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Marketing – The Second Customer

Since it’s a new year, I need to start looking at my marketing plan.  One of the big things I need to begin doing is better utilizing my “second customer”.  What is the “Second Customer”?  this is someone that will recommend me to someone that may buy my products.  In a nutshell, it’s you…  my blog readers.

So, let’s start simple.  How do you get a Second Customer?  In my case, these are often friends, fellow consultants, and even previous clients I consulted for.  That’s a great start, but let’s be honest, it’s not enough people.  This is why I started the blog.  I’ve been working at posting pretty much 5 days a week in order to try to attract new potential second customers.  The big thing with the blog is that you need to provide value.  While I admit, not all of my posts fit for everyone.  I can be a bit all over the place, but I’m hoping it’s part of my charm =).  I write about Service Management, Variant Configuration, Basis, running your small business, marketing, and anything else that I do to launch my software business.  My goal is simply to pass along the lessons I’ve learned.  This does 2 things.  First, it shows that I have actual knowledge that can be useful to other people.  Second, it builds a connection to everyone that reads my ramblings.  My auto-responder is the same deal.  It’s all about making a connection with anyone I can.  Blind marketing is very expensive, very time consuming, and there is no guarantee you’ll get any sales.

Only after you have a connection, can you ever expect anyone to recommend you.  My goal is connect with all of you.  If you’re doing anything similar to me,  you need to connect with everyone you can.  Start a blog, an auto-responder, spend time on forums answering questions.  The short story is that you need to provide value early and often.  You don’t need to write a novel every day, but you need to keep delivering “cookie” content.  Eventually, one of your readers will provide you with the lead for your next sale (hint, hint)

Thanks for reading,


SAP Basis – Generating a System Key from Solution Manager

Hey Everybody, I’m trying my hardest to simply change the instance number on my ERP 6.0 system (I’ll talk more about that in another post), but one of the things I tried was doing a system copy (unfortunately that also is causing me headaches), but it reminded me of another little tip.  How do you get the system key from solution manager.  Obviously, step one is to have solution manager, or access to someone else that does (a solution manager system key doesn’t need to be connected to your system.  You can call up any Basis friend, give them a little info and get a key that will work).

Now, on with the show:

After executing T-code SMSY in Solution Manager system, you need to do the following steps:

Create a system by right clicking on System entry and select Create new system.
Enter the System Name i.e., SID (3 chars)
Product = SAP ECC (select from the list)
Product Version= ECC 5.0 (select from the list)
Save the entries.
Select Menu Item “System—>Other Configuration” and enter the SID which you have created earlier.
Enter the Server Name(hostname)
Finally click on Generate “Installation/Upgrade Key Button ”

The system generates a system Key ,copy that system Key and paste it in the SAPINST screen when it prompts for Sol man Key.

That’s it.  Pretty easy, but still required…

Have a great new years eve, and remember as the new budget cycle opens up, if you need help with anything, or have use for one of our SAP Easy Button’s please let us know.



Getting Some Help – When is it the right time?

Being a small company, it’s a big deal whenever you start thinking about bringing in more help.  Right now, I’m the only developer for a small software company.  that means, I have a limitless amount of work that I can do, and since I’m still doing consulting, my time isn’t limitless 🙂  So, how do you fix this issue…

1.  Space the work out, and prioritize!!!
2.  Bring in some additional help

Recently, my partner found someone interested in working with us…  but are we ready for it?  Since I am admittedly a bit of a control freak when it comes the software, I’m naturally resistant to the idea.  Do we need it?  can we afford it? How do I know he’s any good? etc.

So this post is going to be about all the things to consider when you start to think about bringing in some help.

1.  Financial:  We’re small, so we can’t afford to pay someone by the hour, especially for something that “may” sell, but we don’t have any orders for it.  that pretty much leaves paying a percentage of sales on the product.  Even this is hard because our margins are still tight.  We’re offering big money for anyone that can get us a lead (FYI.  $10,000 is still out there if you connect us with a lead that brings in a sales.  No selling, just give us the lead).  On the flip side, 100% of 0, is still 0.  So it’s better to get a some of something, than get nothing…  you get the idea.  Plus, it may help open new markets/prospects.

2.  The application:  It must be designed as a standalone application, but still be easy to integrate with our existing offerings.  Sounds easy, but since I’ve done all the development, I haven’t really documented my standards.  So having someone new comes in would force me to figure out what I want.  While I am the CTO of this venture, I haven’t really acted like one up till now.  I’d still need to review the code, but this would give me a chance to learn some new techniques.  Never a bad thing. finally, is there a market for the new product?  Is it really important enough to bring in someone new?

3.  Legal:  This is the tough part.  We need Non disclosure agreements, as well as documents that give our company complete ownership of this stuff, and still provide the % to the developer.  We need to expressly state that no money changes hands until we get paid.  Plus, there is the whole issue of developer license.  We only have one currently, but I’ll talk more about that in section 4.

4.  Technical:  How will he develop?  I’d have to set up a system for him to create everything in and provide access to that system.  Not impossible, but certainly one more challenge to deal with.  The developer license is an issue.  We only have one, so do we need to buy another, or can we find an alternative?

Anyway, these are the angles to consider.  I think I’ve made my choice… but I’ll talk more about that in the future =)

thanks for reading,


Making a Sales is a Lot Like Dating

I heard this statement in one my marketing lessons, and it really struck me as an interesting analogy.  When I stopped to think about it, it really is more true than I imagined.  So let’s look at this, you’re looking to make a sale, what’s the first thing you need, you need a customer.  The customer is key to everything, without them, you have nothing.  I know what you’re thinking, duh!!!  But bear with me as I get to my point 🙂

A customer is a lot like looking for husband/wife.  You may go to a bar, or meet someone in a public place.  Do you see someone, and just walk up to a stranger and ask them to marry you???  Of course not.  But why?  because you don’t know if they are a fit for you, or vice versa.  Plus, what person in their right mind would say yes.  So how do you figure out if you’re “right” for each other.  You take small steps.  How about going out for coffee to talk?  Well, in the business world this is a lot like checking out your website or blog.  It gives your prospect the chance to get to know you slowly.  By putting out a blog, you let the prospect see that you know what you’re talking about and figure out if there’s any reason to go further.  So, you’ve gone for “coffee” and kinda like what you see.  So you move to the next level, how about a real date…  in the business world, this would be some form of opt-in, like an auto-responder, a mailing list, or a newsletter.  This says I’m interested enough to get free info from you…  but nothing more.  Ok…  now you’re dating…  but it’s still early stages.  It doesn’t mean you’re exclusive or invested…  just interested.  Now if you have enough qualities your customer likes, they may buy something small from you… a sort of trial thing.  This could be like meeting hte parents, or going on vacation together.  It’s still not marriage, but it’s pretty serious.  If the customer likes the small thing they bought, they may finally invest in your big offering…

Now of course marriage isn’t a perfect analogy, since you want as many customers as possible (well, unless you live in Utah).  But you get the idea.  You need to present enough value to get the customer interested in you.  They aren’t just gonna give you their money until they know you can provide the value you claim.  Plus, if you follow the idea of the “Ideal Customer”, you want to check out the customer too and see if they fit for you.  This is a two way street (of course, in my case, I’m early on, so my ideal customer is anyone that will buy from me.  ha ha ha).  but I look forward to becoming more exclusive in the coming year.

anyway, thanks for reading,


Challenges of the First Sale

Hi again,

For those of you that follow me, you know that I’m trying to launch my SAP Add-on Applications business.  Well, if you remember, several months ago I announced that my first sale was pending.  Well, it is still pending, and I just wanted to relay some of the challenges I’ve encountered, and some lessons I’ve learned based on my experiences over the past few months (I know, crazy the amount of time it can take for customers to truly decide to buy).

Everything started a couple years ago when I worked at a client, and the need for a service dashboard first popped into my head.  As it turns out, one my clients that consulted for was interested in my dashboard.  Imagine my excitement.  Someone wants to buy what I’ve put nearly 6 months of work into (at that time, since it’s been even more.  lol).  Sweet…  so I scheduled a demo, everyone liked it…  then I waited…  I emailed to check in to see if there were questions I could answer.  I always tried to not pressure my prospect, so I’d just drop an email every 2 weeks or so to see if there were questions i could answer, or anything that would help them decide if my dashboard would be a fit.

Eventually, I get an email that says my prospect is interested…  Now I’m really excited.  So next begins the negotiations on price.  Well, my first piece of advise, set your bottom price you will accept, AND STICK TO IT.  I failed this first test.  When the prospect came back and gave me the price they thought was fair, it was $5000 less than my bottom line.  What did I say?  “OK”.  What should I have said…  “I’m sorry, but for we can’t possibly sell something for less than X”.  Ok…  so I dropped the first ball, but whatever, I got my first sale, and I just need them to sign my paperwork.  Oops.  I don’t have any paperwork.

So, next mission is come up with all of the terms and conditions.  Luckily for me, I at least had the legal portions of this that I got done a while ago.  But, I still needed the specific purchase agreement document.  Lucky for me, I’ve been a consultant for a while, so I know all about contracts.  I also had my SAP paperwork that had the agreement for my partnership.  This made a perfect starting point, so I quickly put it together, ran it past my partner.  We hashed out the details we could live with and quickly sent it over to my customer.  I’m giddy as a school girl.  I can see my first payday for all the effort that I’ve put into this venture.  I’m already planning my next product that I’m going to sell to this prospect…  it’s awesome.

Well, more waiting…  roughly ever other week, I’d finally get some feedback from the prospect.  The first round was a lot of changes, to both the legal document and purchase document.  So, first order of business is getting my lawyer to look at it and make sure I’m still protected, and won’t lose my software based on the wording from the prospect.  Within a week, I hear back and have my answers.  So I do my markups.  Now the purchase agreement is where the trouble came in…

Now, keep in mind, I’m still excited, this is my first sale, and I can’t wait to make it happen.  But, I start reading the markups and I get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I vent for a few minutes to my partner, and then calm down.  The prospect is now requiring free training.  Well, it’s a report…  who needs to be trained on a report???  anyway, we decide that training isn’t being given for free.  We’re already selling this at a 60% discount (a  lot lower than I wanted).  Then, the payment terms are suddenly 1/2 now, 1/2 after implementation.  the problem is that implementation from our side is a 1 day event.  But, suddenly 1/2 of the money would be withheld until the prospect decided to implement and receive their free training…  Ugh… Then to top it all off, our business model (and everyone that I’ve talked to who does similar software) charges a yearly software maintenance agreement or licensing for a number of users.  Either way, it’s residual income year after year.  The prospect said no… we don’t want that.

So, I start with my first round of compromises (all of which benefit the prospect).  I did hold firm on no free training.  But I gave in, and say 1/2 up front, 1/2 after 2 weeks…  I made the SMA optional, and I even discounted it… something we originally agreed we wouldn’t do.  And we gave in on most of the legal points…

Two more weeks go by, and we get the next revision…  pretty much asking for more.  Training is required.  and the payment schedule of 1/2 up front, 1/2 after 2 weeks wasn’t acceptable.  We compromised again.  We gave in the training, and said 1/2 up front, 1/2 after a month.  It’s a report, takes 5 minutes to install.  No configuration is required…  so anything more than a week…

Still not good enough…  at this point, I have stopped compromising.  I’ve already agreed to more than I should have, and the possibility of getting the 2nd half at some arbitrary date in the future, was more than I could accept.  So I sent the paperwork back one last time, nothing additional offered.

So, after all this… what did I learn above all else?  Be willing to walk away.  If you keep giving in, the customer is going to keep asking for more.  It’s no one’s fault but my own.  I don’t know if my prospect will sign or not.  And I’m ok with it.    Don’t get me wrong.  I really want the sale, but I’ve already got to a point where making this sale is no longer a financial win for me.  I know this was long winded… but I wanted to let you know that the sale isn’t everything.  Even if it isn’t a physical product, there is still a point where the sale isn’t worth what you’ve given up.  So, stay firm, and don’t get too attached to that sale.

As always, learning things the hard way so you don’t have to =)

thanks for reading,



Managing your Time – Avoid Getting Overwhelmed

Hi everyone,

Today I want to talk about something that is hitting me dead square in the nuts.  Time management.  For my friends, they know that I tend to be a little of a driven personality.  I see a goal, and do everything possible to meet that goal.  it’s a good trait…  as long as you can manage your goals 🙂  right now, I’m looking at all the things I have on my plate, and starting to realize that I just can’t keep up.  let me give you an example.  Currently, I’m a small company, so that means I wear MANY hats.  Right now, I’m working on doing a major overhaul to our new product Proximity, I’m trying to write 5 blog posts a week, I recently finished my first autoresponder class for SM, I have my “day” job that takes 40 – 50/hrs a week (a lot more hours than my previous couple of contracts).  On top of that, I have marketing materials for my current products that need to be created, web pages that need to be added, and I still need to maintain the day to day business paperwork.

When I read the couple of sentences, it really doesn’t sound that bad.  But then I look at my to-do list (BTW, I still recommend Remember the Milk if you don’t already have a system), and it’s up over 20 items every day.  What does that mean?  it means i can’t keep up with the schedules I’ve set for myself.  It’s becoming a good day if I can get my list under 15…  and I’m ecstatic if I can get it under 10.  Accomplishing everything, just isn’t happening.  that means, I haven’t estimated very well, and I’m fall behind. there’s a very simple solution to this…  I need to re-evaluate everything I’m working.  Is it reasonable to do 5 blog posts a week?  is starting a new auto-responder course worth my effort right now?  What am I losing by not having my marketing materials up to date on my website?

Now, for me, I often have a hard time admitting that I can’t accomplish it all.  But I’ve been running at this rate for the past month, and I’m working till 1AM every night and then getting up at 6:30am every morning to start again.  No one can keep this up forever (at least I know that I can’t…  I’ve already noticed I’m cranky and have been getting more headaches).

So this post for anyone out there trying to get stuff done…  Focus on the most important tasks first…  but if you have too many tasks and you’re starting to notice you can’t get anything done…  it’s time to put some things on the back burner.  it doesn’t mean it won’t come back… but it’s important to hit the most vital tasks, and do them right.  then come back to the other tasks when you have the time to devote to them.

Hope this helps you out,



Putting together my first Autoresponder

For those of you that know me, you know that I am far from a sales/marketing type person.  I’m an engineer/computer programmer.  So this journey of sales and marketing has been a challenging.  My friend Justin and I have been doing this on-line program called the remarkable marketing blueprint.  All of the information is solid, and useful.  The hard part as been trying to apply it to what I do.  I’m not really a writer, or a hard-core blogger.  I don’t sell small products or services for the masses.  I do highly specialized service and applications for a LARGE computer program.  What I have found is that there is more in common than I ever expected.

Because of that course, I actually took the time to put together my first auto-responder course.  Sounds easy right?  just spew out stuff that know by heart, and drop it into mail program.  Well, for me, that was hardly the case.  In order to try to make the content worthwhile, I spent a lot of time coming up with the topics to talk about, getting screen shots and collecting all the relevant data to the subject.  In short, I spent about 10 times longer building this than I expected.  Don’t get me wrong, I would do it again.  Even sharpening my skills (and like so much of this blog) it’s a notebook to remind me how to do things if I forget =)

Well, I’ll touch a little on the technical side as well.  I chose to build a web page for each of my E-Course Lessons.  I then did a small email with the first paragraph or two from the auto-responder with a link to the page.  I did this for 2 reasons, and my thinking may have been flawed.  So if anyone reading this actually knows how to do this stuff, please feel free to give me some constructive criticism (go easy on me…  it’s my first time).  First, I wanted to get people to my website, so they could see everything I had to offer, including the blog, newsletters, and of course my products.  Second, Mailchimp has this really cool feature that tells me if anyone clicks on a link from my email.  This gives me a heads up if anyone is actually reading the stuff, or if just getting the emails.

So far, I have about 4 people that signed up.  You have to start somewhere 🙂  if you’re interested in learning how to improve your SAP SM, give it a read.  You might just learn something,

thanks for reading,


Finding a New Audience

Well, since I like to be diverse, I’m jumping back to some of my marketing efforts.  Once again, some of my best ideas come from talking to my good friend Justin.  We were recently chatting, and he put the idea in my head of the “guest” blog post.  this is a concept out of the Remarkable marketing Blueprint.  We both signed up for this, and it has been so helpful to have another perspective.  Well, the idea of the guest post I pretty much wrote off.  Who would I guest post on?  I’ve looked, and I can’t even find any other blogs talking about SAP Service Management.

Justin, in his great way of playing devil’s advocate with me brought up the idea that posting on SDN is just like a guest blog post.  it is a new audience, new readers and another place for me to try to jump start my readership.  So…  for that reason, you’ll notice that I’m only going to be posting 4 times a week.  I’m going to start moving one of those posts over to SDN.  If you’re one of my readers, I’d love it if you could follow me out there as well.

Michael Piehl on SDN

Anyway, thanks for reading, and please feel free to forward me onto your friends or colleagues that you think might benefits from some good SAP knowledge =)


Service Order change documents – Make sure this is turned on

One of the important pieces of tracking your metrics (and more importantly your improvement) in SAP hinges on having data.  In the service order, a lot of the change documents are turned off by default.  So I thought I’d put together a quick post to show you how to activate the Service Order change documents.  So, let’s start with where the configuration exists in SPRO

Now, here’s all things you should be aware of in this transaction.  First, find your order type and plant, then start scrolling across and make sure that you’ve checked everything that makes sense for your business:

Indicator: Status change document active for materials  this will track the status changes in a service order for the materials.  if you do metrics reports, you need this checked.

Increment this is the increment of operation numbers in your task list.

Status change document for header order/network this collects all the header level status changes.  Again, if you collect metrics, you need this checked.

Collective Requisition if you want a single purchase req for the whole order, check this box.  Otherwise you’ll receive a different pur req for each item.

Res/PurReq this determines if the purchase req/component is released as soon as it’s entered, or not until the service order has been released.  I’ll usually recommend (2).

PDC Active exactly what it says, plant data collection is active.

Indicator: Workflow for purchase order change you get the idea.

Indicator: creation of change documents active highly encouraged, so you can see all changes.

Ind.: Copy Net Price from Requisition into Purchase Order you get it.

Indicator: Status change document active for operations another change indicator.

Indicator: Status change document active for PRTs last change indicator

If you’re not sure you have this stuff set, I encourage you to go check.  If you don’t need it now, I’m sure you’ll need it in the future.

As always, if you need any SM assistance, please contact us,



Service Management – Understanding the Repair Procedure

One of the key pieces of the in-house repair scenario is the repair procedure.  The repair procedure simply put is the roadmap of actions that need to happen when you perform a service process.  I’m going to talk about how you can set this up and use it to fit your business process.

First thing is show you where in configuration you define the repair procedure.  The following screen shot shows you where to go in SPRO to configure the repair procedure.

Initially, select the Maintain Repair Actions.  This screen will give you the translation of what each action means.  The actions are the key in the actual repair procedure, so I wanted to show you what they look like.  Normally, this screen doesn’t need to change unless you want to add better text to the action (this will show up in the repair screen).  Some of the important terminology in this screen:

  • Send/Pickup Replacement refers to loaned equipment.   Simply put, you send the customer a unit to use while the repair happens, then they send it back after they receive their repaired unit.
  • Replacement Part – this is an exchange.  It means the customer will keep this unit (and typically return the unit they currently have to you.  then you can repair it and add it to your refurbished/spares inventory).

Alright, now on to the real work.  Next we will pull up the repair procedures.  I’m going to walk through the example of an in-house repair that allows loaners.  the next screen will show you how to get into the repair procedure.

Select the procedure you want to view (or copy in the event of creating a new one).

Now, you’re looking at the SAP logic of the repair procedure.  What you’ll notice is that everything is broken up by stages.    Remember, for each stage you can only define a single Default.  The stages are as follows:

  • 101         Accept repair: this is the actual receiving of the item
  • 102         Start repair: this is the repair of the item, or the processing
  • 103         Confirm repair: this is what happens after the service order is confirmed.

Now, if you look at the first stage(101) in the procedure below, you’ll see the following steps.  These are the steps you are allowed to do as soon as you enter in the material to repair.

  • 101         Returns                – this is flagged at Default, so that means this will automatically be placed into the sales order as soon as the repair procedure is selected.
  • 104         Send Replacement – this allows you to send a loaned piece of equipment to the customer
  • 106         Replacement Part – allows you to send an exchange to the customer.

Looking at stage 102, you’ll see the addition of Manual and Conf. populated.  Before I move on, the options for confirmation (conf.):

  • 01           Repair: fix me
  • 02           Do not repair/can be delivered: don’t fix me, but send me back
  • 03           Can be scrapped: scrap me
  • 04           Repaired/for delivery: I’m repaired, send me back to the customer.

Also note, if something is set as manual, even if 01 -> 04 above are selected, the item will not be automatically added to the sales order.  It will have to be manually entered.

Now looking at the actual data for stage 2 you’ll see that the numbers make a little more sense:

  • 102         Repairs                                 01                           : since this is 01, it means repair me, thus generate a service order.
  • 103         Outbound Delivery         02           Manual: this is the scenario  where the item cannot be repaired, so just send it back to the customer.  This is a manual step.
  • 107         Scrapping                            03           Manual:  Similar to 103, but this time we won’t even send the item back to the customer.
  • 108         Credit memo                                                     :  Create a Credit Memo Request for the customer, with reference this line item.
  • 109         Debit memo                                                       : Create a Debit Memo Request for the customer, with reference this line item.

I hope this makes sense of how to structure your repair procedure.  If you’d like more detail, please comment below.  Now for the next piece, how do I attach this repair procedure.

In the item category configuration, scroll to the bottom of the item category, and enter the Repair Procedure.  I’m not going into the details of how to select this item category (I’ll save that for another post).

I look forward to your comments,

If you need more in depth assistance on this, please contact us for additional consulting help,