchase, you can simply provide them with the solution outline instead of a 10 to 20-page proposal they’ll never read.
Leverage the strengths of your sales advisor to clearly communicate to key stakeholders why you want to implement the new application, and how it will directly impact the company. Your implementation timeline will thank you.
To wrap things up, these are just a few traits you’ll want to look for in an enterprise software advisor. Not every enterprise sales rep will naturally possess these specific attributes for one reason or another. If that’s the case, at the very minimum make sure yours is friendly, clear, and most importantly, honest.
Remember, you’re entrusting both your company’s money and your professional reputation to a sales rep when you commit to a software purchase. It might take some time to find an advisor you feel you can count on. But it’s worth the effort.