Recently I was a member of a panel discussion centered around automating business processes for the purpose of gaining efficiencies and increasing profitability. Specifically, automating the sales management, estimating process and integrating it with the financial and support services using sales estimating software.

There were four panelists, myself and another representing software companies specializing in business automation software – ours being sales prospecting, estimating and sales reporting software. The two additional panelists are owners of security system integration businesses. Both made the decision to automate their business processes through sales estimating software and integrated financial ERP software. These two panelists, the ones their peers, our audience, wanted to hear from most. After all, they’re the “litmus test” aka, the guinea pigs, who survived to tell.

The audience consisted of veteran security integrators, business owners, executive managers, CFOs and sales people.

You may wonder why there was such a focus on this topic? Many reasons came to light pretty quickly. One panelist quickly spouted off his real-time business statistics, “the state of the business” – his: sales, billing, purchasing, revenue numbers. The number of estimates and proposals generated that week, by who, even the dollar amounts of all that were “won”, what remained to close by each sales person so that he might help as needed. He had detail on his smart phone, iPAD and laptop (all of which he had with him) down to specific sales people, specific estimates and specific jobs. His entire system has been automated, including sales estimating, calculation and reporting of commissions, delivery of contracts, billing, receiving payments, invoicing service tickets, even sending thank you notes to his customers. How cool is that?!

The other owner panelist had a very similar story. She indicated that not only does she have the sales intelligence at her fingertips but, her entire team is making decisions more easily and intelligently because they too have the facts with just a few clicks. She also described becoming more lean – eliminating forms and process that was weighing the business down and empowering the sales team by automating sales approvals, and working from individual thresholds to keep sales moving easily.

As I listened, both owners excitedly delivered example after example of sales and busiess intelligence that freed their companies in ways most others only dream about.

So, why is it so hard for so many owners and executives to say yes, let’s replace our old Excel sheets, the paper forms and software that just doesn’t work?

One of the panelists nailed it. Her company limped along on a software platform that clearly frustrated their entire team, cost them good money year after year, and wasn’t even properly supported by the company that sold it to them. In fact, there were hardly any updates coming out and support was in German (literally) and on a time zone that wasn’t close to hers in the US. Her people had to wait after normal business hours to try to talk to support. A waiting period that might take weeks. Yikes!

She described the process her company went through to vet potential software solutions. They knew they wanted to automate their sales process, from “contact to contract”, and automate their financial and ERP process, from “contract to cancellation”. They also wanted to eliminate many of the manual and paper driven processes in place in the company. So much process was making the company less efficient. They knew they had to make this decision but, it took a long time to actually pull the trigger and ultimately, for no good reason.

She spoke directly indicating that every person in the room knows they need to make this change and it is best to just do it. Every day you lose money because you are not as efficient, you enter the same piece of data again and again into multiple systems, multiple mistakes. You see and hear the frustration all around you. You feel it – you are a bottleneck and you’re not out there selling and building relationships. Instead, you’re arguing over $150 in commissions or reviewing every single estimate before it goes out the door – when in fact, whatever you reviewed could indeed be changed and you’d never know it. Heck, your sales team can walk out and take your estimates, pricing, proposals, contact database and you wouldn’t even know that either. That doesn’t just stink. That makes me fighting mad. Why do you sit there so docilely? What, you’re in denial? You don’t think that’s happened to you already? C’mon!!

While you sit there hemming and hawing and paying attention to the latest “crisis”, think about this little ditty: “No decision is a decision.” That is the hard truth.

The question is why? Why are you waiting so long to get your organization on sales estimating software so sorely needed? The “excuse” answer is pretty straight forward. There are two primary reasons people delay the inevitable:

  1. Fear of spending money. Keep in mind, they seemingly have no fear of the losses they’re racking up month after month! Do you know that on average, our Clients note a loss of one man day a week (8 full hours every week) per sales person due soley to the need to use more than one system to create a simple proposal document. Per person, that’s 32 hours a month. Conservatively at $50 (your cost) per hour, that’s $1,600 per sales person! Nevermind how many new sales that 32 hours represents, a far more serious multiplier than $50/hour. What about mulitple data entry by multiple people? There are so many places this boat is taking in water. But, what do you care? Keep bailling, it’s only money you never see any way, bail, bail, bail.
  2. Upheaval of the organization. Really? That’s all you got?! What a sorry excuse for an excuse. Let’s face it, deploying new software always comes with it’s pain but, it’s relatively short lived and the pot of gold is so worth it. The question is, would you rather face it while your organization is the size it is today, or do you really want to do this after you’ve grown again, or are in a continued growth mode?

Sales and financial systems are the foundation of the “house” of your business. Don’t you want a solid foundation on which to build your house? Both of our panelists recognized that if they had made the change sooner, the pain would have been lessened throughout the organization and they would have been ahead of the game as their businesses grew. It really is a no-brainer. You’re losing time, efficiencies, money, have no solid reporting, feeling frustrated, maybe a little sick and tired – seriously, what are you waiting for?

The “go” decision maker knows this decision will make their organization and business stronger, more viable, more valuable and give them back confidence, control and – our most precious resource – time to make more decisions.