The reaction to the ASUG survey about HANA, resulting in, amongst other things this blog and this response, has got me thinking. The problem seems to be that SAP have what they think is a great product, but their customers/potential customers don’t all see it the same way. I’m not sure that the fix for this disconnect is a blog that says, “How can you not see this?” and then goes on to list the many ways HANA is better than anything else. In fact, maybe the answer is to not talk about the product at all.

A long time ago, well 8 or 9 years ago, I used to read with great interest a blog called “Creating Passionate Users” by Kathy Sierra. Sadly, she was hounded off the Internet in 2007 and the blog stopped in 2007. There’s a lot of great stuff in there and if you have time, do go and read the archives. You’ll be glad you did. The point here, and the reason for the title of the blog, is that Kathy believes the best way to market a product is not to market the product at all but to market how the product makes its users feel.

If you are trying to sell a camera, don’t market it based on how many pixels it has or how noisy the sensor isn’t, and don’t compare it to competitive products and say how much better it is. Those things don’t matter. What matters is how the potential customer will feel about the photographs they take using your camera. Market the feeling, not the product. Or in terms more appropriate to the world of enterprise software:

“If you want to do something that’s going to change the world, build software that people want to use instead of software that managers want to buy.” (Creating Passionate Users: What Users Really Want)

How does that apply to HANA? We’ve heard a lot over the last few years about how it is revolutionary, how it is so much better than its competitors, how it is just, well, awesome. How it is a Porsche compared to my current horse. And maybe it is. But I like my horse. If you are going to try and sell me a Porsche to replace it, don’t tell me how much faster it is, or about the aircon and airbags. Tell me about the buzz I’ll get from driving it. Tell me how once I’ve driven it once I’ll never want to get out. Tell me that even though I might only travel short distances now, a Porsche will open my eyes to opportunities further afield so I should still consider it. Let me test drive it and experience it for myself.

Don’t tell me how great HANA is, but how great my business will be when I’m running HANA. Tell me about the new opportunities it will give me. Make it easy for me try it and see for myself – I’m more likely to believe me than you, after all.

“Remember, it doesn’t matter how your users feel about YOU, all that matters is how they feel about themselves as a result of interacting with your product or service.” (Creating Passionate Users: You and your users: casual dating or marriage?)

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  1. Lars Breddemann

    Nice digging out of Kathy’s old blog – really enjoyed reading that too. πŸ™‚

    And full agreement on the point of improving the businesses.

    This specific question – “how exactly does this change to my system improves my user experience and my business?” – is getting asked far too seldom.

    And not just in the relatively brief period of solution sales but especially in the years and maybe decades of system operations.

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    1. Steve Rumsby Post author

      Yes, I loved reading Kathy’s blog and was very sad when it finished. I’m glad to see she’s reappeared from online exile and is now sharing her first love – horses.

      Although she’s not producing her “passionate users” content any more I do still go back and browse the archives from time to time. There’s so much in there, and even re-reading it for the 3rd, 4th or 5th time I learn something new.

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  2. Jānis B

    I sincerely doubt running stuff faster in itself opens much opportunities to simplify what is being done today.

    Even if HANA is the next best thing after… Porsche or Dior dress, I’d still take Print Workbench Form (maybe even wrapped in FI-CA kind of Correspondence!) replacing or being integrated along with the NAST and RLB_INVOICE processing for SD Invoice output, and the VF31 functionality being offered as FI-CA kind of Mass Activity, over the Dunning finishing in minutes instead of hours…

    Unify and standartise most of the output processing (and the batch processing generally) across ERP modules using the best cross application stuff available and make the exception and clarification processing for those Mass Activities available under EMMA/BPEM, and, in my opinion, you have really made opportunities for massive simplification in something that many customer are using today… What’s in it for SAP? I don’t know… – maybe that kind of  simplification would help when SAP has to run and support those systems in cloud?

    cheers

    Janis

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  3. Susan Keohan

    Hi Steve,

    Well, a great blog and very timely too.  While many of us are passionate about SAP, many of us are also stuck with a horse too, which is very nice and does the job OK.  Which isn’t to say that SAP shouldn’t *also* invest in ways to help our horses be better horses.  Those of us who are long-time customers do have to wonder why we pay so much in maintenance fees and yet our horses get very little love while the Porsches are being polished and tuned. 

    The link to the DSAG Survey is below:

    https://www.dsag.de/sites/default/files/press_release_support-survey.pdf

    So maybe some time and resources should be spent on veterinary bills and hay just to keep my horse healthy and strong until I am ready to learn to drive a car, any car.

    Sue

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  4. Thorsten Franz

    Truly excellent, Steve. I’m enjoying those whole conversation sparked by Jelena Perfiljeva with great contributions from you, Lars, John, Joao, Henrique, and many others tremendously. I think it really drives the participants’ understanding of users’ needs forward.

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  5. Jelena Perfiljeva

    Thank you, Steve! What a great and concise blog! I’ve already been accused of bringing the emotions into the conversation, but your blog underlines beautifully that emotions are just as important as the facts. We do many decisions day to day that are based on the emotions and feelings just as much as knowledge. I found myself nodding at the camera example because the pictures are the first thing I look at, before reading about the pixels and stuff.

    The sad part though that both of our blogs are likely on the highway to being pooh-poohed because they are about the mentality shift, not about some bug that would allow SAP quickly jump on fixing it and to hang the “mission accomplished” banner. It is much more difficult to get to that banner for a mentality change yet the long term benefits are far more greater. Hm, this does sound like another analogy for HANA, doesn’t it? πŸ™‚

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    1. Matt Fraser

      Your respective blogs might be pooh-pooh-ed at first, but you are starting a groundswell, and it does seem like there’s some attention being paid, even if it’s not yet enough, or not yet the right people (though I see that Hasso Plattner addressed you personally, and by name, in his comments). After all, remember all the crying out for why are Fiori and Personas so expensive, why do we have to pay extra just to have the user interface that the system should have out of the box, and suddenly… Fiori and Personas are now included in the base license. So, it seems that someone with some decision authority does listen; there just need to be enough people talking about it, and talking about it in reasonable, understandable, engaging voices like you and Steve and Thorsten.

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  6. Gretchen Lindquist

    Steve,

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. Perhaps the good folks at SAP are not familiar with the expression, “Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle,” but you have put it forth persuasively. The expression may have been coined in the 1930s, but it seems as true today as ever. Who *doesn’t* remember Mazda’s tag line, Zoom, zoom?

    I’ve always liked the way Maya Angelou said it:

    “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,

    people will forget what you did,

    but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

    And making established customers feel insulted seems an unlikely way to sell anything.

    Cheers,

    Gretchen

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    1. Joao Sousa

      And making established customers feel insulted seems an unlikely way to sell anything.

      It comes from the arrogance of being market leader for so long. Instead of giving partners free licenses, SAP charges partners and customers for trying the software. Seriously? Does this make any sense? They did it because they could.

      But then they are the new players, in the Cloud, in DB world, and they think the same approach works (not the free software because they did change that for the new products, but the underlying overconfidence).

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  7. Joao Sousa

    Make it easy for me try it and see for myself – I’m more likely to believe me than you, after all.

    I think SAP has really made an effort on that front, with SAP HANA Cloud but the problem at least from my perspective and experience, is that the software is just too buggy. You have this blog 8 Easy Steps to Develop an XS application on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform which I actually tried to follow during my holidays.

    It was a task, learn about HANA, and follow that blog to the end. What happened? I coudn’t do it, because I kept running into stupid Eclipse errors, like no connection to the cloud, incompatible versions, obscure errors, etc. They lost a new developer (at least for now) with that experience. And I won’t recommend it, which will only propagate the myth.

    And I’m someone who was actually doing this as a talk, I wonder what less enthusiastic people will do.

    PS: I was using a Mac, maybe SAP should really test Mac versions because a lot of developers use a Mac (due to iOS).

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  8. Gregory Misiorek

    Hi Steve,

    i’m not a sales person but if i ware one i would try these three: greed, fear, and jealousy. all are human and work when rationality is too difficult or simply boring.


    first, greed. you will make more money with it, how? because you will know ahead of time what others will learn and you can either be in or out of your position by then.


    second, fear. if you don’t buy it now, you will be left in the dust and eventually forced off the road to wherever you’re going.


    third, jealousy. look, your neighbors (competitors) already have it and see how great they are doing.


    i could add 4 more sins on the way to salvation (damnation?) but i’m sure any of us can think of them anyway and it’s just a matter of articulation and opportunity to present them to whomever’s attention we may get.

    thx,

    greg

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    1. Steffi Warnecke

      Gregory Misiorek wrote:

      Hi Steve,

      i’m not a sales person but if i ware one i would try these three: greed, fear, and jealousy. all are human and work when rationality is too difficult or simply boring.


      first, greed. you will make more money with it, how? because you will know ahead of time what others will learn and you can either be in or out of your position by then.


      second, fear. if you don’t buy it now, you will be left in the dust and eventually forced off the road to wherever you’re going.


      third, jealousy. look, your neighbors (competitors) already have it and see how great they are doing.


      i could add 4 more sins on the way to salvation (damnation?) but i’m sure any of us can think of them anyway and it’s just a matter of articulation and opportunity to present them to whomever’s attention we may get.

      thx,

      greg

      Isn’t it kind of sad, that the human attributes you go for to sell the product are all negative? πŸ˜‰
      “Buy it and you won’t feel bad anymore.” I don’t know if that’s the best way to go… ^^

      @Steve: Great blog again and a lot of great comments!

      Who hasn’t bought something, because they just had to, no matter if they really, really needed it? That is always attached to emotions. You see, you love, you buy.

      The same thing can happen in businesses. And I think, the balance is important here.

      • You need a good product, that does for you what you need it to do so your business gets the best support to flourish.
      • You need a product, that your users will gladly use and not dread, because otherwise the acceptance will suffer big time and no matter how great the product is, users will complain and avoid to use it and all the power and growth the product could bring goes unused.

      So you need to find something that fits both your business and the users to actually have a winning situation IMO.

      The problem with the whole thing is mostly that those people who decide what to buy and implement are not always the people who have to work with the product in the end. I think, that is a big potential for frustration in any company.

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  9. Timo ELLIOTT

    Steve,

    “If you are trying to sell a camera, don’t market it based on how many pixels it has or how noisy the sensor isn’t, and don’t compare it to competitive products and say how much better it is. Those things don’t matter.”

    I just bought a camera. I can assure you I spent a long, long time looking at detailed technical specs.

    Are there people that buy on how products make them feel? Absolutely. Does that apply to enterprise software? Not so much. Emotion is part of every sale, but so are deep competitive comparisons of feeds and speeds, and rightly so.

    Everybody’s favorite example of an emotional sale is Apple — but did you notice just how much ink was spilled on screen sizes recently?

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    1. John Appleby

      This is true Tim but purchasing is an innately emotional thing. Psychologically we often justify our purchases with numbers.

      In Enterprise Software we call this the Business Case πŸ™‚

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    2. Steve Rumsby Post author

      Nobody buys a camera because of the pixel count or the low noise sensor, or the quality of lenses available for the camera body. You buy a camera because of the quality of the photographs it produces, and how you feel about those photographs. Yes, you might look at the technical specs if you understand them and their effect on the finished product (I did also, when I bought mine). But you are a photography geek, as am I (although maybe not to the same extent πŸ™‚ ). Most people aren’t, and don’t care. They just want a camera to take good pictures.

      Does this apply to enterprise products? Yes, absolutely it does. I’ve been in poor presentations of good products, and have seen people walking away disliking the product, and therefore not buying it, because they left feeling flat. There are parts of SAP’s product suite we’re not running today because they were badly pitched. People want to walk away from those things excited about the prospect of getting the product and using it. Some people (me) get excited about the technical details – I find HANA exciting as a stand alone product regardless of how it is used. In my experience most people, and especially the people with the purse strings, don’t. Maybe my experience is unusual?

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      1. John Appleby

        I think Steve is trying to get his account rep fired :))))

        On a serious note, people buy cameras because of MegaPixels and cars because of Brake Horsepowers every day.

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        1. Steve Rumsby Post author

          It is certainly true that people think they buy cameras and cars because of pixels and BHP. But for the most part they do that because they think those things produce a better end result. More pixels equals better pictures. More BHP equals a faster, and therefore more a exciting drive. You’re not drilling down far enough…

          And all those people queueing up to get the iPhone 6? Most of those are doing it so that they can walk around on release day with the shiniest, newest Apple device and have people come up to them and say “Oooh, is that the 6? Wow!” That really isn’t about the product at all, but about the smug feeling they get from owning it. They don’t care about the spec, just the fact that it is from Apple, and it is new.

          I agree making this case for enterprise software is harder, but that’s only because it isn’t a personal purchase, and so you have an extra layer or two to drill down through. But keep digging and you’ll find emotional purchasing decisions hiding in enterprises too.

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        2. Jelena Perfiljeva

          They buy based on megapixels because having more megapixels makes them feel superior. Even though having more megapixels doesn’t even mean it’s a better camera but as long as it makes them feel that way, it’s better for them regardless of what others think.

          Interestingly, in one company owned by an investment group I’ve heard that the owners “don’t like SAP”. Of course, cost was a factor there, but most of all they simply “did not like”. No other specific reason was ever mentioned and I don’t think they even tried to negotiate on the cost. So SAP might soon be losing a customer to a competitor. This might sound silly but the investment companies are run by humans too and they have feelings apparently. Go figure.

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          1. Joao Sousa

            Funny, but I do think people associate more mega pixels with better cameras. Maybe it’s 50/50, some people do it do feel superior but I don’t think it’s everybody.

            But I think buying personal items is very different then buying professionally. I’m very efficiency focused, but personally I bought a Mercedes E-Class Coupe, which doesn’t make rational sense… yet the car is a beauty πŸ˜€ . I’m aware it’s emotional, and I don’t really care, it’s my money. Professionally, I wouldn´t spend money knowing it was a emotionally driven decision.

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          2. Matt Fraser

            This too has happened in my shop. Several years ago we had a sweep of the executive suite, and the new bosses came in with a “we don’t like SAP” attitude from some prior experience and immediately stated we would be searching for a replacement. Much hassle later, they grudgingly admitted that we probably had the best solution for our needs after all, and that we couldn’t afford a replacement project anyway. Then a new suite of executives swept in, and we went through the same merry-go-round again, and again we had to spin our wheels justifying our past decisions before we could get on with any real work, and before the grudging acceptance once again materialized.

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      2. Matt Fraser

        We have absolutely had this same experience, and friends of mine with other companies that are SAP customers (or soon-to-be customers) have reported the same thing. If the pitch is poor and the demo doesn’t impress, it may not matter how awesome the product is. If you come to sell me SAP functionality (as a non-SAP customer, for instance) and show me classic SAPGUI screens instead of something in Fiori or the like, while the competitor shows something with less functionality but all the flash of a modern, simple-to-use, intuitive UI, it’s not hard to figure out which one has the edge. Today, against the advice of our IT group (me), we have several “cloud” point solutions for different functions that we struggle to interface with SAP, that we spend a lot of money on, that nobody is now happy with some years later, that don’t actually meet our business needs, but those with the purse strings selected them at the time, over SAP’s demonstrably superior functionality, because they looked easier to use.

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    3. John Schitka

      Timo I feel that both you and Steve (and Kathy by extension) are correct. To me it depends on where you look in the journey and who you are looking at. To use the camera example – my wife want to capture family memories and refresh/replace the 8×10 and a couple of 11×14 pics on the walls.(Business user with a use/business case). I tell her our current camera cannot do that and try to explain about pixels and why the pictures we have taken will not print well at 8×10. (IT with technical limitations). Her response is don’t care, don’t try to confuse me, you know what we need, get it done. I dig into the technical specs selecting cameras that meet the need, budget, and a few features for me, and say to my wife which of these work. I may have met her stated use case but know she going to want to use it without a lot of fuss and that the look etc. will matter; 31 years of marriage teaches you a few things. So somewhere in the journey the emotions, “sizzle” as someone phrased, fit and drive the process it and somewhere in the journey the technical specs matter. That said the specs themselves are useless unless they can be tied to value and use cases.

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