SaaS (normally called as a Software as a Service) not to be confused with Saas Bahu TV shows(sic) are cloud-based services which can be utilized by anyone from anywhere in the world using any device. SaaS (or Cloud services) has been a great equalizer with the large enterprises, to SMBs to mom & pop shops all getting access to similar level of services.
So why has SaaS made the life of a salesperson more challenging, let’s understand better. Upto around 5 years back Enterprise software (especially the global multinational multi-billion dollar software companies) was sold to the CIO org. Once the deal was inked, the customer was normally locked in for 3-5 years and unless the rollout was a disaster, customer would stick on. This happened due to multiple reasons –
- High switching costs – customer normally used to spend a couple of months for pilot, technical and commercial evaluation plus expensive implementation, adoption which totals to a huge investment
- RoI – customers used to sink a huge upfront investment and unless the implementation was a complete failure, would patiently wait for productivity gains to showcase RoI to the CFO
- Consultants and SMEs – customer used to hire a battery of consultants and produce SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) internally for development, customisation and maintenance
But Enterprise software sales was too good to last – the SaaS or Cloud Services have become mainstream and it was time for the sales teams to scale upto a new challenge.
Sales teams had to develop new muscles, as –
- Customer could switch faster, with low or almost no upfront cost; pay as you go service
- Adoption has become a key metric
- Business teams have a seat on the decision table for evaluation, rollout and timelines of adoption
- Constant struggle to show value – end users are no longer pleased with basic feature changes and are demanding more for the buck
Saas sales is not selling ice to Eskimos
SaaS sales is difficult but not rocket science. Some of the tips I learnt during my sales journey –
- Small is big – always start small, rushing the customer into large enterprise wide rollouts may not yield the desired results. Look at LTV (Life Time Value) of the customer and expand
- Goal alignment – it’s critical to align to the success as expected by the end users. Customer Success teams are great levers for making the ongoing alignment
- Knowing more – you have to know more about the customer (not only the buying organisation) but the actual end users. Increasing your sphere of influence will go far in making you successful
- Demo is not a silver bullet – giving a world class product demo is great but your first meeting should be more to understand and uncover latent needs or pain points
- Be the Pareto – use the first meeting to ask and get more details. You should speak 20% and listen 80%. This is not easy and needs a lot of practice as you have to weave a story around your questions. A sample question could be “for one of our customer of similar size as you, we found that supply chain inefficiencies were eroding their margin by 10%…how are you handling your supply chain.
This is the beginning of a series of software sales articles. Please comment on this post or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts. I would love to learn more.
Director Enterprise Sales – Pluralsight