Before we get to the three questions…
This blog is written assuming that you are following some sort of methodology for managing your ERP evaluations. The following questions are geared toward helping you decide which vendor to work with, not the mechanics of the evaluation itself. If you don’t have a methodology, my suggestion would be to first download our ebook to get some fantastic advice on how to carry out your ERP evaluations. You can download it here.
Question #1: What happens to my sales contact after I sign on the dotted line?
You may be thinking, “What does this have to do with evaluation of ERP?” But the answer to this question will shed light on a variety of things. Many ERP sales representatives are responsible for “net new” sales. This means their job is to sign up NEW customers and new customers only. Once you sign on the dotted line, your relationship with that salesperson is OVER. You are turned over to the implementation team and you get a new point of contact since you are now a customer.
As someone who has worked in this sort of setup, I can tell you this matters because it is very easy to say or do anything during the sales cycle to gain a signature. After your signature is inked, the salesperson has no responsibility to you, your success, or your ongoing happiness. I am not saying this is everyone’s mentality, but you should be aware of this type of sales structure because there is no incentive for the salesperson to follow up on any promises made during the ERP evaluation process.
At Visual South, I am responsible for net new sales as well as ongoing customer sales, which effectively means I do not “go away” when a customer signs a contract. This means that I have a long view when it comes to our interaction during a sales cycle. I do not want to “say or do anything” to get a customer to sign, because our relationship is beginning, not ending. Again, I want to emphasize that it won’t automatically be disastrous if you purchase from someone whose role is to get your signature and move on, but rather that you need to be aware of that dynamic and how it might shape your sales representative’s behavior during your ERP evaluation.
Question #2: Can I meet or talk to the person who will be managing my implementation?
An implementation is about software, but it is much more about people and relationships. After a thorough ERP software evaluation, many businesses realize that more than one solution will work. This happens a lot when the current solution in place is so bad that “anything would be better.” This doesn’t mean that factors like feature set and price won’t make one solution stand out more than another, but typically these decisions come down to the relationship between the vendor and customer. Meeting the person whom you will be working with during the implementation will obviously help your decision making process. It can give you a level of comfort, or it can open up a conversation with your vendor of choice about how you feel about the resource you would be working with.
If a vendor will not allow you to speak with this person, you should explore the reason why. Sometimes it is because there is a gulf between the sales and service departments in the company and this request presents difficulty for them internally. Speaking for myself, I am always happy to orchestrate these conversations. I do make my prospects aware of any potential conflicts we may have internally that would cause us to use another resource, but prospects are always in control of this decision.
Question #3: Can I meet or talk to one of your customers?
This is a very common question and it is always good to ask during the ERP evaluation process, whether you intend on having a conversation with them or not. If a vendor can’t provide you with some customer names and numbers pretty quickly, this as a red flag.
The caveat here is if you ask the vendor to speak with a very specific type of customer—someone that does exactly what you do, has the exact same sized business, and is located within 1 mile—you are going to get some delay. In my experience, it is much better to simply ask about other customers and don’t get caught up on talking to an exact match to your company. Speaking with someone should really focus on what advice they have for you regarding implementation, how they feel their relationship is with the vendor, etc.
While there are millions of questions that will be asked in your ERP system evaluations, I suggest mixing these in—it will help inform your decision. As always, we are here to help. If you would like to have a free consultation with a very experienced, unbiased, non-salesperson, click here!