Why I won’t sell to you…

Turning down business and vetting potential clients before they agree a deal has become the norm for a company that remains one of the service industry’s best-kept secrets. Businesses invest thousands in technology and don’t achieve the expected rewards.

When implementing software, a poor return on investment is endemic across every industry, these failures can normally be split into three main areas: Planning, People and Price.

A lack of good planning will usually include failing to set clear objectives, not researching the merits of cloud versus on-premise or bespoke versus off the shelf and transferring bad data because there’s no plan to clean up or manage data transition. When it comes to getting the people and resourcing right, many organisations exclude key decision-makers and functional leaders from the specification phase and generally under resource projects. Unsurprisingly price is a common reason for failing to achieve the expected rewards; companies buying solely on price, not value, often focus on the outlay rather than the suitability of a solution to solve their problems. In addition, those that fail to consider growth plans soon discover upgrades will end up costing you more.  Gary Jones explains more about the most common pitfalls:  

 “The first mistake is normally not being clear about the business requirements before meeting suppliers.  When we meet a business, the first thing we ask about is business objectives and desired outcomes, people are surprised, they often expect us to just show up and convince them in a 1-hour software demo, it’s just not realistic.  Those that that pick out the ‘nice to haves’ often don’t realise until it’s too late that the system won’t manage their basic fundamental processes which is where they can actually add value.

Another major problem can arise when one or more senior personnel decide to take the ‘lead’; without knowledgeable representation from each business function. you can rest assured your system is, at the very least, doomed for failure, and at the most, it’s going to cost you much more than you can afford!  Business’ who take this route find that when it comes to testing, departmental users will raise issues about process and functionality that can’t be added to many off-the-shelf systems or modifications are required that cost more and take longer. If you don’t engage every department, somebody will go out of their way to make it difficult. The consequence is protracted implementation, poor adoption, more cost and low morale.

So many business’ do the same thing; a Manager oversees a beauty parade of suppliers, they’re impressed by the nice to haves and present a narrow shortlist to the board. There’s not enough focus on business requirements by department at an early stage, and then once a supplier is selected and they review the software properly, people are surprised and disappointed that it doesn’t match their requirements, never mind their expectations.

Once it comes to implementation there are two major problems; the first is being honest about the people needed; under resource your project and there’s bound to be mistakes and delays. Secondly, don’t cut corners on training; if your team were great software trainers, that would be their day job. People need to remember why they embarked on a new system in the first place, making a substantial investment and then asking someone to learn something new, in a few days, and then to teach others, is like sacking the pilot, doing a few simulator training sessions and asking your friends to board your plane! Doomed for disaster.”

Gary admits the other reason companies fail at seeing a positive return from their service software is because the salespeople demonstrating these systems aren’t confident enough, to tell the truth.  “In many cases, this would be simply saying you are doing this wrong. If you’ve not got a clear set of requirements, the right stakeholders involved from the beginning and are basing decisions on irrelevant items like wish lists, then arriving at the correct decision is more luck than judgement.  How many salespeople do you know that would say no? If you are not thinking about the long-term fundamentals of the process and your return on investment, then I may not sell to you at all.”

Whilst businesses face more pressure to deliver, what does this mean for service levels? The answer is that without learning how to procure systems properly, getting the planning, people and pricing right, service levels will be a continual and costly problem for businesses despite significant investments of time and money.