Selling HRMS Software and HRIS Systems is Hard! Pt. 1

If you have been selling HRMS Software, HRIS systems or HR software for any amount of time, I am certain you will agree with most of what I have written here. If you are new to the industry, get ready for a lot of heart break. In fact, I challenge anyone to offer a product that is harder to sell than HRMS Software, HRIS systems or HR software.

I have been selling Employee tracking Software, Employee Management Software, and HRM Software for more than 15 years. Here’s the scary reality. I have seen that if I show a hundred HR managers an HRIS application, at least 80 will express interest in buying. At most, 10 to 20 will get the approval for purchase. Based on my estimated numbers, this means that for every 10 HR departments looking for an HRIS product only 2.5 actually end up getting the approval and buying a system. The intent of this article is to explain why this happens and what you as an HR software sales person can do to avoid the pit falls.

Why is selling HRMS Software, HRIS systems or HRMS Payroll systems so hard?

* You are not selling your HR software to the decision maker

More often than not, you will be selling your HRMS software, HRIS system or HRMS payroll product to the head of the HR department who will, in turn, sell to those with the authority to approve the funds. So to some degree, the success or failure you achieve in HR software sales will rest with someone else’s ability to sell your system. Welcome to HRIS system sales. Typical sales theory says you should, in this case, go directly to the decision maker. You can try, and you should, but it is important to remember that in most cases they are not the one with the direct need for a system. They are going to rely on human resources to make the determination of which product will work best for the organization. There is very little way around it; you sell to the HR department and they sell the concept to others.

Think about it. In what other type of sales are you not selling to the decision maker? If you sell used cars, houses, or shoes, in all those cases you are working with the person with the ability to approve the purchase.

* Next to impossible to cost justify HRIS software

Selling anything often applies using some type of cost justification. I have seen some companies come up with detailed models that help to cost justify an HR software application. I have even worked on a few, but I don’t think they work very well. Frankly, too many of the estimated cost savings of an HR application are soft costs. Such as: each termination costs the company x amount of dollars. So if through improved HR customer service and reporting HR is able to reduce the turnover rate from X to Y, x amount of dollars is saved. This may in fact be valid. The problem is ultimately your system will be sold to a finance or accounting person. I started out as an accountant. As an accountant, at least by education, let me tell you soft cost HR software savings will be a hard sell.

There are exceptions. If your HRIS or HRMS application includes in house payroll or a payroll hosted option that is less expensive than what the company is using, this is easy to calculate ROI. Recruiting systems are also easier to cost justify. If a widget company is paying X dollars to head hunters each year and you are able, with a recruiting solution, to hire ten percent more internally, there is a direct ROI statement that can be offered.

Yes, an HR system will save human resources a tremendous amount of time and benefit the entire organization but how much money is actually saved? Not an easy answer or an easy sale.
* Does the organization see enough value to invest in an HRIS system or HRMS software application?

When it comes to HR, in my opinion, there are two types of HR departments. There are companies that place great value on the benefits of HR and those that see HR as a cost center. It’s pretty easy to tell which is which. If you have a well staffed human resource department run by a true HR professional, the company likely values HR and you will find you stand a far greater chance of getting approval than if you are working with an understaffed HR department run by more of a clerical HR person than a professional. If the organization has 700 employees and does not currently have an HR software system, why? The need is there. The benefits are there. Have they tried to get the approval for a system before and failed? The company would benefit from a system, so why have they not as of yet added one? The longer you work in the industry, the quicker you will become at seeing which organizations value HR and which don’t. If the organization you are working with does not see HR as offering value, you will have a tough time getting the budget money for a new HRIS system.

What can you do to improve your HRMS software or HRIS system selling process?

Now that we have presented the problem, let’s talk about the solutions. There are steps you can take, to some degree or another, to counter the problems mentioned above but still you are going to lose deals based on what I have offered above. The important thing is to make sure you are working and winning the deals that can be won and not losing those deals to your competitors.

Clay Scroggin is a frequent contributor to and has 15 years of experience working with HRIS and HRMS systems. In 2007, Clay began working on, a site dedicated to assisting HR professionals with their search, selection, implementation, and use of HR Management Software and HR Information Systems.

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