How to pitch customers a cost-saving, efficient alternative that grows their business and yours
Small consultancies and software implementation companies often have trouble explaining exactly what it is they do to clients. “Well, we help you implement software, and then we help you run it,” is a good, factual elevator pitch, but it misses the mark when it comes to the many benefits that a strong consulting relationship, paired with the right software, can bring. If you begin with what the client has in mind, you can often find a better software fit for their needs — and your services.
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1. Your client doesn’t need a legacy ERP — but they often think they do
Customers often have a fixed idea in their heads about what they need. They want this software that will fix their particular needs. Often, what they have in mind is Enterprise Resource Planning software – an ERP. This is understandable. The big ERP systems — Netsuite, SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, Sage, and others — have great brand recognition and huge marketing budgets. But legacy ERP systems don’t actually suit the needs of small or even medium businesses. They come with huge upfront and ongoing costs.
“An ERP is like maintaining an F1 car,” says Jeff Atizado, of DEAR partner SMB Consultants. “It’s a great car, but you need a good driver and you need a pit crew and you need a bankroll to race. And a lot of businesses want to shift from that model — they don’t want the long timeframes to get things developed at an ongoing cost. And, and in general, a lot of them are using a fraction of what the ERP can actually do.”
What most small and medium product company clients actually need is something that bridges the gap between the accounting software, spreadsheets and string approach of the early startup years, and the powerful but expensive and unwieldy abilities of an enterprise ERP.
The answer for most product companies is a cloud ERP like DEAR systems, with powerful inventory management at the core, and the ability to connect to specialized, off-the shelf components. They need someone to help them implement it, and someone to help keep it running. That’s where you come in.
2. Your client doesn’t need a legacy ERP — they need a partner that understands them
All product businesses are alike; but they’re all unique in how they run their businesses. This means that for many product companies, the core of a business system will often be similar. It’ll consist of best-of-breed software: inventory management solutions like Cin7 or DEAR, accounting software like Xero or QuickBooks, and eCommerce software like Shopify or WooCommerce. Even this selection offers a lot of variety. But as soon as you branch out from the core, there are a near infinity of options for warehousing, fulfillment, payments, and any other business function. It can quickly become overwhelming, or if a customer tries to go it alone, messy — to the point where it can break their business.
Taking the time to understand where a client is at right now, and where they want to go (or grow) will pay huge dividends when it comes to building a business system that suits their requirements.
“Having a partner can let customers know what problems they’re likely to face, and what known unknowns are going to come up in the process, because they’ve seen it before,” says DEAR expert Guy Earnshaw. “Really, it’s just like working with any expert — the reason you choose an accountant, or a solicitor, or legal expert, is they’ve been down that path.”
3. Your clients doesn’t need a legacy ERP — they need flexible software and a relationship with a great partner
Many software partners still think of themselves as just implementers. They get a system running, then put the client on a service contract. They only hear from them when something goes wrong. This, say some of Cin7’s top performing partners, is no longer the best approach for clients, or for their own businesses. It’s far better to see clients as long-term business partners, and to proactively check in on the health of their business system — not just wait by the phone for an earful of trouble.
Clients can start with the right core software, correctly implemented for their business requirements, and add on more cloud software components when needed. This approach may sound like it costs more, both for you and your client, but (done well) it means happier clients with better-performing businesses, who are happier to pay more for demonstrably valuable services — and refer their friends.
“The problem we used to have was we didn’t have it built into our business process to reach out to customers, and find out how we can continually improve. Realizing that fault was our big learning,” says Jeff Atizado. “Now we have it baked into our business process and model to make sure we’re regularly catching up with clients after we go live, that they’re using the software the right way, and that we’re getting where they need to go.”