Selling Cloud ERP with Feet on the Street

January 18, 2011
By djohnson

You Need Feet on the Street to Sell Cloud ERP
Image used with permission from CafePress.com

It’s ironic that in order to sell Cloud ERP, you need “feet on the street.” According to the lastest from SAP’s Business ByDesign, they have over 250 feet on the street.

In Bob Scott’s Insights, Kevin Gilroy, VP of channels at SAP says that the goal is to have “1,000 feet on the street” selling Business ByDesign by 2011. The fact that ByDesign already has 250 sounds impressive, but there could be a catch. Counting feet could be dangerous if a single VAR has 100 people (200 feet) or a centipede (100 feet) on their sales team.

Cloud ERP Software requires Business Experts

Kidding aside, feet-on-the-street is still an essential part of selling ERP software to mid-sized businesses. Customer prospects with separate sales, accounting, IT, and human resource departments are unwilling to purchase ERP software by entering credit card information into an e-commerce site … and for good reason. ERP software is complex and integration with existing systems requires experts to configure the software to match your business processes. This work is usually provided by value added resellers who know and understand a specific business.

ERP Not an iPhone App

An effective ERP system will involve your entire organization in business processes. While a single individual may purchase an application for his iPhone and get some personal use from it, the same individual get little benefit from purchasing an ERP application unless others in his organization are using it. The benefit of ERP software increases as more and more people use it to collaborate and interact with one another.

Sales consultants (a.k.a. feet on the street) are important in breaking down organizational boundaries and getting everybody involved with a centralized process flow that works with ERP software. Centralized ERP delivers real-time data sharing and reporting, but without inter-departmental cooperation, an ERP deployment will not deliver the desired benefits.

ERP Software Configuration and Training

ERP software has thousands of screens and hundreds of options, so it requires configuration and training. Robust ERP software provides more than one way of accomplishing a task. Examine the simple task of placing a customer order — a customer can bring an item to a counter and pay cash or pay on account, a customer can order an item that you have in-stock in an off-site warehouse, a customer can request a drop shipment from a third party vendor, a customer can place an order then pick it up using their vehicle or have it shipped by a common carrier, a customer can request services billed in advance or billed after services are rendered. This is just a partial listing of scenarios, and each of these has different ways to manage money and inventory.

Without configuration and training, employees may not select the correct processes. Imagine what would happen to your inventory if employees created invoices using services (non-stock items) because they were more comfortable doing it that way. Product documentation will explain the correct method, but the feet on the street are important for delivering training and emphasizing potential pitfalls based on past experiences.

Feet in the Cloud

There are other advantages to feet-on-the-street provided by personal relationships. Some customers may feel more comfortable spending thousands of dollars on software if they can identify a person or company that they can visit to get their problems resolved.

In the spirit of the Cloud, web conferencing services provide alternatives to on-site configuration and training. Some ERP customers may require in-person training, but others may be willing to do remote training in order to save on travel costs. Web meetings can be effective if participants are fully engaged and separated from the distractions of their offices. For feet-in-the-cloud, the presenter/trainer must acquire a different set of skills in order to gain feedback since confused looks and facial expressions may not be available.

Saving Money with Value Added Resellers

Feet-on-the-street add value by understanding the workings of both vertical and geographical markets. This value allows accounting, distribution, manufacturing, customer management, and other applications to be written generically and configured to meet specific customer needs.

The alternative is to build custom applications for each business or change your business to match generic business processes. However, the cost advantage of adapting horizontal software for your particular needs are substantial because the cost of development and maintenance can be spread over a wider audience. See our previous posts to learn more about customizing ERP software.

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