Let’s just say it: You can’t survive in this hyper-competitive selling environment without the right tools to generate and qualify leads, gather customer data, and prove your product’s value.
But where should those sales tools come from? Should you build your own or invest in a third-party solution?
Let’s compare building a homebrew tool and investing in tools from a vendor who exclusively focuses on Value Selling.
Building a Solution
In theory, building a solution sounds like a great idea. You can determine exactly what features you and your staff need, get your web team to build the solution, avoid dealing with the costs of outsourcing, and you're well on your way to sales greatness.
Except it isn’t as simple as it sounds. Designing, developing, and deploying sales tools takes resources away from your daily operations. It’s sometimes difficult to imagine how work is needed to define requirements, create an intuitive user workflow (especially across multiple devices), integrate with your current systems, and offer a bug-free experience.
Just to get started, you need to:
- Identify gaps in the current sales process
- Interview staff to determine user requirements
- Resolve conflicting user requirements
- Convert user requirements into business requirements
- Prioritize features
- Translate business requirements into software requirements
All of this needs to happen before anyone on the IT staff or web team writes a line of code, and probably before you get the approval for the developers to build it.
Once the design phase is complete, development begins. Most software teams aren’t very good at determining how long a particular project will take. Depending on the complexity of the tool, the experience of the software team, and how often they get pulled away for other critical projects, creating a new software tool from scratch will probably take much longer than you expected, plus two months.
Your team not only needs time to put together the code, but they also need to test it, resolve issues, and test it again until it works as expected. You won’t want to deploy it to your entire sales staff at once; instead, you’ll need to let a select group perform beta testing to make sure the intended end user is satisfied.
What’s more, any issues uncovered during beta testing must be resolved before you can roll out the solution to the rest of the team.
Wait, you're not finished. From the time the solution is deployed you’ll need to provide continuous technical and user support, and training for all current and new employees. You’ll also almost immediately need to start planning a round of updates to capture features you didn’t have time for on the first run and to fix problems that come up in the field.
By the way, if your lead designer leaves your company, you may have to start from scratch.
Let’s face it. Building a sales tool is a lot of work.
Investing in a Sales Tool
When you invest in a tool, you’re investing in a product that has already been proven in the field, as it were, and can provide proof of concept as well as proof of value.
A solution developed by a third party vendor eliminates your need for the resources to perform the tasks listed above and minimizes risk. Unless you’re in the business of building the next Salesforce, you shouldn’t be asking your web team or IT staff to perform a task for which it may be ill-suited, or that takes time away from critical daily operations.
When preparing to invest in a new solution, you’ll want to:
- Define the problems and gaps in your current sales process.
- Search the web and ask others in your industry about the tools they use.
- Identify two to three vendors that appear to fit your needs.
- Ask that vendor to help you build a business case to prove the value of the tools being offered.
- Request pricing and/or a proposal and ensure that the pricing matches the ROI presented by the vendor.
- Review the agreement carefully, ensuring that the vendor is going to work collaboratively with your team and that your users are going to use the solution you select. Note: If you buy a solution that your users don’t like, they won’t use it for long without being coerced. Make sure technical support and periodic updates are part of the package.
- Deploy the solution and train your sales team on how to use it.
A cost breakdown will typically show that a third party vendor is ultimately more cost effective and practical (by far) than taking time away from your core business to build your own set of tools.
Building your own sales tools can sound like the best way to get the exact tools you need, but when you take into account the resource drain and future needs of supporting your tools as well as the potential risk, you begin to see what such an activity could cost you.
Keeping your IT staff’s time focused at the forefront of your industry and critical operational needs is a much better investment of their time and your resources. Unless you want to ask them to be in the business of developing the types of tools you’re seeking, there’s no need to ask them to reinvent the wheel (if you aren’t in the tire business).
There’s also no reason to risk the loss of the viability of that tool if the original developer is tasked with focusing on their next big project or leaves your company altogether. Instead, find a tried and true third party solution partner to provide a well-supported tool that won’t eat up your resources.