- The sales cycles are long.
- The products are complex because the problems that ERP software solves for the customers is complex.
- The software is expensive and the consulting can be even more so.
- Customers only change software every 10 years or longer.
And we understand this very well because our team has worked for software publishers or in the consulting channel for over a combined 30 man-years.
As we work with businesses in this market, we often end up having a conversation about FindAccoutingSoftware.com ( FAS ). FAS can be a false beacon of hope to these businesses - or, it can be the greatest thing they have ever found if they are set up to use it correctly.
FAS is a lead aggregator. And similar sites or companies exist in a lot of different industries. What FAS does is to publish a lot of information about ERP systems and accounting systems and they offer to help your company narrow down your choices through an online needs assessement. They drive traffic to their site through pay-per-click advertising as well as their search engine optimization process.
The software consulting businesses pay a fee to FAS to be able to bid on leads that meet their criteria. The leads that each organization gets are about the same in quality on average to all participants. So why do some of these businesses claim it works well and others say they are wasting money? After talking to dozens of companies about this over the last 4 years, we think it comes down to a simple question: do you have and follow a rigorous sales process?
Here's the crux of it: the businesses that submit to FAS are investigating alternatives. But they aren't buying. Not yet at least. They are doing due diligence to see what their options are, what it costs and if they are ready to really solve the issues in their company that an ERP purchase will solve. This is step one of any large, complex buying cycle - investigate options.
Once they have completed their investigation, the company considering the ERP solution will then make a decision to buy or not buy based on the perceived value that the purchase will drive. This is the second loop of the complex purchase process.
The ERP consulting companies that say findaccountingsoftware.com doesn't work for them are getting these two stages in the customer buying process confused. They go into the lead bidding process thinking that they are getting a “lead” that has already made a purchase decision – A company saying " We are definitely buying something" ...rather than what they are really getting, which is more like a company saying " We need to spend some time looking at our options to see if this is really worth investing in right now instead of the other priorities we have".
The ERP/accounting consultants with an established sales process understand this. And they pursue the leads they receive with the understanding that the potential customer is undergoing an investigation that the consultant wants to guide them through. These consultants understand that they are selling their skills and abilities, not just software. They help the potential customers make educated trade offs and decisions and they are tenacious in their follow up of the opportunities.
The consulting firms that say FAS is a waste of money are absolutely right - it is for them, because they are looking to take an order from someone who wants to buy now, as opposed to dedicating the time and process working with the prospect and developing them as a lead and ultimately as a customer.
Our best advice for any business considering an investment in FAS (or a similar type of lead generator in your industry) is to take a long hard look at your sales process, and make sure you are using a marketing and lead generation approach that meshes with it. And for the ERP/accounting consulting firms out there, FAS does work, if you are willing to put in the sales effort. If you are looking for an easy way to take an order, you'll have to go somewhere else.