So, you are going digital. You have started or completed a project/s to implement digital solutions. You and your technology partner have analysed your requirements and worked hard to test and turn on a digital platform. But what then….
One item often overlooked when implementing digital solutions is the changing environment within which they will work moving into the future. You see from day one of your new systems’ use it will start to have a decreasing ROI. This is due to the unstoppable changes in the environment in which this solution now operates. This environment includes the organisation, it’s people, it’s other processes and the external environment which can include things such as the legislative environment.
So, we have implemented a solution and we know that everything around that solution will continue to change causing a decreasing ROI. How do we mitigate this organisational risk?
We would strongly recommend that you have your technology partner provide a “Managed Service” for the solution / solutions.
For the purposes of this article a managed service is a contracted set of services that are provided by a solutions provider to a solution using customer. Typically, they are paid for monthly, operate as a use-it-or-lose-it facility and are used as needed to achieve specific solution outcomes.
As an Example;
A company, ABC flights, has a 6 hour per month Managed Service with their technology partner for their AP automation solution. They pay a monthly fee for this and request work against it via a web portal. Typically, ABC use this service to update invoice templates to ensure a high percentage of data is captured automatically when invoices enter the solution. They have also used it to make workflow routing changes, upgrade the software components to the latest version and seek advice from the solution experts on potential future projects.
So, who should demand these Managed Services? Well, we believe the customer and the technology partner should both demand them. They provide significant benefits for both parties. I have identified these benefits below;
Benefits to the Using Customer
An ROI that is sustained [and possibly even improved] over time. Work can be regularly scheduled to keep the system operating at peak level despite any changes to the operating environment. The Managed Service can also be used to digitise additional processes and drive even greater ROI.
Team member satisfaction with their work as the systems they use are modern and operating well. This is more important to organisations as the millennials continue to rise through the workforce. Like it or not, this generation expects their employers to be digitally savvy.
An ability to ensure you are maintained onto the latest versions of your software components. These versions generally have significant security upgrades as well as a slew of new and improved operating functionality. Whilst most organisations understand the importance of software maintenance, far less of them ever actually implement a regular upgrade process to ensure they are on the latest versions of their software platforms. This is often due to the cost of a technology partner implementing these upgrades. With a Managed Service, these upgrades can be done as part of the service thus ensuring the customer continues to reap the benefits of their investment in software maintenance.
Priority of work request processing with your technology partner. Your technology partner will definitely process their Managed Service customers in priority over their non-contracted customers.
A smoothing of cash-flow relating to the operation of the solution. Even if you do not have a Managed Service it is highly likely that at some point in time [usually when there has been a big problem] you will need to spend a quantum of money maintaining the system. This work is generally not budgeted for.
- A solution that adapts to the changing environment
- Maintained, reliable systems for workforce use
- Timely access to improved security and new / improved functions
- Priority response from technology partner
- Improved cashflow for solution maintenance costs.
Benefits to the Technology Partner
A happy customer that will often act as a referral customer. In our experience, our active Managed Service customers are easily our happiest. They get everything they want, when they want it and when there is an issue with the solution we don’t waste time trying to work out who is paying, we just start work. Having a Managed Service means that the technology partner can be at their best when things are at their worse.
The ability to resource accordingly so that service requests can be dealt with in a timely manner. When a technology partner has a critical mass of Managed Service customers they are able to staff their engineering departments with stable, high quality solution engineers. If a technology partner only ever does project work it is much harder to ensure adequate staff levels for peak demand.
Significant increases in customer delight. As well as all the standard benefits that accrue from a happy customer there are also lots of efficiency benefits that accrue. An unhappy customer needs a lot of management. Most of that organisational effort is nonchargeable and diverts organisational effort away from strategically important tasks [like growth].
Reduced commercial risks as deployed solutions remain valuable for the length of the agree service contract. There are less late payments and discount requests as the customers are happy.
A potential case study target. One of the most powerful things a company has is its customer success stories. It is these stories that often provide the confidence and credibility needed to succeed in attracting new customers.
- Turns customers into advocates
- More effective technical resource management
- Reduce customer rework costs
- Significantly reduce commercial risks
- Create case study opportunities
So, there are many benefits to Managed Services however there is one key element that needs mentioning for those customers considering using one – A Managed Service is only valuable if it is actively used by the customer. Failure to use a Managed Service just leads to an unjustifiable organisational cost.
As we continue down the digital transformation path, more and more organisations will be implementing digital work solutions. These work solutions need to give great ROI and ensure that any human labour required by solution is deployed on high value tasks. First-world economies need for this to happen if they want to be able to maintain high wage levels.
Organisations that want to ‘Win’ in the information age need to implement solutions that deliver great ROI, delight their staff, adapt to the changing world and maintain high levels of security. Implementing a Solution Managed Service for your digital solutions is the best way of maximising your organisation’s chances of being one of the ‘Winners’.
Do you have any experience with Managed Services on Digital Solutions? We would love to hear your story.
Contributed By: Lee Bourke, CEO, FileBound Australia.
If you spend your days going from demonstration to demonstration and are continually frustrated that your close rate is not high enough then this article may offer some insight that can help.
Last year we ran an education event for our partners titled “Demonstration Masters”. The goal of the event was to show the attendees how to run solution demonstrations that significantly improve the likelihood of a sale. After all, isn’t that the primary goal of any sales activity.
To prepare for the event we researched the subject matter and then added our prior experience into the mix. Whilst a simple article on the subject cannot pass on all the content we delivered through the event I am going to identify the major themes that we delivered here so that you can start the journey to improving your solution sales efforts.
A quick note before I do that: What I am talking about here is the Technical Proof demonstration. That is a demonstration to prove the credibility of a solution. I am not talking about the Vision Generation or Spray and Pray types of demonstration. In my view the Vision Generation type of demonstration, where you show prospects a range of solutions you can deliver and hope they like something, should be used for lead generation in many to one events like boardroom lunches. I would avoid Spray and Pray demonstrations, where you basically show a prospect all the software features you can cram into an hour, at all costs. They are a very costly and ineffective way of doing lead generation.
Don’t demonstrate too early
Eliminating this bad habit is the number one way to close more deals. What we see in market is well intended. The sales lead finds a pain or opportunity that they know their organisation can solve or resolve. They tell the prospect about their capabilities and the prospect is interested. They then consider the next step here to demonstrate the software as soon as the prospect will allow it.
The problem with demonstrating at this stage is that you do not understand the problem at a granular enough level that you can build a CREDIBLE solution. If your solution is not credible then your competitors have an opportunity to beat you to the sale. Even if there is no competitor in the deal you will most likely convince the prospect to do nothing as they have not seen the solution to their problem.
You also need to consider your timing of the demonstration. There are times that are not wise to demonstrate to certain prospects e.g. end of month for a finance team or times where key stakeholders are on leave. There is no point securing a demonstration time that fails to allow the key stakeholders to attend and be attentive.
Opportunity discovery is key to demonstration credibility
The demonstration represents a unique opportunity to blow the prospect away with a credible solution to their problem. To build credibility you need to spend a lot more time doing discovery. The goal of this discovery is to build relationships with your prospect and learn as much as possible so you can reflect that knowledge in your demonstration.
Present, Future and Preference
A straightforward way of thinking about what needs to be discovered is Present, Future and Preference. You need to understand their present situation, their envisioned future state and any preferences they have for how they get to the future state [i.e. a mandated cloud strategy for deployment].
Demonstrate a real ROI
Remember that when we talk about Present, Future and Preference we are not just talking about the technical stuff. You need to understand who the present and future players are in the organisation. These are the people who need to assess your solution. You need to understand the industry they play in and what the future of that industry looks like. Helping a prospects executive understand how they can win in their industry is a great way of becoming a highly valued trusted advisor.
Hopefully in the discovery stage you have managed to determine their ROI preference. Your job then is to make sure you demonstrate how that ROI will be achieved. Helping the prospect meet an ROI requirement is a key enabler for sales success.
Demonstrate only what customers need to see
I can’t stress how important this section is. I want you to think about all the software demonstrations you have sat in over the years. Think about how similar they are. A PowerPoint deck with company credibility statements followed by a run through of basic software functions followed by more complex functions and then finally a demonstration of how the software may solve the client’s problem. By the time, you get to the good bit you have very carefully put your prospect to sleep. We need to stop this.
Try turning things around. Get your prospects into a demonstration and start by showing them how your solution solves their problem. You will be amazed at what happens when you do this. If you have done the discovery diligently you will get an outstanding reaction. Trust me. I have been doing my demonstrations this way for a few years now.
You can still have your slide deck handy and later in the meeting the prospect may want to know more about your organisation and your history. By reversing the order, they will likely be more interested in this information as they are seriously looking at you as a potential solution partner.
One of the analogies used by Peter Cohen in his book “Great Demo” (see below) is that of an onion and the demonstration being the peeling back of the layers of an onion. You show the solution first (layer 1) and then you show other layers the prospect asks to see so that they can complete their assessment. You stop peeling layers when the prospect stops asking. Do not show them layers they have not asked to see.
Hopefully these tips will help you improve the quality of solutions you deliver into market whilst also allowing you to improve your solution close rates.
Final note: Remember the demonstration represents the best opportunity to prove yourself and your organisation as the most credible partner to help the prospect solve their problem or take advantage of their opportunity. Conversely, it is also the best opportunity to prove that your competitor is the best partner for the job. If you choose to put the extra effort into the demonstration you will beat your competitors more often and sell more deals.
To prepare for this event, we researched the four leading texts (based on Amazon sales) on the subject matter. I have included the details of these texts below if you are interested in more information.
If you would like to discuss this subject further please contact me.
Chief Executive Officer