Jan 312018
 

Not every sale requires a presentation, but most do and that has led to an abundance of wasted time. And boredom. And the audience checking e-mails and messages. And even more subsequent presentations.

Sales presentations are both over and under-rated. They are over-rated because most of them are about the seller and are the software equivalent of the “don’t hesitate to phone or e-mail me if you have any questions” line all salespeople use at the end of all calls with all customers (doh, you bet the customer already knows the obvious). Sales presentations, on the other hand, could be under-rated for their sheer efficiency and effectiveness to excite, motivate and move things along. The latter variety is the exception and needs preparation.

Photo Credit: Hans

How to do so? First and foremost a presentation is about the buyer. I repeat, a presentation is not about you the salesperson, your company or your way of selling it. It is about them, the prospect. The problem typically starts with the marketing and product management groups. Nothing against these important departments, but the stock presentations they generate violate the abovementioned rule. Then sales plays tag using the templated presentations and carries on with slide after slide of ‘who we are’ and ‘where we are’ et cetra.

Sales must resist the urge to dole out this information in favour of information relevant to the customer, its process, its buying habits and specific needs. Customers care about the seller’s information only insofar as it concerns their needs. The problem, however, often is that the correct information to be included in a pertinent presentation is not known to the salesperson. Either the salesperson has not asked/not dug enough in advance or the buyer has resisted giving the information out and the seller has copped out and not persisted. This is to the detriment of both the buyer and seller.

It is the job of the salesperson to ask the ‘why’ questions, understand the need, understand the customer’s buying process including MAN (Money, Authority, Need). This information should then be used in the subsequent customized presentation that speaks to the information the buyer would find valuable.

  1. Gather the information that is relevant to what the customer finds important (it is fair if as an expert you have data that similar customers have found useful and relevant).
  2. Know the ideal outcome (based on the concept of the buyer) that should follow the presentation.
  3. Create the presentation based on the above. Keep it pertinent, do not be copy-heavy and focus on the customer.
  4. Practice your presentation in advance of delivering it.
  5. Delete or shorten what is unnecessary. The less complex and the smaller the solution/product/service the more focused and succinct the presentation should be.

 

Addendum: in all cases do not think the ‘what’ is sufficient. Think ‘why.’ Why is this point important, why is this information offered and why did you decide to leave this text in your presentation when others did not make the final cut. Let the audience know. Do not assume they know or understand why you included something. Again, hint: you collected the context from the audience. As you can see the majority of the work was done in advance of the presentation itself. Explain to them that this text/bullet/page is there because as the expert in the product/service/pitch it is what you picked up from them and know it is important. Explain and elaborate the ‘why’ before you make your point so the context is clear before the actual point is given.

Here is an example: “Jane, Tammy and Joe you had mentioned that ten percent of employees use your current dispenser. I have included a point about adoption of our dispensers because their ease-of-use makes for a much wider adoption than what you currently see. We see this at all our customers and wanted to share the number with you. So here goes, as you see on the second bullet you will see eighty-percent adoption with our dispensers, which is key for you.”

 

While we are on the subject, and going back to the opening sentence, salespeople should not assume or insist on a presentation. If a sale can proceed without then by all means allow it to.

 

What are your thoughts? Click on ‘Comments’ and let me know.

*Things That Need To Go Away: We were founded in 1981, which makes us 37 years old and are located in more than 15 countries and over 20 cities. Let me tell you about our president and founders now…

Photo Credit: Robinsonk26

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Jan 082018
 

This article will not be two things. Those are:

1-      A customized sales process

2-      The mechanics of Market Identification and Prospecting, which are the beginning of the sales process, or existing customer Account Management and Reporting, which are at the continuation of a repeatable process.

These are outside the scope of this article.

Instead let’s examine how sales organizations set up their sales departments and configure salesperson positions from a responsibility and resource perspective.

If the reader would forgive a slight exaggeration, in order to stimulate the mind, there are as many sales department formations out there as there are sales teams and companies. Moreover, admittedly many of these salespeople and companies are doing well, achieving their objectives and making themselves, their stakeholders and hopefully customers successful.

The article is assuming the organization has more than one or two salespersons. The math obviously does not apply to the mom and pop business with a part-time seller or a lone full-time salesperson, but as you can imagine if the number of sales folk to the size of market is out of proportion this in itself is a recipe for sales collapse. For now, let us assume a sales team (plural) exists.

Many companies have too large of (what they perceive is) an addressable market or have deployed their salespeople inefficiently. This issue is so prevalent that it boggles the mind. It is something that happens far too commonly and is a function of the sales management having not truly sold in the past, forgetting what it is like to be an individual contributor, have personal experience in only one type of sales or being subjugated to a larger force within the company. This is not meant to be condescending. After all, what did you have for lunch last week, day before yesterday or even yesterday? It is easy to forget, isn’t it?

When assigning dedicated salespeople to accounts, territories or solutions and verticals companies tend to create a strict demarcation between the job descriptions and focus of

  • inside and outside or
  • SMB and enterprise/major public-sector or
  • Generalist and vertically/other specialized

representatives. The friction created as a result is one story. Much time and goodwill is expended mediating the issues that arise. Cooperation among team members is lessened and customer service suffers when service is slowed and coverage and responsiveness is decreased.

Credit: rawpixel

Challenge: Aside from the above, a bigger and more immediate issue is the inefficient deployment that results in what I have seen so often I have a term for it, namely inverage. It is ‘incomplete coverage.’ No account, territory or solution is completely covered. Instead, companies have spread their efforts in every step of the sales cycle/account management more thinly than is necessary. The employer is not even deriving complete value from its salespersons’ particular specialty and skills. What is meant by this?

  • Enterprise/field salespeople who are best at, and need to be establishing deep relationships with customers, are spending an inordinate part of their time hunting new business from scratch, making cold calls or booking transactional and low value business for their major and existing customers.
  • SMB sales reps are dialing into new accounts. Handling major accounts that the Enterprise team has not picked up and attempting to give C-levels at larger hierarchical accounts the same treatment as it does to smaller and SMB accounts. The truth, however, is that transactional activities do not leave room for an in-depth management of the customer. Yet, many customers need or demand that attention. The smaller accounts’ managers are also dialling/e-mailing for dollars and have more resources to canvass a larger set of customers’ employees.
  • Business developers whose task should be attracting new accounts and sales are covering the trenches because no one else is handling the account or is not allowed to step outside the pre-defined boundary.
  • At the aforementioned smaller companies, the (few) sellers have too large of a or practically undefined territory and are attempting to cover the proverbial phone book.

Anyone who steps outside his or her designated role and account does so voluntarily and may even be attracting the displeasure of management, which in many cases has its own immediate chain of command divided into outside/enterprise/major and inside/SMB/minor to begin with. There is likely an opportunity cost to doing so in terms of one’s own accounts and commission dollars for the seller.

Within this model no one is quite happy needing to go where they are least comfortable and less inclined. No one is truly exposed to anyone else’s business and professional life either furthering the segregation. Time is not utilized in optimal fashion.

As a manager of several sales teams at Microsoft several years ago I had instituted a variable pay system where a portion of the team members’ sales commission (20%) was based on team performance. The shared model made the comradery better, helped with cross territory and team cooperation and gave customers’ better coverage. It worked quite well. It was dismantled a fiscal year later when the senior management asked that the compensation be standardized to the global model.

Answer: What teams need is a sharing of account management duties.

  • The flexibility for the Enterprise seller to devote (say) 20% of his or her time to assist the SMB representative and the flexibility of the SMB seller to devote a congruent 20% of time to the enterprise account he or she shares in a minor fashion with the enterprise representative is key.
  • Both would be proportionally sharing in the variable rewards of their respective primary accounts as well thus rewarding them for their effort.
  • Each seller would also would focus on what his or her main job responsibility or forte is, while being exposed to the duties of his or her counterpart.
  • Most importantly perhaps, it is the customers who are most thankful for the coverage, responsiveness, deepness of expertise and teamwork.

Credit: anemone123

Again, and most importantly, the sellers would focus on what they do best most of time, but simultaneously there would be much less of a gap in selling and other necessary activity coverage.

This configuration addresses respective salespersons’ lack of time, lack of skillset, unwillingness, priorities and the quarterly nature of quota. Any company that can should pair sellers.

Account Type Major Role & Variable Compensation Minor Role & Variable Compensation
  F/M I/T G/U F/M I/T G/U
Small/Transactional No Yes No Yes No Yes
Large/Strategic Yes No No No Yes Yes
Unmanaged No No Yes Yes Yes No
 


F/M = Field/Major Salesperson

I/T = Inside/Transactional Salesperson

G/U = Generalist/Unmanaged Accounts

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: he does this, she does that, they do not mix and if they do it is to their personal detriment.

Credit: Geralt

 

Inverage

 

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Sep 272017
 

TechTarget has added an article called See The Top ERP Systems And Decide Which Best Fits Your Business. While it does not actually feature the promised “see’ part it does present a succinct listing and elaboration on the bigger names in the market.

The article does include succinct information on the availability of different environments (on-premises, hybrid and Cloud) and indicative pricing for the software.

Several comments are worthwhile here. Despite the wave of consolidation undertaken by participants big and small the pie remains fragmented and customers still have ample choice. There are eight listings, although several fall under the ‘Oracle’ banner. What is more companies like Unit4 (the old Agresso software) or Aptean (the old Made2Manage and Ross software) are not even included in the article. Small business ERP, which is mostly newer born in the Cloud companies, like Zoho and Xero and also QuickBooks, are also excluded. Microsoft has made the transition to its Dynamics 365 monicker and dropped the old nomenclature and designations (like GP, AX, etc.) although the software is obviously still there. There are also two categories of ERP, which are omitted. The first is the vertical products that serve specific industries. Those abound. The second are the myriad of solutions devised by regional SIs (system integrator) and ISVs (Independent Software Vendor) out there.

Finally, noteworthy is how the open source ERP vendors that were taking shape ten years ago have come to naught. Compiere, for example, was absorbed by Aptean. Opentaps is still out there however.

Photo Credit: Geralt

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Aug 272017
 

In Sales and sales management circles few would argue that compensation, a major component of which is income, is trivial or a minor issue. Modern management theories tell us that not only happy workers stay longer, but also they are more productive. We know that pay is often top of mind for employees, but other factors also chart well. When one is not caught in the vice of low or unsatisfactory pay, one is enjoying his or her work and is therefore engaged, committed and sees a future.

In the book The Code of The Extraordinary Mind the author speaks to Richard Branson about the secret to the billionaire’s serial success. Branson tells the author the secret is to have a vision, hire great people to execute it and then get out of their way. Notice, he didn’t say pay them 30%, or whatever, in commissions.

Imagine now for a moment all this evidence, wisdom, research and information out there and next to none of it is applied to the profession of sales by the responsible management and the companies at which they work. The whole thing is on autopilot, has been for years and clichés abound. The conventional wisdom hangs like an albatross around the neck of management and human resources. In the well-argued book Drive author Daniel Pink makes an evidence-based case for not paying salespeople commission and SPIF when creativity is required.

Is any company taking heed of the applicable information? All indications point to the answer being ‘no.’ This website has long argued that people management has to be personalized for the individual and one size does not fit all. Why are so many sales departments and companies struggling, and why does anyone need extra pushing and shoving, if salespeople uniformly respond to extra commission and variable incentive? The answer is that salespeople do not and like any other profession and group individuals respond differently and have different motivations. We even wrote about motivation for salespeople as a function of their cultural background on this site in November, 2016.

Why then are companies not overhauling how they compensate their employees in general and sales department in particular and instead prolapse to the same old? We know now that as a matter of random statistics a portion of the sales team likely responds better to and is more responsive to things other than being paid on commission. How about looking at 100% salary entitlement? There is also this, which likely lead to companies taking action like this.  In addition to the above arguments, there must be a reckoning that today’s customers are better informed and sales is becoming more of a team sport. A successful sales team is not only comprised of different people (inside, outside, technical, post-sales consultancy..), but also requires adapting to customers’ buying process, which is an outward outlook and not necessarily satisfied by internal necessities.

ventilation pipe (flexibility)

Photo Credit: Bilderjet

Instead could individuals be motivated and double their efforts for:

  • Peer and employee recognition
  • Additional time off
  • Health, or other, club membership
  • A gift card for the salesperson’s significant other
  • Paid learning opportunity or mentorship
  • Paid-for recreational classes such as cooking, climbing or arts and crafts,
  • Job promotion (with a caveat)

Keep a higher emphasis on variable compensation for those who are actually and demonstrably motivated by it and remove the yoke from those who just do not care for it and either do not perform better given the scheme or do so only marginally.

There is no doubt that driving sales and winning deals is the raison d’etre of any sales organization. The question we should be asking is what actually drives performance versus what we have always accepted drives performance.

Indeed, sales management must measure all that leads to a sales win (could be customer engagements, presentations, customer meetings, marketing response rates, etc.) and develop a compensation plan based on low and upside potential calculations, team alignment, composition and of course how all of this is being measured, but understand that the drive to create the components of success is propelled by different means among individuals.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: We Do It That Way Because It Is Always Done That Way

 

Individual

Photo Credit: Geralt

 

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Jul 032017
 

American business channel CNBC has an article on the state of vacation days taken and untaken in the United States and the picture is not pretty. The article quotes a study by a “coalition” that advocates for taking time off and using one’s vacation days.

A quick detour and a couple of remarks should come first. Firstly, the article is timely. Summer is primetime for vacation days. Many people take time off to enjoy the weather and travel, children are off and parents coordinate with that. Over in Europe many citizens enjoy vacations allowances ranging from four to eight weeks. This article’s publisher being CNBC is also quite interesting. CNBC is a pro-business and corporate outlet. It is not one to advocate for employee and workers’ rights. Finally, Project: Time Off has its own agenda. The study, on which the article is based, seems to have followed a scientific methodology, but it is always prudent to read these studies in the context of its provider.

Photo Credit: Atlas Green

On to the study and it demonstrates that taking one’s vacation days are advantageous for those seeking to obtain a promotion or a raise at work. It coins the term “work martyrs”. The studies are US-based, but it would not be a surprise if the results apply to the rest of a world that is fast becoming increasingly industrialized. Quoting the article, “people who use their vacation days are more likely to get a promotion or a raise.” The study demonstrates two things:

  • Only 23 percent of those who forfeited their days were promoted in the last year, compared to 27 percent of “non-forfeiters.”
  • The study also found that 78 percent of forfeiters received a raise or a bonus in the past three years, compared to 84 percent of those who did use all of their paid time off.

The numbers are close with respectively four and six percent difference between the samples, but even if the percentages were identical it would be illustrative that people taking their vacations are not harming their prospects at work. The study asserts that folk who take their vacations are recharged, more creative, ironically harder workers, etc. For salespeople it is good to remember that the top indicator of success is working hard. Finally, remember those vacationing Europeans? There have been multiple studies over the years that they are more productive than Americans, Canadians and everybody else.

*Things That Need To Go Away: karoshi

woman by the water

Photo Credit: Danka Peter

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May 142017
 

The world has advanced much and there is a lot of useful and productive technology to work with and leverage whether it is an industry, company or individual that is the topic of discussion. This website has touched on many of them with much more to come, but this post is about good old fashioned customer service.

A good friend of mine Nissar Ahamed who runs the CareerMetis website e-mailed me reminiscing about a business, which I once had introduced to him. By introducing, I mean, he and I once walked over to grab an egg sandwich. He also picked up a coffee. It is a simple, and rather small, coffee stand in the PATH below King Street West in Toronto called Treats. The name is unimportant as is the location really. Down there one literally finds dozens of counters and shops serving morning coffee, banana bread, croissants and juice to passers-by on their way to work. Nissar dropped me a message saying how he misses the (non-descript, cramped, limited menu, with no name recognition, plain – these are my words) place. In fact, Treats is a mini-chain, but as far as companies go theirs is rather unknown and, as mentioned, the take-out only coffee shop is barely noticeable or stands out amidst the plethora of better-known and flashier competition. Nissar even mentioned that the Tim Hortons he now frequents (since his office location has changed) is no match for the old place.

Photo Credit: Nousnou Iwasaki

Now, you are asking yourself, what is so great about this bona fide kiosk that beats everyone else and puts a $3.5 billion company to shame? Is it the coffee? Is it the muffins? Is it the croissants? Could it be the egg sandwich they prepare? Is it the swift service or the bottom-less beverages? Perhaps they have the best banana and apples in the bowl ready for customers every morning?

The answer: none of the above. It is the… customer service. Oh, how… non-digital.

Grossly assuming they have 250 customers a day I made a back-of-the-envelope calculation that on average they have over 66,000 individuals to serve a year. Yet, the middle-aged East Asian couple who run the place will always smile, always thank you, always semi-bow or wave and seem grateful to have you as a customer. There is a glint in their eyes (don’t worry, inside sales professionals, there could be a ‘glint’ in the voice too). It is a small thing that costs them nothing and they do not have to do, but recurs day in and day out.

The result? Customer loyalty,  well wishes and a very small business that can stand head and shoulders above mega-chains, flashier competitors, cool businesses with Instagram accounts, advertising budgets, marketing departments and real-estate location managers. The experience and service there are tools in their arsenal that they deploy without presumably even meaning to and, in this day and age, the genuine care translates to word-of-mouth, loyalty and business.

What does interest one is how whether it is a cultural thing or an ingrained habit they seem to be unaware of their own behaviour.

It is a lesson for all of us in the sales game, management business, human-to-human interaction domain and for anyone who has noticed the world is being commoditized.  I once personally walked 10 minutes out of my way to get to the couple, walking past tens of businesses who could have sold me something very similar for a morning sandwich. The point is not the mere minutes, but the many other choices en route. I don’t even drink coffee.

Photo Credit: Mike Wilson

*Things That Need To Go Away: Assuming technology overcomes the need for cherishing and serving customers.

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Apr 272017
 

Dan of Sales Talent Agency shared a report, which is worth reading for sales and sales management professionals. Sales Talent Agency is a recruitment agency and, as such, is obviously self-interested and the report is part of the company’s marketing collateral. With that said, the report is the result of a survey of 4,860 sales professionals from a range of experiences, industries and regions which makes it useful. What is more – importantly for Canadian readers – it is Canada-focused, which makes the report valuable to those north of North America given the scarcity of Canada-only research.

salary guide Canada

There is a host of interesting information in the report.

  • How much sales professionals make given their years of experience,
  • Job titles are rather meaningless (and so Sales Talent Agency has gone further and asked whether folks manage anyone or not) as many directors and vice-presidents do not nowadays,
  • There is information regarding what salespeople want (which matches previous reporting on this website),
  • There is information on job stability,
  • 70% of respondents felt their targets are achievable,
  • Et cetra.

How much sales folk get paid is important to salespersons, sales managers and compensation and human resource management. Compensation, however, is one of the many levers of motivation and partnership and the report touches on that as well.

The Sales Talent Agency Sales Salary Guide Is Here.

Do you see yourself in the report?

STA Salary Guide

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: large discrepancy in what companies pay salespeople of the same experience in base salary based on how recently someone entered the organization’s workforce. Internal promotions receiving 4% raise per year, while new employee arriving 20% ahead is illogical.

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Apr 102017
 

My friend Chris texted me a picture of the The Boss Baby from the movie of the same name that is in cinemas right now. The baby’s line “… Cookies are for closers.” is a reference to Alec Baldwin’s character from the seminal ‘sales’ film Glengarry Glen Ross of course. In that film Alec Baldwin and a host of sales characters interact in a real-estate sales office as the company goes about countering slumping sales with, er, leads and, cough cough, some motivation.

Boss baby

So, need some sales inspiration? Need to find the tip of the spear of materialism? Need to laugh at the exaggerations, salesmanship, hyperbole or incredible lines? Here is a list, in order of release, for you salespeople and observers of salespeople.

These films should mostly focus on the ‘sale’ rather than are about salesperson’s lives and other endeavours, but included are films that at least delivered a good line or two.

Now don’t go watching these! Instead, get out there and sell something!!
1. Tin Men (1987)
2. Cadillac Man (1990)
3. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
4. Jerry Maguire (1996)
5. Boiler Room (2000)
6. The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
7. The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (2009)
8. Love & Other Drugs (2010)
9. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
10. Unfinished Business (2015)

Let me know what I missed.

*Things That Need To Go Away: High-pressure aggressive sales (which thankfully is as obsolete as the cathode ray tube television).

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Mar 142017
 

Unless one is dealing with an invading army (whose soldiers have eyes that emit their version of LASER no less!), being ignored is rarely a nice experience. It makes one feel unwanted, rejected and base – all the qualities that evolution has taught humans to dislike. Some may be more immune to the negative reactions that come with it than others. Most persons, however, would regardless take it badly.

Every salesperson has experienced it time and time again. The customer who does not reply. The prospect who does not follow up subsequent to a first conversation. The follow-up call that does not happen. The e-mail goes unreturned.

It is a sad reality that whether out of carelessness, a lack of class, being busy, politeness or pressures at work many sales e-mails go unreturned. It is ironic because promptly responding or a firm ‘no’ would go a long way towards saving everyone time, but alas let’s not launch into a discussion of logic and illogic here.

Instead, let’s look at what to do in such situations.

First and foremost, you have read it here before. Make you communication relevant and personalized. If you have not already then read this. Spending time researching calls and e-mails is better and more conducive to success than the alternative. It is ultimately a time-saver to invest time to look for relevant and applicable information.

Secondly, every salesperson should be frank enough to disqualify as well as qualify his or her customers and pipeline. Time and resources need to be spent on productive work and not folk who are uninterested or inattentive. This is not an invitation to rely exclusively on inbound marketing, but rather insistence to deal in reality and productivity. If you have more good leads than bad or more leads than time then you are in a good situation to execute on this advice anyway.

Thirdly, if the salesperson knows a game is being played the best advice is to not play. After all, one is not gamed if he or she is not playing. Focus should be on productive work. At the very least, one has detached himself from the negative effects of this behaviour.

With that said, here are several bullets based on my experience that will help with the response rate.

  • Be prompt. Respond right away to inbound calls, e-mails and leads. First, this in and out of itself increases one’s chances, but also if multiple follow-ups and attempts are needed the first one was the aforementioned. Importantly, per Insidesales.com, “the odds of qualifying a lead in 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drop 21 times and from 5 minutes to 10 minutes the dial to qualify odds decrease 4 times.”
  • Do leave a voice-mail. Voice-mails are likely retained whereas missed calls are not. Hearing your name and reason for call also begins the process of awareness.
  • Unanswered e-mails require follow-up. No, not of that kind. Of this kind: forward your last e-mail and keep it as short as possible. Exclude a salutation and signature and ask a simple follow-up question. The details and explanation are in the original e-mail that are being forwarded.

“Want to follow up in case this e-mail got buried.”

“What would be a good next step?”

“Is there some way to find out if this is a priority?”

That is it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: Sales And Customers Working Against Each Others’ Interests. Collaboration, Service and Honesty Wins.

 

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Feb 042017
 

PCMag has updated its rating of accounting software in an extra useful way.

First, the ratings are determined by a panel of the magazine’s community members.

Second, in addition to the ratings there is a directory of 66 products available for perusal in the category.

Sage (formerly Sage Software, the publisher of Sage 300, Sage One, Sage 50c, etc.) has won the category. SAP has lost the category. Not bad, given how it is the smallest of the top-rated companies from a revenue perspective. Perhaps it is a testament to the power of focus as Sage has been shedding product lines and trimming its portfolio in the last ten years. It also dodged a bullet when its intended acquisition of MYOB did not go through – although it did get sued for it.

While six products are listed the top contenders do not offer the buyer as many choices and make finding a top software for each market segment easier. PCMag’s list has curiously mixed products for personal use (Quicken), SMB (QuickBooks and Sage) with Mid-Market products (Microsoft) and Enterprise Solutions (SAP and PeopleSoft). Also, the two ‘swift’ products either belong or belonged to Intuit.

Top Accounting Software rating

An earlier article also provided a guide for Cloud-based accounting software.

 

*I used to work for Sage, Microsoft and Oracle.

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