Archive for the ‘SaaS’ Category

How to Hire for Customer Success

Monday, November 28th, 2016

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Are you looking at expanding your team to include dedicated customer success people?

Many SaaS are acknowledging the importance of customer success and are moving to hire teams dedicated to it. As we’ve written about previously, these are not teams who provide a customer support role, there is a big difference:

“The answer lies in the timing of the interaction with the customer; customer support exists in reactive mode where they are taking action because the customer has contacted them with a problem. Their job is to resolve these problems as quickly as possible.

Customer success teams have a more proactive role. Their role is about fostering engagement between themselves and the client, and the client and the product. They want to ensure that the customer derives meaningful value from the product. This means there is more longevity in the relationship between customer success and the customers.”

In any kind of customer-facing role, you don’t want just anyone filling in. For a start, anyone who deals with customers should be of a “built to serve” kind of mentality. Secondly, if we look specifically at customer success, you need people who are suited to the proactive nature of the role.

Here’s how we think SaaS should hire for customer success:

What does “built to serve” mean?

What should you look for in a customer success person? Get our checklist here:

As we mentioned, one of the number one traits for anyone who deals directly with customers should be that they are “built to serve.”

You’ve probably noticed that there are large numbers of people employed in some kind of customer service role who tend to be fairly light on the “service” aspect, and this is exactly what we mean. Your customer success people need to have a heart for serving others, an innate drive to get the best results for their customers.

As Glide Consulting state: “Being built to serve means caring about the customer’s journey. Each customer will have their own journey, but they usually follow a similar path. At any point, the CSM’s role is to anticipate problems, solve them, and make the customer experience the product’s value.”

The fact is, we’re all made up differently and you’ll find that that person on your team who is excellent at bringing in new business will probably struggle with customer success, and vice versa. Glide Consulting also point out that “built to sell” people are on the opposite end of the spectrum with a completely different set of skills. They enjoy conquering numbers and thrive on deal-closing, but would probably struggle if asked to take on the “servant” role.

Here are some other traits of “built to serve” people:

Empathy

Your customer success people need to be genuinely interested in people and getting to the root of any issues they may have. They need to anticipate needs and be good readers of customers’ feelings.

They “give a damn”

Amanda Saunders of Totango points out that good customer success people have a strong desire to win, both for their customers and their company. They probably have a history of excellence and will take on customers with no less enthusiasm than what any founders before them displayed (possibly even better!).

Hire someone who is truly invested in the success of your business, who wants to see your clients, and therefore your business, do well.

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Choose people who DO give a damn – Image source: The Guardian

They are problem-solvers

People who stick firmly by-the-book are not usually the best-suited to a customer success role. Good customer success people need to think creatively and look for ways to work with the customer which don’t necessarily follow a rigid set of rules. They are agile and prepared to quickly change direction if need be.

Communication skills

Good communication lies at the heart of any excellent customer experience. Your customer success team need to be active listeners, ask thoughtful questions and be clear communicators in all they do.

Language also plays an important role here; the best customer success people instinctively know how to use language appropriately which can engage the customer, foster their loyalty or de-escalate any kind of issues.

Well-organized

Your customer success people need to be highly proactive as well as responsive if the need arises. Every customer should feel like they are a high priority and not languishing somewhere far down a to-do list. This means you need people who are very organized.

They love to teach

A core role of customer success team members is to help guide customers through their journey with your company so that they can realise success with your product. This means you need people who enjoy teaching and are able to present things to customers clearly. Lots of patience is also a plus!

Critical and strategic thinkers

Your team members need to have good skills when it comes to thinking things through when interacting with customers. They need to form the bridge between what the customer’s needs are and what the overall company goals are.

Supporting Customer Success

If you’ve found the right people who are “built to serve”, then next it’s your job to make sure you’ve got the right support in place to ensure they can successfully come into the job.

A surefire way to inhibit the success of your customer success team is to be vague about what you need them to deliver or where they fit in your company. Here’s what you need to support customer success:

Know exactly why you need them

As we’ve mentioned, customer success is a role very distinct from customer support. Make sure you have clear deliverables drawn up for each so that there is no blurring of the lines. For most SaaS, customer success is going to have goals revolving around engagement and retention make sure their deliverables are specifically things they have control over.

Make sure you have a clear understanding and description of the role you need. This will not only help your team to succeed, but it will help you to identify the most appropriate people with the traits we outlined above.

Know where they fit

In SaaS startups, you may not have large departments for each function just yet, but once you do, you’ll need customer success people who are capable of communicating and collaborating across all of them and presenting a case in the interests of the customer. Technical aptitude and passion for the product can be useful here too.

Make it clear to customer success team members where they fit, who they need to be communicating with and what they should expect from them.

Support Wellness

Wellness is important for employees in any role, but you do need to be mindful of people in those customer-facing roles, particularly as they may spend a lot of time dealing with issues or assuaging unhappy people. This can be draining work, so it’s important to recognize that and provide a safe space for work/life balance and simply taking breaks.

As Ryan Engley talked about in an interview with HelpScout: “We need to challenge ourselves to help nurture and grow individuals in those roles, or they’ll wear down and look for careers elsewhere.”

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Who should you hire for customer success? Get our checklist here:

Final Thoughts

Hiring for customer success means not hiring just anyone to fill a role, it means identifying those who are “built to serve” and have the kinds of proactive traits required of the job.

Your customer success people should be invested in the success of the customer and the company. They should be top communicators and savvy problem-solvers. They should also have a knack for identifying needs, often even before the customer has identified them themselves.

For SaaS owners, supporting customer success in the company is key. Have clear goals for the customer success roles and know exactly where they fit in your company. Provide them with the space to achieve a healthy balance.

How to Deal With Negative Feedback in Your SaaS

Monday, November 14th, 2016

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You can’t be friends with everyone.

Some people aren’t going to like you. Some customers will walk away disappointed.

These are the realities of running a business. It doesn’t matter how strongly you prioritize customer service and customer success, some customers are going to complain.

Young startups feel this the most. They only have a handful of customers, so a few complaints are a blow to their egos. They can’t turn to a user base of thousands for assurances. Plus, resources are tight. They can’t provide as much of their attention as they would like.

But that doesn’t mean that negative feedback should be ignored.

Your customer service policy should be a carefully designed plan. Download our free guide to learn how to create yours.

All Feedback Is Useful

Anytime a customer or user takes the time to send you feedback, you should rejoice.

Sure, sometimes the customer will be upset. They might even be angry or use unconstructive language.

Just keep in mind that the customer is giving you an opportunity to learn; an opportunity to improve your product. If you can set your ego aside and critically look at your product and business, any bit of feedback can be used to strengthen your SaaS.  

Positive feedback is encouraging, but it rarely helps. You already know what you’re good at. Negative feedback, however, points you at the areas you can improve. A complaint is a big neon sign that says “FIX THIS TO MAKE MORE MONEY.”

You’re likely familiar with the Lean Startup methodology. The build-measure-learn feedback is an exercise most SaaS businesses use to improve their product. User feedback is a big part of the “learn” phase of product iteration.

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Source: theleanstartup.com

The beauty of software is that you can change the product in response to complaints. So unlike physical products where negative feedback is best minimized and handled quietly, SaaS complaints are a chance to make your product and service better.

Understand the Complaint

Before you can take steps to respond to negative feedback, you have to understand why the customer is complaining. Something made them upset. What triggered the behavior?

In many cases, the original complaint will tell you everything you need.

Let’s say a customer signed up for your payroll software, but didn’t realize that you specialize in helping small businesses. His company is too large and requires elaborate features that you don’t provide. He may label you “ineffective” and “unfinished.”

It’s obvious from his complaint that his challenges are real. He is frustrated because he purchased a product that doesn’t help him. You could dismiss the customer as a poor fit, but that doesn’t help anyone. Instead, use his feedback to improve your marketing (perhaps your website copy) to make your product’s intended use more clear.

In other cases, customers won’t be as clear. They’ll fail to provide details and use general words like “disappointed,” “unprofessional,” and “dissatisfied.” These complaints don’t help you solve the customer’s problem or improve your product.

If you don’t feel that the customer has provided enough information, ask for more. Don’t be condescending or overly suspicious, but don’t admit fault or apologize until you know the full story.

Respond Respectfully

When we’re emotionally investing in something, we have a tendency to take negative feedback to heart. Resist this urge at all costs. Respond to the feedback quickly, but not immediately. Give yourself and the complainer at least two hours to cool off. (Exceptions apply here. If the customer is experiencing severe hardships – like revenue loss – get on the phone.)

Always respond in an intelligent, thoughtful manner. You care what they have to say, so make sure the sentiment comes across.

If you are replying publicly, be especially cautious (email is considered public; it’s easy to forward around). Speak in terms of solutions, not problems. Make sure to thank the customer for the feedback, no matter how much that sentence hurts to write/say. All feedback is a gift.

Sometimes a customer will be wrong. They’ll misremember, misread, or insist that you help them in a ludicrous manner. If you assessed the situation objectively, it’s alright to correct the customer. Don’t feel the need to apologize for everything, but recognize that sometimes it’s smart to rectify a problem that isn’t your fault. In many cases, solving unrelated problems is a big part of customer success.

A few days after you have proposed a solution, follow up with the dissatisfied customer so they understand that you genuinely want to solve their problem. Ask if they have taken your advice or used your solution. Offer further help. If they don’t reply, don’t harass them.

Even if you can’t provide a solution, respond anyway. The service recovery paradox is when a customer thinks better of a company after the company has apologized for a mistake than if the company had never made the mistake in the first place. It doesn’t work for big failures and it doesn’t work repeatedly for the same customer, but a failure on your end does not instantly end a relationship.

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A Harris Poll survey found that responding to negative feedback online is a smart tactic. 33% of people who leave negative reviews online will post a positive review if a company responds, and 34% will delete their original review. The key is to respond quickly, accurately, thoughtfully, and address their complaints.

Improve Your Business

Once you have handled a complaint, your work isn’t finished. You need to catalog them so you can identify patterns.

Complaints will rarely be uniform, but they can often be solved with similar solutions. Let’s return to our example from before – the customer who wasn’t a fit for your payroll software. Perhaps you had another customer who misunderstood your product for accounting software, or a customer who wasn’t aware she could only list 15 employees.

In our example, each complaint is different, but they share a commonality: The customers purchased your software without understanding it. You should adjust your marketing to better educate your customers. This solution won’t help the complainants, but you’ll prevent future problems.

Keep in mind that anytime a customer sends negative feedback, there are several more who choose to say nothing. According to Help Scout, “a typical business hears from 4% of its dissatisfied customers.” They’ll think it. They’ll tell their friends. But they won’t come to you. The smart solution is to fix whatever triggered the poor feedback so it stops happening.

Create a Feedback Process

Smart businesses use processes so they don’t solve the same problems over and over.

Create, document and implement a system to deal with negative feedback, especially if you have a large team. The process should tackle negative feedback immediately in a consistent manner.

As CSM Wire suggests, this feedback process should integrate with your customer success team. “The customer success team should also develop a library of standard messaging that can be quickly accessed during an urgent situation. Standard update and maintenance communications can be customized as necessary.”

Feedback is so important, in fact, that seeking feedback should be a part of your process. Social media is a good tool for this, but it’s also smart to build features into your app for immediate communication, like live chat, review prompts, and popup surveys.

You can build a customer service policy that deftly handles negative feedback and turns those customers into loyal fans. Download our guide to learn how.

The Takeaway

The key to handling negative feedback is to not sit idle.

If you receive feedback and fail to address it, the likelihood of churn skyrockets. Even if the problem wasn’t a big deal to the customer, your unwillingness to address it exacerbates the problem. Suddenly the customer feels unappreciated and unvalued. Instead of a polite “I need help” email, the customer publically criticizes your company on social media. Not good.

If you respond to your upset users and continually refine your process for handling feedback, you’ll retain users and squash your churn.

7 Mistakes You’re Making in Retaining Your Customers

Monday, October 17th, 2016

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Does your SaaS have a “leakage” problem?

Retention and churn figures go hand in hand and are key metrics for SaaS, yet knowing what they are and doing something about them are quite different things. Many SaaS are failing miserably when it comes to retention and find themselves in a routine pattern of trying to plug up a leaky boat.

Need a quick retention checklist? Get ours here:

If your SaaS is one of those, you may be making one of these critical mistakes which impact your retention:

#1. Your Key Focus Is Acquisition

When you think of the analogy of a sales funnel, where your new acquisitions come in at the top and the width narrows on the way through as fewer people move all the way through with you, retention problems can be akin to having a hole at the bottom of your funnel.

It doesn’t matter how many new acquisitions you keep pulling in at the top if you have that leakage problem at the bottom.

One of the important things to remember is that churn isn’t the problem, it’s the symptom of something else going on in your business. For example, if your focus is largely acquisition, but you’re then leaving customers to fend for themselves once you’ve got them onboard, there’s a good chance you’ll see this result in churn issues.

Of course you need to give focus to acquisition, but that’s not where your plan should end. Customer success journey mapping is a great strategy for laying out a plan which will give you that holistic view of how the customer moves through your organization, not just a view which says “get them onboard at all costs.”

Client Success looked at journey mapping recently and defined some best practices for preparing maps:

  1. Always look at the journey from the customer perspective.
  2. Identify any handoffs between departments in your customer journey.
  3. Define your customer success milestones.
  4. Share your map with trusted clients and have them validate it.
  5. Measure and optimize regularly.

Journey mapping helps to reinforce that you can’t just put all your efforts into acquisition, then sit back, hoping the customer wants to stick around. As you can see from the Client Success example below, there are touch points that go with each stage so you’ve got to put that work in.

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#2. You’re Not Asking for Engagement

No matter how you look at it, a customer who is not using your product is probably not going to keep paying for it. You might think “oh well, it mustn’t have been the right app for them”, but how would they even know that if they haven’t had the opportunity to try?

Look, we’re bombarded with new information, emails, content and the latest, most exciting new technology constantly. There’s a good chance that someone not in the habit of using your app simply forgets to put it to work, especially when it’s not yet part of their daily ritual. Next thing, they see you billing their credit card, think “oh, that’s right, well I’m not even using that” and they cancel.

You may have been able to prevent this simply by asking for engagement from their very first interaction with you. When Totango did some research on SaaS use, they found around 50% of customers weren’t using the service they were paying for. This immediately puts those people at high risk of cancelling.

You’re not going to win them all, you just can’t. However, you can do your best to engage them while you have them and hopefully ensure that more people become active users.

Some ways of asking for engagement include:

  • Push notifications for apps.
  • Emails encouraging customers to try different features.
  • Phone calls from your customer success team.
  • Incentivizing product tours (for example, Dropbox offers free space for taking their product tour).

 

You need to give yourself the best chance of getting in front of the customer and demonstrating the value of your app.

#3. You’re Not Delivering Value

It could be that your app simply doesn’t deliver what users want. It happens, though hopefully you did enough research before producing it that this simply isn’t the case. The other possibility is that the customer simply doesn’t see the value of your app, a possibility which can certainly happen if you haven’t asked for engagement.

How will the customer realize value if they don’t try it and see it?

It comes back to understanding what your customer success milestones are (those key steps which a customer has to take to see value from your app) and driving engagement so that they reach them.

#4. You’re Inaccessible

How easy is it for your customers to get help or to submit a support ticket? Some SaaS are notoriously difficult, with queries not being followed up unless the customer goes back and asks, or with deciphering how to get help being difficult in the first place.

Most people can’t be bothered spending money on something which they’re going to need help with, but even more so if that help is hard to find.

The solution is to make getting help easy and obvious. The customer shouldn’t have to click around looking or wait for lengthy periods of time for a response.

Part of this is accountability too. From time to time there are always bugs or upgrades happening within an app and being upfront and accessible shows that you’re transparent and probably a trustworthy bet for the customer.

#5. You’re Not Personalizing

Tobin Lehman described failing to personalize the experience as “the biggest” SaaS retention mistake. Why? As he points out, this can be explained using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We’re not buying the software because we want software, we’re buying it to solve a need that we have and for each customer, that need may be different.

“The truth is that your SaaS not only fulfills some tactical or basic needs, it also fills some emotional needs higher up the hierarchy. And in the customer experience many marketers neglect this hidden contract with the consumer that your product is doing more than providing a service. It’s providing an avenue to the experience of this person’s daily life.”

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The suggestion is that your retention process should heavily focus on developing relationships with your customers and being able to offer a personal touch.

Depending on your business model, you may not be able to offer large-scale personal service, but you can make your interactions more personalized by segmenting customers appropriately and keeping your messages to them relevant.

Instead of blanket email blasts, try sending out emails based on behaviors and activities. This helps to convey a message that you “know” your customer better.

#6. You’re Not Proactive

Ideally, you don’t want to be waiting until there is some kind of issue to take action. You need to be monitoring constantly and noticing potential churn issues before they have turned into a full-blown churn event.

For example, are you monitoring for expired or cancelled credit cards? This is a common reason for churn, but by using the right software (such as Retained for any SaaS using Stripe), you can send out early alerts to your customers to remind them to update their credit card details before their next billing cycle.

You should also be monitoring sentiment about your app and general chatter about it (on social media, for example, or through surveying your customers). If there are complaints, comments or requests which come up regularly, you may have an issue that should be addressed early before it turns into a cause for churn.

Another big one is any changes in the pattern of use of the customer. If they were usually a twice weekly user, but have only logged in once over the last month, this reduction in use may indicate they’re not happy anymore and looking to move on. This is where you need to be reaching out and just asking the customer how things are going.

#7. You’re Not Focusing on Features that Matter

It’s almost always the case with SaaS that, over time, you’ll find certain features are much more important to your customers than others. These are your “moneymakers” and are a large part of why the customer decided to sign up with you.

If you’re devoting a whole lot of time to new, extra features, but neglecting any essential fixes or updates to those core features, you’re setting yourself up to annoy customers and trigger churn. Want retention? Devote your main focus to those features which really matter to customers.

Have you nailed customer retention? Grab our free checklist:

Final Thoughts

We all want better customer retention, but remember if you’re experiencing more churn than you’d like, that is not the real problem you have. Churn is a symptom of something else somewhere that you’re not meeting the needs of the customer or not even getting out of the gate there because you haven’t engaged the customer in the first place.

Map out a plan which includes the entire customer journey (not just for acquisition!), and look for ways to better engage or meet their needs. The hope is that your funnel turns into more of a flask, with no significant numbers cancelling.

SaaS Pricing: When Is The Price Right?

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

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There is a lot to consider when it comes to pricing your SaaS. You need to figure out what the optimum pricing will be to attract the right customers and, of course, keep your business afloat!

The short answer to the question “when is the price right?” is; when you are able to bring on board your ideal customers and sustainably grow your business.

Unfortunately, while the answer sounds simple, the practice of getting there is far from it. There is no universal “formula”, nor is their any rule saying that once you’ve priced “right” the first time, you’re safe from having to re-evaluate your pricing.

Is your SaaS underpriced? Grab our quick questionnaire to find out:

Let’s take a look at considerations for your SaaS pricing:

Charge Early?

There are so many SaaS startups out there that do not charge their customers from the get-go. Sure, you’re looking to generate buzz, gather feedback and just get some users on board, but you’re opening yourself up to possible problems by not charging. For example…

How do you know that you’ve nailed product/market fit until people actually pay you for it?

We suggest that you charge early and ensure you have a product people will hand over money for. As SaaS founder and entrepreneur Jason Lemkin states: “if you don’t charge, you have no idea what people will actually pay for.”

He also points out that if you’re not charging, that early feedback you get may be entirely useless to you. How do you know those people are really “customers” until they’re willing to pay? Plenty of people sign up to something that’s free just because “free” is the right price to them.  You might have impressive-looking numbers signed on, but those really are just vanity metrics if those people aren’t handing over cash.

If you’re going to need to experiment with pricing (as many SaaS do), early on is the best time to do so. Steli Efti suggests being bold with price experiments early on. Most SaaS are their own worst “complainer” when it comes to pricing, often envisaging that “no one will want to pay that much.” What if they do?

The other thing about free is the perception it can create. Without a price tag, there’s a good chance people won’t see value in your product – a point which leads us nicely into a look at value-based pricing.

Value-Based Pricing

Value-based pricing is about coming up with a price that your customer is willing to pay. As Marketing Donut discuss, there’s no right or wrong answer and it’s a lot to do with the perception of the customer. Why do we pay more for a brand name over a home brand?

While you’re not selling groceries, your SaaS has to figure out what “value” means to your target customers too. As Lincoln Murphy says, your SaaS pricing model should be built around what the customer values which means staying away from any “commodity” metrics like storage.

Your customers only care about what’s in it for them, not considerations like how much it cost you to develop certain features. This means that the place to start with any SaaS pricing is always going to be your market, that “what’s in it for the customer.” Murphy further states: “if you base your pricing on something people find no value in, your value proposition will not be aligned with their value perception.”

Here are a few considerations that should go into value-based pricing:

  • What customer do you want to attract?
  • Where do you want to position yourself in the market?
  • Are you priced to achieve goals for the long-term value/retention of the customer?
  • What unique value do you provide that customers are willing to pay for?
  • How do you differentiate any tiers? Are those things perceived to be valuable by customers?

As we indicated earlier, you might find you need to experiment early on to find your sweet spot with pricing. The key to making it work and retaining paying customers for the long-term is to really be delivering value as it is perceived by the customer. People will pay for something which they comprehend unique value from, but will easily switch to a competitor if that is no longer the case.

What About My Competitors?

The temptation can often be for SaaS to put a lot of focus on what their competitors are doing when it comes to deciding on pricing. If you’re simply matching competitors, you’re looking at a market-based pricing model and this is often unsustainable.

How do you differentiate yourself from the rest? If it’s not based on value, you’re another “me too” SaaS and you may find this doesn’t bode well for your longevity.

What About Pricing Structure?

Good question, and this is something you may need to experiment with before you find the pricing which is “right.” Usually, SaaS are working off some kind of tier-based pricing structure, so you need to determine what those tiers look like and how they are valuable to the customer.

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Here are some common strategies and thoughts on them:

User-based – Increasing the number of users allowed per tier is a frequent tactic of SaaS. This can work well for getting into companies, but Lincoln Murphy pointed out a flaw where it can lead to the old-fashioned view of “shelfware”, where a company has too much software sitting on a shelf. For example, if the company needs 3 users instead of the 2 users available on their current tier, they might go to the next tier which allows 7 users. They only need 3 so those extra 4 might be seen as “shelfware.”

Storage space – Apps with storage associated often offer extra for higher tiers. Again, this is very much going to depend on how valuable that is to users. You could end up with another case of perceived “shelfware” if there is a big leap in storage space that isn’t really needed, for example.

Features-based – Usually, this means customers get more features available in return for upgrading. For example, an invoice app might offer customization instead of standard, software-branded invoices. Getting this right involves a lot of research. What features do your customers care enough about to upgrade for? What do they see as valuable?

Freemium – Plenty of SaaS offer a certain set of features free, but more to customers who upgrade. This could even take the form of more storage space or users allowed to collaborate. The key to this working lies in delivering enough value at the freemium level that your customers are hooked, however, not so many features for free that they don’t upgrade.

Hubstaff illustrated this point well when they discussed their own mistake in offering a free plan. They found that free users simply brought more free users, then collectively they took up a lot of support time. One of their major conclusions? If someone values a product, they’ll pay for it. When they changed their freemium plan to $15/month, they didn’t lose all their users, they now have people happy to pay for the value they provide.

Could your SaaS be underpriced? Find out with our quick questionnaire:

Final Thoughts

There is no set “rule” or formula to follow when pricing your SaaS, however determining what value looks like to your customers and pricing based on that value is a better bet when it comes to a sustainable strategy.

If you use market-based values to come to your pricing decisions, the chances are you aren’t differentiating what you offer based on value to the customer at all. Also, you might find yourself dragged into a price war which is only heading in one direction…

Consider who your target customer is and what will really mean value to them long term. Finally, don’t be afraid to charge early and experiment with your pricing to find what works.

SaaS Insights: Honing the Close

Monday, September 19th, 2016

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It seems everywhere you look now there is a tale of a SaaS startup absolutely crushing it with remarkable growth and impressive numbers all over the board. Sometimes it seems that they’ve made these achievements with ease, but usually, there is far more to the story.

Anyone who has been in the SaaS business for a while will tell you that it’s simply not easy achieving the growth required to render your SaaS viable — even if you really do have the best product invented since sliced bread.

Zig Ziglar got it right years prior to the SaaS phenomena when he said: “Every sale has 5 basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, or no trust.”

Depending on your pricing, you might not be able to do much about the money objection, but those other four are well within your control. Let’s look at a few insights for honing the close in your SaaS:

Building Trust

Building trust is really something which begins long before you’re asking for the close. It’s not like potential customers are likely to say “sign me up” as soon as they find you — there’s a period of investigation first where they are deciding whether a) you can meet a need they have and b) whether you are trustworthy.

A mistake that many SaaS make at this point is to put too much focus on features and perhaps talking up how great their company is. These do not build trust with the customer — oftentimes, a focus on features is confusing or not understood by the customer, leading to any talk of how great you are being completely negated.

On the other hand, if you want to start building trust well, here are a few things you should be doing from the beginning:

  • Focus on value to the customer. They may not understand all of your features, but that crucial “what’s in it for me” piece, when stated in their own language, can be a powerful trust builder.
  • No obligation free trials. Very few customers want to commit to purchasing a software untested. To further up the trust factor, consider whether allowing the trial without collecting credit card information will work for you.
  • Give them something of value. Besides your free trial, where else can you offer value? This may even be through the content you create to support your SaaS and provide ideas for common problems your customers have.
  • Make packaging and pricing transparent and easy for customers to understand.
  • Know and address the common reasons for mistrust. According to Visual.ly security of information and ongoing access to the product remain big concerns.

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Why Your SaaS?

The SaaS market is very competitive; in most verticals, customers have options and they’re probably not overly precious about who they decide to go with as long as they appear to be getting the best value. Whether you’re a small startup or a large enterprise, the prospect will still need a compelling reason to choose you over others.

When you think about a company which has “raving” fans (Apple comes to mind!), one of the big draws tends to be an emotional resonance with the company. You may not have thought of it in these terms when it comes to growing a SaaS, but Fast Company refers to it as “building a movement.” This goes a long way toward creating that trust you need, too.

Whatever you do, whether it is telling your story, marketing, a sales conversation or the branding elements of your SaaS, you need to be reflecting that emotional dynamic you want to create for customers.

When should SaaS offer discounts? Grab our guide here:

The Case for Change

This is really addressing those “need” and “desire” problems. Sometimes SaaS are so new that the concept of what they’re offering hasn’t even been recognized as a problem yet by the prospect.

Sometimes it’s just that humans have a natural inertia and resistance to change.

The logical first step is to really get an understanding of the needs of the customer. If you work off the lower priced/ higher number of subscribers SaaS model, you’re probably not going for one-on-one sales with each customer, but some variance from the self-service model can actually help you out.

Spend some time talking to those whom you have identified as “ideal” customers for your SaaS. Pick up the phone and call them. If you want to better hone your close, then you need to have an intimate understanding of what makes them tick and what needs will really drive them to change. This can then be reflected in your copy and provide answers to questions such as “why do I need this?”

Enterprise sales work on this kind of basis constantly, needing to learn the specific needs of the company to which they are trying to sell, though of course, this is not always done very well. You can’t very well tell them what you think they need when you haven’t spent the time learning and understanding what they think they need.

The saying “always be closing” is appropriate here too. If you regularly measure data and seek feedback from current users, you get the opportunity to address their needs and encourage them to stay with you, while improving your value proposition to new clients. Kissmetrics points out that building in feedback loops provides you with more ways to demonstrate value and to continue with that building of trust.

Why Right Now?

The laid-back, “we’re in no hurry” approach doesn’t help your SaaS to reach those vital growth milestones you’re probably needing to hit in a relatively short period of time. This is a crucial objection to overcome in any kind of sales.

If your answer is something like “because right now we’re offering this huge discount”, you’re probably not on the right track. As Lincoln Murphy points out, the way SaaS pricing discounts are done most of the time will devalue your offering in the eyes of the customer. He further comments that “pricing objections are usually value objections.” If the customer is saying not right now because of the price, either they genuinely can’t afford the expense or they just can’t see the value in it.

If you’re using discounts at all, make them scarce so that they actually help create a sense of urgency. This could take the form of a limited period of time over which you’re offering a discounted rate for annual subscriptions, for example.

Besides that, “why right now?” involves being able to present a relevant business case to your prospects. With the incredible value you can bring them and the way you can help them save time/ streamline processes/ save money/ take a vacation, how does it not make sense to take advantage of these benefits as soon as possible?

Is it ok for SaaS to offer discounts? Check out our guide:

Final Thoughts

Any SaaS wanting to close more sales immediately has objections and obstacles before them to overcome with their prospects.

Zig Ziglar summed these up quite neatly with “no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, or no trust.”

Logically, trust is the first objection SaaS need to overcome, starting long before attempting to close the sale. Be seen delivering value, providing transparency and addressing common trust issues such as security and accessibility.

From there, your close will be many times improved if you have a good understanding of the customer, what they think they need and any needs they may not have identified themselves yet. What will your answers be to “why you, why do I need this and why right now?”