At the Convergence conference this March, we were approached by a young Microsoft guy who wanted to know how we were so consistently successful in compete situations. “PowerObjects is killing it against Salesforce,” he said. “How do you do it?”
“Focus,” we told him. “Microsoft Dynamics CRM is all we do, so we can be the best at it.”
Of course, the answer is a lot more complicated than that, so when the MPN group at Microsoft asked if I’d be interested in writing a blog on the subject, I was happy to contribute. I’ve thought a lot about what makes us successful since that initial conversation, and it basically comes down to four things:
1. Find your “fanatical focus”
PowerObjects started life in 1993 as a custom application development shop. We did anything for anyone, as long as it involved a computer. That worked for a while, but ultimately we stalled because we were doing too many things – we needed to focus on one and do it well.
We knew we wanted to partner with Microsoft. We looked at Microsoft’s stack, and the tech folks in our organization encouraged us to look at Dynamics CRM. “It’s really a platform we can build on,” they said. “We can build out any line of business application with this, fast, and drive more value to customers.”
So in 2008, we planted our flag in the Dynamics CRM camp: now we had a product and a publisher who would continue building on its best-in-class solution. Most importantly, we had what I call “fanatical focus” – a unified vision to be the best Dynamics CRM partner in the world.
2.  Build the right team
Once we had our focus, the next step was building a team who could help us drive value with Dynamics CRM. “We’re going to be the #1 CRM partner in the world,” we told our employees. “If that’s a journey you can be passionate about, we’d love to have you along.”
We went from 20 people in 2008 to more than 300 today, and every hire was made with that same fanatical focus, this time on building a team committed to our goal. There’s no one here who can answer everything, but collectively there’s no team outside of Microsoft with more combined knowledge on Dynamics CRM. And we bring that to bear on every project; that’s why we can do it faster and cheaper. The number-one tool in our organization outside Dynamics CRM is Yammer. We’re constantly in there solving problems together because it’s the best team-collaboration tool we can find. The team is what keeps people with PowerObjects. No one leaves because they’d lose the team.
3. Always add value
From the beginning, we knew customers wanted more than just professional services. To be the best at Dynamics CRM, we would have to provide the full solution. We laid out our four pillars of Service, Support, Education, and Add-Ons and applied that focus to each. If you need deep tech training or light admin training, we can do that. If you need support, we’ve got one of the largest support desks after Microsoft’s own. If there’s a Dynamics CRM function that doesn’t perfectly answer your need, we can build an Add-On to fix that, and we’ll probably give it to you for free. Sure, 70% of our revenue comes from professional services, and it’s no wonder that’s where most CRM partners focus their efforts, but we believe our success comes from cumulative value of all our pillars together.
Giving away IP is one of the biggest ways we add value. It might seem risky to offer for free what you could (some might say “should”) be selling, but I believe you get more than you give. We started creating and giving away Add-Ons because back in the day, customers wanted user-configurable dashboards. Salesforce had them; Dynamics CRM didn’t. So we built them and started our demos with them. That solved the problem, made customers happy, helped us sell more, and when Dynamics CRM 2011 came along with the dashboards baked in and better than we could do them, we end-of-lifed our solution and moved on to the next need. We give away knowledge because we should, because ultimately we know it helps make a better product.
4. Be a leg of a 3-legged stool
When it comes to winning against competitors, we think the biggest differentiator between the choices is us – PowerObjects. Do we think Dynamics CRM is the superior solution? Of course, or we wouldn’t be, as our website says, “100% dedicated to Microsoft Dynamics CRM.” But when it comes down to it, what often makes the sale is being able to tell prospects that we’ve got them covered. And one of the great things about Microsoft is they know this is a sales advantage, they help tell that story by leading with partner. With Salesforce, the channel seems like an afterthought; they’re more focused on moving licenses. Microsoft really supports its channel by making clear to customers that not only do you get this amazing product, you get this awesome partner – and that can tip the balance.
Ultimately, none of what I’ve said is rocket science, but developing a fanatical focus and building the company around it was a lesson we had to learn. We win by being part of that 3-legged stool we’ve all heard about. One leg is Microsoft, a publisher that stands behind their solution and continues to improve on it. Leg 2 is the customer who’s willing to digest all the change management moving to new software requires. Leg 3 is us, the experts won’t just deliver the software but who will provide ongoing support and solutions as customers – and Dynamics CRM – grow and evolve.
PowerObjects has twice been the winner of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Worldwide Partner of the Year: 2012 and 2013. To find out more about PowerObjects, visit their website.
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