There’s no way to avoid it. Whenever a vendor is selling in an environment with non-integrated systems, integration will always be an obstacle in a sales cycle. How you choose to deal with this obstacle determines whether you lose the sale or gain a long-term client.
Buyers want integration, so vendors must be prepared to deal effectively with these three related issues:
- Who is going to handle the integration?
- Who has the expertise to handle the integration?
- When should we integrate?
You Know That an API Isn’t Enough—And So Do Your Clients
All vendors must address the integration obstacle during the sales cycle. It’s an essential requirement for doing business. Buyers tend to have a suite of systems that they are relying on, and they need the application(s) they are purchasing from you to be able to exchange information with their current applications.
Most vendors attempt to deal with the integration issue by offering a robust API. They tell the buyer that they have an API, and the buyer feels reassured. It’s not the best solution, but an API is usually adequate enough to move the sales cycle along because the buyer knows that at least there is a mechanism to handle integration down the road.
While APIs represent a huge advancement in technology compared to just five years ago, APIs are not full integration.
They are merely roadmaps that make it easier to get data into and out of applications. The problem for vendors is that buyers are beginning to understand this limitation and are demanding full integration services. Soon, telling a client that you have an API won’t do anything to help move the sales cycle forward.
Who’s Going to Handle Integration?
If you are a vendor who simply hands buyers an API with the expectation that they will take care of the integration, you are doing yourself and your buyers a disservice. You’re selling them a problem that delays the implementation of your system. Not only are you setting them up for frustration and failure, you are risking losing the sale and future business.
That’s because buyers typically don’t have the resources and expertise to handle integration, even with the best API available to them. Their IT department will have to figure it out, or they’ll have to contract with another vendor or consultant. The buyer may then come back to you to request training or to ask for technical support for whoever is handling the integration—at your expense.
Understanding that integration is crucial, and that offering an API isn’t enough, some vendors may choose to set up their own in-house integration team. On the surface, this sounds like a great idea. Why shouldn’t the vendor handle integration? They know their product inside and out, so they should be in the best position to handle integration, right? Wrong.
Setting up an in-house integration team is a bad idea for vendors. It takes lots of extra time, attention, and resources to handle integration for buyers. A vendor would not only need to be an expert in their own system, they would have to be experts in the many intricacies and nuances of all the applications they may be asked to integrate with, now and in the future. That’s a huge burden that carries a high price tag.
Who has the expertise to handle the integration?
What vendors need to do is focus their energy and expertise on building the best product along with the most robust API possible. It’s their core business and what they do best. This doesn’t mean that they should ignore the buyer’s need for full integration.
Because you want your buyers to have the best possible purchasing experience as well as fast integration, you should partner with an integration specialist. Plan to work closely with a partner that understands your system and all of the other systems with which it will need to integrate. This mutually beneficial relationship frees your time to focus on your core product, while also having the capability to provide full integration services to buyers.
When should we integrate?
Ultimately, the best way to remove the integration obstacle is to confidently address the subject early in the sales cycle. Because you know you can handle the buyer’s integration needs with the help of a specialist, you simply remove the integration obstacle from the sales process. In addition to speeding up the sales cycle, you have placed the integration obstacle squarely in front of your competition.