Posts Tagged ‘closing sales’

Why Should a Customer Upgrade from Your Free Trial?

Monday, December 12th, 2016


Think your free trial will do the job of selling your SaaS product itself?

Unfortunately, no matter how ground-breaking you believe your product to be, we have a problem in SaaS with convincing customers to make the upgrade to a paid product. People are often languishing on free options (if available) or simply letting their trial expire without going on to the upgrade.

Of course, not every customer that signs up for a free trial will be a good fit. Sometimes they’re simply checking out your product because it’s free and have no real intention of becoming a regular user. Sometimes they want your SaaS to work for them, but the reality is it’s simply not the right fit for their needs. That aside, SaaS are losing too many customers who would be the right fit, if only they could ensure users get beyond the free trial.

Want a possible roadmap for email engagement? Grab ours here:

Why should a customer upgrade from your free trial?

Why do customers say “no?”

First of all, it helps to have an understanding of the common reasons why customers say “no” to upgrading from your free trial. Some of these reasons you’ll almost never be able to counter, but for others, you can make a plan to overcome those objections.

They just don’t see the value in payingjustice-scales-balance-lawyer-lowers-fee-money

There may be a number of reasons for this perhaps your product really doesn’t meet a need they have and they’re unlikely so see any value from it anyway. More often though, it’s because SaaS have failed to properly help the client through the trial period so that they’re able to realize that value.

Your free trial can’t exist in isolation you need material such as content to back it up. As Hubspot says: “Content – in the form of blogs, videos and downloadable guides – helps you to stand out from your competitors (which could be many – remember, you’re not that innovative). It’s also the best way to attract potential customers still in the ‘awareness’ stage of the buying cycle: people who have identified the need to solve a problem, but are yet to evaluate potential solutions.”

Of course, what you need will depend on the complexity of your product, so make sure you give some thought to developing a high-quality demo which highlights the key features and benefits well. As Hubspot point out: “it could also be that some subtle complexity – or that one feature that really, really hooks new users in when they find it – just doesn’t come across in the context of the free trial. Some people may have questions about your product they can’t answer when left to their own devices.”

Key Lesson: Make sure you’ve got as much backup information in place as you need to sit alongside your free trial and ensure that the customer is aware of what’s available. Actually demonstrating value is the key here.

Too much “friction”

How much information are you requesting on signup? Are you also requiring credit card details? While many SaaS prefer to collect payment details early in order to set apart the tire kickers from the true prospects, analysis has shown that there are often better conversion rates if you don’t require payment details first up.

Totango analysed 550 SaaS and found that those who required credit cards to sign up for free trials had lower signup conversion rates. If you’d still prefer to collect credit card information, understand that one of the reasons customers are reluctant to hand those details over is because they’re worried they’ll be billed automatically (we’ve all been there!). Try reassuring them by not automatically billing and letting them know they will need to “opt in” for an upgrade and to be billed rather than having to opt out.

Another common friction point is wanting virtually all information, save what the customer had for breakfast on Wednesday last week as part of the signup process. We tend to be impatient creatures who prefer “quick and easy” when it comes to signing up for anything. Besides that, you may also find that people are leery of giving out too much information. Give them a reason to trust you first and let them get through the free trial and upgrade on minimum information. You can always request more on a voluntary basis later, to “help us serve you better.”

Signing up for your free trial, followed by upgrading to paid membership should be a simple process which any customer can follow intuitively. As Kissmetrics states: “By the way, if the customer has to ask how to buy the product or activate a new account, you’re doing it wrong. The process should be childishly simple.”

Key Lesson: Don’t tie customers up with all sorts of “requirements” to sign up. They’ll see it as annoying, prying or difficult and you’ll lose people.


Getting support is (perceived to be) difficult

What have you got in place to nurture customers who are on your free trial? Believe it or not, there are still plenty of SaaS out there for whom the answer is “next to nothing.” People get dropped into the free trial, maybe have a few pieces of content thrown at them or the odd email, but don’t have much more in the way of support.

Again, your requirements may depend on the complexity of your product, but at the very least, you should be nurturing trial users with engaging, timely emails. Unbounce wrote a piece on nurturing through email where they featured research showing that only 26% of SaaS companies are using emails to nurture trial users and turn them into paying customers. 26% that suggests a large number of SaaS are missing out on a nurturing technique which is not difficult to implement.

The thing with regular email contact is that it helps to let the customer know you are there to help them through the trial and can provide them with content that is relevant and of interest. For example, you can effectively use list segmentation to trigger emails based on behaviors, with better results as they are more relevant to the customer.

Unbounce provided a few tips in their article for better email nurturing, such as:

  • Send the first email immediately on sign up for the free trial.
  • Personalize emails by addressing the customer by name and providing clear name and contact details for yourself.
  • Provide clear instructions for getting started.
  • Keep in regular contact throughout the trial.

We’d add here that you should also be very clear about where the customer can go if they need help. No one likes to have to click around looking for support when they need it and this helps to create the perception that you make getting support difficult. Give them options where you can, such as a searchable knowledge base, easy ways to contact customer support or even simply a contact form. Of course if you do this, the key will be to respond promptly to any requests.

Key Lesson: Be available and communicate regularly! Make it clear to customers how they can get help if needed.

Need an email roadmap to encourage upgrades? Get ours here:

Final Thoughts

Why should a customer upgrade from your free trial? Because your SaaS will be the absolute best at solving a genuine need they have, of course. However, the key is that you need to communicate this during the free trial.

Ensure that your trial customers have every opportunity to see the value that your SaaS can provide them with, including via content and product demos. Don’t assume everyone can work things out themselves many won’t have the patience.

Make your signup process as frictionless as possible so that your customers are comfortable handing over their details. It should be obvious to the customer what their next step is and how to take it.

Keep nurturing the customer via email throughout the process and make it clear to them how to get help if needed. No one wants to struggle and feel that help is elusive. Don’t leave things to chance, be there for your trial customers at all stages and help them feel confident to take the next step.

SaaS Insights: Honing the Close

Monday, September 19th, 2016


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 security of information and ongoing access to the product remain big concerns.


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?”