Posted on: Tuesday April 08th, 2014

Author: Ronnie Baskind

Perceptions are emotional, rather than factual, and so they change over time.

Sales people know this, and so try to tap in to the emotional reasons for buying. This may sound strange when we are talking about software, but it is equally true for that $50 shirt as it is for the purchase of an ERP system. Present the same ERP solution to two different companies, and the response will range from “Wow, that is expensive” to “Wow, that’s good value”. The response depends on the buyer’s perception.

Most software vendors understand their “space”. In other words, they know where they are good value for money. They market and sell into this space. The products are developed for this “space”. In the industry, these are called “tiers”. Tier 1 products have certain attributes as opposed to Tier 2, Tier 3, or even Tier 4. How do you perceive Oracle, J.D. Edwards, SAP, as opposed to MYOB Business Essentials or Xero?

EXO is generally considered to be a Tier 3 product, and at the top end of Tier 3.

The role of the implementer is to manage the client’s expectations. The best outcomes are achieved where the clients’ expectations are aligned with the implementer’s expectations.

This means that as a starting point, the client must have a realistic perception of what they are buying, and where they are going to be deriving maximum benefit.

A good salesperson will be brutally honest with a prospective client, where the client’s perception of what they are buying is wrong. Making a sale without correcting the perception is a recipe for client dissatisfaction.


Typical Phases

A good implementation is very rewarding in the end, but there is some pain to endure to get through it. Typically, the client satisfaction or dis-satisfaction changes over time. This is closely related to the stage of the implementation.

There is a good implementation scenario, (the high road) and a bad implementation scenario (the low road). Let deal with the high road first:

Client Satisfaction Curve















*Adapted from various sources


The stages in the High Road Scenario

Stage 1 – Scepticism

The Sales team has to convince the buyer that the software and the implementer can deliver the desired outcome.

Stage 2 – Excitement

Management has conveyed their decision to their team. The team buys in, there is a buzz of excitement about the design phase workshops. Everyone is looking forward to a good outcome, and verification that management made the right decision.

Stage 3 – Caution

While the solution is not quite what you expected, everyone is still confident that the implementers know what they are doing. After all, they have done this before (haven’t they?. Oops – forgot to ask that in the beginning…) . There are a few change management issues in the organisation, but its all manageable.

Stage 4 – Quietly confident

Everyone starts to feel that this is turning out OK. Its actually so much better than what we had. Wow !!

Stage 5 – Relief / surprise / happiness

Well that is a job well done. It wasn’t so hard, was it ? 10 out of 10. I would recommend you to my friends and colleagues. How about we proceed to Phase 2.

The stages in the Low Road scenario

Stage 1 – Scepticism

All going well, same as high road

Stage 2 – Excitement

All going well, same as high road

Stage 3 – Caution – Danger Zone

The crossroads – “This does not look good. This is not what we thought we were getting. This is a mess, it’s too hard, and I did not realise I would be required to ………….”

Stage 4 – Loss of Confidence

You are now firmly on the low road. Everyone starts to feel that the software is not suitable and the implementers do not really know what they are doing.

“It’s worse than we had before. We are going backwards! Surely your system can do this – it so simple – there must be a hundred companies that do this like we do. Your sales guy told me this could be done, guaranteed. Now you tell me it can’t . You guys have got some explaining to do.”

Stage 5 – Partner Switch

“Let’s find another implementing partner and see if we can recover from this mess. We have already spent $60 000 so let’s not throw good money after bad. I am sure the software is good, but something is not right, and the implementers can’t seem to be able to fix it.”

Stage 6 – Panic / Disappointment / Anger

“My business cannot function. I can’t even get a statement out. Who do I contact to complain? This is negligence. Almost criminal ! I am writing a letter to ACCC. And don’t think I will be paying your account. I am going to take legal action. I will sue you !!”

Stage 7 – Resignation and acceptance

“I hate the system but there is not much we can do now. We will just have to live with it. And if anyone asks me about your company or your software, I will tell them”

How to avoid the Low Road

When expectations begin to diverge, there is nothing to gain by pointing fingers. It’s the responsibility of all members of the implementation team (and that includes the client and their team) to try to understand each other’s expectations, frustrations, and perceptions, and to agree on what is reasonable. If this can’t be achieved, the outcome is likely to be a failure. The biggest risk in software implementations is the implementer. It is worthwhile paying a premium to get the best there is. The cost of going down the low road cannot be calculated.


Choose the High Road

Even the high road is not smooth travelling all the way. Perceptions and expectations of both parties must find a happy consensus. The sooner that happens, the happier the ride.

Be aware of the risks upfront – is this the implementation partner you want to be in the trenches with, if war breaks out?

It’s a partnership. This means that the client has an equal responsibility to develop and maintain the relationship. A good relationship will get you through many difficult situations, especially where trust is required on both sides.

You may not have done it before, but we have !!

Low Risk Value Poster