Thursday, March 5, 2020
This is a continuation of ‘Real Life Success Stories - Selling Dynamics 365 Business Central in the CEE Market’. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, please do, otherwise you’ll miss some valuable information - Part 1: Real Life Success Stories - Selling Dynamics 365 Business Central in the CEE Market
Let’s jump straight in…
Adapting your Sales & Marketing operations for Cloud business
Inga Sartauskaite: Let’s talk about the Sales and Marketing engine. Was there anything you had to change in order to fit in with the Cloud?
Laura: Yes, we did change a lot in marketing processes in comparison with what we did five years ago. If you went to our website five years ago, the content was more or less based on the pdf files explaining what we do and what products we have.
Now, our marketing is more digitalized and we use a lot of lead magnets in our website. We also do blogging to show our expertise in different fields (we have found it is very important to be in places where customers are looking for software). We collect recommendations and referrals, and we show them on our website, people trust people who are similar to them. You also have to be easy to find in your website, your blog, your social media channels, and even your salespeople’s LinkedIn profiles. So, changing the content was one of our main focus for the last few years.
The second key change we made was implementing marketing nurturing and automation, helping convert more leads to opportunities. After we started the nurturing process, the conversion grew by 7% just from the nurturing engine. There were changes in lead qualification as well. Now, depending on what interest a prospect shows, it will either be marketing, or a sales person taking over the process.
Marketing is taking care of colder leads and is responsible for nurturing them, salespeople are taking care of leads that are about to convert into deals.
Both Softera and Soft4 are taking a bit of different approach. Softera has dedicated salespeople for the Cloud, while Sof4 salespeople are working with a particular vertical, and they are working on both on-prem and Cloud versions. We always try to suggest Cloud first, telling customers it is less risky, more efficient, etc but it’s not always a suitable option (especially in markets that have certain restrictions on the Cloud) for all customers.
From a KPI perspective, we are mainly checking number of leads coming in, and conversion rates (every salesperson has their own goals for the on-prem and Cloud separately). Another important KPI is the churn rate for Cloud customers. Today we have much less face-to-face interaction, many leads choose to stay anonymous, so we have to be creative capturing the leads and driving traffic to our website. Our marketing team has grown from one person to five or six people now, but we are planning to grow the marketing team further, as marketing is taking more responsibilities from sales.
Leho: Laura has just provided an example of a perfect Cloud-based company. Even though we do have some similarities with Softera, we still have a long Cloud journey ahead of us. We are hunting larger and bigger customers, larger projects and very often we are still thinking as ‘standard project’ minded company. We are trying to introduce standardized products as much as possible, but every customer has its own nuances and differences. They believe these particular differences are what makes them unique and competitive on the market. So, our standard approach is: “OK, let’s start with the standard solution, and let’s make this small customization to keep your competitive advantage”.
From a sales activities point of view, we do the same, at least to some extent. The main difference is maybe in the approach itself. We have only two sales and one marketing person dedicated to new sales opportunities, all the selling to existing customer is handled by project managers.
Regarding marketing activities, as we have vertical business lines for manufacturing, professional services, wholesales and retail, all our messaging is targeted to these segments. And we generate separate pipelines for these segments.
What marketing activities do we usually do?
- We send out the newsletters,
- We do morning coffee meetings with our customers (we think this works very efficiently as leads generators),
- Once or twice a year we publish our case studies, trends in the market or methodologies that we follow during implementation projects in one IT magazine
- We send out a magazine to c-level people (this is the advantage of a small country: we can afford marketing activities like this).
With Cloud-based offers, some of these activities will not be suitable any longer as it will require too much of a sales time, and thus, will not be profitable but for now our customers are of the size that we are able to still physically meet with them and make tailored demos for them.
We also find webinars to be very effective. In the future, once we become more of the Cloud company, of course we will move to more digitalized activities.
Inga Sartauskaite: Tomas, you have a thousand customers on the platform: managing customer churn is critical for you. How do you make sure it is kept down to a minimum?
Tomas: That is a very good question. I can share a secret with you – once the customer is deployed on Cloud it is actually very hard for them to leave (or even replace) the Partner. This is because ERP is usually integrated with a lot of other systems and migration or changing the place requires additional investments. And it is especially true if they are running on a Microsoft Azure infrastructure where you, as the Partner are in full control of customer Cloud infrastructure, (which is a must to be able to provide subscription based pricing). It is not that easy to move from this infrastructure.
The second thing is, if we look from the sales and marketing perspective, I would like to point out what Laura and Leho have mentioned already - content is extremely important. And especially, the digital content that everyone can access and read. This is because it’s where the majority of people start their investigations. Only once they are confident on what they read or saw on your website, will they then decide they can trust you.
From what I also see from the market, I can share that many Partners are starting to make a distinction of small and large opportunities. For customers who don’t want to invest heavily and are price sensitive, they have a very standard process: “Here is the pricelist, here is the procedure: please check if we are a fit”. For companies with more users and maybe higher expectations, Partners tend to add additional services on top: maybe additional support, maybe specific training or consultancy.
So, if you want to be successful in the Cloud, you need to adjust your marketing and sales activities for the Cloud.
“The CEE market, gently speaking, is a challenging one”
Inga Sartauskaite: You are breaking all the rules by proving selling Dynamics 365 Business Central is possible and proving that selling a subscription-based solution is possible. However, I have no doubt it’s not always been easy.
Laura. Well, there are many Partners that claim the fact of having no Dynamics 365 Business Central SaaS version available for the market, is a huge challenge. Frankly speaking, we at Softera/Soft4 deal with this pretty easily. We have localization on Extensions now, and we offer to implement it with the new code on-prem on Azure through 1ClickFactory. Customers don’t really know the difference (whether it is on-prem or on Cloud), so it is a good way to deal with this until the localization is ready.
For us, probably a bigger challenge is the one addressed by Leho, customers think they are unique, and they want special development. With verticals, we are trying to show them a different approach. It is much easier to adjust business processes to standard solutions, than to customize a system specifically for them.
Price is also a challenge. With verticals, it very much depends on which vertical are we talking about. Some of them have quite a big competition and the price reflects this, others have much more attractive margins. We try to cope with the price challenge by showing the value and benefit for the customer first, so that they are crystal clear on what are they paying for and what are they getting from the software.
Leho: We consider Baltic states as home country, so the fact there is a localized version available in Estonia doesn’t always help us. If we have a multi-country project, we still have localization issue as we can’t put the Baltic customers into the Cloud. And thus, we too need to look for alternatives.
I am not sure if this is a market challenge or our own challenge, but I see the customers are ready for the Cloud solutions and they are asking for them. But the challenge is how do Partners go along with this. Previously, everything was clear - NAV is being launched once per year (or even less than that), and the technology didn’t change too fast. But now we are in the situation when technology “runs”, and we have to chase it. Technology changes so fast, that what you have learned today, might not be relevant tomorrow at all. And we also have to explain the technology to the customers.
So, for me the biggest challenge is how to keep up with the technology.
If you are too playing catch and run with the latest technological shift, check out our dynamics workshops available!)
Inga Sartauskaite: Preparing for the objections is one of the most critical elements for every Sales or Marketing person. What are the three top things customers ask you when you are offering Dynamics 365 Business Central?
Laura. If you asked this question two years ago, I would say security would be at the very top of every customer’s mind. But today this has changed. We are not getting questions or concerns about security any more (maybe except for bigger or financial organizations). The questions that we get are mainly related to technical questions or pricing (what does the price cover, what is included and what comes on top, are there any additional services they have to pay for and etc). And the third group of questions are related to new releases, when will the software be updated, how often, will they have to pay for it, etc.
Leho: The one thing customer expects from Cloud based solutions is for them to be ready for their business. So if a customer is coming from a wholesale market, they expect the specifics of the wholesale to be included in the solution (and that’s why, very often, we are saying we are selling wholesale solution rather than Dynamic 365 Business Central. We see customers show much more interest when we are coming with such an approach. Then, I do hear questions related with security from larger organizations and corporate customers. Also regarding Cloud solutions we often hear the question “What happens if we don’t like each other anymore? Are we stuck with you forever till the end? What are the chances to switch to another solution or another Partner?”. Also, the price. If you are already in the Cloud, you are stuck with the Partner, but what happens if one day the Partner decides to increase the price? What are the options if you can’t afford the software anymore (well, they understand they have an option to leave, but they know is not an easy one). These are the kind of questions you need to be prepared for when you are selling Cloud based solutions.
Things to consider when choosing your hosting Partner for your Dynamics 365 Business Central Solution
Inga Sartauskaite: Both of you are using 1ClickFactory hosting services: what are the main elements you would recommend every Partner checks out when choosing a hosting provider?
Laura. We were partnering with another hosting provider prior to choosing 1ClickFactory, and the main criteria for a change was pricing. 1ClickFactory’s pricing is far more cost effective for us.
However, what we have learned over time, and is a far more important criteria, is the possibility to automate tasks that we had to do manually. Your platform is very easy to use, and the infrastructure is very intuitive.
And lastly, I would recommend all Partners to make sure the hosting provider they choose has Azure and NAV/Business Central knowledge in house (I don’t think there are too many examples on the market that the Partner had both these competencies, as 1ClickFactory does).
Leho. With every implementation project, part of the work is related to IT (installing the server, SQL server and etc). And we don’t have the right knowledge in house. So, when we were looking for a Partner, our primary goal was to get rid of these kinds of tasks.
The 1ClickFactory package was perfect, not only did they offer to take care of all these tasks, but also they had NAV knowledge which means the environment was ready, for NAV customers, with automation and everything like that.
And lastly, it is the people. For us, it is extremely important to do easy business with people.
Laura: Leho, good point, I forgot to mention we love 1ClickFactory’s people and the support that we get. This was part of the feedback I got from the team directly working on the projects with you.
Inga Sartauskaite: Tomas, you are analyzing the market and talking to many customers: what would you recommend to Partners looking for a hosting provider? What criteria should they evaluate?
Tomas: Two things are very important: price and consistency (that is a stable price you can rely on). Because once you go on Azure, the price can change from 1 to 10 and back. Stable pricing (and low price, of course, is a huge advantage for the CEE market) is very important.
However, sharing my experience from our site, I must say it is not the price element that is discussed most often. Surprisingly, recently I have started to receive quite a few questions regarding backups:
- How do you do backups?
- How do you do disaster recovery? And etc.
Then I do hear Partners say service or support is very important.
We at 1ClickFactory are always highlighting partnership, and I strongly believe this is the most important piece of Cloud service. Everything should work very smoothly. No breaks. No stops are allowed or tolerated. And everyone should work towards the same goal: making the end customer happy.
We hope you had a nice read and that this blog was helpful. If you want to listen to this webinar and additionally see the sales related numbers that were presented – check it out at our youtube channel:
And if you are already convinced your market is ready for Cloud – fill in this short form and get a trial for NAV/BC on Azure.