In the 1963 movie classic It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, a story sparks a madcap cross-country rush to find some treasure. In today’s business world, where all employees, customers, and partners use a variety of software applications, sales teams could very well go on a dizzying ride to find the right tools to sell, support and market to their SaaS application users. Or, you can read this article.
If I asked a SaaS salesperson whether an application were different from an organization, you’d look quizzically at me. “Apples and oranges,” you would say, “they aren’t the same things at all!”. That’s right, say applications and you think of Salesforce, Oracle, Netsuite, SAP, New Relic, SAP or one of the 1,000 SaaS players in the marketing technology Lumascape. And organizations are entities, such as a business, institution or an group, that has a collective goal and is usually linked to an external environment. So if these are so vastly different, then why do SaaS sales teams use the same tools when selling to people who use applications as they do when selling to people who belong to an organization?
Phone, Email and LinkedIn are Sales Tools for Organizations
If you are selling aircraft parts to a manufacturer, it makes sense to use tools that most effectively allow you to reach your target market. You’re dealing with an organization that has a structure – divisions, titles, and gatekeepers. By all means, using the phone to effectively walk the phone tree, discover the the way to the right people, and leave messages. Guess their email addresses and send them emails, or subscribe to LinkedIn and use an InMail. And if they don’t call you back right away, reach out appropriately, get in touch with an influencer, and leverage your way to a meeting. This approach to sales has great adherents, and are appropriate when working with organizations. Inc. Magazine’s 10 Greatest Salespeople of All Time lists methodical and persevering sales leaders, including Larry Ellison, at whose arms length I learnt how Oracle marketed and sold its products during its growth years when it went from a 1,000-size to a 50,000-strong company. My favorite story there is about Joe Girard, the car salesperson, who felt that “Sales operated according to a law of averages all its own. The more doorbells he rang, the more money he made.” A fascinating read is Harvard Business School’s John H. Patterson and the Sales Strategy of the National Cash Register Company, 1884 to 1922., where the salesperson has a 4-stage process: the Approach, the Proposition, the Demonstration, the Close.
But when your buyers are evaluating or using applications, many of the rules have changed. And the phone, email and LinkedIn are not as relevant as other tools. Here are the new rules of sales in the world of applications:
#1. The Test Drive is Always Happening
When you sell a car, as a salesperson you control the test drive. You offer it when you feel that the prospect is ready for the demonstration. However, when you sell a SaaS application, then more likely than not your company offers a free trial. It’s as if the consumer had walked on to your lot, and Open Sesame! The doors of the cars were unlocked, and off he went, leaving behind a cloud of dust. All you know is that the prospect has anywhere from 14 to 30 days to drive the car as he pleases and then return the keys to the dealership. The evaluation is always happening, and there’s a well-defined system in place that your Marketing and Product departments have honed.
#2. The Drivers are Semi-Professional Racers
Many prospects who sign up for a trial are, if not already expert, extremely educated about their needs and your competition. If you are selling application performance monitoring software, then the chances are that the buyer is somewhat of an expert in translating performance metric to business outcomes, or in internal performance monitoring tools. You know that 7-step tour that your Marketing team spent months perfecting and gets emailed to every contact? Well, great for the newbies, but honestly, there’s no such thing.
#3. Evaluation is a Team Sport
Unless you are selling Turbo Tax or Tax Act Online to the individual taxpayer, most SaaS evaluations are managed by a team. If you’re selling a departmental application, e.g. marketing automation software, then there will be a Director of Demand Generation, a data science analyst, a product marketing manager, and a marketing technologist involved in the evaluation. The thing is, perhaps only one of them signed up for the trial. You can use organizational tools like the phone or email to discover who the other evaluators are, but by the time you do, you might actually have missed the first 3 critical days of the trial. Use social software as part of your trial that encourages users to invite other evaluators to the table. Here’s an example of a social invitation that you can use in a trial – clicking it should simply allow the user to send an invitation to others to come join him in the evaluation of the software (and, preferably, provide them with a login as well).
So What’s a Sales Gal (or Guy) To Do?
First, recognize that you’re living in a world of Application Users – and that it’s a different world from your physical Organization. Use sales tools that are more appropriate to the behavior of the application user, allowing for a selling experience that is tightly integrated with your SaaS application.
APPLICATION ANALYTICS – Ask your product managers to evaluate application-centric analytics tools like Mixpanel ($150-$2,000/mo) or Totango ($1,500-3,000/mo). Our organization has years of experience using Totango, as we have over 50% of our customers who use it, so also feel free to ask on this blog or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. This tool is primarily used by Customer Success , Product or Data Science teams.
SALES SUPPORT & ONBOARDING – Your application users are online, using your application, so should your onboarding tools. Use Dossier ($45-$250/mo) to automate the onboarding process, send timed in-app messages, and provide real-time support that is integrated with 25 SaaS applications including Salesforce CRM, Zendesk and Totango. This tool is primarily used by Pre-Sales, Sales Engineers, and Customer Success teams.
AUTOSEND EMAIL AUTOMATION – Automate the email messages that you send to your application users. Yes, this flies in the face of our admonition not to use email, so either use an all-in-one tool that does both in-app and email onboarding like Dossier, or at least an email-only tool. There are many tools for sending drip campaign emails, from Autosend ($59-$399/mo), and SendGrid ($79-$399/mo) to Marketo ($1,395-$2,995/mo). These tools are mostly used by Marketing teams.
CRM WITH INTEGRATIONS – If you are a SaaS application company, you will be integrating your account information with other sales and billing tools. The best CRM product for your use is Salesforce ($300-$3,000/yr), particularly because it ties into so many of the other SaaS tools you will be using. Yes, there are a lot of new, modern CRM tools like RelateIQ (also from Salesforce.com), but at this point I recommend Salesforce. This tool is used mostly by Sales teams.
If you use application-centric sales tools, then the benefits will roll in. You will accelerate sales because you are able to engage with all evaluators of your application, not just the person who signed up. You will increase retention, because the in-app tools help you foster an ongoing relationship with application users. And you will deliver innovation faster, because you will have a clearer understanding of what drives your application users. So drop your carefully crafted emails and incessant phone calls, and welcome to the world of application-centric selling.