A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform is commonly within the top 5 expenses within every CIO’s annual budget. The day-to-day operations of business serve as a natural distraction for all of us and, if you don’t negotiate contracts all day long, it’s near impossible to know all the information you need in order to successful prepare and execute a negotiation strategy. Negotiating a Salesforce contract is tricky and can be extremely complex. Don’t underestimate the time, effort, or expertise you’ll need, or you’ll quickly lose control of the
Here are the 7 most common mistakes we find CIOs and IT Management Teams make when negotiating their Salesforce agreement:
1. Failing to prepare
While this may not come as a surprise, the single most common mistake is failing to allocate enough time, resources, and expertise to properly prepare for the negotiation.
Ask yourself this: Would you ever go to a car dealership and take the first car they offer without first doing your research on price, warranty, etc.?
As a CIO or IT management team, you should not make assumptions or rush through the process of finding and/or negotiating your CRM platform. No matter whether you are searching for a new CRM platform or simply renewing your existing agreement, make sure you take time to understand the business and digital capabilities you are looking to acquire and/or augment. Take time to conduct interviews across the organization and create a business canvas of those needs to create a simple viewpoint of the wants and needs of the entire organization.
We advise our clients to start 6 months prior to any anticipated contract execution date.
2. Failure to look at the bigger picture
We find CIOs, IT Management Teams, and Salesforce administrators are great at thinking about the relatively short-term needs of their organization but commonly forget to keep the big picture in mind. As with any strategic supplier relationship, you need to think about how the pricing, requirements, and relationship with Salesforce will look over the next 3-5 years. Instead of looking at the short term, think strategically about your organization's goals and the relationship you want to build. You need to approach your CRM vendor with a long term mindset. Look at how their services will be beneficial to your organizations in terms of growth and transformation. Make sure you prepare a compelling forward-looking strategy that is deliberate in identifying how the Salesforce relationship will benefit your business. It’s equally as important to understand how Salesforce views its relationship with you. Only after both sides understand the current state of each organization can it build a plan forward.
3. Focusing too much on price
Our clients are almost always surprised when we say this statement. While price is ultimately very important in any commercial agreement, it’s equally as important to validate that you have the proper products and services for your organization.
“Right Size for the Right Price” – Dan Kelly, The Negotiator Guru
If you’re a new customer, make sure you’re not overbuying at the start…remember, adoption always proves to be slower than you will anticipate when introducing a new CRM platform.
Subsequently, it’s all too common for the sales team to overweight your 1st year agreement as they are solely focused on capturing as much revenue as possible from your account.
If you’re an existing customer, conduct an internal audit of your products and services that are currently part of your Salesforce ecosystem. Make sure not only these products and services are being used (the easy part) but also that they’re being used appropriately. Very often we’ll find opportunities for our clients to downgrade while still achieving the same business functionality required.
4. Not considering all your options
It’s important to keep a pulse on the marketplace…there are multiple CRM platforms out there and while Salesforce is the industry leader they may not be the best fit for you.
Subsequently, if you are a current Salesforce user then it’s equally as important to conduct a deep dive assessment on how other peers in your industry are using Salesforce. A properly run CRM platform should not only optimize the sales process but also drive efficiencies in back office operations, etc. If you identify (and you most likely will) new areas where Salesforce can assist your business, carefully bring this up as an opportunity during the negotiation process. Again, we urge the word “carefully.”
5. Not developing Executive Level relationships
As written in previous articles, Salesforce has set-up its very own incredibly effective sales machine. While we won’t reiterate the previously written articles it’s important to call out that most Salesforce customers underestimate the importance of developing and engaging VP level and higher relationships at Salesforce. Only these levels have decision making authority on your account. If these individuals are on your side, and understand your story, you’ll be far more successful in your negotiation.
6. Failure to create a strategic internal communication plan (as part of your negotiation strategy)
Almost everyone fails at developing a bulletproof internal communication plan. While the saying “speak from one voice” is widely used and understood in negotiations, it’s not enough to simply rely on human beings to say exactly the same thing at the same time. Instead, we advise our clients to develop a communication plan that provides key talking points for different levels of the organization. These talking points all align to the same objective but are developing in a way that reinforce message authenticity for that specific stakeholder.
7. Neglecting to include your C-Level Executives in the negotiation
Related to the previous point, we find that the majority of organizations we advise have historically tried to limit and/or eliminate any C-Level interaction with Salesforce. This is naturally understandable (based on common thinking) but actually a serious mistake.
Salesforce takes great pride in, and places great importance on, developing relationships directly with their customer’s executive team.
We advise clients not to fight this point but leverage it. We admit that we used to get this point wrong ourselves. We used to ensure the C-Suite knew not to say anything and only redirect messages to a single point of contact. The big problem with this is that the c-suite really likes to talk! Instead of fighting this natural instinct (and skillset) we advise our clients to leverage it by creating a C-Suite communication and engagement plan that empowers the negotiation plan.
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