I’ve been thinking lately about promises and trust. One might argue that the only real currency in the world is trust. And as a sales person, I often see this clearest in the sales process.
So what have trust and promises got to do with Human Resources systems? In short, everything.
Put yourself in the position of someone in HR looking for a new system. They may well have enough knowledge to understand the claims being made about a particular HR solution, but they might not have enough to put those claims to the test.
That bridge across the gap between the two sides is built from trust and the onus is on the seller to provide that trust. It used to be that selling was all about relationship building; ‘We’ve known each other a long time. Trust me.’
Frankly it’s unfair to expect the buyer to effectively put their own reputation on the line. There is a better way.
A recent blog post about a Deloitte event that brought together HR buyers and providers summarised the wants on the buyer’s side quite succinctly [my paraphrase]:
- We [the buyers] want you [the provider] to demonstrate, transparently, the benefits to us both in financial and value terms.
- We have budget constraints and we want you to help us get the most effective solution possible within those and help us navigate any trade-offs.
But, arguably, above all:
- We [buyers] want you [providers] to serve our interests, not the other way round and that means understanding our business priorities and our needs.
I’d add a couple of other things, that I think are very important in the relationship, that build trust and long-term business partnerships.
- We want you to bring to the table more than systems.
- We want you to tell us something we don’t know; to show us new ideas, new horizons, new possibilities, new ways of working, to lead us gently outside our comfort zones.
- In short we also want your expertise.
That expertise in buying HR technology could mean, for instance:
- Rethinking HR system design, so that it’s centered around the employee and their experience.
- Agility in HR, so that new thinking and new processes can be adopted easily as the working environment evolves.
- Analytical HR, so that, however it’s delivered, actionable analytics are part of the process from start to finish.
- Fluid HR, in a world in which jobs for life are getting rarer, where 9-5, 24/7, graduation-to-retirement are one option amongst many, you attract, develop and nurture colleagues, whatever their working style.
And I’m going to add one last thing that buyers want in providers if there’s to be trust:
- We want you to be prepared to NOT sell us your system if you realise it’s a bad fit. It’ll save us both a lot of grief. And, if we know you’re straight up and decent enough to pass on a sale, we’ll recommend you to our friends. Why? Because we know they’ll get the benefits of considering you without the risk of being mis-sold.
Ultimately in the world of business systems demonstrating expertise (and decency) comes, in many ways, ahead of demonstrating the system. Because if it’s clear that a provider knows what it’s talking about it’s simply a matter of assessing whether the system captures that expertise and works.