SaaS forever changes how software is developed and delivered to customers. This shift is well understood, frequently discussed and represents a major shift in the way software is built by vendors of all sizes.
Often less discussed is the impact the service model has on the way software is sold.
In our discussions with SaaS providers, big and small, we see a growing understanding of the need to define sales strategy and processes while taking into account the full life-cycle of a customer. It’s not about making a sale, it’s about making your customer successful.
It’s useful to compare SaaS and enterprise sales to appreciate this:
Enterprise software sales are a high-touch activity. Opportunities are identified, tracked, and closed by a direct sales force or resellers. This cycle is what makes a good enterprise software company tick. And it’s why successful enterprise software vendors like HP and IBM are so sales-driven. Their culture must be very sales-oriented in order for them to succeed.
Selling SaaS is different. SaaS solutions are fundamentally ‘self-service’, relying on a large quantity of (hopefully qualified) leads funneled to the web-service through inbound marketing activities. In an ideal world, these leads pick up the solution and turn into happy customers by themselves. But in practice, for all but the most simple and commodity software, cultivating customers and growing the business requires direct interactions with the customer.
We call this model medium-touch. It is a sales model that puts more onus on marketing and the product’s self-service to move large quantities of prospects through the sales funnel, but also assumes a level of direct engagement of a sales and support team. The trick is to identify the right touch points to make the system work.
Here are some tips we’ve learned from SaaS vendors on how they build their sales process differently than traditional enterprise sales:
The reality is that implementing these sorts of practices isn’t as straightforward as it looks. It often spans different organizations such as sales, customer-support, product development and operations — and it involves aligning goals and pulling in expertise from many disciplines. More than anything, it involves getting a very good understanding of what customers are doing so you can properly prioritize and streamline the process.
More and more SaaS providers are building “Customer Success” teams that focus on just that: making the customer successful. We’re building software to make it possible for them.