Should I Build or Buy a Sales Enablement Solution
April 18, 2016
You’ve identified a problem in your sales organization. So whether it’s better training or more powerful technology, you begin the search for a sales enablement solution that will solve this problem. After browsing the market and speaking to a few vendors, the build or buy question pops into your head and you start to wonder, “Could I do this in-house?”
There are plenty of benefits to building your own solution.
- You own it.
- You can build it to your exact specs.
- You can use existing resources.
- And, with technology so readily available, the hurdles to creating your own solution are lower than ever.
But before you pull the trigger and decide to build your own sales enablement solution instead of buying an existing one, here’s a few questions to consider.
WILL IT BE A STRATEGIC DIFFERENTIATOR?
If the answer is no, save yourself time and money and go with an off-the-shelf solution. There’s plenty of options on the market that can solve a variety of problems and automate processes to make you more efficient.
If the answer is yes, you may be a good candidate for creating something in-house. Plus, if you want something no one else has, building it yourself may be the only way to get a solution that is a strategic differentiator.
That being said, another option is to find a solution that can be customized or configured to match your specific needs. Look for more than simple branding changes like adding a logo or changing colors.
Take our sales enablement platform as an example. Every part of the platform – the needs-based questions, recommendation algorithm, customer segmentation, etc. – is uniquely configured for each client. Even though it’s a SaaS platform, no two end up being the same. Options like these allow you to have a strategic differentiator without the cost of building something from scratch.
WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO BUILD IT INTERNALLY?
Many people believe there’s three things necessary to take on a project like this: resources, time, and money. And you can’t cut corners on any of them.
There’s a fourth requirement that many people don’t consider, and it can have a big impact on the other three. It’s experience.
Let’s look at these four components individually.
If your solution is software, you’ll need to assemble a team of UI/UX Designers, Software Engineers, Content Strategists, QA Testers, and Project Managers. Software solutions also require the technology infrastructure to host what you build.
If your solution is better sales training, you’ll need a team of Instructional Designers, Content Strategists, Visual Designers, Animators, Videographers, and Project Managers, as well as the technology to create and host the content. Pro tip, your reps want a more engaging experience than what PowerPoint can offer.
Do the math before you start! For a software solution, your technology team alone could cost upwards of $500,000 just to build your tool. That doesn’t include hosting or maintenance.
How long will it take you to scope, build, and launch your solution? And is this a guess, or have you done the research and feel confident about your projected timeline?
Another way to think about it is how long can you stand to wait? What will you lose in sales opportunities and potential revenue if it takes longer than planned?
According to Standish Group’s 2015 CHAOS report, companies who build their own software solutions go over their timelines on average by 230%. Sales reps waiting that long for a tool they were promised a long time ago will eventually doubt it’s ever coming, which will have a negative impact on adoption, and could eventually lead to failure.
Similar to time, how confident do you feel about the budget you’ve allocated?
Here’s a great way to determine the budget for a project like this. Understand the payoff if the solution works, and use that insight to determine your budget. For example, a $250,000 investment may sound like a lot of money for a sales enablement solution, but if it helps you generate $1,000,000 in additional revenue, the investment is worth it.
When building on your own, include a contingency plan in your budget. The CHAOS report referenced above also states companies who build their own software solution, on average, exceed their budget by 178%.
To continue the example from above, take your $500,000 software team and multiply it by 178%. Your resources required just increased to $890,000.
This is where many companies don’t place enough emphasis. Without experience, expect your project to require more resources, take more time, and cost more money. Without experience, you’ll also need to plan for iteration, unless the (unreal) expectation is to get it 100% right the first time.
You may be very confident in your team’s abilities, but have they created software or training like this before? If so, do they have a proven track record to support their claims?
This is where buying a solution from an established partner has the greatest advantage. They’ve “been there, done that.” They’ll be more efficient, more cost effective, and, depending on the vendor, able to deliver a solution with proven results. All this should give you confidence in your decision to buy instead of build.
ARE YOU ABLE TO MAINTAIN IT?
Maybe you do have the resources, time, budget, and even experience to build and launch your custom sales enablement solution. The final question to consider is will you be able to maintain it? Launching a solution is not the final phase. You have to iterate and maintain it to make sure your reps have exactly what they need to be successful and reach their quotas.
Consider also what happens if the team who built it decides to move on from your company, or onto your company’s next initiative. Does that knowledge go with them? Plus, can your internal IT team support this project in addition to their existing workload?
Based on our experience, we suggest budgeting 25 % of the build cost for maintenance. Sales enablement solutions need to be fluid and evolve with your business. If they’re static, reps will lose interest and go back to their old ways.
AVOID THE “BLACK SWAN”
Harvard Business Review published an article in 2011 that shared stories of top companies who decided to build their own solutions and the results that followed. They called situations like these “black swans.” Avoid these at all costs.
- Levi Strauss stitched together a $5 million IT project that ended up costing over $192 million.
- When Hershey’s home-cooked order taking and fulfillment system prevented shipments during Halloween, they suffered an 18.6% drop in earnings that quarter.
- Kmart realized they couldn’t afford to maintain their $1.4 billion internal IT modernization project, so they spent an additional $600 million to update existing software. The “Blue Light Special” retailer filed for bankruptcy that same year.
Know this. You’re not the first person to ask yourself the build vs. buy question. There are benefits to building your own sales enablement solution, but there’s also risks. If you’re wrestling with this, we’d be happy to chat you through it. Comment below, contact us online, or give us a call to get in touch.