Does your company offer services and expertise instead of a manufactured good? Professional services involve offering specialized business support to companies of all sizes and in all industries. Examples of this include IT services, accounting, management consulting, advertising and marketing, legal services, and many more.
What are the challenges professional services companies face and what are the tools that these types of firms can use to provide more value to their clients and stakeholders?
To begin with, professional services companies are operating in an increasingly competitive market with reduced margins and higher project complexity.
In addition, these types of companies have to deal with a wide variety of separate project management, time tracking, invoicing, business intelligence, resource planning, and collaboration tools.
Having a cloud automation solution that centralizes all business processes and data enables these types of companies to deliver services more predictably, and repetitive manual processes to be streamlined or automated.
Keep on reading to know more about how automation can be incorporated into a professional service company.
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What are the most difficult challenges for professional services teams and how to overcome them?
Various industries within the sector will experience different pain points, but in general, these types of companies face serious challenges around resource management, ineffective project planning, and efficiency.
The majority of professional services decision-makers feel that technology can assist overcome these challenges, but many caution that their companies are not taking full use of the tools at their disposal.
What decision-makers from Professional Services companies are doing to keep their firms at the forefront of their industry involves spending hundreds of hours on producing reports. Once they finally have those reports for important decisions, they usually come too late.
This type of stumbling block can have a big influence on how teams give value to clients and pursue successful projects. However, it is not the only type of obstacle that teams encounter.
Employee utilization rates are especially important to professional services organizations. Low employee utilization might indicate ineffective resource management processes or perhaps indicate that some projects aren’t as profitable as they could be.
Salesforce—the leader in CRM (Customer Relationship Management) that has been in the market for over 20 years—offers a solution for every aspect of a professional services company.
Let’s see below.
1. Challenges in Marketing: Getting new customers
Many professional services companies are becoming aware of the limitations of conventional marketing wisdom. Lead generation, lead qualification, and sales engagement can all take twice as much time and effort as they did in the past.
A marketing automation tool like Marketing Cloud from Salesforce includes:
- Personalized email campaigns
- One-to-one advertising using your CRM data
- Lead and contact scoring
- Engage with customers across social media channels
- Personalized mobile interaction
- And so much more
Starting with a marketing automation solution like Marketing Cloud will allow professional services companies to nurture customers relationships and build trust in the business development process.
2. Challenges in Sales: Winning more deals
Maintaining existing clients while looking for new ones is a never-ending challenge. Having ongoing client relationships is important, but it’s vital to add new customers to remain relevant and increase revenue.
Many professional services companies still rely on spreadsheets alone to manage data for their sales. Even to aid in their decision-making. This not only exposes companies to poor analysis, but also to breaches of customer data.
Real-time data and visibility of clients, projects, and resources are essential to develop new service offerings and expand the business.
How do you achieve this?
Sales Cloud—the world’s #1 sales solution—from Salesforce, is a cloud-based software intended to help salespeople sell smarter and quicker by centralizing customer information, logging their interactions with your company, and automating many of the activities sales representatives do on a daily basis.
What can you do with Sales Cloud?
- Sell faster and smarter
- Get more leads
- Make insightful decisions
- Boost productivity
- Streamlines business processes
- Grow revenue
Sales Cloud provides the foundation for a more productive and agile sales team.
3. Challenges in Proposals: Accelerating the contract lifecycle
Besides setting aside resources for marketing initiatives and advertising campaigns to acquire new businesses, professional service companies have to find time for scheduling consultations and proposals.
A business proposal is a sales document created with the purpose to persuade your potential customers to buy from you. From providing legal services to offering enterprise software solutions, all of it starts with a great business proposal.
As a consequence, writing a professional, detailed, attractive, and on-brand business proposal is not an easy task.
By using an automated document generation tool built specifically for Salesforce like Conga Composer, not only you get rid of the outdated, tedious, and paper-heavy process that requires manual copying and pasting in Word or PDF. You can also create beautiful and sophisticated business proposals by automatically populating pre-built or customized templates with data from your company’s Salesforce.
You can even do it right from a mobile device to make the most of opportunities as they happen. A sales rep can input key information while on the road, during a meeting, or on-site so a business proposal can be turned around in days instead of weeks.
DocuSign, an application to collect and manage digital signatures from practically any device, can also be used within Salesforce. Not only can it be used for proposals but also for documents like approvals, new hire documentation, expense reporting, purchase orders, invoice processing, and more.
4. Challenges in Projects: Increasing efficiency in project management
Inefficient invoicing management is one of the biggest project management mistakes. It can be very challenging to handle project finances for professional service companies who use a number of contracts or have varying invoicing processes at different phases of a project.
The whole financial process of a project—from the original proposal to invoicing the customer—is prone to human error. Automation cuts those errors significantly.
If your business has automation incorporated in its system, after a business proposal is signed, all the downstream automation for project generation will start from there. What does this mean?
Whenever there’s a sales opportunity win, the following will happen:
- Auto-creation of invoicing to start the work
- Auto-creation of a project to provide the service to your customers
- Auto-creation of a work order; if required for a field-business
This will increase efficiency and save a huge amount of work and time.
After a project is auto-created, all resources are aligned in one single platform. All people who will work on the project get auto notifications that they’re on the project.
While the project is running, everyone is logging their time in the same system, and more auto invoicing is created throughout the project.
You can see gross profit, meaning you know how profitable each project is.
There is full visibility into operations from the sales department as sales reps can see how the project is going. They are able to know if anything is going sideways or if they shouldn’t try to sell something more to a particular customer. Or they can also know if they have to jump in and help get the project back on track.
5. Challenges in HR: Ditching the paperwork to focus on employees
The right HR technology can make a huge difference when it comes to taking away much of the time-consuming admin as it frees up HR professionals to focus more on your business strategy and culture.
Humi—an all-in-one HR solution—enables businesses to run payroll, HR, benefits, and more, all in one hub:
- All your team’s data, career, and progression is in one system
- Manage payrolls, benefits, and performance
- Track time off and assets
- Auto-generation of reports
- Recruiting and easy onboarding
Is there value in automating an entire professional services company?
If you are in the business of delivering client-billable work and are interested in providing a better delivery on client projects, getting better insights, increasing efficiency, and customer satisfaction, then a Professional Services Automation (PSA) solution is essential.
Many professional services firms are now turning to PSA solutions. But if we go even further, imagine having all departments on only one system.
Having one single source of truth gives an overall view of finances, operations, and client relationships, enabling a more efficient organization. By adding automation to it, a professional services company can reach an even higher level of productivity.
You can have an incredible full business insight into what’s happening in the company by bringing all departments into one system: from the top of the funnel down to the bottom (marketing to sales), to operations, project management, finance, and HR. You can see the overall performance of salespeople, marketing, etc., and what the return is of any cost to the business.
With all that data in one system, it’s easy to see the total Net Profit. At the end of the day you can ask:
- How profitable is the total business?
- What decisions do you need to make based on all those insights?
- Is the team too stretched? Do you need to hire people?
- Is the team not stretched enough? Do you need to work on allocation?
All is registered in one system, one record: You get a lead, then the sales team converts that lead. From there: automated proposals are generated right in the same system (no PDF or Word anymore), and then eSign for electronic signatures. It’s a huge productivity increase.
It’s all about efficiency. No more ‘swivel chair’ processes by moving between systems. Eliminate duplicate data entry, human errors, and copying and pasting.
Ready to take your professional services business to the next level? Connect with one of our experts here to start your professional services business transformation.