By Mark Engelberg – TimeLinx – We all love brand names. Whether it is clothing or technology, brand names give us a sense of security. We wouldn’t go and get a laptop with an unknown operating system. However, when it comes to software, the brand name with the largest marketing budget may not always be the best choice. Why, you ask? It comes down to trust. Because marketing is, well, marketing.
The biggest issue when partnering with a large brand for technology is “does it really meet my needs as the marketing says” or “will it move left when I need it to move left” (a dance floor metaphor). In other words, do you trust what the marketing team is saying? Sure, using a well-known brand as your project or service management software means that you join the ranks of hundreds or thousands of mostly satisfied customers, but you also become a number rather than a name. It’s just not possible for a vendor with thousands of customers to be in touch and personal with every single customer. A contact person such as an account manager may have been assigned, but you need someone who will truly understand what your challenges and objectives are so you can trust that their technology can meet your needs. In today’s internet buying world, it is up to the buyer to sit through web demos to make sure it’s a good fit. But project and service management software is a complex set of many interacting functions with many nuances, and doing your homework is essential. I’ve seen too many assumptions made that lead to failed projects because the customer didn’t know the questions to ask, and the account manager chose not to fill in the blanks.
I’m sure we agree that each and every one of us deserves personal attention. It’s what makes a working relationship work. A relationship where someone actually cares that you are getting what you need, helping you grow, and that it’s not just about making this month’s sales quota.
And we need technology that will fuel that growth, not just meet today’s requirements. Above all else, and assuming you have a long timeframe in mind for your business, the technology must have enough flexibility to be able to change major features, not just alter some configuration and fields on screens. Might you acquire another company in the future that requires additional functionality? Can the vendor create that functionality if you asked? So ask. Out-of-box solutions from the really big guys certainly offer feature flexibility but you must look beyond the features. Do you trust that your account manager knew what s/he was talking about during the sales process? Did s/he even think about the long-term impact on you? So make sure that you think about the long-term and not just about your immediate issues.
What about your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)? That goes hand in hand with personal attention. Does your vendor understand how you may be different? What is the point in buying an off-the-shelf industry solution if it doesn’t quite fit your company’s particular needs? Not everyone in one industry operates the same way, and you can’t assume that the solution will be right just because it’s an industry-specific solution (and others in your industry use it). It might seem that an industry-specialized solution would be ideal, but you will often find that those solutions are not able to do the unique things that set you apart. Specifically, because it might be so industry-focused it hasn’t looked outside that industry for relevant good ideas that work in other industries. Having worked with some neighboring direct competitors for more than 20 years, I’ve been amazed at how different their businesses are. Sometimes it’s just a matter of size, or maturity, or simply different requirements. I can promise you that asking a large provider to build a significant addition for you is almost impossible, and certainly not in the short time frame you may need. Of course, it’s always better to avoid customization but sometimes it is just what is really important. And done right, it’s worth it. Yet ask a smaller player who needs and wants your business and they will almost always work to provide it. You just need to trust that provider to take responsibility to ask all the right questions.
Trust Is Earned
Trust is not something to be taken lightly. It basically determines whether one enters into a partnership or not. How much does the salesperson truly understand the product they are talking about? Does s/he have a deep technology background or just many years in sales? It’s the benefit of smaller firms where people wear many hats. In technology that’s especially true and more than likely, you can trust what you are told. Or be able to reach up the ladder to the top if you need to escalate. Trust is something that winds through every relationship we have, be it professional or personal.
So if you are a technology partner reading this, you already know that you must dig in for the details. Omitting a topic during discussions is where things go wrong. “But we never talked about that” simply doesn’t fly any longer. You may be protected by an “errors and omissions” clause in a legal contract, but that doesn’t save your relationship with the customer. Your customer will have trusted you to cover all the bases.
And if you are the customer, always remember that “You don’t know what you don’t know.” (my favorite phrase). How can sales even expect a customer to know what the obscure questions are to ask? The customer doesn’t have the experience to know the questions which makes it the salesperson’s responsibility. You may not like hearing the answer, but at least you’ve heard it and can decide what action to take. And then you should beat up on the product until you’re comfortable that you’ve sampled that truth. Don’t be afraid to say “prove it”.
I can tell you until I’m blue in the face how amazing our TimeLinx products are, how satisfied our customers are, and how caring, knowledgeable and attentive our team members are. And how we are able to specialize in many environments and tailor our products to the point they almost feel like a custom solution when they are not. And that the solution can grow as your company grows. The truth is, you need to either see for yourself or be able to trust from talking to others how well we’ve delivered in the past on what we promised.
We hope you’ll ask.
Otherwise, well, you know that hugely popular TV show, Schitt’s Creek? You really don’t want to be up there.
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TimeLinx delivers innovative project & service management software as a complete solution that perfects the sell-track-manage-support-bill cycle that services organizations must have to delight their customers; TimeLinx brings the cycle together in a single application that offers less frustration, better project management, complete reporting, and improved profitability – all specially designed for Infor and Sage.