Dynamics 365 – Making Work for Partners


I was chatting with another Dynamics 365 partner the other day. He was talking about his existing customers, and how once deployed, configured and tweaked etc., he did not do much follow-on work with them. He was however, spending tremendous effort trying to get new customers.  I thought, “I think you are missing something here”.

Opportunities

It is pretty easy, when focusing on new customer deployments, to forget about those past customers, who already deployed and are using business solutions. But, due to the pace of advancement, there is probably almost as much opportunity for partners with their existing customer base, as there is with net new customers. I understand that Microsoft is always driving net new seats, and you need that to stay relevant with Microsoft… but that is far from your only avenue for revenue. Granted, it is also not in your best interest to go convince a customer to spend money of dubious value just because you want/need it either. But there are quite a few opportunities for win-win here. Let’s unpack this.

If it ain’t Broke, don’t fix it

There are still a large number of legacy customers utilizing on-premise deployments. For many, their interest level in a migration to the cloud has not been very high. Initially it was all about security FUD, then it was about not seeing enough value to justify the cost of migration. Today, both of those arguments are complete bullshit. While you can make a nice piece of change migrating your on-premise customers to the cloud, their ROI on that investment will probably be among the highest you can offer them.

On the Cloud, Now what?

Presumably, most of your customers have already made the migration to, or they started out on, the cloud version of Customer Engagement. But they could have actually done that about 6-7 years ago by now. Sure, they would have had to upgrade several times since then, but that does not mean they are taking advantage of everything there is to offer. In fact, it is less likely that your existing customers are up-to-speed, than your brand new ones. Your existing customers, who signed up a long time ago, stopped paying attention to what is happening, and are instead focused on their own business/industry. Remember, while Dynamics 365 may be incredibly important us, it is not nearly as important to our customers. It is really your responsibility as their partner to make them aware of opportunities to further enhance their businesses with Dynamics 365. You do this by making them aware of both whole new capabilities, or more efficient new options for accomplishing things they are already doing. In addition, you need to be communicating features that they are using, that are being deprecated.

Feature a Day

I would not be surprised, if un-bundled, there was not a new Dynamics 365 feature being released for each day of the year. Fortunately, or maybe not, we get them in waves. The first thing we all do is to try and absorb them, so we can explain their value to our new customers. At the same time, we should be identifying those features that an existing, but maybe quiet, customer could get value out of. For half of the methods you used two years ago in a customer’s deployment, there is a better way to accomplish that today. Is it worth the cost to change? That is what needs to be determined, for each customer, based on how they are using the product.

No Budget

I hear you, customers do not have any budgets for “enhancements”. I call bullshit again. If you can demonstrate to a customer some “enhancement” that will increase their efficiency or effectiveness to a degree that their gain is more than their cost… they’ll find the budget for that. Across your older deployments, if you can’t find 10 things that would meet that threshold… have your customer call me, because you don’t deserve to be their partner.

Greener Grass

Okay, I know I said that Microsoft cares about Net New Seats, and of course that’s true. But there is another metric that this directly effects, that they care equally about… churn. Churn is customers who cancel. While net new seats are important, it’s pointless if you lose one for each one you gain. I can’t count the number of Salesforce.com customers who moved over to Dynamics 365 because of some cool features that we have… that in fact… Salesforce also has. But the customer was unaware. Needless to say, I didn’t mention it. Today, between everything that Microsoft brings to Business Solutions, from within the product, to across other connected Microsoft products, I can’t think of a single feature or capability, that Salesforce has, that we don’t have an even better answer for. Do your current customers know that?

Some Examples

Unified Interface, App Designer, PowerApps and Flow… four new things, that within each hold tons of opportunities to exceed the threshold I mentioned above. There are many, many more, but these are no-brainers. I think the number one reason these are not presented more often to existing customers, is that not enough partners are even up-to-speed on them. If you are in this business, you need to be up-to-speed, as hard as that is to do. Otherwise, again, you don’t deserve to be your customers’ partner. These are some good example of things to enhance and extend, and add value to your customer deployments. But how about whole new things?

New First-Party Apps

When you did that customer deployment a few years ago, were they thinking about Marketing? At the time, in the first-party arena, you had little to discuss, but today with Dynamics 365 for Marketing, there is a whole conversation to be had. What about Field Service… what about Project Service… My guess is that a significant number of your older deployed customers are not only, not using these, but are probably not even aware of them. Whose job is that? Are you waiting for them to call and ask you?

Third-Party Apps

ISVs are not static. Every day there is a new ISV solution being launched to solve one of your customers’ problems. In addition, existing ISVs are hard at work, advancing their offerings to be better, faster and more capable. Your customer has even less of chance of discovering these, than the first-party apps, that they probably don’t know about either. Unless you are making them aware.

My Suggestion

If you are not already, take about 1/3 of your new client generation motion, and redirect it towards your existing customers. In my opinion, there is no possible excuse for any Dynamics 365 customer to ever leave Dynamics 365 for Salesforce.com, or leave their current partner either… except a complacent partner.

4 Comments

  1. Ajay

    If a customer goes form D365 to Salesforce it’s not because it’s a better solution but because the SF partner is more upbeat and enthusiastic about salesforce. As great a solution as D365 is, it’s freaking difficult to navigate the partner structure with MS. Salesforce has one partner portal which allows you to submit leads, raise cases, create demo environments(which never expire by the way, unlike MS which kills your customizations after 90 days), publish app exchange listings, a community of partners to interact, collaborate and learn from. In addition to this, Salesforce dedicates a partner manager to groups of partners whose only job it is to help scale the partner’s business.

    In comparison, Microsoft has 5 different websites/portals.
    A MS partner has to spend so much time and effort just figuring out how it all works whereas a SF partner is busy spreading the gospel. These are easy fixes for MS to make and don’t cost a lot of money but MS for some reason has decided to continue with the status quo.

      1. Ajay

        SF partner program may not be up there with MS’s but what they have been able to successfully do is to create this sense of community and buzz all around by marketing themselves not just as a cloud computing vendor but path breakers(I believe they call themselves trailblazers) and part of some global movement. It’s almost cult like and all the money they spend on generating buzz just attracts more and more (millennial)talent who want to work with salesforce because it promises to provide them with not just a a career but a purpose of some kind. The number of attendees for Dreamforce is 170K+ and this is an event purely dedicated to CRM. They don’t just consider themselves as a cloud computing company or even an eco system but as literally an economy in and of itself. All this excitement that they generate is obviously translating to interest/demand from the customer. It’s about selling what is sexy/magical.

        I have been a CRM consultant for both SF and MS and I can categorically tell you MS has the better product in terms of features and capabilities so it’s even more tragic that they are still lagging behind SF in market share.

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