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Meggan Banda is a senior practice success manager at Sage. She’s helped hundreds of businesses and accounting firms transition from desk-based software to cloud solutions, and she compares the transition between the different ways of working to the shift from primary school to high school.

“For my first year of high school, I had to wear an A4 board around my neck with my name, surname, and class as part of the initiation. Every time I came across a Grade 11 or Matric learner, I would have to say, ‘I’m a small fish in a big pan’. I think a lot of accountants feel this way when they start their journey to the cloud.”

Everything is new and unfamiliar when you start high school (or shift to the cloud). Then, there are the ‘older kids’ who already know the ropes; they’re the “established accountants” and comfortable in the cloud environment.

“These are the accountants who weren’t afraid of change and took the leap of faith into the cloud before you did. Yes, you’re now playing with the ‘big kids, but it’s a matter of time until you, too, find your feet in your new surroundings. You won’t be the small fish in a big pan forever. You’ll grow and develop, move up the grades, and eventually, you will be in Matric, ready to leap into the real world.”

This is the advice that Meggan gives to customers when she’s assigned as their practice success manager.

She’s been at Sage for 12 years, with experience in product registration, technical support, desktop products and SQL, and she has in-depth knowledge of Sage Business Cloud Accounting. She’s been part of the tech support team, an account manager, and is now a senior practice success manager, supporting accountants and businesses with over 50 clients on their books.

We spoke with her about what a practice success manager does, how they can support your business growth, and how they advocate for your success.

“As a practice success manager, I like to go the extra mile. Yes, I’m interested in your business, but first and foremost, I want to know more about you as a person. I want to know where you’re coming from, what your goals and objectives are, and what you’re looking to achieve in the long term. When I know you on a personal level, I can set objectives for myself as your practice success manager and advocate for your business.”

What role does a practice success manager play in my success?

Essentially, your practice success manager will help you navigate new and different ways of working and guide you through the change process as you transition your workflows and processes to the cloud.

With in-depth knowledge of you and your goals and a solid understanding of your business and how the products support you, your practice success manager is your first port of call—or, as Meggan puts it, your “one-stop shop”—for everything from tech support, to onboarding queries, or even to chat about your business.

“For me, it’s a customer-first strategy. Once I understand my customer and we’ve set and agreed on my objectives, I’m able to help them at first call. Whether they have a question about the product, they need help onboarding a client, or they have a technical issue, I appreciate—and they appreciate—that they can pick up the phone, and I’ll have an answer for them. And if I don’t, and the issue needs to be escalated, I’ll liaise with the customer and the development team and keep the customer updated on what the problem is and how long it will take to fix it.”

One thing that Meggan particularly enjoys is helping her customers improve and streamline their onboarding process.

“My customers are excellent accountants, but many don’t know how to onboard or speak to new clients to grow their businesses. I love educating and upskilling them in new areas, especially since they’re focused on numbers and little else. If something has worked for them in the past, they want to stick with it. They’re hesitant to jump out of the box and try something new or get a better understanding of where they’re lacking, so it’s exciting to be able to show them what’s possible and to offer new ways of doing things.”

How do you guide new customers through the change management process when switching from desktop to cloud accounting?

Meggan laughs when she says that most of her customers like to tell her that they’ve been accountants since the ’80s, to which she replies, “That’s when I was born”.

“The problem is that many accountants are still stuck in the ‘olden days’, and they don’t really want to move to the cloud and adapt to new ways of working. I often say to them, you’re not using typewriters anymore. I’m sure you don’t use a calculator as much as you used to. And you certainly aren’t driving the same car as when you first started out. You’ve adopted new technology in other areas of your life, so why are you still using Excel for your reporting?”

Meggan believes that some customers fear change so much that they’re actually moving 10 steps backwards instead of moving with the times, not being afraid of change, and pushing themselves 10 steps forward.

“When they start their journey to the cloud, I like to tell customers to think of themselves as hybrid accountants. They can stay on their desktop solution and start moving the easy things to the cloud first. Then I’ll show them other things they can do—like payroll—all in one integrated solution. It takes a bit of convincing and educating to help them understand how the cloud platform works, but they quickly see the benefits of having everything working seamlessly together.”

“Change is bound to happen, whether you like it or not. So my biggest question to accountants is, ‘why aren’t you moving? Why are you resisting change? What’s holding you back? And no one has the perfect answer. So, I’m very patient with them when I first introduce the cloud and explain that it doesn’t take away from what they are doing; their core responsibility—to advise and guide their clients with the human touch—will still be there. But the admin and mundane, repetitive tasks won’t.”

Offering an opportunity vs selling a solution

Importantly, Meggan says she never tries to sell a solution to a customer because it feels like she’s trying to tell them how to run their business.

“I prefer to offer new ways of doing things, an opportunity to save time and money in their businesses by exploring a new world. They must be able to see the benefits of using our software and the complementary solutions developed by our Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) in their business—it must be worth their while.”

“For example, if a customer is still manually creating reports and analysing data to create integrated forecasts, I’ll offer them an opportunity to try an ISV product, like Syft Analytics, by giving them a free trial for a few months so they can experience the benefits of predictive financial analytics in their business. Or, I’ll show them how to do something in Draftworx or CaseWare that they would normally do in Excel, and they’re always amazed by how fast and efficient it is. This approach is always better than me trying to sell them something that they don’t understand.”

Another strategy that Meggan uses to ease the transition from desktop to cloud accounting is to talk about the highlights of a solution as it relates to the customer’s business.

“I don’t bombard them with information but explain the features that might work for their business based on what I’ve learned about them through the relationship I’ve built. I’ll never put pressure on them but will guide them slowly, giving them time to understand the solution and ask questions about how it fits within their operations and goals for the future.”

Because she has in-depth knowledge of the different products and ISV solutions, Meggan is also able to advise customers when they’ve outgrown their current solution and should consider upgrading to an advanced financial management system, like Sage Intacct.

How do you advocate for your customers?

“It starts with building a relationship,” says Meggan. “The more I interact with my customers, the more knowledge I get. When I call a customer, I check on them first and find out what’s going on in their personal lives. Then we move over to the business side of things.”

It’s this deeper understanding of her customers’ personalities, businesses, and ambitions that allows Meggan to advocate for them.

“Thousands of small businesses use Sage Business Cloud Accounting, but not all have accountants. I’ll often chat with a business owner who needs help with their finances or payroll, and I can confidently refer them to my customers and assist with onboarding.”

“I’m also a social person,” she laughs. “I’m always meeting new people and introducing them to each other. It’s one way I can help my customers to build sustainability and grow their businesses. I like to think that my customers also advocate for Sage because they have a good practice success manager.”

What do you love about this job?

“My dream was to be a dermatologist,” Meggan laughs, “but we didn’t have the funds for me to study. I ended up at Sage in 2010 and fell in love with numbers, even though the last time I did accounting was in Matric. My whole family now works in accounting; all my five sisters are either working for accounting firms or for a company that sells accounting software.”

Meggan wouldn’t want to be a chartered accountant, though.

“The interactions and conversations I have with my customers about the job is enough to keep me going. And that’s what I love the most about this job.”

Last words

“Don’t fear change. It’s bound to happen, and it doesn’t have timing. Change can happen within five years, an hour, or two minutes. It’s the difference between a sad phone call and a happy one. We must accept and adapt so that we don’t stay the small fish in the big pan. And your practice success manager is there to guide you through your journey.”

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