Do you make it your role to help clients with their business processes?
Beyond just the accounting and tax software, do you help them think about the rest of the business?
The Sleeter Group’s research clearly indicates that clients want and need your proactive, strategic advice about the technology solutions they use to run their business. This proves that you have a green light, if not a desperate plea, from the majority of your clients to help them think about and implement better solutions for everything from inventory control to project management, payroll, point of sale, and ecommerce solutions.
With all the energy focused on cloud solutions these days, you might assume that a pundit like me would say that everything should be a cloud solution. But I’m not there yet, and most small businesses aren’t either. Although we’ve seen a dramatic shift towards cloud applications, the fact is that most small businesses still rely, at least partially, on desktop solutions.
It’s just not realistic to insist on cloud applications across the board for most clients. The more realistic approach is to help them build “hybrid” solutions combining cloud and mobile apps with traditional desktop applications. No one on earth is more capable of evaluating and advising clients on the right solutions for their business than YOU. It’s way more important for you to focus on the needs of the business instead of which technology (cloud, desktop, hosted, mobile) you use.
At The Sleeter Group, we continually evaluate solutions in the market; visit our web site (www.sleetergroup.com/ awesomeapps) to find some great solutions. But the key to your success is for you to properly evaluate solutions before recommending them to your clients. Look at each of the products/solutions. Look for product differences and similarities. Sometimes the checkboxes can fool us, so your job is to discover the whole story. Watch the complete demo and take notes regarding areas you want to investigate further. Resist the intoxicating effect a great demo has. Remember that demos are designed to show you the BEST features of the product, and they will likely never show you missing features. It’s YOUR job to discover them.
Get a test account and data set that allows you to work through all the use cases your client will encounter. Stress test software with large data sets to verify performance and usability. Consider the whole business when evaluating chunks. Consider the digital plumbing between the chunks, and make sure data flows correctly. Scrutinize the usability of the product, and consider the training ramifications before making a recommendation. Think about what types of process/staffing changes the solution will require.
If you apply these principles when evaluating solutions, you can be confident about the match between what each client needs and the solutions you recommend.
Beyond the actual solution, the most important evaluation criterion is the people behind the product. Without good people, products eventually fail. When good people collaborate, great things happen. Great people make great products, treat their employees and customers well, and tend to create companies that will be around years down the road when you need support.
In a sense, you are “hiring” the people who create solutions to help you lead your clients to better success—so interview them carefully.