The Secret ERP Project Manager: Selling Implementation Services
Having already dished the dirt on client perceptions of ERP consultants, the Secret ERP Project Manager tackles the thorny subject of selling these consultancy services during ERP implementation projects. As an ERP vendor, consultant or potential ERP buyer, it may be interesting to hear what really goes on during the sales and selection process for ERP implementation services.
The sales and selection process for ERP software – if not totally scientific – conforms at least to the semblance of a repeatable process. The purchaser creates a list of business requirements. These requirements are distributed to ERP vendors who respond with proposals of software and price combinations on how they might best fulfill those requirements. The final purchase decision is a combination of which company’s proposal best satisfies the purchaser’s needs, and the confidence the purchaser has in the validity of the proposal.
However, when it comes to implementation services – particularly, choosing a consulting firm to staff an ERP implementation consulting team – is there such a thing as a repeatable process? Certainly, the ERP software vendor will offer an opinion about who seems to do a good implementation job than average (an opinion which will undoubtedly include their own implementation consulting arm), and reputation will come into play. But after the short list is established, what is the process for evaluating an implementation consultant firm?
First, every consulting group will spend a disproportionate amount of time explaining their ERP implementation process. It is a “disproportionate amount of time” because the client has no clue how to evaluate a process to implement a process they don’t understand to begin with. It’s like explaining to people who have only ever walked as a means of transportation what the process is to assemble an internal combustion engine. So the evaluation of the process cannot be whether it is effective or not; it can only be whether or not it sounds boring or exciting.
Secondly, the client is going to want to meet the team they might work with. More ERP consulting firms fall off the shortlist because they fumble this step than any other. This is about cultural chemistry, it is about confidence building, but more than anything, it is about charisma. If just one consultant – ideally the proposed ERP project manager – can say just one thing to the client team that connects in a way that is simultaneously sincere, relevant, and anxiety reducing, the gates are open for a frank and meaningful conversation. If the client keeps waiting for a human moment that never develops, and the consultants continue to toss around meaningless clichés and technical jargon- as if the client should care - the game is lost.
Lastly, the client will place a show-stopping amount of value on whether or not the proposed team has experience in the client’s specific industry. The reasons for this will be evident at the interviews; if the consulting team - and potential ERP project manager - can go deep in discussion about arcane industry-specific software problems, the implementation team will feel like they’ve found a home away from home. If the client hears “No, I’m not familiar with that issue, but I’m sure we can find a solution,” it fills the client with the same sense of confidence as hearing the US government pledge to find a reasonable solution to debt reduction. Picking an ERP implementation partner is about the intangibles.
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