Technology and market circumstances change much faster these days than the organization, the mindset and the company culture of implementation partners. After all, running projects and winning new customers always gets a higher priority. So the start of a new business year gives you a great and indispensable opportunity to align your organization, your operations and your companies’ DNA with what really matters in 2021.
I have described ten strategies that you as a Microsoft Dynamics 365 partner should consider when preparing yourself and your teams for another challenging, but successful year.
1. Move from single category products to platform
Microsoft transformed her proposition from point solutions to a platform offering some years ago. Unfortunately, most D365 partners are still organized today by single category products. And while the distinction between ERP and CRM solutions might still be relevant inside the partner channel, it’s getting less important for your customers. And it’s irrelevant for your customers’ customers! They simply demand a perfect product or service. So you better stop in 2021 with your product driven marketing, sales per product and a proposition based on stand-alone products. And switch to a platform approach as soon as you can.
2. Stop selling software; start selling project success!
How often does the expression ‘project success’ appear on your website? In your company presentation? And in your proposal? There is no single customer interested in buying your software for the sole purpose of owing or renting that software. That’s nothing new, right? Acquiring business software never is a goal on itself. Still, many partners and their customers have difficulties connecting the rationale behind their projects with the companies’ strategic business goals. So there definitely is something to learn and something to teach. For achieving business success in 2021 you’d better stop selling software and services. And start selling Project Success! PS Don’t forget to change your website! ;)
3. Learn to think and talk C-level
The average Dynamics 365 partner thinks, talks, eats, sleeps and even dreams product. Just like they always did. Unfortunately, the average modern decision maker is not interested in your products and your great technology. On the other hand, they are highly interested in the potential of your technology. And how the outcomes of your projects can help them grow their business, improve results and increase customer satisfaction. Learning to think and talk C-level in your sales, marketing and pre-sales teams will become mandatory for business success in 2021.
4. Educate your customers’ management
They are the personas who determine the success of your projects. And they have the power to create the perfect success conditions. Still, most partners tend to ignore them. Fact is that the majority of your customers’ management is unexperienced in implementing ERP and CRM solutions. And they are pure beginners when it comes to Digital Transformation initiatives. Smart D365 partners started to educate their current and future customers. On how to best select and contract solutions. On how to best implement and change. And on how to effectively migrate to the cloud. Educating your customers’ managers will make you a much more attractive partner, it creates additional ‘early buying cycle leads’ and it results in smooth project deliveries with more success.
5. Put your customers in the center of all you do
So what is central in your business today? How do you measure your success? And what is it that you budget and forecast? Most D365 partners traditionally focus on their projects, their IP and their revenue streams. But not on their customers! Question yourself how customer-centric your organization is. And how important customer happiness is for you and your teams. Even better: why not ask your customers how they feel about this. Putting your current and future customers in the center of all you do makes your organization way more attractive to do business with. Ignoring this trend on the other hand will put your companies’ future at risk.
6. Judge your current skill sets and services portfolio
Today’s customers know that it takes much more than a good software solution to achieve project success. The current crisis forces them to re-consider their business processes, their business model and their internal mindset. In 2021, many potential customers are looking for D365 partners who are not just technology driven, but also have the skills and capabilities to help them modernize their business processes. And to change their companies’ mindset. So it’s definitely time to judge your current skill sets and services portfolio. And most likely start adjusting and expanding your services offerings and skills.
7. Protect your customer base
Your existing customers are one of the most valuable assets your company has! Just recall how hard you’ve worked for so many years to create this base. For most partners it is mission critical to protect their customer base against the outside world. Not only against other D365 partners, but also against non-Dynamics competitors. Migrating your customer base to the Dynamics 365 cloud probably is your most important project for the next five years. So you better make a energetic and powerful board member fully responsible for this project. Create a communication plan. Divide the base in sub groups with comparable situations. Inspire these customers with the new technology, but also with the modernization of their organization. And create attractive, personalized migration offerings. Your most important decision probably is to not wait any longer and start today!
8. Start a user community
Modern customers have strong opinions. They are increasingly interested in project success. And they are open to share experiences and learnings with their peers. Not just on technology, but also on how to best organize things internally. On top of that, these customers search for implementation partners who are open for their opinions and ideas. For their wishes regarding new functionality, pricing mechanisms and even the opening hours of you helpdesk. Starting a user community in 2021 is a great initiative to show that you take these ideas and opinions seriously.
9. Prepare yourself (better) for churn
With the move from on-premise to subscription pricing, all D365 partners have to deal with this new phenomenon called ‘churn’. That basically is the loss of subscription contracts. For customers it is easier than ever before to switch. Not so much for switching applications, but surely for switching implementation partners. Are you already prepared for this new world? Are you aware which customers are in the ‘danger zone’? Do you have the appropriate escalation procedures in place when you need them? Sure, a great customer service will protect you against churn. But how are you going to change the mindset of your teams to create the best customer satisfaction scores?
10. Transform your own organization
Last but not least. And this probably is the crucial question for a successful 2021. How can you help transform your customers if you haven’t transformed yourself and your own organization first? This all starts with the right mindset and right attitude. Changing a companies’ culture and human beings is pretty hard – we all know this. But ignoring the demands of today’s markets is not really attractive either, is it? Successful transformations often start with a clear vision and intense two-way communication. It needs inspiration and leadership that must start at the top of the organization. It touches on your own IT maturity and tooling, your own business processes and on the willingness to change. Although this is number 10 on my list, you should consider starting with this challenge while also working on the other nine.
Unlike many other years it is impossible today to predict what the world will look like in 12 months from now. One thing is for sure – 2021 will be far from boring.
I wish all Microsoft Dynamics 365 partners the best of luck.