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“This ERP system is perfect for you. It can be implemented in a jiffy and it has all the modules you will ever need,” says the software sales rep. “Besides, you can use all our best practices and never touch customization with a ten-foot pole.”

The claims, promises and hyperbole of the typical ERP sales cycle have always been the stuff of legend. And though savvy organizations are becoming much more discerning about ERP vendor sales speak, it appears that many continue to fall prey to the exaggeration of ERP sales reps, which can lead to expectations becoming misconstrued from the get-go. It is no exaggeration to say that ERP vendor sales reps may not always be the ideal partner when it comes to ERP implementations.

Your company has unique business processes that software sales reps may not fully understand — especially if you haven’t done a thorough job documenting requirements prior to issuing the RFP. It’s no secret that sales reps often focus more on software than solutions and won’t necessarily have the focus or expertise to rejigger your company’s business processes. Depending solely on an ERP vendor without a solid understanding of either your “as is” or your “to be” business processes can significantly increase your project’s risk, cost and duration. In fact, when it comes to relationships with ERP vendors, your company is at a disadvantage for a number of reasons:

  • Your staff probably has very little ERP sales or negotiation experience
  • Sales reps do not usually provide guidance on blueprinting current or future business processes
  • A sales rep’s compensation depends on the number of contracts he/she secures, not necessarily on the suitability of the software to your business

The ideal ERP vendor trains their sales staff to sell more than software – they train it to sell solutions that actually improve business processes. Oftentimes, sales reps will focus on pleasing IT staff with promises of quick and easy implementations, but sales reps should also be able to follow through on their promises (implied or stated) that the software will indeed tackle and improve business processes in tangible ways. And this doesn’t mean standardizing everything to the software’s “best practices.”

Following are some qualities to look for in a software sales rep. If you can’t find these qualities in your ERP vendor, it might be wise to turn to an independent ERP consultant to realign your expectations:

  • Sales rep only sells you the modules you absolutely need and never encourages you to purchase everything at once
  • Sales rep includes hardware costs, project resources, integration, customization and other hidden costs in the total cost of ownership
  • Sales rep includes all critical project activities in proposal and contract
  • Sales rep estimates a deployment time based on the scope of all critical project activities
  • Sales rep knows how to differentiate between processes that add value and competitive edge to the organization and those that don’t and determine and deliver customization to protect the former

Since most organizations do not have much ERP contract negotiation experience, it’s important to keep the above points in mind when deciphering the elaborate sales talk of eager ERP vendors. While sales reps do have exceptional product knowledge, some do not take all your business’s interests into account. If organizational change management, or any other project activity, is reduced or oversimplified in a sales contract, this could result in increased risk and cost for your ERP implementation.

Panorama’s ERP consultants will always give you realistic expectations; make sure your ERP vendor sales rep isn’t trying to make the project sound simpler than it is. Visit our Contract Negotiations page to learn more about our experience with ERP vendors, and be sure to check out our 2012 ERP Report for benchmarks on realistic implementation times.

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