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Discovery calls are your opportunity to conduct a business relationship exploration with each potential solution provider. The objective of the discovery dialogues is to determine which of the candidate vendors best understands your business, the challenges you face, and has the solution that best meets your needs. That solution encompasses not only the ERP software and hardware (if applicable), but the value-added partnership that is every bit as important as the product itself.
The hallmarks of a productive discovery process are strong preparation, active listening, authenticity, rapport building, and cooperative collaboration on the part of both parties. What you accomplish mutually with the vendor you ultimately choose will set the tone for your relationship post-sale. Below are 12 important details you'll need to ensure you choose the right ERP for your business.
Armed with pages of information about your company’s reasons for considering an ERP transition, take the time to talk about the unique ways in which you operate and explain your market position relative to your competition. Discuss the ways you win and the ways you lose in the marketplace, your areas of strength and your areas of weakness. Which business processes are inefficient, redundant, and overly time consuming? What are your most inefficient processes, and how do you envision a new system driving the solutions? Talk about the leadership structure of your business, and who is responsible for what—including roles in your upcoming transition.
To ensure that each of your prospective vendors closes the call with clear takeaways, conclude your part of the discussion with bullet points identifying your unique business needs and objectives with a new solution. Presenting this early enables each vendor to provide the information you need when it comes time for wrapping up the total value proposition of their solution.
Much of the information you have compiled during your research phase will come from vendor websites, literature, social media, and multimedia/videos. Look through the claims that have been made about product features and benefits, training and technical support, and updates and security. You want to be able to compare legitimate claims from vendor to vendor, so ask for substantiation or a demonstration when necessary.
Get each vendor’s perspective on which features and benefits they think are most important, given your needs. This is an opportunity to expand your understanding of ERP by learning from experienced experts.
Communicate expectations of leadership in terms of improvement in key performance metrics and timelines in each functional area of your business. Talk about ROI and expected time to break even. Where do you draw the line between success and failure, and when do you expect to achieve certain outcomes?
As you talk, capture a bullet point list of advantages and unique selling propositions of their proposal, relative to competitors. For instance, one solution may be designed and supported by industry experts while another might have cornered the market on automating business processes.
Don’t feel awkward about being proactive here and initiating a discussion about your budget estimates. Talk about who owns the budget and what degree of flexibility there may be with it. Often, the discovery process yields a different ranking of potential vendors when budget is considered than when money is no object.
You may find that among the vendors you’re considering, they all mention one competitor first. That should tell you something. You may find commonalities among the vendors’ appraisals of their competitors that will help you make a more informed decision.
Prior to the call, ask the vendor to include your point of contact in the call. Will there be a definitive point of contact, or will you talk to someone new and unfamiliar when you need support? You want to determine that the vendor is set up to deliver a superior customer experience, from training and support through data migration to “go-live” and beyond.
Be prepared to talk with vendors in your discovery calls about how they would mitigate each of your concerns, letting each vendor know about the potential consequences to your business and its people if certain aspects of the implementation do not go according to plan.
Taking everything you have learned into account, this step will be similar to what the vendor provides you in step 6. Here, you will describe in 2–3 sentences, what your vision of success looks like after a year with the new ERP solution in place.
A strong vendor will proudly offer a list of clients, including some who have consented to talk with you about their experiences and provide references with candid insights on what to expect.
Learn more about the discovery process when you download ECI's Discover Call Success Guidebook.
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