The case for solution selling: finding synergies in the finance department
Product vs solution selling
The software industry, like many others, is predominantly product oriented. What we mean by that is that functions such as development and sales are organized around specific software products with clearly defined functionalities. Sometimes stand-alone products are enough to solve specific business challenges. But more often than not this is not the case.
A customer-focused outcome, as opposed to a product-focused, outcome requires that we switch gears and view the world the way our customers do. Department or process leaders are seeking solutions to their business challenges. This will most probably involve a system of products, software and hardware, effectively interacting with each other, combined with services, providing the building blocks of the final solution.
This is a profound mind-shift, going from a product to a solution mentality. The first requires intimate knowledge of the software or hardware, the second requires deep understanding of the target customer. Solution-selling shifts the conversation from functionality and features to value and business outcomes, from point implementations to end-to-end process optimization.
Finding synergies between different systems and present outcome-focused solutions
Talking about solutions and outcomes shows we recognize the diversity of the modern information ecosystems of our customers. Any typical company will have a combination of legacy and new systems (e.g. ERP, CRM, document management/ECM), varying degrees of paper coming in and out, with some things done online and others not. Understanding the different dynamics within each customer and offering a solution that addresses their issues is where true value lies.
This shift from product to solution requires we plan and develop products that make it very easy to integrate with and foster partnerships with 3rd party providers. Given the trend towards commoditization, differentiating through value is much more sustainable than differentiating through software features or hardware capabilities that can and will eventually be copied.
What does this mean for our industry?
Hardware and software vendors in our industry have long since partnered to provide solutions for our customers. What we need to do is become much more intentional about it and lead with outcome-focused value propositions. Develop propositions that will combine the strengths of document management (archive, search, retrieval) with the flexibility of document creation and output management in order to deliver solutions for all types of communications, inbound and outbound and facilitate their transition through systems and people.
This is a powerful value proposition, because it removes artificial barriers and recognizes that for our customers documents are important but also means to an end – to communicate, engage, and be compliant.
Considering solution to serve company’s processes as a whole
To illustrate this concept let’s take the finance function as an example. By now, everyone accepts that digital technologies are changing how businesses and their internal operations generate value. The finance function is a prime example of a department very suitable to apply automation solutions since it contains many repeatable, rules-based processes. As it stands now many of operational activities are still manual, where the median performer (Deloitte 2017):
- processes 23% of accounts payable vendor invoices automatically
- processes 59% of accounts receivable customer remittances automatically
- has automated 19% of total key controls
The image below shows standard processes and functions of a finance department. To tackle the automation challenge we need to look at the different processes as part of a whole and identify possible overlaps. The solution ultimately will include different types of technologies but also take into account systems already in place (ERP, finance and accounting systems). Therefore, instead of leading with a product-focused proposition that will probably just tackle one function (e.g. Accounts Payable), we should have solution conversations that look at the department as a whole, identify connections between systems and extract more value from what’s already there. The sum after all should be bigger than its individual parts.
This perspective could benefit your business by making it more productive and efficient. Read about Accenture, our customer in the financial industry who, without changing all their systems, improved thier invoice processing thanks to our solution. A great example of optimizing what already exists!