Someone recently commented that my last post was an “Apocalyptic” view of the future of the Microsoft partner. Similar, and much better supported views, similar to mine, were also expressed by Matthew King in his recent post here, albeit not partner specific. Regardless, I decided to go a little more up-tempo with this post on how partners will succeed with Dynamics 365, “pre-apocalypse”.
So “CRM” is not a thing anymore.
In all of the new Dynamics 365 “stuff” that is coming, the initials C-R-M are gone. The good news is that it was an overused acronym that frankly carried a lot of negative baggage and was a poor description of even the prior product. The bad news is that none of your customers will know what the heck Dynamics 365 is. This is a marketing challenge for Microsoft to solve on your behalf… we’ll see how they do.
Is Dynamics 365 just a catchy new name for CRM?
You might be tempted to think so. You might even be tempted to shortcut your explanation to a customer by saying, “it’s just a new name for CRM”. How many times in the past has the lazy approach paid off for you? Some of you may not even have any idea what Dynamics 365 is; and I’m not just talking about non-CRM partners who are not expected to know. No, there are real CRM partners, and ERP partners, who have been in the space for years, who either don’t know, or have buried their heads in the sand hoping this will all just go away. Or maybe thinking that they can look into it later and keep doing what they have been doing for the time being. For them, a rude awakening is a just a few weeks away.
Bizapps has nothing to do with electrocuting yourself
If you have not heard the term Bizapps yet, you will, and it will soon be passing your lips also. I mean, all the cool kids are sayin it. “Business Applications” is what we, formerly known as CRM partners, will be offering soon, and this encompasses more than what CRM was before. To be fair “Customer Relationship Management” is a huge part of Business Applications, running like a thread though all of them. Business Applications represent the structured information and processes in our organizations. It is sort of the Ying, to the unstructured data of Office 365’s Yang. What will be cool for the customer will be how this Ying and Yang will be able co-exist in a cohesive way, heretofore not achievable due to platform limitations that are being plowed over as a result of the new Common Data Model.
What is the new customer conversation going to sound like?
I expect it to be full of ums and ahs initially as we all battle our old habits, knowing that is not right anymore, but not yet comfortable with the new lyrics. At a certain level though, I can see the conversation initiated in a similar way. I don’t know about you, but I usually spend the first 20 minutes or so just asking the customer about their business before I mention any solutions; “What does your business do?, Who is your customer?, How do you make money?, How is your service executed?, Where do you get your customers from?, How is your product delivered?, Why do your customers care?”, etc.. It is amazing how much you can learn by asking short open-ended questions and then shutting your mouth. The intent of these questions is not fishing for an angle to stab them with a product, I am not even asking about their pain, they usually get to that unprompted. I actually really enjoy it, it is the highlight of my day, and it is not to be rushed. I love getting an understanding of how say a Fish Farm actually works, and what makes it tick… fascinating. Customers also love to talk about their businesses, particularly if they sense that you are “genuinely” interested. Eventually, and sometimes this could be 90 minutes later, I do have to bring the conversation back to the business at hand. “So what are some of your business challenges that you are hopeful that Dynamics 365 can help with?”. Okay, now the conversation is different, where before I was not in selling mode at all, I was just learning about their business, without having my mind floating above the words they were saying, thinking about what I could sell them. We are now at a point where they are actually eager to hear what solutions there may be; and I am just as excited to tell them. Up until this point, with the exception of replacing the word “CRM” with “Dynamics 365”, which has also only been said one time by the way, the conversation is identical.
One goes to Many
Back in the old days (last week), when the customer described the challenges they were hoping to solve for, I would discuss the components of our single CRM product and how they mapped up to solve their challenges. If their challenge was around sales visibility for example, I did not bother explaining how CRM also had Service capabilities. Basically, I would explore with them the relevant tool(s) in the CRM Swiss Army knife. Going forward, the tools (Apps) in the Swiss Army knife, will be available individually, and we will have several new ones. If it turns out that they really need more than one App to address their challenges, they can still get a new shinier Swiss Army knife in the form of a “Plan”. The differences in approach may seem subtle, but the implications are deeper than they appear. While a CRM partner today, will be a Business Applications partner tomorrow, Business Applications now include what we used to call ERP… do you know ERP? That works both ways, today’s ERP partner will also be a Business Applications partner… do they know sales process? The partners that have expertise on both sides of the house, will have an advantage in the days to come.
Dynamics 365 Pricing FUD
I have been seeing a lot shared lately on Dynamics 365 pricing information. Partners are under NDA until October 11th when Microsoft will officially launch Dynamics 365 at the CRMUG Summit in Tampa. Any information being shared to the public before then is a strict no-no, and for good reason. Even people who you might think of as CRM experts, like the guys at @crmaudio are sharing misinformation they have read. I have spoken to some of the largest partners, and they don’t have it right either. The upshot seems to be that everybody is thinking pricing is going way up. Even people who have shared confidential slides are explaining them wrong. All will be revealed soon enough, and even then, there will be happy partners, not-so-happy partners and a bunch of still confused partners. I am aware of the actual facts, and I have yet to hear them shared out there correctly. I am eager to share the real story, when allowed to do so. My advice right now is to take what you hear with a grain of salt.