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Why is PLM such a hard sell?

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Here, Callum Mundine, Head of Marketing at Warble Media (a boutique, Australian web design & digital marketing agency), discusses the difficulty still inherent with selling PLM systems. Although, today, adoption rate of PLM is high when compared to years gone by, making a sale is by no means a walk in the park. Callum shares his thoughts on why.

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) accelerates product development and increases profitability by connecting people, processes and data across the entire lifecycle of a product. Why then, is it still notoriously hard to sell?

On paper, the benefits of PLM seem to speak for themselves. It enables an efficient product development process so the product can get to market faster; it helps minimise delays and bottlenecks; it creates a central repository for all product data so that everyone has access to the right information, at the right time.

PLM organises data and processes, connecting people across a product’s lifecycle from engineering, to planning, to purchasing and manufacturing. Whilst some vendors of PLM believe feature-rich software is the way forward, others are marketing the benefits of simplicity.

The problem is, it is hard to put a value on PLM products and technologies. A sales pitch focusing mainly on the many features of PLM is likely to fail, as many companies simply aren’t interested in listening.

Provide Measurable Results

How, then, does a salesperson pique the interest of a company? By providing examples of measurable results specific to their business. Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons PLM is a hard sell, as it is difficult to show the specific outcomes of PLM functions.

When a business doesn’t track expenses related to poor development processes or corrective measures after production mistakes, they probably won’t see the need to invest in a product which aims to improve the overall process.

The solution? Demonstrate the value of PLM by providing examples of how it can help their work, their problem solving, and their development process. To do this it may be necessary to go through several meetings and learn more about a potential client’s needs. What processes do they find painful? What issues do they encounter on an everyday basis? What recent errors needed corrective actions?

This will allow the salesperson to focus on specific outcomes and provide examples of measurable results specific to the client. For instance, easily tracing the guilty party in a production holdup and implementing measures to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Focusing on the problem and presenting the solution that PLM could deliver should increase the chances of completing a sale.

The Difficulty with ROI

Return on investment (ROI) is a fundamental business principle which many companies rely on to make decisions. It is an important part of the sales and marketing process and the customer will usually use this to compare and evaluate their different options.

And here, again, lies the difficulty in selling PLM, a system which has a poor record of successfully showing ROI. It is usually displayed in terms of percentage of savings rather than profit increase, making it a hard sell compared to other systems which have a clear ROI.

PLM usually involves 3 sources of ROI: manufacturing and internal operations, optimising the supply chain, and customer satisfaction. Now, as the cost of PLM is presented in monetary terms, whenever possible, the benefits should be estimated in the same way.

Providing examples of how PLM results will convert into money rather than percentage of savings or efficiency processes will help overcome the problem of showing ROI.

Resistance to Change

The notion that only PLM experts understand PLM appears to be widespread. Whilst using examples specific to a business and showing ROI as a figure should certainly help companies understand the value of PLM, the truth is some people will always remain resistant to change.

When a key decision-maker does not want to consider any other way of doing things, PLM will remain a hard sell no matter how enthusiastic other teams in the company are.

Whilst there is no easy solution to this difficulty, convincing those who are resistant to change requires effort, tenacity, patience, and a lot of determination. PLM products can help businesses remain competitive and adapt to extreme environments, but it’s up to the salesperson to deliver this message in a way that can win them over.

The Bottom Line

Focusing on the result of a PLM product rather than its features is a key point in sales. Its value cannot easily be measured on a balance sheet, which means more emphasis should be put on the specific outcomes that PLM products can provide.

Depending on the size of the company, it may take months or even years to complete the sale. But finding out more about a potential customer’s big failures and presenting them with PLM software which can solve the problem should make the sale easier.

Perhaps the most difficult task of all is convincing management resistant to change that a modern, data-centric approach is the way forward.

Lydia Hanson

Lydia Hanson has been part of the WhichPLM team for over four years now. She has a creative and media background, and is responsible for maintaining and updating our website content, liaising with advertisers, working on special projects like the Annual Review, and more.

Joining mid-2013 as our Online Editor, she has since become WhichPLM’s Editor. In addition to taking on writing and interviewing responsibilities, Lydia has also become the primary point of contact for news, events, features and other aspects of our ever-growing online content library and tools.