OK, I’ll admit it—nobody is going to ever make that one of their three “genie in a bottle” wishes. But it would still be pretty great. As it is, managers have to consider a whole slew of variables when looking for the right fit, and then often only find out after the fact that their new platform isn’t integrating as expected.
While I can’t grant you the power to pinpoint an ideal software application, our scheduling experts can show you how AppointmentPlus makes the process seamless.
I recently sat down with Jon Christley, a member of our enterprise sales team—and the greatest endurance athlete AppointmentPlus has ever produced. He also has a hairdo that is very near and dear to my heart.
In between telling us about his exploits as an ultra-marathoner (I shared my nearly as impressive exploits of running out to Target for more Skittles), Jon was kind enough to provide some highly relevant information for businesses seeking to find the right appointment scheduling software. We discussed:
- How to determine if you’re an enterprise account (hint: it’s not always a matter of volume). Jon and the enterprise sales crew ask prospects a series of questions to help determine the precise scope of needs.
- How to use company documentation to draw up use cases and scenarios that allow the client to accurately demo the scheduling experience.
- Why Appointment Plus goes beyond the “show up and throw up” sales presentation in favor of a tailored approach that can use the prospect’s own data and terminology.
If you’d like to hear this conversation in whole, please watch the video posted below, or read the transcript.
DETERMINING WHAT’S AN ENTERPRISE ACCOUNT
Kendall: Hey folks, my name is Kendall Matthews, I’m the Vice President of Global Marketing at AppointmentPlus. A lot of the questions we’ve received this week are about our enterprise sales process.
There were also a lot of integration implementation questions this week. I asked myself “Who on the enterprise sales team is a great person to answer these questions?” So I have a great co-host, and his name is Jon Christley.
Kendall: Hey hey! How long have you been here at AppointmentPlus?
Jon: Coming up on two years.
Kendall: So, aside from shaving your head (laughter)…
Jon: Keeping it shiny (laughter).
Kendall: What do you do?
Jon: Outside of work I kind of have a second life—I’m an ultra-distance trail marathoner, so I do a lot of trail running.
Kendall: Fun. Is there any exciting place where you’ve run like 100 miles?
Jon: I did run 100 miles last year here at the McDowell’s. Getting ready to do that again in a few weeks, but my favorite places have been the Grand Canyon or Colorado.
Kendall: Perfect. That’s awesome. That’s something that I’m never going to do.
Jon: Never say never.
Kendall: That is true. I’m never going to run further than 100 yards, and that’s from my house over to Target to get a bag of Skittles.
Jon: Well that’s something.
Kendall: It’s an emergency sometimes. Well, let’s get to these questions folks asked. The first one is “How does AppointmentPlus help clients determine if they are an enterprise account?”
Jon: That’s a good question. What I do typically is team up with our enterprise accounts sales rep, and early in the process we try and ask as many questions as possible.
When we are qualifying this opportunity we are trying to determine if—more than based on volume—if needs come up that are speaking to integrations. So if somebody has a back-office solution or an ERP system, these kind of acronyms come up like CRM or WMS, those kind of platforms.
Since they are talking and having an appointment-based conversation with us, we try and qualify what is the use case that is expected from a WMS to [their] system.
Kendall: What is a WMS?
Jon: It’s a warehouse management system.
Kendall: So logistics?
Jon: Yes. When they are bringing in trucks for deliveries, a lot of the carriers will want to schedule those deliveries with warehouses, and we have to determine what our role is in this process.
Sometimes we’re perceived as just a scheduler, but we can do a lot more, and that’s when the integration discussion comes up. What type of information do we need to integrate in our system, whether it’s an order number; what kind of services they might be pulling in to the facility, what kind of schedules do they need to adhere to—is it a 24-hour operation or an eight to five operation?
Those are all things we can handle in our system, but often we complement the process by bringing over a valid P.O., for example—so the carrier can’t come in unless they have a valid P.O.
THE REQUIREMENTS GATHERING PROCESS
Kendall: There are a lot of rules in that process—you can’t do this or that other thing. That goes right into the question of, how do you specifically go about that requirements gathering? What are the things you do to ensure we’re getting the best type of information so we know if we’re a good fit [for the client] or not?
Jon: Sometimes what we rely on is the documentation that enterprise organizations have already fleshed out. So use cases that are drawn up for specific scenarios are the best situation for us, because it portrays to us the journey the user’s going to take, between the time they see an interface for scheduling to the time they complete that process and get their notifications.
The most documented situations are the best for us, but when there’s not documentation we try to ask a lot of questions, we take notes, we format those notes, and a lot of times we produce artifacts that we will send back to our enterprise prospects so that we know we’re on the same page of understanding their business.
Kendall: How long does that process take?
Jon: A lot of times we can get it done in a couple to three weeks. It’s not a lengthy 30, 60, 90-day process unless, [in terms of] the systems they are relying on to integrate with us, the resources there aren’t available. That’s usually what causes some delays.
Generally, we can get everything done in a couple of weeks.
Kendall: So the scheduling of their resources can slow you down.
When we have all hands on deck it’s the perfect scenario.
Kendall: When customers receive a demo or proof of concept during the sales process, what are some activities a client can expect?”
Jon: That’s a scenario we face on a daily basis, almost, as we get new leads that come in.
The first thing that might come out of a conversation is “Can we just take a quick look at your system?” Typically, the short answer is “we could,” but we want to understand their business better so we can demonstrate our capabilities that match their requirements, rather than a “show up and throw up” kind of demo.
Kendall: [You mean], “What are your specific needs, and how can we make sure we tie into those?”
Jon: Yes. We go as far as tailoring—we’ll put in their terminology so that it resonates with them. We’ll often times add sample data when we schedule appointments, and we bring these up during the demonstration, so they can see their data. It helps illustrate the scenario better.
Kendall: It’s really a lot clearer when you’re doing the proof of concept of what it looks like in [the client’s] language…
Kendall: And when you’re presenting that information, it’s like “Alright I understand the user flow,” so that’s been very helpful in your process.
Jon: Yes. Absolutely.
PROPOSAL, KICK-OFF, AND IMPLEMENTATION
Kendall: When requirements are complete, what are the next steps to finish a project?
Jon: Well, a couple things can happen. When requirements are complete, they are usually asking for us to present the proposal for what the services may entail. So is this a 30-day service implementation or a three month to twelve-month implementation?
Once we’ve got the requirements on the table and our team understands what they are, they often will meet as a team internally and try to communicate the needs of the prospect and the opportunity, in a way that they feel they have a clear understanding of what the implementation entails.
Is it entirely development by us? Are we co-developing with our prospects? Are we relying on a third party? Sometimes enterprise customers have third parties they work with.
Those are typically the activities, then we set a kickoff date and try and get our implementation teams on the ready, and they take over from that standpoint.
Kendall: What type of information does [the Professional Services team] need before implementation?
Jon: One that’s really important is the type of environment that they’ll need to set up and design.
This feeds into operational teams as well, because being a SaaS model, we have our universe that we support, our general customer base. Then we have our enterprise customers who really need performance capabilities and dedicated environments.
So [the questions the Professional Services team is] most familiar with are: How do we get those types of elements communicated to them, so they can set up the servers and infrastructure and all of that, in addition to all of the information I’ve gathered during the pre-sale process?
They put those two things together, form an implementation plan, and put together the project team.
We do a huge kickoff, and it’s formal at that point and [Professional Services] takes over. I sometimes come in to offer my support if there is clarity that needs to be provided.
Kendall: That’s a good point about clarity. In your role, what are some of the things you do to try and help an individual or business see if [AppointmentPlus scheduling software] is a good fit?
Jon: Often our customers are under deadlines and extreme pressure to deliver an online scheduling solution. So a lot of times, even though we’ve gathered all the requirements, it’s very helpful to talk about a phased implementation.
We help clients understand that, yes, we can do everything, but maybe phase one will consist of A, B, and C. Then maybe phase two is H, I, and J.
The other thing that often comes up is clarity on the specifics of the workflow. What I mean by that is, let’s say we are integrating with a staffing solution, and the staff we’re scheduling services for isn’t dedicated or known. Often they’ll come back to me and say “Isn’t there a scenario where we’re talking about scheduling into a general calendar vs. a dedicated staff member?”
Those conversations often add some color and visibility to the situation. It doesn’t derail the project, but sometimes those are questions best fielded internally vs. calling the customer back and saying “Hey, we had a conversation two weeks ago, what was that thing you said?”
Jon: And they are so busy they don’t even remember. So that’s where good note taking and requirements documentation come into play.
Kendall: [When a prospect comes to you] what are the two questions you wish they would ask so you could say “Do these things, and then we will be golden?”
Jon: Two things. What is the core strength of your solution? And are you just a scheduler, or are you a huge development platform where a company can leverage all kinds of objects in your system and so forth.
To me, that would identify that they understand our role in the overall process. The old model of hub and spoke—we’re just a spoke, we’re really not the center of the universe or the hub some companies think we are.
The second piece is that we come back with the question “What do you think of when you think of scheduling?” Do you assume our system will store POs, staff schedules, to the degree that we know everything about this staff person, more than name, rank and serial number?
Things like when they are going to be hired on, [data] that don’t really need to reside in our system. Those are things we volley back and forth to try to determine fit. So it’s the type of system and the integration points or responsibilities of our system. We’re a perfect scheduling engine but we’re not really the system to store a whole bunch of orders.
Kendall: Not holding a whole bunch or orders, but holding a whole bunch of appointments.
Kendall: That’s one of the great things about Jon. He gets into the nitty gritty of how we can help you on any appointment basis; this is what his team does every day working with the AppointmentPlus implementation team. So folks if you have any questions go on to any of our social platforms and ask them. More importantly, Jon thank you. My name is Kendall Matthews. Keep scheduling, and we’ll talk to you soon.