[IMGCAP(1)]So often it seems that we (practitioners, resellers and even vendors) put the majority of our focus in two places -- the beginning and the end -- which of course makes sense since everyone wants to make a sale, earn a new client’s business, sign on a new partner, and watch them bring on new customers. But what about all that time in the middle?
Failure to focus on what comes next, specifically efficiently and effectively serving that customer, can ultimately undermine your initial achievement. It turns out that the need to automate and streamline processes, standardize and enforce specific programs, and implement tools that enable you to manage these operations aren’t just talking points in a sales presentation.
It’s typical to look at the signature on a contract as the big check mark – job well done, mission accomplished. But the fact of the matter is that most of the time it is actually just the beginning. Closing the deal is no more complete than saying “I Do,” it means that you won’t have to work to have a good marriage or that in buying a house it means you are exempt from maintaining it. Arguably, these ends are just the beginnings of a whole new process with a whole new middle.
For you baseball fans, you know every September as the season comes down to the wire, you start hearing about magic numbers. Isn’t it funny though that it always seems to be the team that was hot in July that usually manages to pull out the victory down the stretch? Of course we look at the last few games when there’s a tight race for the pennant, but it’s often what happens in the middle of the season, day in and day out that makes the biggest difference. Things aren’t a lot different in the professional world.
We all know the horror stories, some of us have lived them first-hand, of winning a client’s business yet failing to deliver on the solutions promised. You painfully watch as a top-notch channel partner struggles to secure the elusive end user. How can we avoid this frustration and plan for success from beginning to end? By finding success in the middle.
[IMGCAP(2)]In fact, experience also tells us that if we have success in the middle – exceeding a customer’s expectations – then that by itself can help breed success in the beginning as those customers share their experiences with peers. If you build it they will come, right? The best baseball programs are in the best position to attract the best new talent and it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Get With the Program
For consultants and resellers, taking advantage of formalized partner programs and training often goes hand-in hand with success. As channel-centric software partners continue to grow their practice, the need for these standardized programs is vital.
Offering hands-on training, technical resources, and specialized assistance to new resellers could be the most valuable benefit available to consultants. But this has to be a two-way street. Don’t expect to get any more out of these programs than you’re willing to invest. For those that do devote appropriate resources, they will set themselves apart from the competition.
Moreover, establish clear expectations up front with partners and setting requirements for continued milestone check points will eliminate frustrating conversations down the road. When both parties are on the same page as far as what falls within their responsibilities, there’s far less room for error or dropped balls when the going gets tough.
Practice What You Preach
So many of us fail to eat our own dog food. Regardless of how many amazing tools our organizations have implemented, we all still have that secret spreadsheet -- you know, the one that you have saved four times in various places “just in case.” Technology partners face the biggest challenge here: ensuring that the cobbler’s children actually have shoes. Sometimes the answers are right under our noses in the form of systems we already utilize.
Look at workflow, for example. While most tech-savvy firms have adopted automated systems for tracking client-facing work processes in tax, audit and client accounting, what about everything else? What about internal operations like IT projects, HR processes, and even new client on boarding? Leveraging existing solutions in new creative ways can not only help standardize processes and enforce compliance, but also reduce the learning curve that typically exists when rolling out new technology internally. By reducing or even eliminating wasted time that is currently devoted to these necessary evils of daily operations, resources can be freed up to create more value both internally as well as for clients – and everybody wins.
To use the baseball analogy again, there’s 162 games a year, it’s a long season. Don’t be caught off guard when the over-eager employees and partners take it out a bit too fast. Prepare for success by relying on instincts, and on the processes you’ve mapped out. When things get crazy, and the pressure is on, it’s easy to throw out standard procedures just in order to survive. That’s when it’s more important than ever to maintain best practices – the last thing you want to do is give up a home run in the bottom of the ninth. After all, a no-hitter isn’t just about the last strike, it’s about each and every pitch, catch, and out -- even the ones in the middle.
Kim Hogan is director of west coast operations at XCM Solutions and Xpitax, LLC. Follow her on Twitter @XCMkim. Contact Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org. As vice president of channels at Intacct Corporation, Taylor Macdonald directs the company’s relationships with business partners. Contact him at email@example.com.
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